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The Telegraph
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Derby keeps tradition alive

Jorhat, Feb. 21: More than 120 horses from Mising villages along the Brahmaputra have converged at Jorhat Gymkhana Club here for participation in one of the oldest sporting events of the region — the Jorhat races — which began today.

The Jorhat derby is not only a major crowdpuller but has also been ensuring the preservation of this native breed of horses.

“The races have been playing a big role in ensuring the preservation of this breed of horses,” the president of the Jorhat Race Committee, Prabhat Bezboruah, told The Telegraph today.

These horses were earlier used for agricultural and transportation activities.With the advent of other modes of transport and technology into agricultural activities, these horses were left without work.

Hardeep Singh, another member of the committee, said the races have become a source of livelihood for the owners of the horses because of the cash prizes they win.

“This time we will distribute silver trophies to add more value to the prize,” he said.

Apart from cash prizes, the winners will get a 10gram silver coin worth Rs 5,000 and the horse that comes second will be given a 50gram silver coin.

There will be 10 races per day and the finals will be held on Sunday.

Twenty trophies will be distributed during the two-day 134th edition of the races, which have been held almost regularly at Gymkhana Club since 1877.

Hardeep said the Mising community villagers — mostly from Disangmukh, Janjhimukh, Amguri and Elengmora areas along the Brahmaputra in Jorhat and Sivasagar districts — prepare their horses for the Jorhat races several months before the event begins, so that they can win prizes.

“It’s a common sight in these villages — horses being tested on the sandy banks,” Hardeep said.

The organisers — Jorhat Gymkhana Club — have also been carrying out development work in the villages, constructing schools and community halls for the benefit of the villagers.

“We have been regularly giving funds for development activities in the villages every year,” Bezbaruah said.

British planters had started the Jorhat horse races with the high-breed horses used by them for transportation. As other modes of transportation took over, native breeds from the Mising villages replaced the high-breed horses.

A unique feature of the Jorhat races is that the riders are adept at riding bareback.

Dipak, owner of Bogi (white beauty), who won several medals in last year’s races, said his horse is all set to win more prizes this year, too. “Bogi gave birth to a colt after last year’s races but she is fit as a fiddle. I am sure she will win more glory this year.”