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In the Footsteps of the Shekhawati Brigade, Rajasthan, India.

12 days; 7 days riding.


4th October 2017 to 15th October 2017
Introduction
This is a unique opportunity to retrace the footsteps of the Shekhawati Brigade, one of the British Raj’s
most charismatic and agile cavalry regiments. The Shekhawati Brigade was established in 1835 and
subsequently amalgamated with other regiments. Their actions can be traced right through to
Independence in 1947 and up to modern times; Rajasthan was their theatre of operation. Discover the
exploits of this cavalry brigade and their skirmishes against the dacoits.

This exciting chapter of British history will be brought to life each evening with informal talks around the
camp fire given by a local Rajput whose family can trace its ancestry back to well before the founding of
the Shekhawati Brigade. Ride the trails by day and hear the tales by night. At salient points along the
route we have arranged for elderly gentlemen, who knew pre-Independence India, to meet us and share
their stories.

This is a “Buddy Ride” which means we welcome six fully fit riders and six injured servicemen or women.
These will be chosen by Polo for Heroes with the aid of Help for Heroes, Band of Brothers; the
experience of this ride will contribute to both physical and mental recovery. We will ride as a group
consisting of six buddy-pairs. There will be people in India to offer assistance as required, reinforcing the
buddy partnerships.

The Marwari Horse


The Marwari horse stands between 14 hh and 17 hh They are particularly known for their ears! The classic
depending on its geographical origin; horses from lyre-shaped ear with the tips just touching.
more fertile areas grow larger than their desert
counterparts. Nowadays foals grow larger due to There is a host of folklore about the whorls on the
improved nutrition and better parasite control but coat too: too much to go into here, but if the
the average remains 15.2 hh to 16 hh. “science” of whorls is of interest, your host on this
ride is well-versed in the lore.
The Marwari comes in all colours
including the boldly coloured There is a stud book in India which was
‘ablacks’ (Piebalds or Skewbalds) established in the 2000’s: the breed isn’t
particularly favoured in India. The new, agreeing to the standard is! One of
Marwari’s natural tendency to the results of having a breed standard is
perform would make him that it is now prohibited to export Marwari.
particularly suitable for dressage, India wishes to preserve the breed herself.
but dressage isn’t popular in India.
He is a tough, brave and beautiful Tack: The saddles are Indian cavalry
horse who has proven his ability to “Sawar” saddles developed by the British
adapt and thrive in most cavalry in the mid 1700’s and still used by
environments. When you first set the Indian cavalry today. They are designed
eyes on one you tend to think they with a high pommel allowing a good flow of
look angular; not a bit of it! These air along the horse’s spine which is
are the marathon runners of the horse world; all particularly important in India’s hot
sinew and lean muscle: remarkable stamina and they climate. They function (and feel) similar to a
end the day as fresh and keen as they begin it. conventional English saddle and are comfortable for
both horse and rider. Short chaps work well with this
tack and if you like to use a seat-saver it’s a good
idea to bring one. The bits are snaffles.
The Riding Itinerary
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Wed 4 Oct 2017
Depart London on the overnight flight to Jaipur.
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Thur 5 Oct
Arrive in India in the afternoon. Met upon arrival and
driven to the hotel. The hotel is run by two brothers
who have transformed a stately haveli (manor house)
into a unique property. It’s meticulously renovated
and perhaps the finest haveli in Jaipur. Dinner at the
hotel and followed by a ride briefing.
th
Fri 6 Oct
Setting off for the desert
The Marwari, an Indian aristocrat.
When everyone is ready after breakfast we’ll drive
north to Sikar and visit Sikar Fort which features in th
Sun 8 Oct
the actions of the Shekhawati Brigade.
Into the bush.
Today’s the day! We set off riding west. Each person
Continue to Dundlod Fort where a ‘Royal Welcome’
is issued with twin saddlebags for camera,
awaits us. It was built in 1750 and is a blend of
waterbottle, sun cream and such-like. All the other
Rajputana and Moghul styles, typical to Rajasthan. It
baggage is carried in the support vehicles.
has been delightfully restored. Later visit the
We ride through small villages, some of which are
Marwari stables.
predominately “Khayamkhani” which is a clan of
[Full board “FB” and overnight at the fort.]
Rajputs who have converted from Hindu to Muslim.

Whilst on the trail, each night is spent in a tented


camp but this is no ordinary camp: you’re provided
with blankets, quilts, pillows, a mattress and a camp
bed. The canvas “rooms” are large enough to stand
upright in. Grooms ride with the team to feed and
water the horses; we will be looked after by a full
staff. [FB. Overnight in camp.]
Distance ridden: 30 Km
Time in saddle: 5 hrs
The tack on its overnight rack. th
Mon 9 Oct
th The trail to Khialee
Sat 7 Oct
We continue riding between small farms through this
Meet the Marwari
semi-desert area, dotted with Khejri trees and ladies
After breakfast we’ll show you the stables and
wearing brightly coloured saris working the land. En
introduce you to the breed and horse management
route we stop for a picnic lunch and a long rest
regime in Rajasthan. Many aspects will be familiar;
before riding on through land that gradually becomes
the tack will be familiar, but the detail is different!
sandier and softer; small villages cling to the sand
The Marwari requires hands-off riding and a gentle,
dunes and eke out a tough existence. Many herds of
sympathetic touch.
Nilgai, the indigenous antelope, known as “blue
bulls” and the Chinkara deer will be seen in this area.
In mid-morning you’ll be introduced to your horse
[FB. Overnight in camp.]
and have the opportunity to get the feel in the
Distance ridden: 35 Km
ménage. When everyone is settled we’ll ride out into
Time in saddle: 6 hrs
the surrounding farmland and get to know the
horses. After lunch (back at the fort) we’ll visit a few th
Tue 10 Oct: Reaching Alsisar Fort
of the heritage sites that are found within the village.
The objective for today is the magnificent Fort at
Dinner at the fort, later a briefing on the “Footsteps
Alsisar. This is close to Jhunjhunu where the
of the Shekhawati” ride that kicks off tomorrow.
rebellious chieftains were taken as “guests of his
[FB and overnight at the fort.]
majesty”. Overnight in Alsisar Fort, a majestic
palace-fort that has been meticulously restored to its
Distance ridden: 15 Km
former glory.
Time in saddle: 2-3 hrs
Distance ridden: 35 Km
Time in saddle: 6 hrs

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th
Wed 11 Oct We can walk to the Rani Sati temple and Mertanji ki
Jhunjhunu (or Joonjnoo) Baori, which is a classic step-well designed to retain
Today we enter the town of Jhunjhunu where the as much of the scarce rainwater that falls as possible.
Shekhawati Brigade was stationed. Visit Fostergunj,
the actual location of the Shekhawati Brigade’s Distance ridden 35 Km
quarters. There will be ample time to explore Time in saddle: 6 hrs.
Badalgarh Fort, which was the first to be built in
th
Jhunjhunu, by the Muslim ruler Khayamkhani Nawab Sat 14 Oct
Faisal Khan in 16th century. Later it was taken over Return to Jaipur
by Rao Shardul Singhji Shekhawat who was the ruler Drive from Khettree to Jaipur. Lunch at Jaipur and
who gave his name to this area. visit the City Palace museum and the Palace of Winds
(Hawa Mahal ). We round off our time in Rajasthan
Overnight in camp at the Badalgarh Fort. with an evening visit to the famous Rajasthan Polo
Distance ridden: 30 Km Club in Jaipur.
Time in saddle: 5 hrs
And for those last minute pressies, there are some
th
Thur 12 Oct excellent shops to explore in Jaipur: Anokhi is
Ride to Khettree (or Khetri) famous for its high quality block-print textiles; Kripal
The ride starts from just outside Jhunjhunu town and Singh Shekhawa is the potter who breathed life back
heads towards Khetri along a dry river bed. Later we in to the famous blue pottery of Jaipur in the 1930’s;
pass through the villages of Kali Pahari and Sultana, The Gem Palace is the place to find jewellery,
both of which were strongholds of the dacoits. Lunch particularly emeralds.
en route and ride to camp.
Dinner at the Polo Club overnight at the Heritage
Overnight in camp hotel.
Distance ridden: 30 Km
Time in saddle: 5 hrs

th
th
Fri 13 Oct Sun 15 Oct 2017
Explore Khettree Fort on horseback Fly home to London.
Khetri has a magnificent Fort and many beautiful Transfer to airport for the early morning flight to
heritage buildings; there is also a stepped well and London. Arrive London in the early evening.
water collection area which at present is dry,
reflecting the decline of local rainfall. The ride is City Palace: a huge complex of courtyards, gardens,
slower today because we are approaching the and buildings that blends together both Rajasthani
Aravalli Mountains (1,750m) and the terrain is and Mughal architecture. The Peacock Gate is
steeper. The Aravalli are one of the oldest ranges in exquisite with its design of bright peacocks. The royal
the world pre-dating the more famous Himalaya, family lives in the graceful Chandra Mahal (Moon
created when two tectonic plates collided. The Palace) bordering the courtyard. There is a museum,
Himalaya continue to grow each year, whereas the art gallery and interesting display of royal costumes
Aravalli are static, or declining slightly due to wind and old Indian weapons.
and rain erosion.

Camp is pitched inside Khettree Fort which has a


commanding view over the surrounding country.

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The Nitty-Gritty The ride as detailed with horse, tack and groom.
Rider’s weight Services of ride guide and his team in India.
95 kg max. Riders over 95 Kg can be accommodated Services of a Venture Co ride leader.
but will require a second horse which will attract an
additional fee. Please contact Venture Co. Not included
Visa for India
Rider safety Personal travel insurance
You must wear a riding hat and appropriate foot Alcoholic drinks and soft drinks
wear. Gloves and half-chaps are recommended, but Tips
not everyone likes to wear them in warm climates. [There is no local payment]
The rule is, be comfortable and you’ll ride better.
Travel insurance
In summary Please speak to Campbell Irvine Direct:
 6½ days riding Marwari horses http://www.campbellirvinedirect.com/ventureco_ho
 2 nights staying in Fort Dundlod me.htm
 3 nights heritage hotel
 5 nights “glamping” At a glance

Price The grade of the ride: [8/10]


£2,895 (The ride, flight and airport taxes)
Able-bodied riders are invited to pay for their place novice ……………..… intemediate .………………. advanced
and pay or raise sponsorship for their disabled buddy
of £2,895 - £250 = £2,645. Polo for Heroes can assist
with fundraising ideas. Accommodation grading: [8/10]
Disabled Heroes pay £250 deposit only.
camping…lodges & hotels…glamping...loads of character

We welcome corporate or personal sponsorship from


anyone who would like to sponsor a Hero’s ride for
£2,645. Rider fitness required: [9/10]

Staying on
If riders would like to stay on after the ride, please
call Venture Co to discuss. This must be done before Cultural immersion: [10/10]
flight tickets are issued.
just like home …. surprises …… lots new ….. completely different

More about “At a glance”


We grade this ride high in each category: it is a full
immersion riding experience and you know from day
one that you are not in England anymore! The
horses, terrain, meals, language, customs, manners
and everything else, are all different!

The Bengal tiger, Ranthambore National Park Ride rating: we rate this riding experience 8 out of 10
because the horses are well-mannered but forward-
The flight schedule going. They are very fit and love “making progress”.
The flights depart from London Heathrow in the The tack is predominately English (with some
evening and arrive in Jaipur in the afternoon of the variations) so you need to be well-seated, compared
next day. The return flight leaves Jaipur in the early for example, to Western tack which is more
morning and arrives in London the same afternoon. forgiving. Some canters are 8 to 10 mins long and a
All flights booked through Venture Co are financially dozen horses cantering together is exhilarating for
protected via Venture Co’s ATOL licence number competent riders, but could be scary for a novice.
5306. The trails are dusty and temps can top 30°C and
higher so you will get sweaty and grimy – in the
Included in the package price nicest possible way! Having said all that, it is also the
International flights most authentic, exhilarating and all-absorbing ride
Meals: full board from dinner on day 2 to breakfast you could wish for.
on day 12.
Road transfers as detailed, in air-conditioned vehicle.
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and for multiple days in succession. You don’t need
to be an athlete, but you will enjoy it much more if
you ride regularly for a couple of weeks before the
ride. We do use a couple of support vehicles, one of
which carries the picnic lunch to the mid-day rendez-
vous, and this means that if you wanted to sit out an
afternoon, one of the grooms could lead your horse,
and you could ride in the jeep (it hasn’t happened
yet, but the option exists!).

Three wise men.

Accommodation: we grade this at 8 out of 10 too,


A passing camel-herder: horses and camels
which may seem incongruous with the ride rating but enjoy a mutual wariness of one-another.
the properties where we stay have been fantastically
restored and the level of hospitality we are shown is Cultural Immersion: Venture Co prides itself on
outstanding throughout. The camping really is providing riding opportunities that take you directly
“glamping”: the tents are huge, with cots and linen into contact with the indigenous community. The
supplied; each one is carpeted. There are two camp guides, grooms, wranglers, camp staff, chef and his
showers within the ablution block and provision to team and even the drivers, musicians and horse-
heat water over a log fire, so that you can have a hot hairdresser will all be eager to talk to you and show
bush-shower each evening! There is a person to you their “normal”; their life and their world. They
clean your boots and the man who cuts patterns are proud of their heritage and flattered that you are
onto the horse’s quarters will also cut your hair, if travelling half way around the globe to learn all
you wish! There is a separate kitchen tent and a mess about it. This, surely, is the essence of travelling. The
tent for evening meals and breakfast. In the centre of real pleasure for any horseman is to compare how
camp is a log fire which is where we gather each we do things to how they do things. It’s not the devil
evening for sundowners and a chance to compare in the detail; it’s the delight in the detail that makes
riders’ tales and sights we’ve seen. “Duke of this ride a ten-pointer.
Edinburgh Ten Tors camping” it most certainly ain’t!

Rider fitness: you do need to be in shape; “riding fit”


is the label we attach to this ride. Many of the rides
we do in other parts of the world allow you to arrive
and get in shape during the ride; that is not the case
here, your riding muscles need to be prepared for
what’s coming! Long days (up to 7 hrs in the saddle)

Destination Background
Rajasthan
In the northwest corner of India, up against the Pakistan border, is India’s largest state, Rajasthan. The name
means “land of kings” which reveals something of its heritage: this is the land of
Rajputs, feudal barons who were responsible to the Maharaja of Jodhpur who
held overall sway over Rajasthan. The Rajputs ruled their fiefdoms but owed
allegiance to the Maharaja. Indian society remains multi-layered and the
implications of the caste system are nuanced and subtle.

The Aravali Mountains run through Rajasthan and are a helpful landmark
throughout this ride; they are 700 Km long and run in a north-easterly direction
nearly reaching Delhi. The Luni River, which we follow on the ride, rises in the
Aravali, though the water is subterranean for the majority of the year. These
mountains are much older than the Himalaya, and unlike the Himalaya, they are
no longer rising.
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Rajasthan contains 4 iconic forts, Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, Chittorgarh Fort which is the largest fort in Asia, the
enigmatic façade of “Palace of the Winds” in Jaipur and the extensive fortifications that make up the Amber Fort
just outside Jaipur. Rajasthan is an arid area which is thinly populated: as the ride progresses you will see many
tiny villages and hamlets, well away from tarmac roads. There are tractors to plough fields, but most crops are still
moved by ox-wagon and camel cart. The government has made great efforts to provide water stand-pipes and
troughs to these farming communities which has had a significant impact on the lives of the women in particular
(the traditional drawers of water). The unanticipated consequence is that many communities allow water and
waste water to flow freely along village streets where it is able to seep into foundations, which is detrimental to
many of the once-grand havelis.

th th
An haveli is a merchant’s manor house. In the 18 and 19 C a
great deal of trade passed through Rajasthan enabling the
merchant castes to become wealthy. Consequently they built large
houses constructed around a courtyard open to the elements, very
comparable to the riads in Morocco. The havelis were richly
decorated with paintings and frescos. Sadly, many have fallen into
disrepair and India lacks a National Trust equivalent, so the future
doesn’t look promising for most havelis. The few that are
maintained and restored are truly glorious; testament to a lavish
past.

What’s the weather going to be like?


Rajasthan is a dry, semi-arid area that includes the Thar Desert which is sandy, with gravel / rocky outcrops in
places. There is considerable subterranean water, but the riverbeds are dry most of the time. There is widespread
agricultural activity and many drought-resistant crops are grown. There are trees such as the Neem and various
Acacia species and wildlife such as Blue Bulls and Blackbuck which co-exist with the goat herds, camels and water
buffalo.

Jaipur Climate Chart (Monthly Averages)


Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
High Temperature (C) 21 24 31 36 41 39 36 34 34 34 29 23
Low Temperature (C) 7 9 14 20 26 28 27 26 24 18 11 8
Precipitation (mm) 23 18 13 8 13 74 180 173 117 10 3 10

Payment Schedule.
If you would like to join this ride a deposit of £250 per person is due; the Booking Form is available from Venture
Co or Claire Dingwall. Email it back to Venture Co and the deposit can be paid by bank-to-bank transfer (free),
cheque (free) or via payment card (Fee: 1.75% for credit cards).

Eight weeks before you set off the balance is due to be paid to Venture Co.

Health Advice.
For detailed information and advice see http://www.nomadtravel.co.uk and click on their “travel clinics” option.
Vaccination requirements change periodically so we advise that you check with your nearest specialist travel clinic
as soon as possible. Travellers to India must have a Yellow Fever certificate.

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Possible changes
Although it is our intention to operate the itinerary as printed above, it may be necessary to make some changes as a result of
alterations to flight schedules, climatic conditions, limitations of infrastructure or other operational factors. As a consequence,
the itinerary and overnight stops may vary from those outlined.

Equipment Brief:
Visa. A detailed clothing and equipment list will
be provided in the Field Manual but to
British passport holders require a visa for
give you an indication, here is a summary:
India which are obtainable electronically
 Baggage -a holdall (55 to 75 litre
see www.indiavisasonline.gov.in
capacity) suitable to be packed in
a truck each day; a hold-all from
Budget £110
Helle Hanson, North Face etc is
ideal.
 Clothing – tops made from
natural fibres; and a wicking top
during the ride.
 Footwear – a leather soled
The Field Manual. Jodhpur boot and short chaps.
Sandals for evenings.
A detailed booklet will be mailed to each
 Sleeping Bag – is not required.
rider. This booklet is packed full of
 General - camping gear such as
relevant, up-to-date information including
torch, water-bottle, penknife,
clothing lists, vaccination advice, money
toiletries, sunscreens and insect
matters, suggestions about the level of
repellent.
fitness and emergency procedures.
 Camera - with spare batteries.

HAVE A GREAT RIDE!


VentureCo Worldwide
6 Okehampton Business Centre, Higher Stockley Mead, Okehampton, Devon EX20 1FJ
01837 55 907

mark@ventureco-worldwide.com
www.ventureco-worldwide.com

Financial Security
Venture Co Worldwide Ltd holds an Air Travel Organisers Licence granted by the Civil Aviation
Authority (CAA); our ATOL number is 5306. All ventures and expeditions purchased “with
flights” are ATOL protected by the CAA which means that your financial security is assured when
you join us. “Ride Only” bookings are protected by Venture Co’s Client Trust account.

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