All at four, Raza Shehzad knew he could whisper secrets into the ears of his thoroughbreds
and clasp the reins to dictate his way. The dream had begun… Raza was learning fast. He realized the power and freedom in the ‘horse’ and never let it go. Ever since, Raza has assisted his father in the breeding operation called ‘The Deccan Stud’.
His passion for thoroughbreds grew as he spent loads of time at his father’s stud farm. In good time, whilst playing polo, he started working at his father’s training operation at the Hyderabad Race Club. When asked whether riding a horse gives a sense of borrowed
freedom, he says, “Whether beasts of burden, war, companionship or sport, galloping through the woods can make you forget all the hassles in life.” So whether Equine sports or competitive Polo, riding a horse has always been a pleasure for Raza!
Polo for fitness!
There is much to the evolution of the game of Polo from being a game that involved short passes in England to transforming into a high-speed sport in the US. Exploring deeper, how can we attribute Polo with fitness or as a fitness sport? Well, riders do not falter in claiming that this ancient Princely sport can be a complete cardiovascular workout. Right from exercising the back, legs and torso, horse riding definitely helps in improving posture, Raza adds.
Modern day Polo in India is incidentally played according to the rulebooks formed originally in the Calcutta Polo Club. Legend has it that the British first saw the Queens of Persia play a game on horseback (side saddled) with mallet and a ball, which actually inspired them to introduce it in East India and so the game of Polo began.
Flexibility, agility, reflexes and horsemanship are some prerequisites for this sport. It teaches one discipline. Most riders would like to believe that horsemanship isn’t just about grooming, shoeing, vets and nutrition. It’s about connecting with the horse. It is about
teamwork! Neither the horse nor the rider plays in isolation. And riders vouch that it is this CONNECT that helps achieve balance, performance and success!
Fit to ride? Find out…
Of course, that one question that any enthused beginner would want to ask is – do you need to be fit to ride? The answer is YES! So what is that you can’t be, if you want to ride? Well, weight is something you would have to keep a watch on. Too much weight will never help! Getting on and off could become difficult and a naughty horse can topple you over too easily if there’s no hand, leg and body coordination. An ideal body weight therefore, contributes towards a good posture, a good seat and better performance!
Another very basic but important physical factor that is essential to good riding is strong legs. Raza explains candidly, “If you can control a horse with proper leg aid and gentle hands you’re a good rider.”
Stay focussed on:
Good knee grip
A bad fall can land you with a broken collarbone, even head and back injury. Proper riding gear is important
His Hobby His Healer
What is your specific diet to keep fit?
Well, having a healthy balanced diet is very important. A balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, dairy products, cereals, meat and eggs works well for me.
How often do you workout?
I do workouts now… the regular weight training regime! I trained more vigorously when I used to play. It basically comprised of heavy running drills, riding drills and weight training
Your favourite sport apart from Polo? And why?
Horse racing! It’s fabulous and a challenging sport! I always loved tennis though. It is a real test of wit and skill.
Do you believe in taking protein or diet supplements to build muscle
Yes! Protein supplements could build muscle mass provided there is a proper nutritious diet and hard work training.
Vegetarian to non-vegetarian - which do you prefer?
I’m a non-vegetarian. It’s important for a Polo player to be muscular and fit. Foods such as meat and milk help you fetch those extra proteins to enhance muscle and strength (keeping in mind you consume lots of greens and roughage as well). Personally, I really enjoy the steak once in a while!
Are you into stuff like Yoga for wellbeing?
No, I’m not! But I do believe that one should practise it, as it’s very good for the mind and body.
How do you unwind after a busy day?
Have a great meal with friends, listen to good music, go out on a drive and study
Tips to riding safe
The way one rides a horse also affects the fitness of the horse. Doing crazy things whilst riding or up on a horse can upset it, cause it injury and also encourage it to develop bad habits. So do not indulge in actions that could harm you or your partner.
- Pray that you don’t fall
- Remember the basics and stick to the rules
- Wear a helmet and body protector
- Have faith in your horse
- Be BRAVE
Grooming and horse care
All horsemen would agree that grooming is a very important part of horse care. cleaning, feeding and good stable management go a long way in making horses happy.
Horsemanship cannot be perfected in a year or two. Be dedicated, gentle and patient with the beautiful horses, and fitness and pleasure will come your way!