Horse riding gains new ground in Thiruvananthapuram

Two equestrian coaching schools in the city have spurred an interest in horse riding with students as young as five taking the reins

Medical practitioner Mumthas A took her 11-year-old son Syed A to learn horse riding at Insaf Horse Riding School & Equestrian Club at Thiruvallam, near Thiruvananthapuram. Within a week’s time, Mumthas found herself learning to walk a horse and to be in the saddle.

“I was terrified of horses. I have not overcome that completely. Nevertheless, riding is an exercise I look forward to after a long day of work. Seeing my son bonding with the horse, I was encouraged to try riding it. That is how I found myself holding the reins of Rani,” says the 41-year-old.

Motivated by Mumthas, her friend and gym partner Priya Balakrishnan joined the class. Priya says Anwar Hussain, lawyer and owner of Insaf training school, has instilled in her the confidence to handle her horse though it is early days for her.

Horse riding is gaining new ground in Thiruvananthapuram with two new training schools galloping ahead in spite of the lockdown.

Students of Insaf Horse Riding School & Equestrian Club in Thiruvananthapuram | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Skywings Horse Club, started by entrepreneur Shibu Thomas just before the lockdown in 2019, was the first . Spread over two acres of sylvan space on the periphery of Kowdiar Palace, enroute to Ambalamukku, Skywing has 12 horses stabled on the property. It was their interest in riding that prompted Shibu and Anwar to buy horses of their own. After learning to ride, Shibu bought two thoroughbreds from stud farms in Bengaluru and Mysore.

What began as a hobby became a business venture when they perceived the interest in horse rising among their family members and friends. Shibu’s wife, Ansa Shibu, was one of the first to learn to ride and as Ansa takes a brown mare with a blaze for a brisk ride, he says proudly that today she is the best in his family.

Shibu points out that members of the royal family of Travancore were fond of riding, especially the late Uthradam Thirunal Marthanda Varma. The city is also home to the Mounted Police unit of the Kerala Police. “People here are used to seeing riders though not many of them could ride. It was considered an exclusive sport, not accessible to the common man,” he explains.

Anwar used to drive approximately 70 kilometres to Kollam to learn horse riding at his friend’s place. On January 1, 2021, he bought two mares, a Kathiawari and a Marwari, both Indian breeds, from a stud farm in Pollachi and had them transported to his relative’s farm in Chirayinkeezhu, on the outskirts of the city.

“Then I brought them to Thiruvallam and opened the riding school on April 19, 2021. I had lost weight and found riding a wonderful way to exercise body and mind. I decided to open a riding school to give residents in the city an opportunity to learn riding,” says Anwar.

Finding trainers

At present, both Shibu and Anwar have 12 horses each. Buying the horses was not as difficult as finding good trainers. “I visited stud farms till I got good trainers, national-level jumpers from Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, both of whom are professionals,” recalls Shibu.

Nuzzling a white stallion, Ruby, Shibu says he was bought at a fancy price from Punjab where he was used in marriages. “Actor Tovino Thomas and Ruby had featured in an advertisement. Gentle and friendly, he comes into his own if the rider gets him to gallop when he can easily attain a speed of 70 km per hour,” he says.

Students of Insaf Horse Riding School and Equestrian Club | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Once students, whose age varies between five and 50, lose the fear of the animal and can walk it, they are taught to trot, which requires stamina and skill. Presently trainers from Rajasthan teach the students to get to know the horses and later to walk with them. Anwar points out that his five-year-old grandson learnt to ride within a month.

Anwar and Shibu can’t stop extolling the advantages of riding. Shibu says: “During the lockdown, I noticed my teenaged son being glued to the screen. To get him away from the habit, I persuaded him to learn horse riding. Within a week, I could perceive changes in him. He gained concentration and enjoyed being out in the open with his horse. This is true for every one who learns to ride.”

Classes are from 6 am to 8 am and from 4.30 pm to 6.30 pm. Training is divided into two levels. After learning to walk and trot, the students are taught to canter and gallop. The fee is between ₹ 10,000 and 15,000 for about 12 to 15 classes in each level with slight variations. Once, they learn to ride, the students can take a membership with the riding school or drop in to enjoy a ride for a fee.

Shibu has plans to invite visitors to spend a day with a horse or to stay at the verdant space in a luxurious container home, all for a price of course.

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