From the horse’s mouth
Passing through Maiti Ghar and moving towards Thapathalli, one would rarely conceive of the verdant greens of Chandra Riding Centre with its handsome steeds and crumbling ethnic architecture resting beyond the inconspicuous sign posted on a nondescript wall by the main road. Yet ahead of the wall lay a whole new world. Speaking over the phone to Jigme Ghodawala, manager of the centre, I hadn’t quite imagined what a treat it would be to visit the place. Jigme took me around to witness children “lunging” and sharp at 10 we sat down for the interview. Afterwards, I was introduced to Black Commando, Gallantry Award, Gold Star, Easy Street, Take it Easy, Midnight and Mr Perfect, gentle, magnificent and beautiful creatures, Jigme cooing and whispering sweet nothings into their ears.
Established in 2002, Chandra Riding Centre had decided to bring back the charm, elegance and the nobility of horseriding and horses. Being the first horse riding school in Nepal, the centre offered a unique opportunity to the people of Nepal and expatriates and a professional platform to acquire equestrian skills on thoroughbred horses. The school located at the old Singha Mahal Complex, also called Mana Mandir, used to boast of having the finest specimens
of trained Arabian horses belonging to the late commanding general, Singha Shumsher JB Rana, and Her Royal Highness Princess Rama Rajya Laxmi Rana. Bringing back the past glory to Singha Mahal, Rajeev B Shah and his wife Shivani Shah along with Shishir Chandra Shah, who is a retired lieutenant colonel, Suraj Rana and other retired cavaliers of the King’s household cavalry established the centre four years ago.
A new beginning
Good things in life happen by chance. Drinking coffee with his wife at Café Mitra Jigme Ghodawala would not have imagined that his passion for horses would actually lead him to look after a well-known riding centre in Nepal. “I met Rajiv in the café. Besides horses, I am very fond of classic cars and bikes. Rajiv has this awesome vehicle. Those days I used to bring horns for classic cars from Delhi,” says Jigme. Smitten by the vehicle, Jigme offered to give Rajiv an exquisite horn. Two days later they met at the Chandra Riding Centre and their shared love for horses came out to the fore. “When he was showing me around, I told him about the horses and my passion for them. It was then he asked me to join him and look after the place. I had worked with Mustang Horse Club in Sitapaila but I don’t know why this place did not strike to me before as a happening one,” shares Jigme. “It’s been only two months that we have opened up the place again. But before that, for a month I fed the horses, groomed them, cleaned and made them presentable. It was only after a month’s hard work we have what we have today and I am glad to say that people are coming in. This shows that they have great liking for this sport,” smiles Jigme.
“I was born with horses in a stable,” says a proud Jigme. “I have worked as a stable boy in many places and have learnt a lot about the animal. I am not perfect; I am still learning. In between I had completely lost touch with the horse but I am glad to be among them once again,” says Jigme. Jigme has even worked with Chitwan National Park. “There I took care of elephants and that is when I completely lost touch with horses,” laugh Jigme. His wife shares his passion of horses and whenever possible accompanies him to the centre. “It’s so good to see him toil so hard and materialise his dreams. I am glad that he is into what he loves,” says Philippa Lama, Jigme’s wife.
Jigme would love to have Nepali people come in to learn the art of equine riding. “We are advertising slowly as altogether there are seven horses and five workers. What if the people start thronging in and we cannot provide quality service to all of them? So we are going slowly but steadily.” The centre offers courses where in the trainees are taught to ride and learn basic horse care including grooming, tack, saddle care and feeding the horse. Lunging and hoof care according to Jigme is very important. “Before the rider takes the horse for a ride he needs to learn to lung them as it is a kind of exercise for the horse. Hooves are to be taken care of because if they are infected then their leg can no longer work and sadly we have to kill the horse,” explains Jigme.
The course consists of twenty-six lessons and goes on for a month. Besides the centre also welcomes guests who want to take a ride or two and charges them accordingly. “We have a bogie with us and there is one in the Royal Palace. Sometimes people come to take it for some occasion or the other which fetches good money for the centre,” says Jigme.
‘Thoroughbred’ horses are rare. “In Nepal only the Royal Nepalis Army and our centre own a few of them. We bring them all the way from Jaipur. This time we are planning to bring two more horses and may be a little later we will bring ponies for children,” says Jigme. Besides they are also planning to conduct a cross-country race this November.
Equestrian do’s and don’ts
•When moving around a horse, place your hand lightly on the horse’s hindquarters so that the horse knows where you are at all times.
•While grooming the horse, start at the front and work your way towards the back.
•Watch the horse’s ears and eyes to detect its mood.
•When working with injured or sick animals, wear rubber gloves and protective clothing and always wash your hands and face after handling them.
•Always speak in a soothing voice when you are around horses.
•Be firm and let the horse know who is in control.
•Do not mistreat the animal, but be firm and treat them with respect.
•Avoid stepping in their path.
•Never ride a horse without a proper riding helmet.
•Do not use bicycle helmets for horse riding.
•Never hand feed the horses.