A journey from corporate life to opening the first horsemanship centre in India.
Born in Himachal Pradesh, India, in a simple middle-class family for whom owning horses was either a matter for kings or vegetable vendors. As a young man, Manjeev wanted to see the world and studied hospitality, which led to him working in 5-star hotels worldwide. Manjeev loved the career he had built, having responsibilities for teams and delivering high standards, but life as a hotelier is stressful with unsociable hours. Majeev’s wife Charlotte also enjoyed a successful career, but time together was rare and precious as a couple.
Manjeev and Charlotte decided to take a sabbatical and travel the world together. By this time, Manjeev had started riding, having sat on a horse for the first time at 32 years old.
My wife, who grew up in France, loves horses and pushed me to try. I started riding in the middle of a field near Delhi's airport.
Manjeev soon developed a keen interest in playing Polo. Still, he questioned traditional methods.
I loved learning to ride. I also felt that there were a lot of things wrong being done to horses, like the way they opened their mouth when I pulled on the reins or how we had to whip them to make them go forward, but I was told it was normal, so I carried on.
Charlotte had been following Monty Roberts, so they went to train at the Monty Roberts' centre in California, USA. They were hooked and keen to learn more; the trouble was they didn't have horses to practise with in between courses. Their sabbatical took them around the world, and they combined their travel with playing Polo and seeking every opportunity to work with horses.
My journey learning natural horsemanship took many years and many setbacks, but it also took me to extraordinary places, including working with wild mustangs in the US and with Mongol ponies, among other incredible things.
Manjeev worked and played Polo worldwide, including in Argentina, Mongolia, South Africa and New Zealand.
Their amazing sabbatical came to an end in 2016. In 2017, Manjeev began his horsemanship business, opening a centre at the Gurgaon Polo Club (GPEC) and travelling to work with horses and holding demos. He worked with Friendices, an incredible NGO with a sanctuary with hundreds of dogs, cows, donkeys and rescue horses. The sanctuary had young horses that needed training, and the staff required training to handle the horses, and they were keen to explore training using horsemanship methods.
During this time, Manjeev continued his studies with the Monty Roberts centre, travelling to California to complete courses and recording his work with horses in India to send back for assessment. Manjeev became a certified Monty Roberts Instructor in 2019, becoming the first (and currently only) Monty Roberts Instructor in Asia. Much of his work is pre-starting young Thoroughbred horses using Join-Up® and other Monty Roberts methods before heading to the racetrack, a completely new concept in India. As a keen polo player, he also works with polo horses. He has been applying Monty Roberts's methods to facilitate converting ex-racehorses and the local indigenous breed, the Marwari horse, into playing Polo.
We asked about using horse psychology as a training method for competitive equestrian sports like racing and Polo. Does it improve the game?
It definitely affects the sport, not in terms of quality of sports because the quality of sports depends on how good a horseman you are…, Manjeev explains that violence/pain cannot be a source of productivity in any shape.
In Polo, you become one with the horse. You don't have a choice because you're focusing on the ball and the play, so the horse must become an extension of you.
Having not started to ride until the age of 32, horsemanship helped him build trust with the horses and his confidence in playing such a fast-paced sport.
I really believe that combining horsemanship and polo (or any riding for that matter) makes a huge difference.
Manjeev and Charlotte are keen to improve horse welfare and have rescued horses. Even though owning a horse for pleasure is not the reality for many in India, he does believe that people want to learn, explaining that caring for animals is part of the culture. Often mistreatment is due to a lack of understanding or old superstitions. Manjeev believes that he can help to educate and encourage positive changes. One way that he does this is through his 'grooms school'. Encouraging stable owners to invest in the education of their grooms to enhance the horse's performance and welfare, prevent diseases, and increase safety for both groom and horse.
You can follow Manjeev's journey on Instagram @naturalhorsemanshipindia or spend time with Manjeev and Charlotte and their amazing Marwari horses for a unique opportunity to train in natural horsemanship and Polo in the beautiful Indian countryside. Learn more at: naturalhorsemanshipindia.com