Equestrian sports in Nepal used to be confined to the elite, the army and the police until Chandra Riding Centre opened in 2001. Rajib Shah came up with the idea when his wife Shivani, an excellent and avid rider, needed somewhere to practice.
Nepal had never seen a racecourse or been particularly keen on promoting equestrian interests-except once a year on Ghode Jatra. That is why Chandra was set up to instil a love for riding and horses. Rajib and Shishir Chandra Shah wanted to encourage fellow Nepalis to learn this new skill and add a bit more pizzazz to their lives.
The school started with only six thoroughbreds brought in from Jaipur and special instructors. This was an elaborate venture and required much investment of time, effort and money. After all, it wasn't easy to find proper instructors, maintain a full-fledged stable and have a vet on standby while promoting a pioneering riding school-all at the same time.
But the school, after a brief warm-up canter is off to a full gallop. The number of horses doubled to 12 and there are plenty of people willing to learn to ride. Even though Rajib dreamt of introducing the sport to Nepalis there were only a limited number of locals who came and most of his customers were expatriates and their children.
Shah later introduced the riding centre to local schools and children were brought in large groups for 40 minutes to an hour-long class. This proved to be of limited use since a class of 25-30 children within an hour resulted in the horses getting overworked and the children learning precious little.
Rajib Shah wishes that schools would send smaller groups and parents would take a special interest in their children's activities. "It is a beautiful and educational sport. Not only do children get exercise and learn proper posture but they also overcome their fear of animals. It also makes them more confident and responsible," he says. His own two-and-a-half years old daughter, Yashashwi, rides with an instructor or her parents.
Rajib blames the restricted attention span of Nepalis for the lack of passion in riding. Horse riding is a sport that requires rigorous training and commitment. Haphazard handling of horses can result in accidents.
Shah plans to introduce new schemes to attract potential riders like the carriage facility so locals can book for weddings as well as other events and add grandeur to functions. A new and reduced price scheme is being introduced. He plans to promote sightseeing on horses in the early morning hours. The sightseeing trip is for people who want a feel of old Nepal as they, like kings, astride their horses canter through the courtyards of Patan or Kathmandu. Patan and Kathmandu By Night is targeted at those who wish to have a romantic dinner and then drive around the city in a carriage with their loved ones. Shah also plans to promote trail riding during weekends to break the monotony of just riding around the arena for riders with a little more experience. So bring out the cowboy in you, put on your spurs and tally-ho