The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit, and fire, says Sharon Ralls Lemon, the author of The Ultimate Horse Book.
When the show jumper, Sehej Singh Virk, opened his eyes he found himself in an equine-friendly environment.
With father Colonel Jagdeep Singh Virk, better known as Pinka Virk, five-goal polo player, horses were part of the family.
As a child he used to ‘horse around’ (pun intended) in the paddock. “I have been around horses for as long as I can remember. One of my fondest memories as a child was playing with the horses in the paddock.”
With riding in his DNA, Sehej took to the saddle like fish to water but unlike his father polo did not find much interest in polo though he tried wielding the mallet.
He found show jumping more enticing as it is an individual sport. ” Polo is a team sport where as in jumping it’s just you and your horse. The beauty about jumping is that if you make a mistake you can’t blame it on anyone else, so over the years you learn to perfect the sport, but it’s a lifelong learning.”
Sehej found his calling in show jumping when his father Col Virk and his coach the legendary Maj Ahluwalia got him his first horse called Laila Lordanos. “I always enjoyed my time around horses and rode in amateur competitions for the longest time but getting Laila Lordanos made me pursue this sport properly.”
But show jumping is no easy riding. Sehej says: “Show jumping is a very demanding sport mentally and physically. The mental connection with an animal that’s 10x your body weight where the horse knows exactly what you are thinking is something that takes years to master.”
Sehej is of the view that often people forget that animals have a mind of their own. Show Jumping is a sport where your work ethic is everything, you have to be at it 365 days of the year. Practice makes perfect.
The other aspects are having the right management and right equipment for your horse. Therefore your team of grooms managers etc should always be very competitive.
Explaining the rules of show jumping, Sehej says equestrian is the only sport in the world where men and women compete together.
There is a course of approx 10-14 jumps including combinations of jumps as well as single fences.
The course is always a new one so you can’t practice it at home as the possibilities are endless. It is also a test of focus and grit as maneuvering the horse through the course that he/she is seeing for the first time while making sure you make no faults.
This demands endurance from both from the horse and the horseman.
“Fitness is very important for the horse and the rider as well. As most competitions are over two rounds we have to make sure that the horses stay fresh at the end of the second round as well.
“To get to that level of fitness you train backwards months in advance. Only when they are that fit do they recover quicker after events.
“From the riders’ perspective they also need to be super fit as sometimes on show they are jumping 2-3 horses in a day. Cardio, muscle and core strength are very important.”
But horse riding, especially equestrian sport is very expensive?
Sehej concurs: “Riding is an expensive sport. It is very important to have the right diet plan, management and other systems which do not come cheap. There is a continuous movement and change in a lot of factors.
“I have been blessed enough to get into a partnership with French Luxury Giant Hermes. Our tack and saddlery is sponsored by them.
“I currently help in running EGC Stables, which is India’s premier private show jumping and dressage stable as well.”
We develop a special kind of bond with our pets. What is your experience in this regard?
Sehej says: “I have a special relationship with all my horses, but Laila and I share a unique bond. She is a really bossy mare in the stable and even at the show ground. She likes to make her presence felt and hates other horses around her. But that being said when she is in the arena she knows her job and always gives more than 100 per cent. She knows what is to be done and delivers even before I think about it. But getting to this level of comfort and connection took us six years.”
So if any youngster want to take up equestrian sport what will be your advice?
“It’s a sport that you have to invest time. You can’t wake up one day and expect to win. Results come to those who put in hours no matter what.
“Having the right coaching, the right guidance, management and equipment is super important.
“And most importantly be compassionate towards your horse and love him/her unconditionally because at the end of the day they are animals and they need the care and attention no matter what level you are jumping at.