Punjab to Pushkar in 12 Days Manu Sharma’s Dream Ride
By Gina McKnight
On November 17, 2012, world-renowned equestrian and equine photographer, Manu Sharma, set a new endurance record for India. He has set the record for riding a Marwari Horse 612 kilometers in 12 days, a great feat of equine endurance and equestrian perseverance celebrated by Manu and horse lovers everywhere.
From Patiala, India, Manu prepared for this great event for many months. His record breaking endurance ride began at Param Gill Stud Farm, village of Chinniwal, district of Barnala, Punjab. Manu’s love for his native horse, the magnificent Marwari, shines through. Manu explains, “It was my dream to ride a horse for a very long distance. I started with training two Marwari colts; Manak and Punjab Kesri. I trained them for three months. Both stallions had enough stamina to travel 40 kilometers in one day, but in the end, I chose Manak for the endurance because Punjab Kesri was too young to take the stress of the journey.”
Manak is a beautiful dark bay Marwari. He has the Marwari signature curved ears that frame the heart of India. At seven years, Manak stands at 15.3 hh and weighs 425 kg. His long defined legs and solid muscular silhouette exemplify months of training, conditioning and Manu’s expert care. Manak is a true performance horse. His conformation is structurally correct; balanced perfection from majestic head to aesthetic tail. His forelock settles neatly over his white star, between his inward curving ears. A luxurious coat gently shimmers in the sultry India sun, covering his stalwart, suave frame. His powerful neck and artistic formation are the envy of his stall mates.
Manu’s ride began at 8 AM with a plethora of equipment and people. “A ten member team followed Manak and I all the way by truck,” Manu says. “The team included cameramen, a farrier (who also helped with horse massage), medical advisors, and equine scientists from the National Research Centre on Equines (NRCE), Bikaner, India. The crew helped me a lot during the ride.”
Dr. Ramesh Kumar Dedar and Dr. Vijay Kumar, equine scientists from NRCE, were on hand for the entire endurance. Dr. Dedar explains, “When Manu told us about the idea of more than a 600 kilometer ride, we decided to help Manu and his team. Our group of scientists accompanied them from the start of the journey. We monitored physiological parameters, like pulse rate, respiration, rectal temperature, body weight, and body condition of the horse. We also monitored hematological parameters, such as blood lactate, blood glucose and creatinine kinase levels of the horse. These investigations throughout the endurance helped us to keep the horse healthy and accordingly we modified the diet and electrolytes supplementation of the horse.”
Riding through diverse terrain, Manu rode six to seven hours each day, overcoming man-made and natural obstacles to reach his goal. Sometimes cantering, sometimes galloping, Manu’s inherent horsemanship was evident. While maintaining an impressive pace, Manu was ever aware of Manak’s safety and welfare; zigzagging through spongy wetlands, farmer’s fields, asphalt highways, torrid deserts and emerald hillocks. A vast array of endemic flora and fauna complimented the trail. Khejri trees were a welcome oasis for shade and rest. Hues of blue sky embellished the vast countryside as well as the intense cityscape. Mesmerizing sunrises and cameo sunsets provided a sumptuous spectrum of scenery and color.
Temperatures during the day sometimes climbed to 35 degrees C. When temperatures were high, the team would find shade and resume the endurance in the cool evening hours. Periodic rests were essential for Manak’s scientific evaluations; a cool drink for both horse and rider, and time for Manu to call his family in Patiala. After a days ride, team members would make camp for the night. The beauty of the twilight desert set the stage for a night of quiet comradery, needed sleep and necessary rejuvenation. Manu expounds, “Everyone stayed in their own tents, but Manak and I stayed in the same tent. It was good to take off my shoes, walk through the night desert, and bond with my horse.”
On November 19, after 12 days in the saddle, Manu and his team reached their destination – Pushkar, India’s premier horse fair. Arriving at Pushkar, crowds of people rushed to greet Manu and Manak. Cheers and bravos came from natives and tourists. Manu and Manak quickly gained celebrity status with India’s equestrians. Manak confirmed that the Marwari breed is an all-around sport horse. Manu exhibited Manak’s adjustability, hardiness and stamina. It was an unforgettable journey for both horse and rider. It is a milestone for India’s indigenous Marwari. Manu smiles, “I rode all the way, 12 days of riding! I wish to thank Param Gill, Aarpi Gill, Raghu Chahar, and my entire team. They made my endurance possible.”
India’s countrymen are excited about Manu’s eventful journey from Punjab to Pushkar. Anish Gajjar, equestrian extraordinaire and Co-Founder of the Equestrian Club of Gujarat, says, “Manu’s ride should be an inspiration for young riders to train themselves and their horses for stamina over long distances. The ride was for 12 days, but the preparation must have taken months and these results can only be achieved with passion and persistence. I hope more people will follow in his footsteps and take up horse riding in a more dedicated manner”. Virendra Kankariya, Founder and President of the Gujarat Equestrian Association, Vice President of the All India Marwari Horse Society, Jodhpur, says, “Manu’s ride is an epic one as it exemplifies and showcases the amazing endurance power of the Marwari Horse.”
Manak, a steadfast stallion, remains ready and willing for the next legendary endurance. Manu resounds, “The horse is the real hero of any equestrian game. Manak is the real hero. The air that flows between his ears comes from heaven. Nothing comes close to riding a Marwari. When I am very old and pass on, make a saddle of my skin. I want to be on horseback for a few more years.”
Congratulations to Manak and Manu!
Gina McKnight is a freelance writer from USA. www.gmcknight.com