Horse riding is a great way to connect with nature and get fit, say trainers at the first ever Equestrian Centre in the city. K. Jeshi rides along

An early morning drive to Kalapatti village is invigorating — the air is nippy, a majestic hill looms in the background, there are acres of greenery, and birds and butterflies keep you company. To add to the excitement, a peacock displays its blue-green plumage. It's a beautiful Sunday morning.

In the adjacent field, spread across 1.25 acres, it's warm up time for Refresher, Marce Galia and Strong Soldier. They are thoroughbreds from Mysore and Pune. Refresher bucks in protest before he is made to run in circles, while Marce Galia trots, canters and then gallops.

Strong Soldier waits his turn. “We train the horses in various styles of jumping with trotting poles. They can jump up to a height of 1.2 mts,” says Vinod Armugam, director-promotions of United Royal Riders, the Equestrian Centre in Kalapatti.

Forgotten sport

The centre trains people in horse riding from the basic to the advanced levels. It especially encourages the sport amongst school students. Students from Anan and Western Ghats, both International Resdiential Schools learn at the centre.

K. J. Vaijayanthi, chairperson of United Royal Riders says, “Our objective is to make horse riding affordable and take it to the common man. It boosts self-confidence, improves personality, and helps in developing the physique,” she says. There are other health benefits too. It improves blood circulation, and boosts the immune system.

The Equestrian Centre wants to revive those glorious days when Coimbatore was the hub of equestrian activity on the Race Course tracks. So far, 50 students, including businessmen, students and professional riders from as far away as Pollachi, Tirupur, Palladam, and Erode have enrolled at the centre.For N. Jagadeesh Kumar from Tirupur, riding started off as a hobby. It is now a passion. “I learnt at private clubs in Puducherry and Chennai. Now, I want to take part in jumping competitions,” he says. Jagadeesh has been riding for 15 years and now focuses on slow jumping, tent pegging, and other categories of riding. The horses are trained in dressage, slow cantering, fast cantering and marching.

“Staying fit is important. And, practice. Concentration is vital; otherwise there is every chance that you could fall,” says Jagadeesh. According to him the basic level training lasts for 10 to 15 days, and includes mounting, dismounting, trotting and slow cantering.

“You have to bond with the horse and have a mutual understanding to enjoy the ride. Of course, training is important too. You control the horse with the use of the reins and your legs.” Jagadeesh says that you learn something new every time you mount a horse. B. Shanmugasundaram, who is from Chenjeri Hills in Palladam, has been a student for 20 days. He says, “I have lost weight. It has refreshed me and has improved my concentration, and decision-making skills.”

Young riders

Twins V. Balarama and V. Balakrishna, are the centre's youngest members. They stroll by in their safety gear, complete with helmet, jacket and boots. They want to win a Derby, they say. Their dad, R. Venkateswaran says all credit must go to Sylandera Babu, the former City commissioner, who kick started the sport with training for 300 students at PRS Grounds. Venkateswaran says his sons were panicky, shy and adamant before. Now, they are active, get along with people and are confident. Most importantly, they are full of questions, he smiles.

Students can start riding when they are as young as six. “Though in the beginning, they experience pain in the thigh and calf muscles, and biceps, it disappears in time. Horse-riding is a great way to connect with Nature and improves stamina. Children develop a positive attitude, and it prepares them to face bigger challenges. ”

Trainers Naga Rao, A. Ranga and K.G. Shyam Shankar also groom the horses. A. Ranga gives a maalish (wash) to Refresher after the training session and leads him into the stable. Horse is a kind animal. When the rider falls off, it stops and waits for you recover, they add with a smile.

Learning the ropes

Now the trainers have a difficult task ahead. They have to initiate me into riding. I say ‘hello' to Marce Galia, who nods his head in acknowledgement. I put on my safety helmet, and learn the first step ‘mounting'. Once I settle on the horse, I give him a friendly pat, hold the reins, and enjoy a few minutes of fame. When it is time to ‘dismount', Shyam Sankar warns me. “Mam, wash your hands without fail. You touched his sweaty head, and horse's sweat is believed to be poisonous.”

“The way you look at life is very different after a ride on a horse,” Vinod tells me. And, it's true.

FACTFILE

It costs Rs. 3,500 for 10 rides at the basic level, and Rs 5,000 at the advanced level. Jumping and tent pegging cost Rs.10,000

The centre plans to introduce night riding classes too. For details, call: 9786700711/8903400497. visit: www.unitedroyalriders.in

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MetroplusJune 28, 2012