Jousting for help, Pakistan's bid to keep cavalry sport alive
KOT FATEH KHAN: Festooned with garlands and vibrant bridles, turbaned riders mounted on horseback in full gallop decrease their lances at tiny picket blocks as they apply the centuries-old custom of tent-pegging in Pakistan.
Lower than a two-hour drive from the capital Islamabad, 1000’s collect at a freshly ploughed grounds to watch the equine competition in a contest that may see riders tossed from their mounts, breaking bones or worse throughout the harmful spectacle.
Tent-pegging competitions have been held within the subcontinent for lots of of years however now have largely been decreased to the odd competition, with Pakistan´s most populous Punjab province internet hosting nearly all of such occasions.
Diehard followers of the cavalry sport fear that the custom is on its final legs, within the absence of official help and an absence of recognition among the many younger, city Pakistani plenty.
However in northern Punjab’s Kot Fateh Khan, followers present up droves to cheer on the brazen riders, decked out in pristine white tunics and multi-coloured waistcoats on freshly polished saddles.
As announcers wail into microphones, riders with lances spur their steeds right into a dash towards small picket blocks wedged within the earth, aiming to pierce the targets with their jousts.
“This competition has taken place from the 18th century,” Malik Atta Muhammad Khan tells AFP after taking a stab at a picket block from horseback.
Khan, who claims his nice, nice grandfather “eight generations again” as soon as dominated Kabul, says over one thousand horses will take part on the week-long competition.
However regardless of the abundance of horses, contributors worry their beloved sport is in dire want of contemporary blood, because the variety of breeders elevating steeds and riders coaching for the competitors continues to wane nationwide.
“The love of breeding horses has been… decreased to a couple of households,” says Haroon Bandial, a World Cup gold medallist.
“Tent pegging is performed so much in Punjab, but it surely´s restricted to solely three to 4 households in KPK (Khyber Pakhtunkhawa), a few households in Balochistan and in Sindh additionally one household or so,” he provides, citing the large price of elevating horses as a barrier to entry.
Aficionados of the sport say they start coaching the horses at 16 months of age, a course of which may take over two years to full, whereas riders want at the very least three years within the saddle to put together.
Nonetheless, Khan stays hopeful that the custom nonetheless has the potential to develop.
“There are a lot of occasions in contrast to earlier years,” he explains. “Tent pegging is rising in each village and many individuals have began to take new horses.”