Hyderabad: If you ride horses falling off them is second nature. No matter how well you balance yourself on the majestic animal, you will at some point stumble. Some slips are good, most bad and some worse. It’s a process, a learning curve in Equestrianism terms. But for someone to keep a tab on the falls they had is uncanny. “I took to horse riding at a pretty early age. Started off with a pony and eventually moved to thoroughbreds. Right after my first fall, I made it a point to put it down in a small diary. I kept a count until it hit 134. The diary had dates, places and names of the horses which I fell off,” Fouaad Mirza told this newspaper from Ganderkesee, a town in the Oldenburg district of Germany where he is training for this year’s Olympics.
But those falls made Fouaad the rider that he is. “I stopped making a note of the falls after 134 not because I never fell post that but because it was a process and it stopped. Nowadays, I rarely fall. But those notes helped me adapt and improve my technique a little better. My journey from just another Bangalore-lad to representing India at international equestrian events has been surreal,” claims the Arjuna Awardee.
“Back in December I knew that I had earned an Olympic quota for India in the Individual Equestrian and Sports Disciplines at Tokyo. But it was not put on paper. When I got the official confirmation, my joy knew no bounds. In my thoughts I was a 13-year-old again, who got into horse riding after watching Video Home System (VHS) tape of Sir Mark Todd (two-time Olympic champion) that was left behind by Karnal Rajesh Pattu (a former rider with the 61st Cavalry). I always dreamt of representing India at the highest level and now, I may live that dream,” the 27-year-old said.
The job is half done. There is still work to do to ensure India retains the Olympic quota for Tokyo. “If you look at how things stand today, India has an Olympic quota. But for India to compete in Japan, I will have to finish fewer than 45 penalties in Dressage, no jumping fouls and 16 or less showjumping penalties at the Sopot (April) and Barborwoko (May) competitions in Poland. I will have to maintain the Minimum Eligibility Requirement (MER) to ensure India retains the quota,” Fouaad added.
When athletes lose their favourite equipment some are driven crazy while others are unfazed. For Fouaad it was a little more complicated than just a leash or a pair of boots or the blinders.
“Losing Seigneur Medicott to a serious injury was a huge setback for me. Medicott is not just an equipment. He is my friend, a star horse that helped me win medals. We have been through a lot together. He had a successful surgery and is now in a rehab. Medicott will be able to compete in a few months time. We are yet to take a call on his participation at the 2020 Olympics. Even if he is back for the Tokyo event, he will not be able to compete at the same level. In the meanwhile, courtesy the Embassy Riding School, I have been putting in the hard yards with three new horses — Fernhill Facetime, Touchingwood and Dajara 4 — to put up a show in Tokyo,” an upbeat Fouaad said.