Sep 21, 2012

Does the American cowboy experience exist in India?



Madhuri Chowdhury

Before you read, remember this: Independent editorial isn't free. If you enjoy this article, please consider creating an account to support our journalism so we can keep going.

Indian horse ranches are a different experience from those in the United States.

As an equestrian enthusiast I have always joked about how I was born in the wrong era. The dream is to escape the traffic of cities and live on an eco friendly farm that is home to more foals than humans. Being on a horse ranch in India is essentially like going back in time. Horses are the primary mode of transportation and rural cottages or tents replace the concrete labyrinth we’re used to.

Unlike some sports that are exclusive to practiced individuals, riding horses is something everyone can enjoy, which would explain the number of people who visit dude ranches in America. However, riding long distances in open spaces is a different experience according to one’s degree of skill. Urvi Sharma, three time FEI (Federation Equestre Internationale) Champion, found that a class trip to Krishna Ranch in Udaipur, Rajasthan wasn’t exactly what she had hoped for.

The beginner riders she was with were more than satisfied with an itinerary that went something like this: a two hour trail ride in the morning, followed by a relaxed lunch, followed by another two hour ride. However, the trails were guided and short, which proved boring for a seasoned rider. Urvi says her favourite moment during that trip was breaking away from the group on the last day and galloping across the desert. 
Places like Krishna Ranch are not ideal if one wants to actually learn how to ride. Most of the horses are used to having their bit yanked around and only a few of the better trained ones will respond to a light, experienced, hand. To learn how to handle a horse one would have to enrol at one of the many riding and polo clubs spread across India.
Beeya Vohra, who runs Beeya’s Riding Facility (BRF), one of the most respected riding facilities in the NCR (National Capital Region) area, takes us through the ins and outs of an Indian riding club. “In India, structured riding is the norm.” Vohra states. “The riding style itself shows this, as the preferred method is the English style which is used in competition arenas by dressage riders,” she added.
The standard procedure of riding in arenas is interposed with trail rides where the space is available. Think open fields, Nilgai, thorny shrubs and dirt paths, as opposed to structured arenas and top hats. The Army and Polo Riding Club in the 61 Cavalry Regiment in New Delhi offers trail riding within their premises, as the club is located on widespread army land. However, Vohra mentions that even this institution “treats riding as a sport and has set times for trail rides.” 
The best way to go about riding outdoors for long periods of time would be to first take a few classes at a riding club and then head to a guest ranch. The ranches here in India are different from the ones sprawled all over America; they have their own charm and cannot be compared to a foreign alternative. Places to look into would be Princess Trails, which is also located in Rajasthan and boasts some of the best outdoor riding routes. If you aren’t located in Delhi or Gurgaon, noteworthy riding schools include the oldest riding institute in Bangalore, the Bangalore Amateur Riding Institute (BARI) and Amateur Riding Club in Mumbai (ARC).
Image © Madhuri Chowdhury
Place: New Delhi