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'Riding Free: My Olympic Journey' is An Insightful Memoir of Imtiaz Anees, The Equestrian Who Made India Proud

Imtiaz Anees' s book came out recently, and talks about how he has opened up a space to mentor future equestrians.

Imtiaz Anees' s book came out recently, and talks about how he has opened up a space to mentor future equestrians.

The book also gives us a window seat to Anees’s journey, and here are a few facts about the rider that is worth knowing.

Equestrian as a sport has been linked with royalty. Until Imtiaz Anees became the second Indian rider and the only one from India to finish an equestrian event at the Olympics in Sydney in 2000, the sport was also mainly dominated by the military soldiers. After Anees, only Fouaad Mirza has qualified for the Tokyo Olympics.

Anees penned his moving journey in his memoir Riding Free: My Olympic Journey, which hit the stands recently and was published by Harper Collins. It is perhaps the most appropriate read as the Tokyo Olympics grab headlines every day. The book shows how an Equestrian develops and nurtures a deep connection with his horse(s) and how vital the role of a mentor is in Equestrian sports.

The book also gives us a window seat to Anees’s journey, and here are a few facts about the rider that is worth knowing.

Anees Started Horse Riding at The Young Age of 4

His grandfather and mother were both avid riders who exposed him to the sport when he was only four years old. He was taken to the riding club every day, and his fondness for the sport grew from there, and his stellar career began.

His most cherished memory is that of winning his first international tournament. In an interview with India Times, he said that he had had many highs and lows. But, if he had to choose one cherished memory, it would be his first international win. It’s always a feather in the cap when you win on a global stage. So, that was in 1995 when I won my first one-star, beating the Olympic gold medalist Matt Ryan.

His special friendship with his horse Rajesh

“When I was six or seven, I had this amazing bond with my horse, Rajesh,” said Anees in an interview with The Hindu. “I would spend hours in a stable, talking to him about my life, my goals, how much I hate school. He became a friend,” he had added.

His memoir delves into the deep connection he shared, not just with Rajesh, but his other horses too. The book reveals how for an equestrian, nurturing a companionship with his horse is of utmost importance.

He was dropped at the last minute from the 1994 Asian Games Contingent

Despite qualifying for it, he was dropped overnight without any intimation from the Asian Games contingent. However, Anees stayed motivated after that. In an interview with India Today, he said that he was not informed about the decision. “I hated that. I saw it in the morning paper. I was 19 years old, and I had put so much time and energy into qualifying, travelling to Jalandhar, Bodh Gaya and Delhi to join competitions by myself. There were no cell phones then, so travelling late at night in a truck with a horse was pretty scary. The news broke me. I questioned if it was a sign that I should give up the sport,” he had said.

He, however, knew there was not much he could do about it. “Either I could fight about it with the Federation or keep my head down, think about my next aim and just go for it. My parents were supportive; they could have easily said, ‘Let’s end this and get you into a business school’ and ask me to move on. But they knew this is what I wanted to do,” he had added.

He opened his own boutique stable called Seahorse Equestrian

Anees felt that there is a lack of mentorship as far as Equestrian sports are concerned and wanted to fill that gap. Therefore, he opened a training school.

His school is a boutique stable called Seahorse Equestrian, located in Nargole, Gujarat, is about 180 km from Mumbai, and is situated by the beach. It has a training facility with 13 horses and has students from all over India come and stay there.

Anees had previously said in an interview with India Today that “At Seahorse, it is not just about riding lessons, but about teaching students the equine side of things. You have to know everything about the animal. We guide them on how to bathe a horse and feed it, groom and brush it, so they connect with the animal. You have to spend a lot of time with these horses.”

His advice to anybody who wants to join the sport is to start training

He told India Today that it is essential to find an amalgam of a coach and a mentor. Otherwise, it becomes a regular sport where you go to the club, play, and return. That won’t make it. There are many opportunities for children Today; for one, they can reach out to me. I want to be open to as many people as I can.

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first published:August 07, 2021, 16:37 IST