By Navneet Singh
New Delhi, March 8 (IANS) Rider Fouaad Mirza, the first Indian to qualify for the Olympic Games after 20 years, is facing an unprecedented situation as his mare, ‘Dajara 4’, is in a long quarantine in Germany due to an outbreak of Equine Herpes Virus among horses across Europe from last month.
The virus impacts the health of the horses, and that is a worrying factor for the equestrian community. Since Mirza has to ride ‘Dajara 4’ at the Tokyo Olympic Games, starting on July 23, he is taking all precautionary measures for the safety of his mare.
In January last year, the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI), the world governing body, officially confirmed that Mirza, the 28-year-old rider from Bengaluru, had qualified for the Olympics.
With 137 days to go for the Olympics, Mirza’s sole aim is to keep his 10-year-old mare healthy.
“Horses in isolation feel very stressful. Though I have another horse (gelding) ‘Touchingwood’, who has been vaccinated to give company to ‘Dajara 4’,” Mirza told IANS from Oldenburg, where he is based presently.
Mirza, the 2018 double Asian Games silver medallist, said he is staying about four kilometres away from the quarantine stable in Ganderkesee. This is why he has to devote extra time on close monitoring of his mare’s health.
“I’ve to spend more than 10 hours a day grooming and exercising the mare and giving special attention so that it feels good. Also, in the morning I have to monitor her body temperature as a precaution. I do it in the night too before leaving the stable. This is to ensure that if there is something abnormal I can rush her to the vet. But, thank God, all is good,” said the Arjuna Award winner.
The quarantine could last between 14 to 20 days.
Mirza was to compete in Montelibretti, Italy, which was in a clear zone. But to avoid the spread of the virus he left Italy. He said Oldenburg is also in a clear zone and ‘Dajara 4’ was in good health, but she was kept in a quarantine stable last weekend as a precautionary measure.
“On the advice of the veterinarian, we are following quarantine rules. Since there are no competitions in March, it is important to exercise the horse daily to keep the blood flow going in the system,” he said.
“In the morning I’ve to spend three hours, from 7 to 10, with her. Then I come home for breakfast and again go in the afternoon for grooming and feeding the horses. The evening session is another three-hour job. I’ve to ensure that water is clean and horses are eating hay properly.”
Mirza said he is adhering to the quarantine rules strictly.
“There are six horses in the home stable but I can’t go there as I’m visiting another stable that is under quarantine. I’ve an assistant and girlfriend to support me,” he said.
The outbreak of the virus in February made the equestrian community spend sleepless nights. To contain the virus, the FEI has called off the calendar for March, and Mirza is unsure of competitions resuming in April in Europe.
“I was supposed to compete in one event in March. It is not happening. We have to wait for the FEI decision for April events as I have to compete in two competitions,” he said.
All the riders have to appear in competitions to achieve the minimum qualifying criteria to be eligible to compete at the Tokyo Olympics.
According to Mirza, keeping horses is quarantine is nothing new.
“When we travel for international events we have to follow quarantine rules. But the current situation is entirely different due to the outbreak of the virus across Europe,” he said.
After the quarantine is over for ‘Dajara 4’, the vet will assess and monitor her health.
“It’s just been two days for her in isolation, but it’s a worrying factor as it’s a long quarantine,” he said, before heading for the stable for the afternoon session.