What do endurance riding on a horse and a motorbike have in common? We head to Lonavala to witness the 2018 Horse Endurance Championship on a special steed of our own to find out.
Throughout human history, the horse has been man’s constant companion in his great adventures over land. Not only that, there was a time when the horse was the primary mode of transport in most cultures. The extent of man’s dependency on the horse can be understood by the simple fact that it was used with equal importance by armies, merchants, farmers, hunters and adventure seekers.
Many stories and narratives romanticize the horse, and its relationship with man. The horse embodies grace, beauty, elegance, strength and stamina in their purest form. But nothing lasts forever. Times change and technology evolves, and with time the horse has ceased to be man’s companion and the sole mode of transportation. In the modern world, where the modes of transportation are varied, the motorcycle is the only one with the ability to inspire a sense of freedom and the unique pleasure of riding – which, if you think about it, were the characteristic of horse riding. In that sense, motorcycle riding and horse riding are somewhat alike.
Why this babbling about horses, you wonder? Continue reading and it’ll be clear soon enough.
When I was invited to Lonavala to witness the Horse Endurance Championship 2018, I decided to ride down on the Ducati Multistrada 1200 S because it seemed fitting to watch a horse endurance race saddled up on a beautiful Italian touring motorcycle.
Over 50 horses took part in the second edition of the Horse Endurance Championship, and the majority of them were of the Marwari breed – which is a local Indian breed. The organisers, the Indigenous Horse Owners Association, divided the course into three lengths – 20 kilometres, 40 kilometres and 60 kilometres. The riders were timed at the start and at the finish, and also at checkpoints along the route. The timing in an endurance event is important, but what’s even more vital is the condition of the horse at the finish. After completing a 20-kilometre lap, it’s crucial for the rider to bring down the heartbeat of the horse to 64bmp within a time limit of 30 minutes. Failing to do so results in the elimination of the rider from the competition. The rider is also eliminated if the horse is injured at any time during the competition. This means that, while time is of the essence, the overall health of the horse is more important.
It was a beautiful experience to ride the Multistrada 1200 S along these amazing off-road trails with these magnificent horses in view. And thanks to the Multi’s four different riding modes, I had the riding experience of my life. In fact, it was almost like riding a horse. I simply switched the bike into Enduro mode and rode effortlessly along the trail. Although the Multistrada has 160 horses pulling it along, in Enduro mode only 100 Italian stallions are utilized for better control off-road. Still, that was more than enough for me to experience the thrill of its quick acceleration and reach very high speeds.
While the terrain was tough, the top riders achieved timings of less than an hour in the 20-kilometre course category. There was also an under-16 rider category, and these young riders displayed great endurance and skill on their horses. The 40-kilometre and 60-kilometre participants did repeat laps of the cross-country course. It was a wonderful event, and all riders and horses put on a wonderful performance. So, from one endurance rider (albeit of a slightly different nature) to another, here’s to many more endurance rides…