A tourist visit to Shimla remains incomplete without having a taste of horse riding on the popular Ridge maidan. The place remains flocked by tourists round the year and children as well as grownups are seen horse riding for fun. At times newly wedded couples are also seen enjoying the fun ride. Many local children too come are too seen pressurising their parents to let them enjoy the ride. It is also common to find people taking photographs of their dear ones astride the horse. One can see horses stationed close to the Padam Dev Complex on way to the Lakkar Bazar.
In a conversation a horse owner informed that the number of pliers had now reduced to 15 which earlier used to be 25 or more. Ajit Singh, the horse owner informed that the rising cost of feed and maintaining the horse was adding to their miseries. The route for plying the horses too had been demarcated by the municipal authorities making it had become a bit unpopular for the tourists some of whom are seen arguing on the time enjoyed on the ride. He informed that the cost of whole gram (chana) on which the horses survive had crossed Rs.120 a kg and the average cost to maintain a horse was no less than Rs.600-700 a day including the cost of 4 kg chana itself being more than Rs.500. The business, he told picks up only during the summer or winter vacations while during the other days, they simply find it hard to make barely cost of surviving.
Ajit Singh who had been in this profession for the past 20 years recalls that the facilities provided to them by the authorities used to be attractive. On the route and on the Mall road, they used to have drinking water stations for horses which had gradually disappeared. Their used to be a ‘Ghora Hospital’ on the cart road, below sabji mandi, he recalled, which too had been shifted across the road and was now serving for all the cattle.
About the charges for horse ride he told that on a modest gradual increase, they were presently charging Rs.40 for one child and Rs.70 for two children sharing. Going by the quality of maintenance of horses, he told that people usually prefer a healthy white or black horse. A tall good looking horse remains preference of the riders. Many of the tourists simply ride them for taking photographs, he said. In addition to the ride on the Ridge, Ajit Singh told that they also take tourists to Jakho mandir situated atop the hill, but there number was few and far within.
The trade is well under the control of municipal authorities Ajit Singh informed and the pliers were issued proper licences. On the health of the cattle, he added that they needed to take proper care as certain ailments were fatal. We need to remain vigilant on the feed given to them, and we become acquainted on their behaviour, he told.
The depleting trade, a popular tourist attraction may on the verge of extinction with the upcoming generation being least interested in the business.
(Photos by Vijay K Verma)