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Saving Mumbais Reining Glory - Mumbais amateur riders irked by plans to alter racecourse land use - By Shailendra Awasthi I TNN

Posted on - 06 Jul 2014

Saving Mumbai's Reining Glory - Mumbai's amateur riders irked by plans to alter racecourse land use
Enthusiasts & Sportspersons Worried About Losing Ground
By Shailendra Awasthi

The state government's proposal to build a helipad on the Mahalaxmi racecourse and the Shiv Sena's plan to turn it into a theme park has outraged horse enthusiasts. Not just the Royal Western India Turf Club, but the Amateur Riders' Club (ARC), situated in one corner of the racecourse, is also losing sleep over government and civic plans to take over the city's picturesque open space. Established in 1942, the ARC is one of the oldest and largest private civilian riding clubs in India which imparts riding lessons to children and adults and promotes equestrian events like show jumping, dressage, tent pegging and polo.
Since these activities are all held in an area of the racecourse which is at the centre of the controversy, the club and its members were very disturbed by the developments.
“It is definitely worrying,“ said Rustom Vakil, honorary secretary, ARC. “We are the only club in the city of Mumbai which provides riding lessons at highly subsidised rates to both our members and the general public. What will happen to that?“ he said, adding, “We also promote equestrian sports and have held national championships for show jumping, dressage, tent pegging, etc in the past. Apart from this we also hold international level polo competitions. The new proposals will sound a death knell for the ARC.“
Horse-riding enthusiast Smitha Nair, who said she had realized her childhood dream of learning riding at classes conducted by the ARC at the racecourse, was deeply disappointed with the developments. “After learning riding myself, I wanted my kids to learn riding there in future, but where will we go once these activities are stopped by the BMC and the government?“ Nair said.
Pranay Mehta, a member of the Indian team which won the recently concluded International Tent Pegging Championship at Johannesburg, South Africa, is worried about his future. “I am still 20 and have a long way to go in the equestrian sport. Where will I practice?“ said the Mumbai lad.
“Many youths like me who participate in national and international equestrian sports events will be worried about their future if the racecourse is affected by the proposed helipad and theme park. There is no other place in the city for our practice sessions,“ Mehta pointed out.
Prakash Mehta, a committee member of the ARC, said the government and the municipal corporation should discuss the racecourse issue with citizens first.
“How can they propose these things without talking to affected people like us? People from all levels of society use the racecourse for various purposes. Why aren't these people taken into confidence?“ Mehta said.

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