About a year ago, Aradhana Anand quietly won a bronze in national showjumping, an equestrian sport, in Bhopal. But the spirited girl from Coimbatore was not pleased with her effort. She worked hard from there and finished 2023 on a high with two golds and a bronze medal in the category Children II for those aged 10 to 12 at the prestigious Junior National Equestrian Championship in Bengaluru.
So, what is showjumping all about? It is an event where the horse and the rider clear a series of jumps and the winner is judged based on ability and speed. The Bengaluru event, organised by the Equestrian Federation of India, saw 250 participants and 450 horses from across the country, such as Jaipur, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi, to name a few. The boys outnumbered the girls with participants from Delhi, according to her father Anand Purusothaman, being the toughest of them all. “They have some very good horses and spend a lot on them. It’s tough competing against them,” he says.
Aradhana, a Class VII student from C S Academy, showed great control and speed on her way to winning the gold and a bronze and another yellow metal in showjumping accumulator. Interestingly, she beat her nearest competitor by a clear three-second margin. Aradhana was trained in Covai Stables and under the watchful eye of Saravanan Kandasamy.
Her parents are supportive of her journey. “In the initial days, she fell a lot from her horse, but rose to the challenge with every fall,” says Anand. Aradhana tried her hand at badminton but her love for animals drew her to equestrian. “She has taken part in over 40 competitions across the country and every event was a learning curve for her,” he adds.
Aradhana’s parents have plans to send her to Europe for training. Equestrian sports are not easy for women riders as it is the only sport in the Olympics in which men and women compete together. Women comprise fewer than 20 per cent of the top 100, and only five have taken home an individual Olympic medal of any colour.
But Julia Krajewski from Germany, the first-ever female in Olympics history, changed it all, winning the individual eventing gold at the Tokyo Games. And, that has raised the confidence level of Aradhana, who has set her eyes firmly on the 2030 Asian Games.