When Anush Agarwalla entered the Stuttai Ask stadium at the Blue Hors FEI World Dressage Championships in Herning, Denmark, this morning, it marked a historic moment. Anush became the first rider ever to represent India at a dressage World Championships, riding the 15-year-old chestnut gelding Sir Caramello OLD to a score of 66.83%.
The 22-year-old history-maker only started training in dressage five years ago, when relocating from his home in Calcutta, India, to the base of Hubertus Schmidt in Germany.
“I was riding in India, but just hobby ponies and hacking, and I wanted to do something more and get better, but it was not possible there,” Anush explained. “There is not enough opportunities, not enough trainers, not enough infrastructure or shows and not enough horses.”
When Anush first arrived with Hubertus in 2017, with a year of school to finish before he began studying for his degree in business and economics, his sights were set on the Asian Games in 2018.
“But I did not make it to the Asian Games, so then the goal was the Tokyo Olympics, but I missed out by one spot. So then the goal was the World Championships, and we did make it.
“I have had my horse for a little over two and half years now and when we started, he was not the easiest. We had many bad shows. He is the horse I have had the most failures with, but now I have a really strong connection with him and he has now given me one of my greatest achievements. I just love him for who he is. It makes me even happier to be here today, and it is also the first time India ever qualified for the World Championships in dressage, so that makes me even happier. Now I hope to be the first dressage rider to represent India at the Olympics in Paris.”
Anush also revealed that the extravagant Sir Donnerhall son is something of a foodie: “He loves anything edible. I think his favourite food is raspberries!”
While Anush Agarwalla, as third into the ring in the grand prix, may have been the first Indian to ride in a World Dressage Championships, his compatriot Shruti Vora soon joined him in that honour, as she rode the 16-year-old Indian-bred Denightron to a mark of 64.53%. Shruti, originally from Mumbai, is another who has relocated to Europe seeking greater opportunity to compete on the world circuit.
“I am happy with the horse; he did his best,” said Shruti. “He is Danish warmblood but bred in India and came to Denmark for his international debut. I trained him from the beginning, and we learned together.
“A message for all enthusiastic young riders in India: it takes a lot of sacrifice, but you can do it. I am grateful to all, especially my horse. And coming to Herning is like coming to a horse mecca!”
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