The Marwari Horse is one of the oldest horse breeds in the world and its origins are believed to be that of Arab and Turkmeni ancestry. Hundreds of years of selective breeding produced a horse for the purpose of war on the desert’s barren terrain, its name literally means “from the land of death.” Trained highly in the art of combat and renowned for their bravery in battle, an unbreakable spirit with courage and loyalty until death, these horses were the gallant and noble steeds of the fearless Rajput warriors. Horse and rider merged as one on the battlefield and it is said that the Marwari Horse has an extraordinary instinct and the ability to act upon the mere thoughts of the rider.
Their valour and loyalty were celebrated in the poetry and literature of Rajasthan.
“From a story of an eternal tree to an eternal legend. . . Come listen to an unforgettable tale of a man and his horse!”
In 1576 the imperial army of Mughal Emperor Akbar made its way to capture Udaipur. Maharana Pratap and his men waited at the entrance to a narrow one-km long pass in the Aravalli Mountains. The pass called Haldighati was the only access to Mewar for the advancing army. A bloody battle between the armies lasted four hours. People remember not the defeat of Maharana Pratap but the courage and loyalty of his men and particularly his horse.
Chetak, for that was the name of his horse, proved to be a Marwari horse and more. In the thick of the battle, an elephant’s tusk tore through one of Chetak’s rear legs and crippled it. But the horse would not give up. With his wounded king on the saddle, Chetak made his way back to safety on his three good legs and collapsed on crossing the river.
Maharana Pratap never forgot his loyal charge Chetak and erected a monument in his honour. The memorial still exists in the village of Haldi Ghati 30kms north of Udaipur.
Despite being once thought of as divine and superior to even the most royal of people, the fortunes of the Marwari Horse changed with the ascendancy of the British in India, and the situation worsened again after Independence. Many Marwari Horses were killed, castrated and scattered as people associated them with a despised archaic past.
Thankfully today, the tide has once again changed and from a few salvaged horses a number of breeding programs for the Marwari Horse have been born. These honourable, valiant steeds once again roam the harsh arid lands of Rajasthan, their endurance, intelligence, courage and noble spirit an ideal companion for safaris and distance riding.
True to her Marwari legacy, Chandrika was one of the most amazing and unforgettable horses I have ever ridden. We covered approx. 282kms in 8 days riding from Nawalgarh to Pushkar in the Rajasthan Province of India.
Chandrika may have been small but she had a tremendous heart, giving every ounce of her soul every step of the way. Speed, stamina, grace and spirit, riding Chandrika was like floating on air, and she truly was an angel with hooves as wings. Many Marwari horses have a 5th gait, the Revaal, smooth, sweeping movements cover the ground speedily and effortlessly. Many, like Chandrika, were trained to walk attached to the back of a camel cart, teaching the horses to march and extend their stride, soaring seamlessly through the kilometres.
We crossed semi-arid desert, salt flats, paddy fields, swamps and shepherds villages, jumped ditches and walls; she faced every challenge and obstacle with poise and tenacity.
The true beauty and aspect of horse riding that has me entranced is the ability to connect on such a deep level with an animal, it is a true partnership built on an ultimate trust between human and beast and it is magical. Some horses speak to you, some whisper and the truly special ones don’t say anything, they become part of you……..
Author: Janine Whyte (Indiananeeners Globetrotting Cowgirl.)