The city gets a new horse riding school in Malad’s Rathodi Village that offers a unique opportunity to train in equestrian sports
Student training. Pics/Sameer Markande
You never know what the city hides, tucked away in its bylanes. And so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the quieter side of Malad West, which is Kharodi Village, has more to offer than you could imagine; a new horse riding school, for instance. Just off Marve Road and through a narrow winding lane sits UK United Horse Riding Academy that opened its doors in April this year. Earlier this week, we headed to the academy for a trial class and a first-hand look.
UK United arena
The almost-one-acre area is clean and inviting. With seven thoroughbred horses and two arenas, the academy already has 40 students and plans to expand and accommodate more. We notice that students greet these magnificent animals in their stables when entering and before leaving the academy. A pat for Thea’s Pet, a tickle for Wild Fire and a biscuit for Ace, if he accepts it. “We started the academy with the intention of creating awareness about equestrian sports, and with the aim of training students from Mumbai to represent India at all levels in the sport. And it all started because my son has a passion for riding horses,” says Steven D’Souza, director of UK United. Earlier this month, the academy held its first equestrian championship with eight academies from across Maharashtra.
(From left to right) Carla and Kaelyn Fernandes
The courses start from the basics, such as teaching riders the correct posture while riding, how to mount and dismount a horse, and training the horse to trot, canter and jump. Trainer Suraj Polaya emphasises mastering these techniques to ensure a strong foundation and that further riding is smooth. He shares that horse riding helps to develop leg, core and arm strength, with a focus on the heels and calves. Demonstrating correct posture, he quips, “Thumbs up, shoulders back, heels and head in a 90-degree angle to each other. The rider’s posture is important. Remember you’re sitting on a horse, not a donkey.”
Apart from getting people outdoors and clocking in fewer hours spent looking at screens, D’Souza notes the benefits of bonding with horses. Students do not just learn to ride the horses, they’re also involved in the grooming process, as well as when the horses are tacked or geared up for rides, to help them bond with the animal. It makes for a serene morning, considering the focus needed when astride a large animal, and the connection felt with it. Sitting on a horse, feeling tall and surprisingly in control seems to clear your thoughts a bit, almost as if you’re now tall enough to get your head out of the clouds. D’Souza’s son, Jaden, 13, has been training for almost eight months and aims to train for the Olympics in equestrian sports. He shares, “This sport has made me more confident and humbler in other aspects of my life. It all comes from bonding with and riding a 400-kg animal.”
Trial class review
Sessions usually extend to 45 minutes, but sisters Kaelyn, 14, and Carla Fernandes, 10, received a 10-minute trial class. They found it an enthralling experience. Kaelyn recalls, “A lot goes into riding correctly — right posture, holding the reins and which muscle to use.” Carla felt that instructions were delivered clearly and so she felt confident when seated on the horse. After the horse cantered for a few rounds, the sisters were shown stretches to carry out, to avoid post-ride aches. Their final verdict: “A definite recommendation.”
The academy offers five classes a day in the mornings and evenings for students above seven. It’s open from Tuesday to Sunday, and will be operational during the monsoons. While part of the premise is still under construction, it does not come in the way of the training sessions. This includes a two-day trial session (for Rs 1,999) to help students gain an understanding of the equestrian sport and what to expect from further sessions, which include the Learners, Contenders, Masters and Professional courses, each spanning 11 sessions (from Rs 13,000 to Rs 19,000).
At: Rathodi Village, opposite Cherish Studio, Marve Road, Malad West
Time: 6.30 am to 8.45 am; 4.30 pm to 6 pm
Log on to: @ukunitedhorseridingacademy