Fouaad Mirza banking on his horse sense

Success in his discipline - eventing - depends a lot on the horses trusting the rider, reckons the Indian equestrian champion.

For Indian rider Fouaad Mirza, his connection with horses is as strong as it is with family.

Having spent more time at the stud farm and competitions surrounded by the majestic ones, it’s no surprise that the that Indian feels a deeper connection with them.

“It’s a partnership that you form by training together and by being around each other,” he says describing his relationship with the horses on Masterclass, a podcast hosted by Firstpost.

“It's a bit like how pets get attached to you and they know when you are sad or happy. All animals have this sixth sense. You sort of grow together as you train.”

It’s this understanding that has helped the Indian become the first country to qualify for the Olympics equestrianism event in over two decades.

At the Tokyo Olympics next year, the 28-year-old will be seen competing in eventing -- a discipline in which the riders and horses compete in three tests: dressage, cross country and jumping.

“You go to war together so to speak,” he chuckled. “Maybe not in the dressage event, but the cross-country test, which is a very important part of our sport, especially in my discipline, which is eventing.

“It's like going to war against what the course designer has put up for you to tackle. The horse has to put its complete faith in you, and it has to trust that you're not going to make it do things that might harm him or put him in danger in any way.”

The need to nurture a bond

For Fouaad Mirza, the relation he maintains with the horses is nothing less than what he has with his inner circle with their time together helping nurture this bond.

“I think when you begin you start slowly. But as you work together, they start to trust you. It builds up like that,” reasoned the Indian.

“The sheer amount of time we spend in the stable around the horses: we feed them, we look after them, we clean them... this helps a lot to build a bond.

“Sure, some horses may like me more than the others. But each horse has its own personality and you have to find out what makes them tick.”

With the Bengaluru-born athlete rising up the rankings in the past few years, he has switched to horses that are specifically bred for his events.

“In India, we primarily use ex-racehorses for equestrian sports such as eventing, dressage and showjumping,” he pointed out. 

“Up to a certain level, they're very good. They're very capable. When you come to the higher levels you need horses that are bred specifically for the sport that you want to compete in.” 

It’s then when the Indian had to look for alternatives. With equestrianism being an established sport across Europe, Fouaad Mirza wasted no time in looking out for options. 

The Indian, today, is happy with the options he has. “The horses I have with me in Germany are bred specifically for my discipline, which is eventing,” he said.  

“They really go into specifics when they're breeding an eventing horse, which needs good attitude, fair ability to run fast over long distances and a strong type of breed,” he explained.

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