Indian equestrian Fouaad Mirza is yet to decide which one of his two horses will accompany him to the Tokyo Games and said he will pick the one carrying the best form leading up to the time of submitting the entry later this month. Mirza has time till end of this month to choose between the experienced gelding Seigneur Medicott and the spirited young mare Dajara 4 with whom he had finished second and third respectively to meet his Minimum Eligibility Requirement in the CCI 4*- Long Eventing competition in Poland.
The MER fulfillment ticked the final box in Olympic qualification for the 29 year-old from Bengaluru, who had earned the quota last year to become the first Indian equestrian to qualify for the Games in more than two decades. “At the moment, I’ve not decided. I’ll leave it late till the time of submitting entry at the end of June. Both are carrying very good form and it’s quite difficult to choose at this stage," Mirza said in a virtual media interaction.
Mirza, who is currently training in Bergedorf, a village in north-west Germany, is only the third Indian equestrian after Indrajit Lamba and Imtiaz Anees to secure an individual spot in Eventing at the Olympic Games. Anees was the last to make the cut for the 2000 Sydney Olympics as a wildcard.
“It would be solely on the horse’s form. I would choose the one carrying the best form leading up to the time of submitting entry," Mirza, a double Asian Games silver medalist, said. It would be a sweet selection headache for Mirza who had ended India’s 36-year-old medal drought at the Asian Games by winning a silver medal at Jakarta 2018 astride Medicott who later sustained an injury.
“Initially they (vets) were very doubtful about Medicott recovery but he is a fighter and we managed to get him back to good form. He’s in good shape," Mirza said. Talking about the young mare Dajara who is five years younger to Medicott, Mirza said: “She’s slightly less experienced but she has far more potential. She’s a real, real exciting horse for the future.
“These two horses are very different from the two that helped India get the slot in 2019. Having said that, they are the two better horses that I’ve." Mirza said he will have to factor in a few things before selecting the horse. “Medicott can be a horse who doesn’t take too well to changes in his surroundings, he might stop eating, and you know these sorts of things are quite difficult especially when you travel so far away," he said.
“You can’t have an athlete not eat and then expect him to perform well, small things like this I’m going to think hard and long about but the final thing would be which horse carries more form." For the Olympics, an equestrian can qualify more than one horse but for competition the rider has to choose one. Both the horses have been vaccinated against the Equine Herpes Virus that led to cancellation of many events in Europe in February and March.
The horse will be in quarantine for a week before flying out to Tokyo where they will enter the bio-secure bubble. Mirza said he would travel with a team of four which would include a groom to look after the horse, a vet and physio and all of them have taken their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
Son of an equestrian veterinarian Dr Hasneyn Mirza, the sport came naturally to him and his Olympic dream was fuelled by watching old tapes of Mark Todd’s Olympic glories of 1984 and 1988. “I got a lot of excitement watching the tapes from a very young age," he said.
Mirza, who has been in Germany for more than two years training with his horses, said he has expenses running up to Rs two crore a year. “It’s a very expensive sport and I’m very lucky to have a sponsor," Mirza, who is backed by Embassy International Riding School Bangalore, said.
“We’ve some good infrastructure but the government needs to be involved to run some programmes to nurture young talents," he said.