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Stay in the moment: Former equestrian Imtiaz Anees’ advice to Fouaad Mirza at Tokyo Olympics

Imtiaz Anees   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In the first few pages of his recently released autobiography, Riding Free (Harper Collins), Imtiaz Anees recalls this quote he read at the entrance of the regimental quarters of the 61st Cavalry Regiment in New Delhi: ‘If paradise exists, it’s on horseback that it lies.’

Imtiaz, a former Olympic equestrian rider, believes in this hyperbole. In his case, it would have been a surprise only if he did not take to horse riding; for it was a family hobby. His maternal grandfather, Mohamed Kajiji, was the president of the Amateur Riders’ Club. His mother, he writes, was a good rider. His father, who hailed from a family of nawabs, as well. So, Imtiaz took to the activity when he was just four.

For Imtiaz, this pastime became a passion. He pursued it. And, at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, he became only the second Indian equestrian to compete at the Olympics.

‘Fouaad has a good chance’

Fouaad Mirza, who won two silver medals at the 2018 Asian Games, will be the first Indian equestrian to represent India at the Olympics after Anees. Twenty years ago in Sydney, as the countdown for the cross-country event began, Anees’ heart was pounding. He reckons it would be nerve-racking for Fouaad too when he makes his debut at the Games on Friday. The former Olympian is, however, confident of his successor’s capabilities.

Fouaad Mirza

Fouaad Mirza   | Photo Credit: AFP

“I think he has come a long way,” says Anees, “His performances leading up to the Olympics have been fantastic. He has had very strong performances overseas. So, he has got a really good chance. There are many things that could go wrong but I hope he stays in the moment and that he and his horse get it right on the day that matters. It would be wonderful for our sport.”

A sport with a difference

Equestrian disciplines are unique. They are the only Olympic events that involve (non-human) animals. The horse is as important as the human in these competitions. “That is what is so special about our sport. That is why I wrote the book,” explains Anees, “I wanted people to know it is a wonderful sport for children. It is not only about you; you have to look after your horse. It is not like cricket or football, where once the game is over, you put your gear away. It does not work that way. Whether you have a good day or a bad one, you still have to come back to bathe and groom your horse. It builds a lot of character.”

“When I was six or seven, I had this amazing bond with my horse, Rajesh,” he recalls, “I would spend hours in a stable, talking to him about my life, my goals, how much I hate school. He became a friend.” This is the kind of relationship he continued to have with the other horses he has had over the years.

The participation of an animal makes equestrian a trickier sport. “On the morning of your competition, you might have done everything right and are ready to go. Your horse has to be ready too. What if he has not slept well that night, if he has not eaten his food, or there is a new horse next to him he doesn’t like? The environments and competition grounds can be new for him. There are a lot of factors to consider. It is not just you, your horse has to be a true competitor as well.”

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2021 11:48:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/tokyo-olympics-imtiaz-anees-fouaad-mirza-equestrian/article35608512.ece

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