Army still in the saddle

Basumatay (left) won the jumping medium normal event. The others in the picture are (from right) Rohit Dagar, Sajan Kumar and Arun Maribashetti.-Pics: R. SHIVAJI RAO Basumatay (left) won the jumping medium normal event. The others in the picture are (from right) Rohit Dagar, Sajan Kumar and Arun Maribashetti.

When it comes to equestrian, the Army, which has many natural advantages, is the No.1. But the civilians are rapidly catching up, writes K. Keerthivasan.

The Army still rules equestrian, an Olympic sport, in India. There are clear reasons for the Army’s domination. The basic requirements are readily available with them — the horses and the space to train them. Moreover, for those in the Army, riding horses and training them is a part of their daily routine.

The civilians, too, have taken a huge leap forward, mainly due to the progressive measures of academies in several cities. The South India, National (junior and senior) and International young riders equestrian championships held at the Officers Training Academy in Chennai for over a fortnight proved this beyond doubt.

Seventy-five-year-old Irishman Sir Henry G. Bellew, a veteran commentator who made the equestrian extravaganza at OTA very interesting with his incisive and witty comments, feels the Army’s performance has declined considerably since the last time he saw the Nationals in 1987. He argues that the Army has not made changes in tune with the developments international arena. “One has got to take risks, otherwise you remain in mothballs where no progress is achieved,” Sir Henry says in his written message.

He praised Bangalore’s Embassy International Riding School (EIRS) and the Equestrian Centre of Excellence (ECE) for their vision in getting the best of trainers from abroad.

Lt. Col. Sunil Shivdas, Co-ordinator of the National championship, said the Army’s performance in the Nationals has been exceptional. “In the junior national championship, our participation has been minimal, whereas in the seniors section, I think we have done a really good job,” explains Shivdas.

The 46-year-old, who represented India in the 2002 Busan Asian Games, said it’ll take a long time for the civilians to match the Armed Forces. “We are purely better off in numbers. We have roughly 2000 horses all over India whereas the civilians have only 10 per cent of our numbers.”

But Shivdas admitted that the civilians were making rapid progress thanks to the interest shown by EIRS and ECE in Bangalore and the Madras Riding School and the Chennai Equestrian Academy to name a few. “What we need are more schools like these,” Shivdas added.

Nadia Haridass... creditable show.-

Rohit Dagar, Ravi Rathore, Deep Ahlawat and P. Basumatay, among many others from the Army, performed with distinction.

Three EIRS girls, Nadia Haridass, Aliya Das Gupta and Sanjana Madappa, did really well. It was Nadia who turned in a fine display in the international event. Representing India Green, Nadia rode with grace and purpose to help the host clinch gold in the CSI ‘Y’ international team championship.

Udai Singh, whose father is a Major General, was adjudged the best young (18-21 years) rider of the 2007 National championship.

Mysore’s Arun Maribashetti, astride CJ15, bagged three gold medals, and was very impressive with the control he displayed over the horse. He won two gold medals in the advance grade normal and advance grade puissance events. Arun also finished first in the Category A of the World jumping challenge.

Nadia was involved in a controversy on the last day of the championship.

Arun Maribashetti clinched three gold medals.-

She was leading the one-day eventing with a total of 48.1 points at the end of the dressage and cross country competitions, when the judges announced at the start of the show jumping that three riders had been withdrawn.

It turned out that Nadia had administered fluids, Ringer’s lactate and electrolytes to the horse (Rebellion), an usual treatment given to equines for re-hydration. The problem was that it had been done without prior permission. Realising the lapse, Nadia “voluntarily withdrew” from the competition.

Lakshmi Machine Works Limited, Panasonic, ICICI and Parryware gave equestrian the much-needed support by sponsoring different events in different age groups.