Of the missing ‘horse’ sense

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 07 Sep 2017 12:16:35



Vijay Phanshikar,

What was most exhilarating in that place was that ‘your’ horse would almost stand on his hinds when he saw you. Most people went to the Horse Riding Club -- a couple of hundred meters from the main gate of Vayu Sena Nagar towards the LAD College and the Government Veterinary College -- for that initial moment’s experience. Each member was allowed to ride the same horse each time he went to the Club at the given time. The horses, thus, knew their respective riders. From those days 45 years ago to today, the Horse Riding Club run by the Government Veterinary College has been an important adventure sport’s landmark in the city.

Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people have learned to ride horses there and are still learning. Though there is no fuss and fuzz about the Horse Riding club in the city, the activity has been going on efficiently all along. Ask any of those people who ever rode a horse there and he -- or she -- will tell you how wonderful the experience is when that solidly muscular animal behaves under your thigh. And that is the
reason riding a horse is considered an activity as romantic as riding a simple bicycle or a motorcycle or even driving a car -- by men and women.

Back then, as a college student who also doubled as a newspaper Reporter and photographer, horses were a
special attraction in my life. So, one evening, on an assignment to cover a press conference at the Veterinary College, I happened to heave my way up the road from Telangkhedi Lake, turned towards the College and saw the horses neatly tied in different stables.

A decrepit board declared the place as ‘Horse Riding Club’. A simple fence of horizontal wooden beams held aloft by vertical poles defined the rectangular campus. Very traditional! -- I thought. And then, at that moment, I made up my mind to join the activity. The press conference over, I just went to the Horse Riding Club. A young man came forward. ‘May I help you!’, he wondered. He read my
excited face ...!

The next morning, I stood face to face with him as he brought out one beautiful white mare whose name, he said, was Mela Lalini. She was superbly groomed and looked
elegant in the winter morning’s golden sunshine.
The rest is history. My love affair with horses began in right earnest. Besides Mela, as I came to call her eventually, there were three of four other horses. But the king of the stable was Major, that hefty, dark brown horse who was majesty personified. Mela, of course, was first choice, but Major also would come next in my fancy. Riding was fun -- but certainly not on the first day.

My friend Ashok, I and Shrikant Jichkar joined the club on the same day. The sais led us around the campus on a horse walk. At the end of one hour, each of our bones was making separate and independent noise of its own, as if it had been separated from the skeleton. For first seven days, as we took the horses only on walk, we only burned in jealousy as other senior members trotted or cantered or even galloped their horses around us.

Later on, when we became known figures on the campus and the horses started recognising us, life became terribly romantic. With Mela, I would take all liberties. She, of course, was quite moody and could throw off any rider if she did not like his -- or her -- touch or feel. However, she treated me with kindness and even allowed me jump over the fence onto the ground outside in full gallop. Once, however, Ashok had a fall -- not due to his mistake, but by sheer bad luck. He dropped his riding cane and Shrikant Jichkar picked it up and ran to give it back to Ashok. Ashok’s horse panicked and burst out on a sudden full gallop. A half-minute later, only Major was riding in full gallop without the rider. The poor rider was flat on the ground, groaning.

But then, such falls are necessary evils on any riding ranch. They are the necessary part of the learning curve.
Decades later, when the Bhonsla Military School started operating in Nagpur, its first temporary campus was at the Reshimbagh Ground. There, the people saw many people thronging the Reshimbagh Ground to learn and enjoy horse riding. The city also has had some private citizens own horses. But the number, of course, is small.

However, through a few spells of temporary closure as well, the Horse Riding Club has continued to serve the city well even now. It is one institution to which the city does not seem to have paid much attention. The management of the Government Veterinary College, too, does not bother to publicise this activity. Yet, I believe, there are quite many people who still make a full use of the Horse Riding Club.
Yet, it is necessary that the city builds its own adventure culture and includes horse riding as an essential ingredient of the new era of young activity.

From multiple angles, horse riding is very helpful in personality building. That a strong animal like horse is under one’s control is a terrific feeling. It helps the rider build his or her sense of self control, besides building strong muscle and mind. It is sheer bliss to see the rippling muscles of a galloping horse. And it is equally great also to see a horse stand absolutely still, something humans can never achieve. That still gravitas of a horse, its strong frame, its robust fragrance -- all these exude a sense of assurance.

Our city still boasts of the facility of horse riding, but its citizens do not seem to aware of the activity. For any city, that is only part of its misfortune.