First equestrian from NE to win a national c’ship is a Naga

Kekhriesilie Rio at the FEI World Jumping Challenge 2020 (South Zone) held in Bangalore earlier this month.
Kekhriesilie Rio at the FEI World Jumping Challenge 2020 (South Zone) held in Bangalore earlier this month.
Kekhriesilie Rio at the FEI World Jumping Challenge 2020 (South Zone) held in Bangalore earlier this month.
Kekhriesilie Rio at the FEI World Jumping Challenge 2020 (South Zone) held in Bangalore earlier this month.
Kekhriesilie Rio at the FEI World Jumping Challenge 2020 (South Zone) held in Bangalore earlier this month.
Kekhriesilie Rio at the FEI World Jumping Challenge 2020 (South Zone) held in Bangalore earlier this month.
Kekhriesilie Rio at the FEI World Jumping Challenge 2020 (South Zone) held in Bangalore earlier this month.

Kekhriesilie Rio pins sight on Asiad and Olympics 

Morung Express News
Dimapur | December 14

Horse-riding as a sport is little known in India, let alone the north-east region. Moreover, there is hardly any media publicity promoting or writing about equestrian events in the country. 

Unbeknownst to most, this sport has brought international level medals to India, the most recent one being an individual silver won by Fouaad Mirza in the ‘Eventing’ discipline in the 2018 Asian Games. 

In the north-east, the sport has hardly any presence except in the states of Assam and Manipur, while Arunachal Pradesh has recently floated a state equestrian association affiliated to the Equestrian Federation of India. 

It may sound surprising, Nagaland also features in the national (as well as internationally) equestrian map, in the form of Kekhriesilie Rio. 

At 20 years of age, Rio has already won several acclaims in the national professional circuit and is slated to go international representing the country at the finals of the FEI (Federation Equestrian International) World Show Jumping, likely to be held early next year. He is also the first from the north-east to have won a national equestrian event. 

He is studying Political Science at the Symbiosis school for Liberal Arts in Pune and hails from Touphema village, Kohima. 

Earlier, this month, he won the FEI (Federation Equestrian International) World Jumping Challenge 2020 (South Zone) in category A in Bangalore setting the stage for participating in the world finals. 

“I am part of the South-Asian zone. The top two riders from each zone are given the opportunity to participate in the finals of the FEI World Show Jumping which usually happens in a European country. This will be my first international event and will be the first time I will be representing India,” he said, in an interview to The Morung Express on December 14.  

Prior to this, he had won several medals with his first major national recognition coming in 2015 when he finished third in the junior category in the ‘endurance’ discipline. 

According to him, he was unsure which equestrian discipline to choose at the time.  “That was at a time when I was unsure which discipline to choose. Slowly I realized I was more into show jumping… My first major victory in show jumping was in 2018 in the junior nationals in Kolkata.” 

He has won at the Delhi Horse show and the Equestrian Premier League South Zone, besides many other show jumping events.

His sights are now on competing at the 2022 Asian Games and the Olympics representing India. 

His equestrian interest was seeded at the Assam Valley School in Tezpur where, according to him, each student was required to choose a sport as an extra-curricular activity. “Equestrian was something new to me, it was unheard of and I was curious. It was in class 3 when I was 8 years old. I got into the sport, just wanting to learn. Moreover, I like animals and I am into animal welfare,” he said of his introduction to the sport.  

School level competition led him to the state level and eventually to winning national events.  It was in 2010 when he first got exposure at the national level enabling him to get to “know how things happen in the equestrian circle” and marking the beginning of going pro. 

He is currently based in Bangalore, alongwith his coach and two horses, and will be competing at the Junior National Equestrian Championship in Delhi to be held from December 27-28. 

Of the sport, he said, “Equestrian is not as big as cricket or football in India because, firstly, there are not enough facilities or infrastructure for the sport to grow. And at the same time not many people are aware of the sport. One of the main hindrances is not enough publicity and at the same time, since it is an expensive sport, there are limited people involved in the sport.” 

According to him, good financial backing is required to progress in the sport, especially in a country like India.

Fortunately for him, he said that the Nagaland state government has agreed to sponsor him to buy a horse  to “up my game and make it to the Asian Games.” 

“I would like youths from our state to be involved in this sport. It is a collective thing. Even people from the north-east can be up front in the sport,” he said, while adding that he has applied for the formation of the Nagaland state level equestrian federation.