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Equine Diary: A Horse For Every Course

Vishavjeet Chaudhary, a barrister-at-law (Inner Temple), master of laws (Cambridge), writes about how he fell off a mare and then fell in love with horses

Equine Diary: A Horse For Every Course
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Thoroughbred

I was no older than eight years. In the peak of summer, on a decidedly balmy evening, I sneaked out and made to the stables, where I saw, glistening in all her glory, our thoro­u­g­­­h­bred mare, all tacked up. Without thinking twice, I was riding into the fields. We continued venturing through the freshly harvested wheat and tilled fields. The unf­o­rgiving sun now looked like a perfect ball of orange in the distance. The ground started cooling, assisted by the breeze of promising monsoons. The mare gave in, and the trot bec­ame a gentle canter. Adrenalin reigned supreme as I saw her lustrous mane rising and falling in the breeze, flowing in a rhythm that can only be described as poetic.

We covered a decent distance among the man­go and litchi trees. And then, as we cant­e­red along, bang! The mare spooked and bef­ore I could realise it, she bucked. I was on my back, thankfully on soft, tilled soil. I wish I could make it sound braver than it was. As I fell, the mare stood her ground, silently. I dusted myself off and looked into her gentle, gleaming eyes. It’s in this moment that I fell in love with horses. Rather hopelessly!

Hunter & prey

As I rode back, I was astonished by the gentle nature of this beast that weighed at least six times my bodyweight and was infinitely stro­n­ger. Yet her kindness, forgiving spirit and emp­athy were overwhelming and replicated across the species. My experience was perh­aps a small speck in the grand scheme of thi­ngs, but it made me aware of the possibility of a strong, robust and somewhat unlikely bond between horse and human. Inn­ately, we are hunters, and horses our prey. Yet the degree of trust, affect­ion and love between us is astoni­shingly strong and legendary.

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Steeds (left) Whistlejacket by George Stubbs, projected onto the side of National Gallery, London; and the writer’s collection of equestrian books and art at his home

In a famous piece by Rabindranath Tagore, Brahma, the creator, summons his assistant. The process of creation is nearing its end. Ele­­phants and pythons, whales and tigers, birds and humans have all been created. The assist­ant tells the creator that there is hardly any material left. Creating huge jaws, claws and big beasts has meant that there was nothing left of the ‘hard’ stuff. The creator conte­m­pl­a­tes and summons the soft stuff—the sky and air. The creator spent much time thinking of this species, he gave him neither claws nor horns. No sharp teeth either, and thus the horse was created. Tigers and lions were giv­en jungles to live in, whales and sharks the ocean. The horse got an open field. The creator thought others run to hunt or to escape being hunted, but the horse runs because it wants to. And hence, this animal became the symbol of freedom, staying true to its material of creation.

Horses have been depicted for centuries in paint and print. In fact, they feature promine­n­tly even in prehistoric painti­ngs as old as the ones in Lascaux. Renaissance art is dotted with a number of horses painted in motion. The most famous perhaps is the larger-than-life Whistlejacket by George Stubbs, taking a prime spot in the National Gallery, London. The hor­se, with its front legs in air, is truly captiva­ting and remains one of the most technically accomplished paintings.

Steeds of yore

Aeiron, the immortal horse, plays a pivotal role in Greek mythology. Shakespeare used horses as metaphors as well as characters. In the battle scene, Ric­h­ard III exclaims, “A horse, a hor­se, a kingdom for my horse!” Black Beauty, the saga of the prized racehorse, has captured the literary world for generations. More recently, War Horse is a tribute to the role they played in the war years. The tra­gic story of Shergar, a pri­z­ed race horse that disappeared, is full of spe­cula­t­i­on and mystery. In Indian mythology, Uchch­aihshravas, the seven-headed horse, was born out of the chur­n­ing of the oceans and was kno­wn for its agility, grace and power.

The bond between humans and horses is an exceptional one. Chetak, Maharana Pratap’s  steed, lives in memory for its loyalty and valour. Rani Lakshmibai’s horse, Badal, is simi­la­rly remembered for its ser­vice and love, and has carved a niche in history.

As Churchill said, “No time is wasted spent in the saddle.” For decades now, I have found incomparable love and trust, adventure and thrill, calmness and solitude with these ama­z­ing animals. Bonding with a horse is truly one of the biggest delights. This, perhaps, is the closest one comes to having wings, and how!

(This appeared in the print edition as "EQUINE Diary")

Vishavjeet Chaudhary is barrister-at-law (Inner Temple), master of laws (Cambridge)

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