Indian equestrian Fouaad Mirza is spoiled for choice as he prepares for the Tokyo Olympics, which will get underway from July 23.
Although he considers himself extremely fortunate to have qualified with two horses for the Games, the No.1 Indian eventer, is left with less than a month to choose his partner for his maiden Games. Seigneur Medicott and Dajara 4 had helped the Indian equestrian achieve the Minimum Eligibility Requirement (MER) for Tokyo 2020.
"I have till the end of June to select our final horse. For me, the main aspects would be experience, how they cope with travel and climate in Tokyo, form and which horse is carrying the better form," Mirza said in a virtual media interaction organized by Sports Authority of India (SAI).
But both the horses differ in their strengths and weaknesses. While Seigneur Medicott is the more experienced of the two horses, it is young Dajara 4, who Mirza believes has the better potential heading into the Games.
"(Seigneur) Medicott can be a horse that doesn't take too well to changes. These are quite difficult when we travel. You can't expect an athlete to not eat and then perform well. The final thing would be which horse is carrying more form. It will be important to keep them happy physically and mentally. It will be important to keep them in good form. Ultimately, it would be which horse is in good shape, that is where I would make my decision.
"Seigneur Medicott helped us to win those medals at Asian Games in 2018 after that we were preparing him for qualification for Tokyo 2020, unfortunately, he sustained an injury which put him out of the spot for two years. He is a horse that really wants to work and compete. We managed to get him back and he's in good form.
"Dajara 4, she is less experienced, but has far more potential. She is a real exciting horse for the future. As a rider it is a big advantage to have two horses in a race," he added.
Like the athletes travelling for Tokyo 2020 from various destinations, the horses will also be kept in a separate quarantine zone in Japan, ensuring their safety.
Mirza, however, believes it will be a new experience for him and the horses.
"With regards to every horse traveling to Tokyo, we have to monitor their temperature, movement, it will be checked regularly by government officials," Mirza said.
"Basically they will be quarantined here (in Germany) for 7 days before being exported to Japan and there they will follow the protocol where their temperature will me monitored. Then they will be moved to a bubble. It will be a quarantine zone and they will make sure their are no animals around the radius or venue," he added.
His focus is now to improve in the show-jumping phase and put his best foot forward at the Games.
"I think I'm going to look at the entire game as a whole. Looking back at the current form, last weekend, was an all-round performance. The only thing that let us down was the show jumping where I had mistake on both horses," the Bengaluru equestrian said.
"But as a rider for me and Dajara that is our strong point. So, its not difficult, we will work on the show-jumping phase. We have shown a little bit of what we can do. Hope we can peak during the Olympics," he added.
Mirza, meanwhile, has had his first shot of Covid-19 vaccination along with his teammates and is due in two weeks for his second shot.
"There will be four people accompanying the horse (along with Mirza). One looking after the horse, veterinarian, physiotherapist. We have all had the first shot of vaccination," he added.