JAKARTA: WHAT would Fouaad Mirza be doing had he not gotten into horse riding? Doctor? Engineer? Cricketer? Nah. A stable worker? An equestrian park owner? Maybe. He is so connected with horses that he wouldn’t be swapping them with anything else in the world. He’s so attached to them that he also wants to change the format of the medal ceremony in the sport. He believes that horses should be made to stand on the podium, while the riders should pay their obeisance from a few feet away. “Remember, he’s the main athlete here.
We stand here and reap the glory, but he’s done all the work.” It’s also natural that he thinks of them this way. One could argue that nobody in India understands horses as much as the Fouaads. They have had horses in their family for six generations. On Sunday, that special bond congealed even more. Riding Seigneur Medicott, Fouaad won silver in the three-day men’s individual eventing competition. He also picked up a medal of the same colour in the team event. In dressage on Friday, Fouaad, who finished 10th at the last Asian Games, topped the standings with 22.40 points before coming out on top in cross-country as well with a similar score. Going into the last day of competition (jumping final), all the 26-year-old had to do was complete the course without a single penalty in a reasonable time, and he would have gotten gold. He failed. Fouaad had a slow start and that resulted in him knocking the fence at the very second hurdle itself. He blamed it on a lack of energy. “I was a little bit slow on the second. I should have had more energy and momentum going into it.”
For riders, that’s a death knell; a bitter pill to swallow because a setback that early begins to play on the mind. So, how did Fouaad recover? Thanks to the advice of a fellow competitor, who asked him to break down the course like a question paper. “A fellow competitor of mine told me that you have eleven questions on the course. Answer each question first before worrying about the next. Fence one is the first question, fence two is the second, and so on. Do not make the mistake of taking it as one b i g b o w l o f questions.” Fouaad, who trains with German Olympian Bettina Hoy in a small town outside Munster (Germany), still has a long way to go if he has to be in contention for qualifying for the biggest fish (think Olympics). His father, Hasneyn, who has travelled to Jakarta, explains that process. “The Olympic level is going to be a four-star level. This is a one-star level.
You cannot really compare the two events. Such is the difference between the two classes. It’s a quantum leap in the height of the jump as well, even cross country. There will be six qualifying events next year. So you have to participate in those events and gain points.” Not just that. Fouaad can’t just turn up with a horse he likes because he likes to talk to it when nobody is watching. The horse needs to be qualified to do three-star. Right now, Seigneur Medicott is qualified to do twostar. “Once you get the three-star qualification, then you need to get the points needed to qualify for the biggest events,” Hasneyn explains. Fouaad, an Indian of Iranian descent, says there is still a lot for him to learn. Luckily for him, he has a horse that listens to him. Such is their unshakeable bond.