Indulge Exclusive: The first Indian equestrian to reach Olympics finals this year talks about his love for the sport, wearing breeches and travel
Twenty-nine-year-old Olympian equestrian Fouaad Mirza from Bengaluru says he misses the hot chocolate fudge of the city’s Corner House
At the age of five, when most children were just learning to balance on a bicycle, playing video games or binge watching a cartoon series, Fouaad Mirza was riding horses. His passion for horses ultimately led him to gallop his way to the recently concluded Tokyo Olympics where the young equestrian became the first jockey to represent India after Imtiaz Anees in 2000. Although Fouaad didn’t win a medal, it was an impressive debut performance with his horse Seigneur Medicott (Mickey) at the only Olympic event that involves (non-human) animals.
In Fouaad’s case, it would have been a surprise if he didn’t take to horse riding, for eight generations his family has been associated with horses and riding. His 1.5 acre large farm in Bengaluru boasts a stable of 12 horses and numerous medals and trophies. His father Dr Hasneyn Mirza is a senior vet in Bengaluru and Fouaad’s grandfather was the one to set roots in India from Iran in 1824 who said to have brought along Arab horses with him. The first equestrian to win two silver medals at the 2018 Asian Games, and the Arjuna Award recipient, Fouaad (means heart in Arabian) may also has the credit of reviving the sport in India.
On a zoom call from Germany, with the background flaunting a painting of a flying horse, the seemingly reticent 29-year-old jockey who is a self-confessed introvert chats with us about spending more time with horses than of humans, his road trips and how he misses the hot chocolate fudge of the Corner House in Bengaluru. Excerpts.
How has been your journey so far? Especially, considering you are dividing your time between Britain and Germany?
It has been evolving every day. I am grateful that I have got the opportunity to train at the best place in the world with the best of the coaches. In India, the sport is growing and staying abroad has given me a different kind of exposure. One day I wish to come back to India and share what I have learned with young Indian riders.
How did you select your horse? Tell us about the bond you both share?
The relationship between horse and rider is very close. They speak an unspoken language. It’s a silent conversation that we have between us and it’s hard to explain what that is like. It’s very intricate and there are so many things that go into building that relationship. When you train together so long, you have a very good understanding of what your next move will be. You become a team and you start spending time with the horse to understand him, at the same time, the horse is also trying to understand you. It’s a very nice relationship that a man can form with the horse, similar to any pet in the house.
In India, sports related to horses are still considered expensive and inaccessible.
I completely agree. It’s an expensive sport and giving this sport more exposure like we are doing now, will help more people to take up this sport. But I must say, if you are talented and work hard, it doesn’t matter where you come from. Anything is possible but you need to have a strong work ethic. We are qualifying in the Olympics now. I wish we have more people from India so we have a representative at the Olympics every year.
How exciting was it to be the lone qualifier from India at the Olympics (in the equestrian category)?
It is special and there is pressure. But I try not to think about all this. I try to focus on the sport and what I have to do as an athlete. Of course, when you think about your achievements it’s a big thing and you realise people’s hopes and the pressure they come with, but I prefer to train well.
We learned that you studied business management and psychology, how does that help you with the sport?
Psychology helps me a lot with my horse. I studied sports psychology so I connect with my horse more on many different levels. In regards to business training, I incorporate that in the management of my game and horses. In one way or the other, they have helped me.
What is next for you?
We have the world equestrian competition next year which is important for me. The future looks good and I have already begun towards that goal starting from the day I finished the competition in Tokyo. I want to see where I can showcase my talent. I want to show that no matter where I come from I can be number one.
Your favourite travel destination and road trip?
Italy. I went there in February this year with my horse.
Your comfort dressing?
Breeches. I can wear them all the time, even at restaurants.
Your favourite food?
Any motto you follow?
First, ‘you either win or learn’. Second, ‘if you sleep on a win, you will wake up with a loss’.
What kind of music do you like?
I listen to all kinds of music. But Eminem is my favourite.