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May 15th, 2020

So farewell then, India’s last mounted regiment

One of the things I love best about Delhi’s winters is watching polo.

Since the Indian army is very much a backbone of polo, I read an article on the front page of my paper this morning with some interest.

Only horse-mounted army unit to get tanks

Apparently, the venerable 61st Cavalry, one of the world’s last mounted regiments, is about to get a 21st century makeover.

Namely, the horses are being replaced by tanks, and the regiment will be “converted into a regular armoured regiment.”

I rushed through all the technical stuff, like the kinds of tanks they’re getting, to find out the most important issue – what about the horses?

What will happen to them?

“The regiment’s 300-odd horses will become part of a new equestrian node…” I read with relief.

Whew!

I have NO idea what an “equestrian node” means, but at least all the regiment’s magnificent horses will be OK.

But it does rather look as though the polo-playing days of the officers of the 61st look are numbered.

I quote Lt Gen D B Shekatkar (retd) who headed up the committee that took all the decisions, and who said, rather acerbically:

“Nowhere in the world is playing polo or taking part in equestrian sports the main occupation of any army unit.”

Ouch, that sounds pretty definite, doesn’t it?

I take it that this will also sound the death knell of the army’s wonderful tent-pegging displays, as well as their even more wonderful hanky-picking-at-full-gallop displays, about which I have written in the past.

Hanky-picky will always be my most favourite sport in the whole wide world, but sadly, I may just have to live on memories.

And, of course, there is the $64,000 question: what will become of the President’s Bodyguard, who are drawn from the 61st Cavalry?

No more gorgeousness at the annual Republic Day parade?

No more ceremonial Changing of the Guard outside Rashtrapati Bhavan?

Such fabulousness, but deemed to be redundant in 21st century India.

8 comments to So farewell then, India’s last mounted regiment

  • Penny

    I’m sure the mounted guards in the British Army are also trained in armoured vehicles, possibly tanks, but they still do the ceremonial stuff on horseback and the displays of riding at things like the Edinburgh tattoo. No reason why that has to stop unless they have made that decision.

    • christine

      I hope they allow the UK model. Suspect they will for the ceremonial stuff, but I fear the army’s polo-playing days may be numbered.

  • Sarah Arnot

    That is sad. Horses have been the perfect transport for centuries- we should not completely abandon that in our official institutions. Especially now. But then, I’m Irish, horsey and possibly biases

  • Mariasun Azcuna

    Oooohhhh

  • Brinda Dubey

    Sad, sad, sad….

  • Zubin

    Oh no, indeed. I am hoping that the ‘nowhere in the world…. primary occupation’ remark means that the polo playing and ceremonial aspect can remain at least as a secondary occupation! After all, the Household Cavalry have managed to make themselves very useful in their armoured personnel carriers, as well as at clippety-clopping down The Mall.

  • Ayesha Grewal

    That’s sad…

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