To this equine veterinarian, dressage riding is the ultimate showcase of the relationship between man and beast.
It is shaping up to be quite a year for Roshni Selvam. Equine Veterinary Practice, the mobile equine clinic she founded, is turning 10 and she will be competing for a place on the dressage team that Singapore is sending to the Southeast Asian Games in August. Plans are also underway to bring one of her two horses to Europe for training.
“I’m happy the practice has come this far. We have another vet on the team so the workload is shared. My sister Priya has also come on board to oversee the finance and administrative matters,” she says of the business.
With the practice now a well-oiled machine, the veterinary surgeon is able to devote more time to training in dressage, a highly skilled artistic form of horse riding. It was a passion she only lately discovered when she was based in the US in 2013, despite having ridden horses since childhood.
“I picked it up quickly and entered a series of competitions at the prestigious Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida. From that experience, I knew I wanted to [compete] seriously,” she says.
Upon her return to Singapore in 2014, Selvam kept to her endeavour, first by getting Dancing Boy 20 (affectionately known as Dancer), a Rhinelander she had chosen during a trip to Germany. “When I rode him for the first time, I could feel that he was a sensitive and powerful horse. Nothing like I’ve ever sat on before. We had an instant connection,” Selvam shares. This synergy was on full display last September when the duo scored 69.6 percent in Prix de Saint-Georges (an international level governed by the Fédération Équestre Internationale) — one of the highest scores attained by an amateur rider in Singapore.
However, due to an injury, it is unlikely that Dancer will compete with Selvam for a place on the SEA Games team. Instead, she will ride her second horse, Montepiano1, a Bavarian warmblood, that she bought over from a friend in August.
“To me, dressage is a form of art. It is my focus now. We perform to music, execute a series of movements and showcase a relationship between man and beast,” she says. “I’m so excited about dressage that I want to go all the way.”
Selvam spends at least four hours daily with her horses, something which she says is crucial in building a relationship.
“I spend the time brushing their coats, bringing them to the horse walker or to the fields. Spending quality time with them is important as it improves our relationship. This is crucial as I hope to someday be able to compete in the Olympics and even though they are not the horses that will go there with me, they will be the ones who help me in that journey.”