In the saddle in India
Updated: Aug 6, 2019
I don't quite know how I managed to swing this, but ten minutes' drive away from our new house is India's most established riding school. It began around 20 years ago when a (clearly fantastic) father wanted to set up a school for his three children to learn how to ride in. A number of imported European horses later (I'm pretty sure the guy isn't short of a bob or two) and Embassy International Riding School was born.
They have around 70 horses, most of which are used in the riding school. These provide lessons and pony rides for around 150 customers per week who drive up from the city for a break from the general craziness that is Bangalore. The school also has a small number of sponsored riders who compete in dressage and showjumping, and 4 stallions from which they run a small breeding program.
Very unusually for India, the school is well managed and care is taken over the horses. When I learned that we were moving to India, I had really expected that riding just wouldn't be on the cards. I had looked at places to ride, and quite honestly, had been appalled at the condition of horses that were being used for lessons. I absolutely live for riding, but there would be no way that I would add to the suffering of those poor animals.
As we drove up, I was nervous and excited, as what I saw would govern whether I would ride for the foreseeable future. Driving through the middle of nowhere, with the odd chicken, cow and stray dog picking at the side of the road for food, it seemed improbable that the yard would live up to the marketing materials, and I was preparing myself to turn around and head back home, then weep for the next few weeks. Things started to look up, however, when we turned the corner and saw a magnificent sand jumping arena with a grandstand and some pretty serious practice fences (ie anything over 40cm to me!!!!!). It certainly looked like they meant business.
I was slightly perturbed at the height. Having had young horses over the past five years, I had done next to no jumping apart from having awesome fun around a 40cm course on a Connemara pony at a friendly show. I mentioned this to my new instructor in my first lesson and I'm sure he rolled his eyes....
We drove through the security gate, were allowed in by the very organised looking guards, and entered into neat, orderly calm, with the uplifting sound of hooves and the occasional snort. The horses are stabled, and look out onto a number of large courtyards where kids can play on a trampoline and climbing frame, and monkeys hop around in the mango trees, hoping to snatch a bite of someone's breakfast.
We had arranged to have a tour and I had a million and one questions: how much work does each horse get? How much turn-out? Who provides vet care? What are they fed? Who fits your tack? All the answers I received were really good and it was clear that real care was taken to keep the horses as well as possible.
The school was definitely giving back to its horses and there was a general calmness in the air. Pricked ears greeted us over stall gates, and horses walked eagerly to their lessons and hacks. We had a look around the pony barn, a large shaded spot where ponies are kept together. The Monkey was treated to a sit on the lovely Wellington, a sweet old man who has been at the school for 20 years! I wonder how many children this beautiful soul has patiently walked around the arena with?
What I was really interested in was discussing a possible lease arrangement with a suitable horse so I could develop a relationship with something, and ride most days. We sat, waiting to speak to the manager, in the very cute on-site Italian style cafe, sipping cold fresh kombucha (coffee for the Lawyer, of course) as the kids ran amok with new friends in the courtyard. I'm not sure what the future holds, but I think I'm going to like this place.
x Gill x