Fouaad and Mickey in Tokyo: A man, his horse and their work behind the scenes for Olympics

Fouaad Mirza's father, renowned equine vet Dr. Hasneyn Mirza explains the work that goes into readying the rider and horse for equestrian events at the Tokyo Olympics.

Seigneir Medicott almost did not make it to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics after a ligament tear in one of his hind legs. Medicott and his rider, Fouaad Mirza will represent India in Equestrian at the Games on Friday.   -  Instagram/Fouaad Mirza

Fouaad Mirza and his horse Seigneur Medicott, India’s lone representatives in equestrian at the Tokyo Olympics, will begin their campaign when eventing gets going on Friday. It's the same combination which won India two silver medals in individual and team eventing at the 2018 Asian Games.

A little over 6,600km away in Bengaluru, his father, seasoned veterinarian and equine specialist Hasneyn Mirza, is watching from afar amid the Covid-19 uncertainties, wishing he could have been in Tokyo with his son at this important moment.

Sportstar caught up with Mirza Sr. to know more about the gelding Medicott, or Mickey as he’s fondly called by the family, what watching Fouaad go through qualification in Bergedorf, Germany was like, and what competition day entails for the duo. Excerpts:

Fouaad went through two years of rigorous qualification routines, with his main horse injured through most of it. It must be handy to have an experienced vet in the family.

We are in touch on almost a daily basis. We discuss everything, the horses, the diet, the showing, the veterinary work, how the horses worked. I think it's important that he has somebody who he can go over his thoughts with, like a sounding board. On bad days, you're always somebody who can take the frustration, somebody who can take edge off.

How does collaborating on routines/diets for the horse work, especially when you’re helping from far away?

There have been times when I would say look, don't you think we should push this horse along a little bit? For him always the horse comes first. I mean, yes, as a vet, the horse comes first to me too, but to qualify is a big deal given the amount of work that’s gone into it – from the sponsors point of view, from getting the Olympic quota spot and representing the country. And then to fall short would have been... But he’s intuitive when it comes to the horses, and they are top priority.

Coming to Mickey. Have you spent some time with him?

Mickey is a complete character. Even though he's at a venerable 15 years of age, he acts like a kid, like he’s just a foal. If you crack a can of coke next to him, he looks like what was that and scoots to the other side of the stable. Sometimes when Fouaad comes back after galloping Mickey, he tells me about cows they’ve seen somewhere in the distance. We have a heart rate monitor for the horses, to track their fitness. He says, the moment Mickey spots the cows, his heart rate goes from 140-200, almost like he’s wondering from where the cows will come to get him! Thankfully, there won’t be any anywhere near them in Tokyo, so they don’t need to worry.

READ: Fouaad Mirza's road to Tokyo: Of last-minute changes and old champions

How easy or hard was it for Fouaad to make the choice of switching from Dajara back to Mickey a few days before the start of the Olympics?

He was always very keen to ride Mickey and he had made up his mind a long time ago. I didn't want to ask him because this has to be his own decision. As a horseman, he is very intuitive. He said, I've made up my mind already – this is right after Babarowko (both horses secured their Minimum Eligibility Requirements to clear them for the Olympics here in late June). Coaches and a lot of others though were asking him to take the mare, but he had seen what Mickey could do in a two-star show jumping event and that sealed it for him.

How has Mickey been settling in Tokyo, with the heat and change of setting?

Mickey has had an issue of going off feed. This happened in Jakarta as well and that’s worrying because you can’t have an athlete going off feed. This time, he went off feed the moment he went into quarantine. We had him on oil and had to change things around a little bit. I think the quarantine was probably the best thing for him because he realised he was travelling and has settled in. Right before they flew, Dajara was with him in quarantine. Mickey is one who gets attached very quickly. When Dajara goes out of his sight, he starts crying and neighing and drives us all mad. Horses flying to the Olympics are mostly flying together and Fouaad personally ensured he was paired with a compatible horse to make the journey easy.

Fouaad had identified show jumping as a concern area until late last year. Is that still in your mind-space?

Honestly, we’re looking more at how tight the time will be in cross country. It is usually a 10-minute gallop, which is about five and a half 5.7-5.8 kilometers. They’ve reduced it due to the weather conditions in Tokyo. Mickey has experience with heat and acclimatised well to Jakarta and has been comfortable in Tokyo as well. It helps that the jockey here is an expert.

While routines are set and planned, does feed change ahead of a competition?

On competition day, your feed is probably given very early in the morning, to ensure the horse does not compete on a full stomach. You do the early morning feed to ensure that he/she can maintain their energy levels, but this largely varies from horse to horse.

You don’t want to try and warm up or overdo anything too much because you don’t want to burn any water out too much. People do give their horses fluids and a common error is to pump the horse with fluids to tackle difficult weather conditions, but the risk here is that you are flushing out the salts also. The horse will pee it all out. So, we will be monitoring his salt levels very carefully, while we're giving the fluid. Horses are allowed fluids, especially after cross country. At the end of the day, safety and health of the horse is paramount.

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Fouaad Mirza and Seigneur Medicott during the vet inspection at Tokyo on Thursday   -  Special arrangement/Embassy Group

 

READ: Equestrian in Tokyo Olympics: Fouaad Mirza, Seigneur Medicott clear veterinary inspection

Has Mickey needed any help here since he’s arrived in Tokyo, given the conditions there?

He was on fluids early after he landed. He has had some amino acid infusions and general fluids. We’ve just had some time to just calm down and get into a routine.

What next for Fouaad after the Olympics? Is he finally coming home?

He is heading to Germany. He has an event lined up in August. So, it’s back to work. He wants to go to the World Equestrian Games. There’s also making the selection for the Asian Games and qualifying too. We’ll have to wait and see after the Olympics.

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