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Marwari horses perform at Windsor Castle

Michael Fish, the ex-BBC weatherman, famously got it wrong in October 1987 when he dismissed fears that a hurricane was on the way, calmly assuring viewers, “Don’t worry, there isn’t.” It’s now known as the Great Storm of ’87. Dipankar De Sarkar writes.

world Updated: May 19, 2012 01:05 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar

Michael Fish, the ex-BBC weatherman, famously got it wrong in October 1987 when he dismissed fears that a hurricane was on the way, calmly assuring viewers, “Don’t worry, there isn’t.” It’s now known as the Great Storm of ’87.

Still, you could do worse than consult the BBC’s weather station before setting out for the day in England, as many discovered last week at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant at Windsor Castle. It had been raining incessantly and the thousands who turned up for the spectacular horse show had to splosh through mud and slush.

It was worth the effort, not least for the few Indians visitors. Eight Marwari horses, a special and rare Indian breed, were among more than 550 horses that took part for four nights on the trot for shows that were attended by the Queen and other members of the British royal family. They galloped and danced in floodlights, against the backdrop of a 148-foot replica of Buckingham Palace.

Importing these horses is banned by New Delhi, so the ‘Magnificent Dancing Marwaris of India’ were shipped over from French and Spanish stables. Also on display were the tent-pegging skills of Indian riders from the President’s Bodyguard – a sport that is an Indian speciality. Galloping flat-out and carrying a lance, the rider swoops low to pick up a small target (usually a wooden tent peg) from the ground.

The Queen is not just a lover of horses – she’s said to be an expert, and the show highlighted her 250 Commonwealth visits over 60 years as monarch.

Horses took centre-stage on a trip to Kolkata in 1961 during her first state visit to India. Escorted by Governor Padmaja Naidu, she spent a few hours at the Calcutta Turf Club to watch the race for a cup named after her. She had her own horse at the race, ridden by Lester Piggott, great English jockey.

But the cup was won by Pa Bear, owned by Mrs A H Billimoria. “It could have been Kempton Park, Goodwood or, in its slightly more formal moments, Ascot,” reported The Statesman. “But it was Calcutta and yet the Queen looked entirely at ease.” So did the Marwaris as they swayed to Rajasthani music at Windsor Castle.