After spending two days in Jaipur we moved to Dundlod. Dundlod is a small town in Jhunjhnu district about 170 km from Jaipur. Road is good not unlike other states where after 5 hours of road journey tourists look for the bed and painkiller tablet. We stayed in Dundlod Fort as a guest of Kr Raghuvendra singh ji who runs horse safaris at Dundlod. He is a pioneer in adding this adventure in tourism itinerary successfully. Today it has became one of the major tourism adventure sport in Rajasthan. I am not sure whether this is recognised as an adventure sport or not!
We were there on invitation to photograph the International Invitational 81 Km Endurance organised by Indigenous Horse Society of India with collaboration of Rajasthan Equestrian Association. This was the first Equestrian Federation of India's qualifying race at Dundlod. Two Endurance were organised one 40 Km and second 81 Km Endurance in which major International teams participated. Vansthali school Jaipur came with their Girls team. Some of them really put an impressive show during Show Jumping and Tent Pegging.
Kay and I were completely new to Indian Horses even I never photographed Horses before except few shots in Pushkar few year back so this was all very interested for us. I was not sure whether I will be able to produce any quality photograph of any sort or not because everyone tells us that Horses are not easy subject to photograph. And it is true. It is a very much time consuming job. Even the photographer has to built a rapport with horse to stand that close to him and make him use to of that "bloody" camera shutter noise. Kay loved being around horses again. Her dream comes true of riding a horse in India even if it was only for a short duration. Now she wants a horse! even more. I already see a dent in my pocket and I am sure if it happens it will repay through various means.
We reached Dundlod on 6th afternoon and met Ms Francesca Kelly and Kr Raghuvendra Singh ji Dundlod. Later Ms Francesca offered us a lift to the stable. That gave us a good opportunity to move around the stable and photograph horses on first day.
Here we met Colonel (retd) Sirpratap Singh ji, a very fine Horse Ride instructor and an authority on Indian Horses. Stable staff was practicing Tent pegging and suddenly we saw Sirpratap singh ji going for Tent Pegging. Still he is better than many others.
At the fort dinner is always served around the camp fire. Also this is the time to evaluate the day activities and plan for tomorrow.
Other person we met here is Philippa Waterfield. She says that she always feels very nervous when she meet new people. I didn't see that at all. She is a one good friendly nature person who love Horses and try to spend minimum 6 months in India every year. I enjoyed her company and hope soon she will be able to come and stay with us.
Opening ceremony was scheduled for 8th so we had another free day to move around stable.
Got some good photos of Horse rolling in sand, horse washing and clipping. See the photo of clipping, still using the good old method. Watching Sirpratap singh ji giving riding lessons to Ms Maica was a treat to watch.
Tent Pegging show on opening ceremony day was a fine example of practice and riders rapport with the horse. One of the stable boy hit three targets in tent pegging by sword. He threw his sword in air after pegging one and showed the similar action on second. Alexander practiced on bareback and so the other rider from the stable.
Phillippa and Kay helped Omprakash in washing the horses. They are washed with shampoo to keep their coat clean and shiny.
41 km Endurance started as per schedule on 10th morning. Endurance is a skill to ride the horse for that distance and keep him fit. Riders has to come back to the starting point after covering 20 km for vet check and physical check up of the horse. A horse rider can be eliminated from the race if horse looks lame or his heart beat don't come down in twenty minutes time of his arrival. Similar thing happened in final round when a rider thought he won the race but his horse was found lame and got eliminated. Abhimanyu Yadav, 19 yrs old boy, won the race. This was his first competition ever. What a record for the future. But a 10 year old boy who finished the race impressed everybody. Riding for 41 km at that age is not easy. It needs stamina and will both. At finishing point he and his horse really look exhausted.
Next day on 11th was showing. Many fine looking Stallion and Mare came for the competition.
International Endurance started on 12th morning. We reached on ground in dark. Some riders were already warming up their horses. Army team members were very confident about their success. They were telling us that they will win the Endurance. In fact their comment was that their horses, Thoroughbred, are in good nick than others and could finish the first round in 45 minutes. It did not happened but they won the Endurance to put every other team to battle for the third spot which was won by British team on Marwari Horses.
Only sad accident happened with Sh Bhuneshwar singh ji who fell of the horse and injured his shoulder muscle but he showed his courage by riding again with one arm wrapped against his chest. Unfortuntely he could not finish the third round. Some of the foreign participants commented on the course as one of the toughest course ever they rode in any Endurance but it was all the same for everyone.
During this period four postal stamps were released on Indigenous horses of India ( Kathiyawari, Manipuri, Zanskari and Manipuri)
Price distribution ceremony and Horse Dancing competition was held on 13th. Still photography can not do full justice with dancing horses. One has to see it in reality to see the relationship between horse and man. Hats off to both of them.
We are very thankful to Sh Arun Deo Sengar for providing us a chance to witness this event and Kr Raghuvendra Singh ji Dundlod and Ms Francesca Kelly for their hospitality, encouragement and support.
Photographs of this Endurance can be seen and prints can be ordered at www.flickr.com/photos/satyendraphotography