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395, Lamberts Cove Road
Vineyard Haven MA 02568
It has been a momentous year for the USA chapter with several major changes in hand.
Convenor Jennifer Blaisdell was asked to resign following the unacceptable circumstances leading to the death of one of the Marwari mares belonging to Francesca Kelly,
The Marwari herd continues to do well and we had two more beautiful foals this spring, a filly from Zubeida and a colt from Shyamla.
A loss to the us but a positive move towards establishing a seed herd in Europe was the decision taken by Francesca to sell 3 of her USA born Marwaris to Mario Calcagno residing in Spain.
Mario Calcagno and Christina visited Martha’s Vineyard this summer and spent a hugely enjoyable 4 day s riding the beach trails of Chappaquiddick and selecting the two mares of their choice to accompany the stallion Nazrullah to their new home in can Riu north of Barcelona both Mario and Francesca have numerous Marwari horses pending export in the Indian government pipeline and both parties pledged to work together and within their respective societies to overcome the competitive issues that gave rise to the unofficial ban on the export of the Marwari horse.
Photographer Tom Chambers visited Martha’s Vineyard and the result of his footage can now be seen in galleries across America eliciting more enquiries for information of the breed.
The Marwari horse is now recognised as one of the 96 breeds of North America and feature in the heavy –weight book of that same title with a foreword by Francesca Kelly.
The island Marwaris , known affectionately as Martha’s Marwaris receive dozens of visitors every year and the us chapter has now linked with the trustees of the reservation MV to further educate and introduce interested parties to the Marwari.
In 2008 film-makers Michael Nunn and William Trevitt came to the island with German dancer Johannes Wieland to shoot the first of a series of moving poems with dancers and horses, directed by Francesca. After being stranded on the mainland due one of November’s violent hurricanes, horses and crew braved the icy waters around Marthas Vineyard and recorded the first film of Marwaris in and under water.
The USA chapter offers visitors from India the opportunity to visit the Marwaris on Martha’s Vineyard and enjoy the extraordinary beauty of the island at the same time.
IHSI at the World Equestrian Games Kentucky USA, October 2010
After a year of negotiations, medical protocols, fund-raising and the last nail-biting rejection visa clearance from the us embassy was granted for the 8 riders and support staff in the indian team; bonnie, sarpi, kamalbir, bhuneshwar, shubash, dilip sushil and jitender packed their bags and headed for the weg via martha’s vineyard. (actually sarpi and kamalbir came a little later as they were busy with their own horseshow in chandigarh)
So to be precise the arrival of the dundlod contingent on the island queen ferry from woods hole to vineyard haven marked a unique moment for all of us. Sixteen years of work and partnership mostly conducted on indian soil was suddenly reversed. I was finally able to welcome a significant part of that life to my world. I am lucky to own three abutting properties on lamberts cove road, all facing a small lake and minutes away from beach access, so there was plenty of space and privacy for everyone.
Equally remote and isolated in many ways by her ocean setting, martha’s vineyard is home to the us marwaris known as martha’s marwaris, strict environmental policies, breathtaking beauty and an eclectic mix of artists, writers and musicians, along with the descendants of many old whaling families, early black settlers and a fiercely independent tribe of wampanoag indians. There is virtually no crime, no franchises and although jaws was shot there many years ago - no death by great whites!
Shubash, who performs so many duties it’s hard to pigeonhole his talents, was also chef en residence and our first afternoon was spent stocking upon the essentials of good rajasthani cooking. I’m pretty sure he worked harder than anyone else as he was responsible for providing 3 meals daily throughout for all of us as well as pitching in with the daily horse chores and adventures. Shubash suddenly decided as we were swimming the horses to mount up bareback on zubeida and lead her into the water. Luckily she stayed close to shore and paid no attention to his urgings to get into deeper water. With the occasional sampling of vegetarian restaurants and frozen fruit yoghurts, the younger boys in particular preferred to eat native.
First things first and we left our compound, stopping for breakfast on the way at the local farm store and took the small ferry in edgartown to chappaquiddick where the horses reside 7 months of the year. I lease 9 acres and have built two amish barns for mares and stallions with outside run-ins to provide spring and summer housing to the herd. In the winter they move off-island to new hampshire where they board until the following spring thus allowing me the freedom to travel and attend to my commitments in india.
Two and half weeks was the time we had estimated to accustom the us horses to their new duties as tent-pegging horses. In fact it took just days. They accepted the twirling lances, jump-start gallops and fiendish war-cries with mild irritation at most as if all this activity was just another example of man’s irrationality.
By 1st october, our departure date from the island, riders and horses had gained and lost weight respectively. We shipped the grooms with the horses to new hampshire 2 days before their scheduled long haul to kentucky from watchtower farm along with every last piece of equipment needed for our ten day stay at the khp.
Col. Sarpi and kamalbir arrived that day also and the ‘elders’ put their heads together to plan the inter-state road trip, non-stop, with only a whiskey bottle to spice up the caffeine.
It was decided that bonnie would do most of the driving with kamalbir as back-up given his many years’ residence in the us.i would fly.
If all went well they would all arrive in our temporary residence in simpsonville (which turned out to be a rather grand kentucky home complete with young thoroughbreds in abutting paddocks and several large plasma screen televisions with no cable access which was disappointing as we could not follow the daily weg reportage at the end of long days), rest for the night, pick me up in the morning and head for the khp in time to usher in the lorraine horse transport rig to the equine village.
Even with a three hour shopping spree at the flagship east coast dover saddlery store in new hampshire, good time was made and my very battered truck delivered everyone without a hitch.
It was very exciting to be in line ahead of “our rig” the 90 foot long – haulage truck custom-designed and built by its proud owners, with 6, 10 x 10 stalls, one of which sushil and dilip had slept in most comfortably overnight. After a brief review of paperwork and clearance by a root and riddle resident vet, we found our barn and unloaded our horses.
The equine village, half of the khp, comprises several sports fields, breed display arenas, the alltech pavilions, the trade shows and clinician corrals, museums, paddocks and boarding barns.
The official olympic level competitions were held in the main arenas to the outer limits of the khp so to some extent the interface between the two halves participants was limited due to their heavy schedules.
However for the public, it must have been a dream. To wander through the immaculately groomed grounds of the khp where over $60 million dollars has been invested over the last 4 years to provide permanent olympic standard arenas, a variety of equine facilities, new museums spaces, the informative and visionary alltech pavilion and village housing the latest advances in their worldwide environmental technologies (including their base in india, bangalore) all geared towards agricultural sustainability, education and planet-respecting growth.
The founder, dr. Pierce lyons, an irishman, created this vision 15 years ago and its extraordinary growth enabled him to support the weg kentucky as title sponsor. He did a magnificent job, and is one of those rare charismatic people who actually exemplify all the qualities that sell by his vibrant and youthful energy, glowing health and piercing intelligence.
One had the impression that he manages to fit in a week’s worth of work into one day simply by setting clear goals, knowing how to say no to extraneous distractions, and finding the best people irrespective of their background to work with.
He was definitely hands on, attending to his stands, visiting senators and their high profile guests, foreign officials, and the hundreds of volunteers who staffed the 3-week event for nothing more than their daily expenses and the thrill of sharing the largest gathering of horses and competitors america has ever known.
The trade shows maintained a high standard of goods and it was a relief not to see some of the tacky western gear that clutters up some of the us fairs. Olwyn from in the saddle was also there and we posed the indian boys in their uniforms to highlight her stall and indian rides.
One of our highlights was the purchase of three bitless bridles right after the fall of one of our riders which incurred a bit wound to zubeida. The very helpful and enthusiastic creator of this particular brand fitted all three mares and zubeida was able to painlessly carry out breed displays and tent-pegging runs as before with the added bonus of being able to graze in between!
Sarpi and kamalbir spent a good deal of time going around the clinics and show-jumping trials in the main arenas. They both fell for a grand prix show jumper, unusually a full irish draught, and spent many long hours with his owner amy, figuring out how to import semen into india to create a super sports horse there.
Having introduced jean-philippe giacomini to the gang, it is hoped that through his contacts sarpi can also arrange a dressage clinic early next year.
Jp trained two of my horses in 2001. With his no-nonsense training methods (horse and rider) and accompanying barrage of savage humour jp is not for the faint-hearted, but he knows his business and does not waste his or his students time one bit.
He is a great trainer and held daily clinics throughout the weg. It is my hope that dressage becomes a systematic training of horse and rider in years to come so that both perform as a partnership to the best of their ability in whatever sphere they choose.
Poor horsemanship throughout the country is greatly responsible for injuries and abuse to the indigenous horses.
Our first day at the weg was marred by very cold and wet weather; the displays were cancelled and we had to purchase warmer clothes for ourselves and fleeces for the horses as hot weather had been projected!
Nonetheless, the second day found us performing in two displays: the tent-pegging display and the breed display to music and in full costume, jewellery and tack.
Sadly, we lost bhuneshwar thereafter as he had to return to india to lead the first safari of the season. I say sadly, because each day brought more and more people to find us, greater crowd participation and interest, blisteringly hot weather, and a great camaraderie amongst the hundreds of equine village participants .
We spent many hours admiring each other’s horses - i particularly liked the “baroque ensemble”, 8 highly-trained spanish and friesian stallions telling their history through theatre and music - conferring on our horses health issues, idiosyncrasies and breeding potentials and unanimously wondering why the khp had allowed the inclusion of the american saddlebred associations whose practices are banned from many states and whose competing horses display the highest level of stress i have ever seen in any international equine gathering. Every single one of those poor horses suffers a perverse form of bondage to achieve the eye-vein-nostril popping look of a horse in full flight, whose tails are broken 6 inches from the root, then arced high over an intricate cage that supports this unnatural angle invisibly due to the fountain of tail hair that is artfully arranged to fall over and around it, and whose hooves carry thick weighted shoes that force it to elevate its gaits unnaturally. (one proud owner likened them to wearing “trainers”).
Some horses wear blindfolds in their stalls to immobilize them against the restraints they must wear so as to make a perfect entrance. (i.e., the extra chains on their hooves and curb reins to keep their heads tucked in like peacocks).
There are many related websites that both applaud and eschew these practices and they may be of particular interest to uk chapter members as i was told that many of these rituals were a british invention during the times of the hackney carriage horses.
Bonnie and i were given an opportunity to discuss all of the above with rick lamb. Rick lamb hosts an equine channel and also happens to be an active opponent through that medium to the entire saddlebred industry.
He and his wife collaborate as roving reporters and have a strong following in the states. They covered the tent-pegging displays, interviewed us to find out more about the marwari horses and the ihsi goals and personally introduced us to a number of well established trainers and breeders .we met up with people who are conducting serious scientific research on what constitutes the ultimate endurance horse.
The indian team made a tremendous impact. It is the first time tent-pegging has been displayed by any indian team on indian horses in a western country. In fact the first time an indian team has demonstrated the sport on indigenous horses outside of india.
In-between tournaments their very presence excited interest and questions and it was a really great experience for the two dundlod riders even thought their favourite event were the all girl cowboys with the star rodeo outfits and horses!!
For those members who have not witnessed a tent-pegging display it is – now - a cavalry sport that evolved from the actual mounted attacks on enemy tented camps whereby the desert warriors would rip out the supporting pegs with their lances and back-up riders would hack the emerging occupants with their swords and daggers.
Imagine any arrangement of tents - linear, circular, in rows - and you have some idea of the precise and difficult task in hand as the raids were usually at dawn or twilight, and necessarily at full gallop. Manoeuvring even a small party of horsemen through these conditions takes a good eye, a firm hand, and a bloody good horse.
Mares were always used for these purposes as they do not announce their presence in the way a stallion does to unknown others of their kind. These were often released from their ropes in the same manner so as to follow the riders as they escaped.
Nowadays pegs of increasingly narrow proportions are set into the ground at specific intervals. Riders bear down with their weapons, lance, sword and dagger, to pick up the pegs one after the other. They ride individually and as a team of three. It makes for an exciting and impressive display and the mounts usually act out the tension with a great deal of piaffeing and snorting before launching into top gears.
Other tests of hand/eye coordination at a gallop have been introduced into the sport but we left those out so as to maintain a more war-like ambiance.
Kamalbir and i shared the commentary and the last few days brought many well known clinicians and horse trainers such as pat parelli and john lyons to see the “hindi horses and riders”. The last two days we gave skilled riders a chance to try for the pegs – at a much slower pace - and sarpi was a great pr for the sport not only because of his many decades as efi coach, but also because of the many ladies he could charm!!
Sarpi actually rode with bonnie and i during the breed display, our inclusion of which came at the last minute and which resulted in us improvising daily and getting more and more outrageous as time went by.
Eventually bonnie and sarpi flew around the arena twirling their lances and circling the indian flag like pros. The tent-pegging riders stayed in their uniforms and marched in with their country’s flag, the dundlod flag and marwari bloodlines flag. For future events i will be designing a flag for the ihsi, so suggestions invited from all.
Ghunguru just looked gorgeous in her jewelled tack and did exactly what i required of her, both of us being dressage rookies; after each breed display we withdrew to a public round pen for photographs and questions. It was especially fun to greet indian visitors to the khp who were so happy to see their fellow countrymen representing their homeland.
More than once people i have not seen for years suddenly emerged from the crowds to say hello.
I think one of my sharpest memories was the time we were waiting our turn to go into the show arena. Sarpi was riding zubeida, bonnie on mehrunissa, and i on ghunguru.
We were watching the tail end of the wellsfargo coach display, a long authentic coach, resplendent with gold trim, pistol and whip cracking drivers and outriders and 6 horses careering full tilt around the ring.
We had checked our entrance and their exit points and were ready to enter as soon as they left. I do believe sarpi and bonnie were grooming their moustaches as to my horror i realized the entire rig was exiting by our entrance point, yards from where we were standing and at full gallop with gunshots that sounded like cannons from where we were standing.
Sarpi and i were able to back our horses quickly out of the way but mehrunissa took one look at the flying coach and horses and bolted, in the direction they were heading! Few of the crowd will ever forget the sight of the cowboys chasing a lone lance-bearing indian.
Luckily all ended well, bonnie collected the wilful mehrunissa, and we entered sedately and on schedule with much appreciation and laughter from the audience.
There are so many moments we will all treasure. Seeing sarpi on a horse for the first time in 16 years (!), magnificent displays of dressage, the wonderful appaloosa/friesian stallion belonging to baroque ensemble, with all the grandeur and size of the friesian but the elasticity and coat of a white leopard-spotted appaloosa, the fearless young handicapped riders, pat parelli’s party for all the participants of the equine village with organic food and drink and much singing and dancing, and just the friendliness of it all. Not to forget the kindness of terry richards, equine village dorm matron who kept a vigilant eye on all of us and for whom it became a daily mission to locate our truck that we attempted to hide as close to the centre of activity as possible so as not to walk extra miles daily.
Our guys are not used to walking, its either a jeep or four legs!!
Perhaps the most moving moments for everyone were those of the closing ceremony. This closure of the weg was for the official winning teams only with every attending country present wearing their country team’s colours and insignia.
I had managed to convince dr lyons, who then very kindly bent protocol, to allow the boys to carry the indian flag, represented for the first time in an international equestrian event of this calibre.
This we did and what a proud sight it was to see shubash, dilip and sushil, flanked by sarpi and bonnie and kamalbir, solemn and smart in their respective uniforms, marching with the rest of the world into the main arena, to a full house, a welcoming orchestra and standing ovations.
That moment will remain powerful for us all.
It’s too soon to see how our presence in the weg will impact future support or indeed attendance from india for other events of this nature. What we do know is that we have already heard and seen cries of alarm and dismay (all false) as to why we should have carried the national flag of india.
Predictably from those same people who just did not get their act together or were too busy fighting each other in-house and missed the boat as we have again seen with the asian games. Both omissions of efi presence are under scrutiny.
From our side, the ihsi continues to push boundaries, create precedents and forge ahead with fulfilling as much of our criteria as we can – all of us in our different ways.
Bonnie and i have signed up for the weg normandy 2014 .who knows how many marwaris will be in europe by then and which will attend.
There is no doubt that mario calcagno will wish to join us in displaying the breed along with some of my us stock. By then dilraj will have returned to marwari bloodlines and my young stallion from bahadur shah will also be able to give a creditable dressage display as well.