Ashish Limaye Is Saddled Up To Leave His Mark

Equestrian Ashish Limaye’s set to make history at the Asian Games

Ashish Limaye discovered his flair for equestrianism early on in life. But, it wasn’t until his early 20s that he decided to pursue it as a vocation. While stalling his dreams to pursue engineering seemed like a logical move, his unflinching love for the sport couldn’t stay repressed for long. And, in a moment of profound epiphany, Limaye—in his third year of engineering—decided to take a leap of faith.

“When I told my parents that I want to go back to horse riding, their first question was whether I would complete my engineering degree,” says Limaye, who will be representing India in equestrianism at the upcoming Asian Games. “The only condition was that I should complete engineering first,” he adds.

His resolve to pursue the sport professionally only got stronger after enrolling in a riding school in Chennai during a summer break—rekindling his equestrian spirit and a yearning to get back into the competitive circuit. But turning his passion into a profession was a journey fraught with obstacles.

“My friend who owned that school asked me to think hard before making any decision. She helped me realise the difference between riding one or two horses just for enjoyment and spending the whole day with them on a daily basis,” he recalls.

But Limaye was ready to ride the crests and troughs. After learning the art of show jumping in the UK from some of the best in the world, Limaye returned to his home shores and joined Embassy International Riding School [EIRS] in Bangalore as an instructor. This is the place that honed his craft, making him the best horse rider in the country. “They have got the best infrastructure for equestrians in the country. I also got to ride 5-10 horses, which really boosted my progress,” he says. At EIRS, Limaye led a team of 20-25 athletes and played an instrumental role in sending more than a dozen of young athletes to national-level competitions. Coaching also gave him a new perspective on the sport. According to Limaye, it made him more conscious of not repeating the mistake when he is on a ride. Impressed by his work ethic and discipline, EIRS sent him on a sponsorship program to Germany.

Earlier this year, Limaye became the sole Indian to qualify for the eventing category at the Asian Games. What makes his qualification all the more special is the fact that he switched from show jumping to eventing only a couple of years back. It wasn’t an easy decision for him. “Initially it was a big question mark. One part of me was optimistic about it, while the other part was fearful. But somehow the optimistic side took over me,” he adds.

As Limaye’s preparation for the Asian Games heats up, history is stacked heavily against him since Fouaad Mirza is the only Indian to win a medal at the Games [he won the silver medal in individual eventing at the Asian Games 2018]. But Limaye is training rigorously. Every morning starts with a visit to the stable, where he feeds the horses and lets them walk for a bit on a machine so that they don’t get stiff. Then he decides what slots he would ride, which depends entirely on the routine and that often depends on the shows.

It’s important to create a bond that is based on mutual respect, says Limaye. “Never at any point should the horse feel that we are working against them. You should know and understand their feelings and they will reciprocate. They can’t speak but it’s still the team sport. Some days when they are feeling low, you need to push them. And on days when I’m feeling low, they carry me.”

It’s not only Limaye who will be competing next month. There’s also stiff competition between Dinard Penguinan and Willy Be Dun, and Limaye is still unsure of which one would pass his test. “Both have their own personalities. Willy is more consistent but Dinard has better range. I’ll wait till the last moment, ” he says.

The horseman mentions the hard yards Carola Bierlein, his main dressage coach, and Jerome Robins, the jumping and cross-country coach, are putting on him for the past three months. “Bierlein has been the backbone of my progress. She has been planning everything for me, making me understand the nuances of each drill. I’d also like to give equal credit to Rodolphe Scherer, who is the national trainer of eventing. I love the way he explains everything,” Limaye signs off.

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