When someone chooses where to go to college, it is usually based on factors like good subjects, high ranking, proximity to home, etc. But 19-year-old Sthavi Asthana chose her college based on her love for horses. That’s the reason she decided to study at the National University of Law in Delhi.
Sthavi was nine years old when her parents, both civil servants, took her for her first horseback ride.
“My first memory of horses was that I was incredibly happy riding them. When my parents realised I was interested in horses, they let me learn riding. You won’t believe this, but I first started riding on police horses,” Sthavi says.
In 2009, she decided she wanted to pursue equestrianism seriously.
That was also the year she took part in her first competition at the Delhi Horse Show. Ever since then, Sthavi has been balancing her studies and horse riding. And she’s been doing all this with no formal training.
“I had to learn the fundamentals of maintaining a good posture and the subtle aids, which are necessary for competitive riding, through the internet and books,” she says.
Though this isn’t the ideal way of training, being in Lucknow didn’t leave her with too many options. Despite being self-taught, Sthavi has managed to do well in both national and international competitions. In her years of competing in equestrian events, she has managed to win 72 medals and five trophies.
In October 2014, Sthavi was ranked World No. 3 in the Preliminary Senior Class section of the FEI World Dressage Challenge.
Though India has had a long equestrian tradition, it still remains a neglected sport in the country. Quarantine laws and small budgets have had an impact on this glorious sport.
“It is a very expensive sport. Horses aren’t cheap to buy or maintain. Infrastructure isn’t up to the mark. These are probably the reasons why only the super rich can afford to take up this sport. It’s either the billionaires or people from the army (with access to horses) who take up equestrianism,” says Sthavi.
Though it is one of the few sports in the world that allow men and women to compete together, there are very few women coming forward to take it up. Sthavi has often participated in events where she is one of the few girls to compete with a whole lot of men.
Despite these challenges, she is seriously pursuing the sport. Warmblood horses, that are traditionally used for equestrianism, need to be imported from other countries and are very expensive. So, Sthavi has bought two Indian race horses. These horses, named Pandeyji and Kalu by her, are ones that have retired from racing. After buying them, she has painstakingly managed to train them for equestrian events.
She also wakes up early every morning to train with the horses at the Army Equestrian Centre, before heading to college. After moving to Delhi, she has found a coach who is now helping her train to represent India in the Asian Games in 2018.
Sthavi requires sponsorship to train with well-bred horses and get proper coaching. For this, she is fundraising with Milaap. For more details, take a look at her page.