Equestrian is not a sport Indians usually associate themselves with. Things changed a bit when Fouaad Mirza won two silver medals in Asian Games 2018 and became the first Indian in the last 20 years to qualify for the Olympics.
Fouaad riding with his horse Mickey in Tokyo 2020 finishing 23rd in the finals can be termed the stepping stone moment for the sport in India.
Among the younger generation, we have Chirag Khandal, who became the youngest Indian to qualify for the Asian Games 2022 in individual Eventing.
Chirag Khandal is currently the number 1 Indian in this discipline. Talking about his interest in Equestrian, Chirag says, "I tried every sport including football, basketball, tennis, table tennis, but I didn't like them much."
One day his father's friend came and introduced him to the horses. Chirag hasn't looked back since then and created history by qualifying for the Asian Games.
He attributes his success to the support he received from his parents financially and mentally. He says, "They have been with me in every regional and international tournament. They have supported me on every level."
The Bollywood actor Randeep Hooda praised the 19-year-old and his achievement. A horse lover himself, Randeep posted a heartfelt message for Chirag on Instagram and urged the government to support athletes from sports like Equestrian.
Talking about the appreciation, Chirag says he was overjoyed and overwhelmed by the kind of support and appreciation he got from a celebrity like Hooda.
Talking about his plans, Chirag mentions that he will look to compete at the international level more and represent India in the Olympics.
India will be putting hopes on the 19-year-old to increase the Equestrian Medal tally at the Asian Games, which stands at 12.
Eventing in Equestrian Explained
The easiest way to describe eventing is to think of it as an "equestrian triathlon." Eventing is a three-phase sport that combines three different equestrian disciplines: dressage, cross-country, and show jumping.
Dressage is the first component of the competition, and it assesses a horse's innate grace, athletic ability, and training.
Cross-country, the most important part of eventing, is a test of speed and endurance. A tough jumping course with elevation changes and various natural obstacles is navigated by horse and rider pairs through a countryside environment.
During Show Jumping, horse and rider teams must jump a clear round of towering obstacles in a defined course pattern. This phase follows the cross-country phase and tests a horse's endurance and recovery capacity.
The more difficult the course is, the higher the level. Knocked rails and refusals result in penalties, and a good show jumping round can make or break a team's overall score in the eventing tournament.