Wednesday, January 13, 2010

India: Manipuri ponies gallop out of comfort zone
January 14 , 2010

Regulars in races & polo matches, this indigenous breed will debut at Dibrugarh equestrian meet

Dibrugarh, Jan. 13: It will be more than a test of endurance for the debutantes.

Five Manipuri ponies have been introduced to compete with other established breeds at the daylong one-star Conquer Endurance Internationale meet, organised by the Equestrian Federation of Assam with assistance from the Equestrian Federation of India in Dibrugarh on January 22.

Though Dibrugarh had been holding equestrian events regularly for riders from home and abroad, never before have Manipuri ponies taken part in any of the events in this Upper Assam tea town. The organisers have named the meet Eastern Himalayan Ride, 2010.

"The event, which will cover a total distance of 60km, is expected to have participation from all the top endurance riders of the six countries which have been invited. We are fielding indigenous ponies in the endurance event and hope that it will be exciting," said Siddhartha Sharma, the secretary general of the Equestrian Federation of Assam.

Apart from top riders from host nation India, the invited countries are Switzerland, the US, South Africa, the UK, Argentina and Australia. "We wanted to give the event a global look so that we can have at least riders from one nation from each continent, we do hope that all of them will turn up, most of them had confirmed too. It will be really exciting to watch the Manipuri ponies in action for the first time in this part of the country. So far we have seen them in polo matches and races. We hope followers of equestrian will love this addition of new breed of horses," Manoj Jalan, the chief adviser of the Equestrian Federation of Assam, added.

Unlike other sport, organising an equestrian event takes months and even years of proper planning and correspondence within the state federation, national as well as the international body, the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI).

Organising the one-star Conquer Endurance Internationale - French for International Endurance Championship - in Dibrugarh had taken months of planning and preparation by the Equestrian Federation of Assam.

"The riders will have to criss-cross sandy banks of the Brahmaputra and trek through tea gardens with the Himalayas in the background. This is why we thought to christen the event the Eastern Himalayan ride," Jalan said. This is the second time Dibrugarh is hosting an international endurance event, the first being held in 2003. Riders from various nations largely appreciated the track.

Ian William, the head of the endurance department of the FEI, is expected to arrive in Dibrugarh shortly and will act as the president of the ground jury and oversee the technical conduct of the event.

Rod Fisher, an eminent equine sport veterinarian, will be a foreign veterinary delegate and act as the president of the Veterinary Commission, said Brig. (retd) K.S. Rao, the technical director of the event.

Rao had been associated with the Equestrian Federation of Assam for a long period and was also the former director of the Meerut-based Army Equitation School - now upgraded into a college - while in service. Equestrian was held in 2001 for the first time in Assam and most of the events had been held in Dibrugarh.

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