The government has formed a committee to identify police personnel fond of horse riding, Singh said, adding that more of the equines would be added to the force in the course of time.
GUWAHATI: Till recently on the verge of extinction and virtual obscurity, the Manipuri pony will soon trot back to take centre stage. Not so much on Imphal’s polo grounds but in the city’s streets. Manipuri ponies, which formed the backbone of the British cavalry in the 17th and 18th centuries, besides being the most favoured equine on the polo fields of the northeastern states and beyond, will now patrol the streets of Manipur’s capital.
This follows the state government’s decision to reintroduce the Mounted Police which will now use the pony. It has been considered to be “indispensable” part of Manipuri society for its military and socio-cultural association for centuries. For the record, the Manipuri pony is one of the five recognised equine breeds which, till recently, was considered critical from a national gene pool perspective.
Pointing out that the aim was to help preserve the cavalry tradition and promote the Manipuri pony, Chief Minister N Biren Singh said that soldiers on horseback played a major role during warfare when Manipur was a kingdom and after the East India Company made inroads into the north-east.
Insisting that people must preserve Manipuri culture while recognising the contributions that their forefathers made to protect Manipur from external forces, Singh said, to begin with, 20 ponies will be given away to Mounted Police.
The government has formed a committee to identify police personnel fond of horse riding, Singh said, adding that more of the equines would be added to the force in the course of time. In October 2016, the state took a decision to publish a draft ‘Manipur Pony Conservation and Development Policy’ while recognising the animal for its “unique stamina, agility, intelligence, speed and great adaptability to harsh geo-climatic conditions”.
A traditional Indian breed of a small horse, the Manipuri Pony appears in Manipur’s history and mythology. It was used during polo as well as warfare, ridden by Meitei warriors. The Manipuri pony had a large population in the early 20th century but subsequently, their numbers fell drastically. Expressing concern over the dwindling population of the Manipuri Pony, N Ibungochoubi, a member of the Manipuri Pony Society, said the animal’s population was estimated to be less than 600 in 2014.
“The Manipuri pony population in 2003 was less than 2,000. In 2014 during a survey by the Manipuri Pony Society, around 600 ponies were found,” Ibungochoubi said, adding road accidents and food poisoning were the two reasons behind their declining population.