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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Horse Power

With the race season in full swing,we visit a stud farm to understand what goes into making thoroughbreds.

Written by Debjani Paul | Published: October 6, 2013 4:41:06 am

Long before you can spot the first horse or stable,you can smell their presence — a robust musky scent. It greets visitors at the gates and makes them realise they have arrived at Nanoli Stud,well past Talegaon. Surrounded by rolling hills,the stud farm — named after a neighbouring village — is situated in a basin of sorts,awash with the monsoon rain and verdure. Long as the journey was,the green countryside and the promise of a closer glimpse of majestic thoroughbreds made the drive pleasant enough.

We were promised a look at the finest steeds,and KV Singh,the farm’s bloodstock manager and our host for the day,lost no time in introducing us to Kingda Ka,a stallion who was undoubtedly the jewel of the property. Magnificently tall at 16.3 hands (4 inches to a hand),Kingda Ka tips the scales at a hefty 636 kg. Named after a rollercoaster ride in Disneyland,Kingda Ka was born and raised in Australia,trained by Gai Waterhouse,renowned as the “first lady of racing Down Under”.

The eight-year-old was brought to Nanoli after he retired from racing,and has ever since,sired many foals at the farm. One of his two-year-olds,Romeo,even went on to win the first two-year-old race in Pune recently.

But where there was the giant Kingda Ka,there was also little Rihanna,a filly from the miniature breed,falabella,who never grow beyond eight hands. Her name may seem more a play of humour,but her flowing white blonde mane on sable skin and spirited nature did the name much justice.

“There are about 170 to 200 horses on the farm at any point,” said our guide,adding that they were spread over the property’s 280 acres — with each going through its routines of exercise,meals and play. We were surprised to learn that the horses are also taken for swimming in their own pool. “This is to give them low impact exercise,which doesn’t stress their joints as much as other exercise,” said Singh. The farm has multiple stables for the brood mares,stallions and foals. Each stable has their own sand school where the horses trot in sand and a covered walker that can house six horses at a time.

But the farm really kicks into action between February and July,which is breeding season in the northern hemisphere. That is when the stable hands bring out Teaser,a shaggy horse with white and black patches. What does Teaser do,you may ask. Well,exactly what his name suggests. He is led out to the mares and introduced to them,so the stable hands can see whether the mares are truly in heat,and ready for Kingda Ka. “It may sound like a completely thankless job for Teaser,but he is rewarded with the company of a couple of mares too,” Singh added.

For the final lap,we stepped into the stables of young foals and it turned out to be the most pleasurable bit of the tour. They peered at us with huge curious eyes while contently nibbling on stolen green Lucerne sprigs. They are in no hurry to run their debut race and bring home the accolades.

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