It was a sensation that Anush Agarwalla and his nine-year-old Escolar son Etro achieved a few days ago at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China: The 23-year-old dressage rider won the gold medal with the Indian team – and went one better with an individual bronze.
“It was the best ten days of my life,” Agarwalla says now, after returning from China. And “return” in this case means: the return to East Westphalia. The young dressage rider has been living there for six years now and trains at the Fleyenhof under the wing of Hubertus Schmidt and his team.
He moved to Germany when he was just 17 years old. “I was already riding when I was only four years old, but it was more like fun rides on ponies. It wasn’t until I was 16 that I seriously wanted to become a dressage rider, watching the broadcasts from Aachen or the Olympic Games online,” Anush Agarwalla reports. “But my family and I soon realised that in order to achieve such goals, it would not make sense to stay in India. Hubertus Schmidt is a dressage legend. The fact that he took me in changed everything. All my successes today would not be possible without him, his family and his team.”
At that time, six years ago, he was riding at E level, the young rider remembers; even saddling up caused him problems. Everything started at the Fleyenhof with lunge lessons. Since then, he worked and trained every day, took lessons, rode at every opportunity. He remembers that Hubertus Schmidt was always his best teacher: “From the beginning, he trained me with respect and calmness. The way he rides himself and teaches me to ride is a role model for me. I learned a lot from him – not only about dressage, but also about how one should be as a human being: always calm and respectful of others, always focused and hard-working. He has brought me to where I am now.”
And another one contributed decisively to the medal triumph in Hangzhou: the only nine-year-old stallion Etro – a licensed son of the stamp stallion Escolar from his first foal crop, bred by Leo Hermanns from Aldenhoven. In the arena of the Asian Games, Etro always gave him a secure feeling, says Agarwalla. At the same time, Etro himself had flown for the very first time on the occasion of the trip to China and had competed in such a big arena for the first time. “That just showed his strong character: he is not afraid of anything, but loves it when people watch him. Then it feels like he wants to show that he is the best horse,” the rider says about Etro, in whose saddle he has only been sitting since last February. “It doesn’t matter whether you take him out for a ride or ride him in the arena: Etro is a very special horse who always wants to do his job well.”
From E-level to international championship gold medal within six years: Anush Agarwalla’s story proves that anything is possible with hard work. “The Asian Games was an unforgettable moment for me,” he says himself. “India has never won a medal in dressage before. Now we stood at the top of the podium, and that despite having fielded a very young team. It was as if it was not us who had won – but the whole of India. The whole nation literally exploded when that happened.” Quite a few people wrote to him, called him and rejoiced with him, he reports. “These are the moments that we as athletes work for all our lives. It’s moments like these that make all the work worthwhile.”