Galloping ahead

Young riders

There are only a couple of things that could perhaps replicate the joy of horse riding, although it calls for perseverance and discipline at the highest level.

The Equestrian Centre for Excellence (ECE) on Jayamahal Road, a horse riding and equestrian organisation, has been in the process of churning out young champions for quite a while now. Its students have brought laurels not just to the institution but to the State as well. Nurturing them is Nitin Gupta, rider and coach, with many international medals to his credit.

Nitin recollects, “The centre is about 12 years old. It was started by a group of parents with just six horses. It was a temporary stable then. With the efforts of parents, we slowly built the stable and the infrastructure. Now we have 30 horses. It has come a long way.” The emphasis here is on show jumping and cross-country eventing.
It was while he was competing in one of the events that Nitin says the trustees noticed him. “And that’s how I came here. And I always wanted to be with horses,” says Nitin, who is a Delhiite.

Recently, the ECE added yet another feather to its cap. At the ‘Junior National Equestrian Championships (JNEC) 2013’, held at Tollygunge Golf Club, Kolkata, of the eight golds at stake in show jumping, ECE students picked up six. “The kids competed under 12, 14, 18 and 21. Each categories had two show jumping events,” informs Nitin. The winners under various categories are Maryk Sahney, Shambhavi Ajila, Fouaad Mirza, Rushil Patel, Abhishek Kothari, Barath Manoharan, Jibran, Aryaman, Shaili, Anirudh, Rishit, Rishab and Rohit.

So how challenging is it training them? “The kids start for fun, as a hobby. We have a beginner’s section and the really talented ones go into competing. Every kid is different and we have 30 to 40 beginners,” he says.

“The horse is a bigger athlete here and the kids have to gel with them. The equipment in this sport — the horses — have a mind of their own unlike other sports. Therefore, it is important to build the confidence of the child and the horse. Majority of horses here are retired race horses and the club has provided a second home to them,” he adds.

All said and done, it is a costly affair. “We don’t have the resources and are surviving through donations. If we get corporate support, I am sure I can take these kids to Asian Games,” he adds.

Dealing with horses is not easy. Some are frisky, some lazy and some aggressive. Therefore different treatment has to be accorded to different horses. But it is not a smooth sail at all.

“It is one of the most expensive sports and all the more why there should be sponsorship. The truth is sponsors prefer racing and cricket, therefore this sport is not getting the recognition it deserves. There are so many talented kids but most of them cannot pursue it because of financial constraints,” he rues.

On the other hand, the City has become a hub for show jumping. “Quality is coming through. You just have to invest in the kids. You have to catch them young,”
adds Nitin.

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