Ancient dynasty helps secure future for rare horse breed
The Mewar House in Rajahstan is one of the oldest surviving dynasties in the world and its history is inexorably linked to that of the magnificent horse Marwari.
Time and modernization have not diminished the Mewar’s respect for this fiery and distinctive breed. At the recent Ashwa Poojan Festival, the 76th House Guardian – the Maharana, Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar – held a ceremony to worship the Marwari, honoring his contribution to the survival of the Rajput race.
In turn, the Maharana also made his contribution to the survival of the Marawari. For centuries, a prized mount in combat, by the 1930s the breed had started to deteriorate – and by the early 2000s there were only a few thousand purebreds left.
With quality breeders increasingly difficult to find, the Mahara established a stud in his Shirkabadi stables in Udapuir. The stud now has nine Marwari stallions, most of which were bred at home.
“Shriji has always owned a few Marwaris, but we normally breed horses for polo,” says his son-in-law Lokendra Singh, international polo player and former captain of India. “We had a very successful polo team for many years and then somewhere later we realized times were changing for the Marwari breed.”
With the decline of interest in working animals, the role of the Marwari diminished and while the faithful still kept the breed, there was no official herd book and the quality of the animals declined.
“The people who owned them had the money – because horses are expensive to keep – but not necessarily the knowledge,” he says. “A ‘different’ type of horse has become a good horse in the Marwari [showing] circuit and Shriji wanted to help improve it.
“We raised a few stallions and kept a few mares and eventually developed a chain of stallions accessible to people. They turned out to be beautiful, proportioned horses and they had a good impact on the Marwari breeding program.
“We have around 50 horses in total, but it was mostly stallions that we were looking to keep – that was our goal at the start and we stuck to it – there were no good stallions left and now that has changed . Other people also breed beautiful horses, and the Marwaris have been able to maintain their reputation of being among the best in India.
Easily recognizable by its inward-facing ear tips, the bold breed’s temperament lends itself less well to use as a sport horse, but its role in shows, horse safaris and, more recently, endurance is growing. again.
Part of their traditional ceremonial role also remains.
“In India, the groom is always carried into marriage on a horse or an elephant,” Lokendra explains. “Some people use cars now, but usually there’s still a horse – that part of their utility is still very active. “
Uncommon for a naturally “hot” horse, they are also the preferred mount for local police forces.
“In every town the police horses are Marwaris, and all the forces have mounted police,” Lokendra said. “They are brave and they are not afraid of traffic.”
The breed also gives a particular boost to tourism in the Mewar, proving the ideal mount for tours of the region’s historic forts and palaces.
“They are good enough to [long distance riding]”Lokendra says.” They’re very comfortable and doing well, they’re sensitive and very few of them jostle or scare each other too much. They’re a little warm and they’re quite active – if you gallop them, they want to. continue, but for safari this is ideal as you don’t have to keep kicking.
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These are distinctive temperaments that can also quickly attract them to visitors, although they may have a reputation for having a tendency to bond one-on-one.
“Maybe it’s because of how often they are brought up individually,” Lokendra says. “Some are raised in bigger studs, but often they are raised in the country by someone who owns a mare, and the foal grows up at home with the children. They respond very well to a rider they know and there is a lot of affection and attachment on the horse’s side. Once you keep them, you can easily fall in love with them.
Although they are still classified as a rare breed, it is fair to say that the Marwari are now “prosperous again”.
“India has suddenly become rich in cash and it is a status symbol to have horses,” he adds. “There are a lot of new breeders and horse enthusiasts, so there has been a comeback for horses again. “
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