Developing a horse sense in Kathmandu
The most unique aspect about equestrian sports is that it requires perfect coordination between two different species: the horse and the human who rides it.
Understanding and respecting horses, bonding with these powerful creatures is a crucial element of the sport, which is catching on in Kathmandu. Once an activity restricted to royals, there are now horse riding schools catering to a growing interest in the public.
One of them is Wind Horse Stables in Gokarna which started 11 years ago and has a stable of 13 horses and 100 members who learn to ride and even practice modern Dressage.
Says owner Niroj KC: “To learn riding, you first need to build that connection with the horse, to understand their moods and psychology.”
Indeed, riders and groomers must be able to decipher the horse’s body language, its intricate flick of the ears, rolling of eyes, or feet movements.
Horses require extensive care, an adequate diet, regular grooming, exercise, and training to prepare them for rides. But physical fitness alone does not suffice, horses have mood swings just like humans, and need tender, loving care. Horses in fact mirror human emotions, if treated with love, they reflect that affection. If abused, they respond with violence.
Wind Horse Stables and others in Kathmandu teach Dressage, an equestrian sport in which horses are trained to perform walks and moves. Riders must communicate efficiently through movements to elicit required responses from their horses. Horses are also involved in games such as polo, show jumping, horse racing, vaulting, or rodeo.
Even though they are used today predominantly for recreation, horses have been a part of human civilisation for thousands of years. Believed to be originally domesticated for meat and milk in Eurasian steppes, the horses’ subsequent use for transportation gave speed to humans unattainable before, helped expand human settlements, agriculture and economies.
In Nepal, horses are still used for transportation in some Himalayan settlements because of their ability to navigate through difficult terrain. In the First and Second World War, horses have battled alongside the Gurkhas.
The cavalry in Nepal was first established in 1849 by King Surendra Bir Bikram Shah, and horses were used in battle in the 1855-56 war with Tibet. Today, the Nepal Army cavalry owns the greatest number of horses in Nepal with 107, and more are being bred in Bharatpur. The army cavalry also has its own riding school at its headquarters at the Narayanhiti Palace Museum.
The former war horses today mostly have a ceremonial role in festivals, and during official ceremonies. The annual Ghode Jatra festival is possibly the most important, where army riders perform a range of equine stunts and games in Tundikhel. Myth has it that the thunderous sound of horses’ hoofs repels child-eating demons.
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Hari Prasad Chauhan of Nepal Army Cavalry says the animals now have a largely ceremonial role, as mechanised transport takes over military and civilian roles of the animals. An increasing number of women are now interested in riding and handling horses.
Jagannath Devkota took up horse-riding a year-and-half ago and says, “Horse-riding has natural healing power, and it replenishes people suffering from nature deficit. Riding helps me overcome anxiety and become more concentrated and calm.”
Devkota, managing director at Manakamana School, adds that riding is good exercise, helps reduce weight, and to stay physically fit. He brings his students once a week to Wind Horse Riding Stables so they too can experience horses’ love and soothing power.
“Working with horses just brings out a sense of inner happiness,” says Madan Pandey, who worked in the Army Cavalry with horses for 16 years, and performed at Ghode Jatra. He missed his horses after retirement, and got a job as a groom at Wind Horse Stables.
IF WISHES WERE HORSES
Riding Schools in Kathmandu
1. Wind Horse Stables, Gokarna, 9803771117
2. Flying Horse Nepal, Dhapakhel, 9801007705 , 9801001407
3. Angel Horse Stables, Baluwatar, (especially for wedding carriages), 9808140918