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Chennai’s junior horse riders rake in national medals

Chennai-based equestrian Kavya Gopal leads the city’s ride to success at the Junior National Equestrian Championship, with two gold medals

Kavya Gopal, 20 years old, made Chennai proud by securing an individual gold as well as a team gold medal at the Junior National Equestrian Championship (JNEC) in Mumbai, with a groundbreaking score of 73.3475. She leads a pack of successful Chennai riders, who added to the city’s tally with a host of gold, silver and bronze medals.

While Kavya’s individual gold medal was in the Young Rider Dressage category, her gold in Team Dressage was won along with Ariana Dhond, Tiyasha Vathul and Vibhu Rastogi. Other winners from Chennai are Tasha N — individual bronze and team silver in dressage (children II category); Samanna Everra — team gold in dressage and team bronze in show jumping (children I category); and Muzzamil M — team gold in dressage and show jumping (children II category).

After three years of taking part in every JNEC, Kavya finally clinched her first-ever silver medal (team) in 2020. She made a powerful comeback for this year’s JNEC with more rigorous training and an unyielding attitude. The 2021 edition took place in Mumbai from December 17 to December 30, with riders from all parts of the country accompanied by their best horses.

Kavya Gopal poses with her medals | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Kavya’s horse — or “soulmate”, as many competitive riders call their steed — was Sechs Richtige, a male horse imported from Germany. She had the chance to practise with him only for five or six months prior to the championship, after he arrived in the country. About a month-and-a-half of her training period was spent just on building a connection with Sechs Richtige and getting to know his movements, she says.

It helped that Kavya has been riding since the age of 12, and over the years has grown fond of animals. Riding a plethora of diverse horses in her growing years, Kavya has acquired the ability to understand the temperament of each horse and in turn, learn from it.

“We connect instantly and can understand each other. We are inseparable,” as Kavya fondly explains the bond she shares with Sechs Richtige, it becomes clear why riders use the endearment ‘soulmate’ for their horses in the stable. “The partnership between Sechs Richtige and I in the competition was so very graceful; he gave me moments to cherish for a lifetime,” she says.

Kavya Gopal with her coach Isabelle Futnani | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Kavya underlines that her victory was made possible only with the support of her seasoned coach, Isabelle Futnani: “She handheld me and groomed me into a better rider. Sechs Richtige and I clicked in no time with her complete guidance and training.”

Kavya has planned out her future in the sports field and dreams of representing India on the international equestrian arena. “I have one more year to do Junior Nationals Championship, after which I will get to participate in National-level championships, which will be my next step. My ultimate aim is to reach the Olympics,” she signs off.

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