Maharashtra’s first-ever Horse Endurance Championship was held in Lonavala on February 19, 2017. Organised by the Indigenous Horse Owners Association of Maharashtra, this endurance event attracted over 50 entries, with riders coming from as far away as Indore. A very scenic and interesting cross-country route was laid out by the organisers to which we had access because Khushru Patel, one of the organisers, is a dear friend. So I grabbed the opportunity and decided to drive the entire route in a Polaris RZR 800 ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle). This proved to be great fun, because under the RZR’s bonnet reside 50 energetic horses and due to its low overall weight it has a very good power-to-weight ratio and packs quite a punch. It’s also capable of going almost anywhere thanks to its rugged long-travel suspension and all-wheel drive with low ratio.
There were three categories in the Horse Endurance. A 20km one in which the participants go over the route once. A Junior category who also had to do the route once and a 40km category that did the circuit twice. The riders were timed at the start and finish and also at checkpoints on the route. The timing in an endurance event is important, but more vital is the condition of the horse at the finish. After riders cross the finishing line, they have 30 minutes to cool the horse down and bring its heartbeat to 64 per minute or lower. If it’s over 64, the rider is eliminated from the competition. The horse is also made to trot, and if it’s found to be limping or lame, again the rider is eliminated. This means that while the rider has to be fast, he also has to care his horse and not push it beyond its endurance limit.
The aim of the Indigenous Horse Owners Association of Maharashtra is to preserve and promote local breeds like the Marwari, which are strong horses capable of covering long distances. Most riders were on Marwaris and the competition in this cross-country event was intense with the stage timings being very close. In the end, it was Krish Saigal who won the 40km Endurance category with a time of 2 hour 25 minutes. In second place was Bakhtiyar Irani, less than a minute behind! In fact, Bakhtiyar led almost all the way; it was only in the last couple of kilometres that Krish on Atlantic Star picked up his pace dramatically and literally pipped Bakhtiyar to the post.In the 20km Endurance category, it was Satyajit Pawar riding Malhar who was triumphant. The Junior category was won by 15-year-old Anurag Gaikwad riding Honey. His mother Sangeeta is the caretaker of Khushru Patel’s farm and all of them were overjoyed. The event was very well organised, and a great time was had by all. Including me, who used the 50PS Polaris RZR to ‘Run with the 50 Participating Horses’.
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