Prized horse ‘Rio’ of the 61 Cavalry regiment, who made his eighteenth appearance at the Republic Day Parade this year, on Sunday received a special commendation and a pat on his back from the Indian Army chief for his “exemplary services” to the armed forces, officials said.
Army chief Gen M M Naravane pinned the Chief of Army Staff Commendation Card to the 22-year-old horse’s crimson rug and treated him to jaggery and a carrot.
“The Army chief gave this recognition to ‘Rio’ for the exemplary services rendered to the armed forces, during the Chief of Army Staff’s high tea, held at the Cariappa Parade Ground for the contingents who participated in the R-Day Parade and the supporting staff,” spokesperson of the Indian Army Colonel Aman Anand said.
Rio, a bay-colour charger, who is no stranger to ceremonial duties, made his eighteenth appearance at the Republic Day Parade on Rajpath this year, and carried a contingent commander on his back for the fifteenth time.
While recommending him for the recognition, the Army had said that ‘Rio’ has an “impeccable demeanour, strong core character and sterling qualities,” according to officials.
He was hailed as a “true asset to the organisation” by the Army which also had said that an “equine like ‘Rio’ is found once in a lifetime”.
At Sunday’s function, after pining the commendation to his bright coloured rug that carries his name, Gen Naravane, patted him on his back to praise the horse.
“He has shown his class and poise in leading the contingent year after year, and he earned the Chief of Army Staff Commendation Card for the exemplary services rendered to the Army. It’s a proud moment,” a source said.
A pure Hanoverian breed, ‘Rio’ was born at Remount Training School and Depot in Saharanpur, and has been participating in the Republic Day parade since he was four, Captain Deepanshu Sheoran, who rode him during the 72nd Republic Day on Tuesday as the contingent commander of the world’s only serving horse-mounted cavalry regiment, for the third time, had earlier said.
Rio’s diet includes, barley, bran, gram and hay, while his favourite treat is jaggery and carrot, he said.
For his years of service as member of the Republic Day Parade, the Army has said that the animal has displayed “exceptional devotion, dedication, and maturity” while marching on Rajpath for the last 18 years.
“In recognition of his exemplary competence, unflinching loyalty, excellent performance and selfless devotion to the duty, Army animal ‘Rio’ is strongly recommended for the award of the COAS Command Commendation Card,” the Army had earlier said.
Raised in 1953, the 61 Cavalary, based in Jaipur, has been a prominent feature at the Republic Day parade since its inception.
It was set up after amalgamation of units of six erstwhile royal state forces, including Mysore Lancers, Jodhpur Lancers and Gwalior Lancers.
The regiment’s ancestors in 1918 had fought the crucial Battle of Haifa in Israel, alongside the British armed forces.
The regiment has won several battle honours and accolades and awards in the field of equestrian and polo sports, and 12 Arjuna Awards as well.
The regimental insignia is adapted from Gandaberunda of the Mysore Lancers, consisting of a twin-headed mythical bird, and a scroll below with the words ‘Sixty First Cavalry’. The shoulder plate has ’61C’ embossed in brass. The motto of the regiment is ‘Ashva Shakti Yashobal’.