Equestrian is a tough sport professionally and dealing with race horses is not an easy job either.
Then, caring for beautiful animals and their future requires a different kind of mindset and is an altogether whole new challenge.
Rider, Arjun Kanoi who is a national equestrian has been working for the rehabilitation and retraining of retired race horses since the last three years with the help of ex-Olympian Imtiaz Anees, who has the requisite expertise in the field.
Kanoi, who is a XII standard student of Dhirubhai Ambani International School, has been a passionate supporter of the welfare of retired racehorses apart and has been balancing that with his own still young equestrian career.
"I have been riding at Mahalaxmi Race Course all my life and in the season which runs from November-March, I see hundreds of race horses piling up at the race course.I always wondered what would happen to them after their racing career is over. So, I did a lot of research and found out that most of the race horses retire at a very young age of four years and after their racing career is over, the owners cannot afford to support them financially. So, they're often sold to the lowest bidders and have an extremely low quality of life thereafter."
These thoroughbreds, the Off The Track Thoroughbreds have lot of potential even after racing career is over. They are extremely versatile as well. They can be retrained into various equestrian disciplines such as dressage, show jumping and eventing and it is these OTT thoroughbreds that excel at various equestrian events in India especially the Nationals."
When he felt that something really needed to be done about the condition of retired race-horses, Kanoi decided to get going on the matter.
"I thought of this issue. So, in this regard I contacted Imtiaz Anees, an Olympian, who has an expertise in this field to see how we can resolve this matter. He suggested we rehabilitate and give a new lease of life for these horses using his facility. So, in 2020, I started this organisation OTTB Welfare in order to these retired race horses and provide them with a higher quality of life and help them reach their potential. Since 2020, we have 14 horses and currently we have three horses with us who we are currently retraining and rehabilitating at Anees's facility in Nargol, Gujarat called Seahorse Equestrian.
I have personally seen these horses performing extremely well once they are through with a program and I just love seeing these horses excel and like seeing them reach full potential. I am very thankful for Anees's guidance and help in this regard,'' Kanoi added.
"According to me, no horse deserves to see their life end at a young age of four or five and I believe that every horse should have a fighting chance of reaching their potential and should be able to see what they're capable of. I hope that I'll be able to expand this organisation (OTTB) even further in the near future and reach out to even more horses and rehabilitate them. Horses have made me who I am today and it is essential that I reciprocate and contribute back to them what they have done for me,'' he stated.
The 18-year-old Kanoi has also made a mark for himself in the National Equestrian scene with some notable performances at the Junior Nationals and competing hard at the Senior Nationals as well.
"I have been riding since the last eight years and have been riding since I was 10 years old. Since then I have been in love with the sport and most of all the horses. I have been competing at the Junior Nationals since 2018. And 2023 will be my sixth year. Started competing at the children level and moved onto the junior level. I have won few medals at the Junior Nationals. Last year, I won the gold in the team event and a year before that the silver at the team event."
Kanoi has also had his share of experience at the Senior Nationals and a few international events.
"I have also competed at the Senior Equestrian Nationals and I have also competed at the international level competitions called the FEI World Jumping Challenge. In 2021, I won silver medal at the preliminary competition.
In 2020, I competed at an FEI event in Bangalore where I was placed sixth in India and 14th in the world. In 2021, I got a ranking for seventh in India. Horse Riding has always been my passion,'' Kanoi said.
Kanoi has great support from his family and his mother Nidhi Kanoi vouches for that.
"Initially I did discourage him from horse riding as I was concerned if he will climb on the horse and fall but when I understood that he is really passionate, I relented and let him be. Since then, we as parents have been extremely supportive with regard to whatever he wants to do in equestrian or for the welfare of horses,'' she added.
The Kanois have a family business TechFab India that deals in geosynthetics while Nidhi is also the president of the Mumbai chapter of the not-for-profit venture Millenium Mams.