Riders should adapt to the horse: Indian captain
Imphal, Nov 27 : Lt Col Sameer Choudhary, 36 years, captain of India A is a highly accomplished polo player. Sameer was born in Abohar in Punjab to retd Lt Gen P S Choudhary and Manisha Choudhary. He has a handicap of 2 goals.
Sameer Choudhary learned to ride for a riding school in Delhi DID, when he was in the 6th standard. He began playing polo when he joined the Indian Military Academy (IMA) in 2001. Since then he has made tremendous progress as a polo player, playing some of the most prestigious tournaments both within the country and abroad.
He has played in high goals tournaments in Delhi, was part of the IPA team for the Six Nation Cup in England, where he won the Most Valuable Player award. Sameer has also played in South Africa, Malaysia, Argentina, Italy and Nigeria.
Polo, Sameer feels, is 75% horses and 25% player, “It is important to have good horses to be a good polo player”. Taking good care of the horse is a priority for Sameer. “Years of riding has taught me that the rider should get used to the horse and play according to the horse and not vice-versa”, Sameer shared.
Sameer had heard of Manipur as the place origin of modern polo and had always wanted to play here and feels privileged to get this chance. Something else here also stood out for him, “I find in Manipur, polo is a common men’s game whereas in other parts of the world it is a very elite game”.
For Major Narendra Kumar, the second member of the team, it is his third time in Manipur, having participated in the 10th and 11th Manipur Polo Internationals earlier. “ I am very happy to be back here, I remember the warmth of the people, you feel you are at home”, reminisces Narendra.
Narendra Kumar, 38 years, a 0 handicap polo player was born in Pathena village in Rajasthan. He started riding at the age of 27, after which taking up the game of polo and show jumping came as a natural progression for him. Starting with the initial guidance from his coach, Narendra developed a strong passion for the game, so much so that he now says, “this sport is part of my life and I can’t live without it.”
For Narendra, taking care of the horses and developing an understanding with them is what separates polo from other sports. He finds the polo played with the Manipuri ponies as mount totally different from the polo on regular horses. Narendra finds the Manipuri Ponies “fantastic” but one needs at least a week to get used to them. And having been here twice, Narendra no feels he has got the hang of the Manipuri pony, “I can ride them better, it’s almost like riding any other horses in the rest of the country”.
The third member of India A team, Capt Anant Raipurohit, 28 years, a 0 goal polo player was born in NDA Khadakwasla, Pune. His father, Maj Gen N S Rajpurohit is a tent pegger and a 2 goals polo player and incidentally, was posted in Leimakoing in 2011-12.
Starting to ride around the age of 10, he took to equestrian sports like a duck to water. As part of the junior India Equestrian team, he took part in U- 14 International Show jumping competition in Columbia in 2007 and the U- 21 in Australia in 2011.
Taking up polo while in NDA, he continued playing polo and learning the nuances of the game at his regiment, the 61 Cavalry. Anant has been playing intra-army tournaments and in 2017, he was part of the Indian Army Polo team to Brunei.
In polo, Anant feels learning to understand the behaviour of the horse is the key and “this is an art which one learns over time”. For him it is important to spend as much time as possible with the horse, before the match and as also after the match.
Daffadar Vijay Singh, 39, took up riding lessons after joining the army in 1997 and started playing polo from 2003 onwards. In a short period Vijay Singh made tremendous progress and was part of the winning Indian Army team of an army tournament held in Malaysia in 2006. He again featured in the winning India team of a four-nation tournament. Interestingly, Vijay Singh was also part of the India A team in 2014 Manipur Polo International Tournament which reached the semi-final stage.
Vijiay Singh is a 2 goals handicap player and credits his success as a polo player to his coach Brigadier S S Kashyap. He also trains horses for polo, show jumping and dressage. Besides, he trains other polo player in the army including Ram Singh who is part of the present India A team.
Ram Singh, 33 years old, a native of Bihar, also learned riding after he joined the army in 2005 and took to polo in 2010. Within five years of initiation, as selected for the Indian team to play international matches against Ghana in 2015. Ram plays for RVC and is coached by Brigadier S S Kashyap and Dfr Vijay Singh and he feels it an honour to be playing besides his coach here in Manipur. Ram is very attached to horses and the game of polo and cannot stay away from them for long period. Even when he is on holiday and spending time with the family, if there is a game of polo, “I will rush back to play”.