A game of bonding

Hyderabad Riding Polo Club members Chaitania, Khader, Abdula and Sajid PHOTO: Nagara Gopal   | Photo Credit: NAGARA GOPAL

It is 4 p.m. and the horses at the Hyderabad Polo Riding Club (HPRC) are being saddled up for their young riders. A few minutes later, a school bus arrives and kids hop out with their tiny whips.

On seeing the horses the kids quickly decide amongst themselves on which horse each one wants to ride. They scurry to be mounted on the most meek horse and for first-time visitors to the club, this can be quite an amusing scene. But for the caretakers of the horses and the trainer at the HPRC where kids of all ages come for their daily dose on horse riding, this is an everyday scene. And why not, the five-year-old only riding club is also the winner of this year's polo tournament in the city. “We won all the tournaments this year and it was quite a proud moment for us as we received the YSR memorial cup,” says Chaitania Kumar, a businessman and a horse lover.

The Hyderabad Polo and Riding Club is situated in Aziznagar on the outskirts of the city.

HPRC played against the Army, Navy and Airforce teams ever since they started playing. “At times we have also teamed up with them when we didn't have sufficient players,” explains Khader Siddiqui.

Khader is a plus one handicap, while Chaitania is handicap scratch. The other two team members who led the team to victory are Dhruvpal Godara and Manupal Godara, both being plus four handicap. The two brothers are from Delhi and are professional polo players and have been playing for the HPRC for a long time. “I grew up seeing my elder brother play and it is nice to play for HPRC every year.”

Every year, HPRC makes it a point not to miss a chance to participate in the Polo tournaments. What is interesting is the fact that the polo players of HPRC have varied profiles: a student, businessman to a trainer and so on.

But trainer Khader says, “Nothing. Neither your profession nor your height or even your bank balance helps you to play polo. The pre-requisite of the game is to be a master in horse riding. The relation between the man and the animal is most crucial and to build this trust and bond it can take a rider anything from one day to several years,” explains Khader as he instructs the caretakers to over see the children practising their circles with the horse.

“Everyday it is a must to ride the horse for a couple of hours. That is how each player gets used to riding. And it's not enough to be able to ride one horse. Each player should get used to every single horse in the stable and vice versa. Horses are intelligent, the rider only needs to control his pace and speed and that's a task on animals that are only used to running and only running,” Khader adds.

But zero-handicap Chaitania, took to playing polo professionally much later. It was his love for horse riding that made him invest in horses. And as he walks past the stable Phantom and Frazer come closer for a friendly pat. “They are the finest horses and have been a good company in the games. They have travelled with us for the games to various states and are now preparing to leave for Kolkata for the polo tour,” says Chaitania as he gets ready for a practice match with his team members.

He gets distracted on the arrival of two beautiful horses in an auto trolley. V.I.P horses? And indeed they are. Owned by a leading politician's family the horses arrive to be tamed for the grandchildren to learn riding. The brown horses with white heads get restless on being tied in the visitors stable next to Magadheera horse.

In their team, Abdulla Shaik a businessman and Sajid Saleem, an engineering student, are getting trained to become polo players. The two young horse riders say “Riding and polo teaches you to be patient and focussed and that's what I love about the sport.”

Abdulla Shaik besides dabbling in real estate also owns a couple of horses at the HPRC.

HPRC was formed with the idea of imparting lessons on horse riding to anyone who is keen on learning. “The association takes care of the classes for children, besides imparting training to actors for horse-riding shots. I have close to 10 horses to train. That is called breaking the horse,” explains Khader who has over 20 years of training and riding experience.

And in the process of breaking the horse how many times has he broken his limbs? “After a point I forgot the count.

There is no track,” he laughs. “Like they say, no pain no gain. But thankfully the horses we allow the children to ride on are well tamed and the learners are not left alone,” adds Chaitania.

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Printable version | Oct 18, 2021 3:56:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/leisure/A-game-of-bonding/article16854008.ece

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