Kaur Trains in Rare Sikh Warrior Sport – Tent Pegging!

Harsangat Kaur Khalsa’s personal journey in Sikhi led her to become the 1st woman to ride a horse in Holla Mahalla since perhaps the time of Mai Bhago. She is now in Austin Texas pursuing her dream on the international Tent Pegging team.

Harsangat ji, how did you come across Tent Pegging?

It really is amazing. I moved back to Texas and I wasn’t sure why I came back. I definitely wanted to spend more time with my family, but I felt out of place because before this I was living in sangat. Here, I’m back with my old friends and this is what I had left to become a Sikh. Then, I got a call a few months ago from a friend of mine, Jamie. She is married to a Sikh and she is on the Tent Pegging team. She said, “There is a Tent Pegging team and it’s only thirty days old and it’s in Houston.”

That’s only a couple hours away from Austin. I was blown away. That’s what I wanted to do when I was in India. When I rode a horse at Holla Mahalla, I did race, but I didn’t have a lance and peg like most of the people there. I wasn’t taken seriously. I had to prove my ability. They gave me an unruly stallion and I rode it with the best of them. Now hopefully, especially with being on the Tent Pegging team, they will let me fully participate in Holla Mahalla next time.

This is the first Tent Pegging team in the history of the U.S. I interviewed to be on the team and they wanted me on. Now I’m part of U.S. history and I’m really excited about it.

International team? Is Tent Pegging in the Olympics?

Tent Pegging isn’t officially in the Olympics. It may be at the Summer Olympics in Brazil IF it is accepted. It can take a long time for a new sport to get accepted in the Olympics. I believe there are sports that have taken 20 years to get in. But this equestrian sport is actually one of the first ever sports with horses. It goes back to ancient times. It also plays a big role in Sikh history.

What exactly is Tent Pegging?

Basically, it’s a non-violent act of war. In Sikh history, if I’m correct, there was a time when everyone was starving in Anandpur Sahib and the situation was terrible. The Singhs would go out before dawn while the other army was sleeping and ride through their camp. They’d use their spears to pull up the pegs from the tents. The tent falls down on top of the people sleeping. They would do this before dawn. They would bombard the whole camp this way.

So the spear is used to hit the tent pegs down?

Actually the pegs are picked up. So the game is that you pick up the peg from the ground with the spear. We use a bamboo bundle tied together. The bundle is sticking vertically out of the ground. We are timed and we have to pick up the peg while riding straight at full speed. That’s one part of the sport. Also, we take swords and we hit oranges or limes.

The army Calvary actually practices this. U.S.A., Canada, U.K. and other countries have Calvary that use Tent Pegging in their regiment. Actually, a few members of our team are from the Calvary from the U.S. army.

And this was so interesting. About two years ago I really wanted to be in the calvary but I realized I didn’t want to be in the army. I was actually looking into Canada. I was just considering it. Then this came up.

Right now, my focus is pretraining. I’m working with this amazing trainer at the moment to build up my back strength because I have an injury.

So my next game is going to be in Dehli. That’s in November. If I’m ready by then, it will be my first game.

There are Tent Pegging teams all over the world?

All over the world! Isn’t it crazy! There one coming up in Oman, there’s going to be some in Australia. It’s totally international. What’s interesting about the sport is that about 70% of the players are Sikh.

Jamie Huger Sabharwal & Harsangat Raj Kaur Khalsa

So I’m working a lot. I’m making it happen. I’m kind of doing this on my own. I would like to find a sponsor because it is quite expensive. I have a lot of people doubting it, saying that it’s really dangerous, especially people who are close to me. I really feel like this is something beyond me. Kind of like how we have sevas. Our soul has seva for the Panth. You, as an individual, have a gift. Using your gift is your seva for the Panth. I know that whatever I’m doing right now with this team is a seva. I’m doing it and following it.

As a child, I always envisioned myself being a professional horse rider. But because of my injury I never believed that it could happen.

What was your injury?

I was in England and I was riding a race horse. I was 15. The horse had just came off the track so it was still in that mode, in the mind set of racing. My friend’s horse got spooked and started running. Mine thought it was a race so it just took off, too. I wasn’t really paying attention at that moment. So I lost my stirrup and I got dragged by one foot by a galloping horse. I hurt my lower lumbar and shoulder so bad that my parents decided that they didn’t want to support me riding. The doctors said I shouldn’t ride ever again. That was the end of it. So growing up in my teens that dream was just gone.

Picture yourself thinking your whole life that that’s what you’re going to do and then finding out it’s not going to happen. I had a lot of family and home issues anyways so I fell into depression a lot. I think my depression started then. That was my love.

To think that it’s happening at my age now. You’d think that I’m ready to have a family, kids, like everyone else, but there’s something else that is just calling me. I’ve never been lucky in love and maybe this is the reason. Maybe I need to follow this love first and see what happens with me. If I had a family I don’t think I could put all this attention and energy to something like this.
It’s a gift, it’s a blessing and I’m going to do the best that I can. I’m going to train really hard and give it all my heart!

Also, I got the number 10. I requested to get it.

Why did you request number 10?

Hahaha, I wonder why…

Actually, I missed Holla Mahalla this year. That was sad. I could feel it. But I knew that this was Hukam. I accepted that I wasn’t going to Hola Mahalla. Shortly after that, I got on the team. I’m focusing on this which is going to give me skills to complete and actually tent peg at Holla Mahalla next year.

I also feel very honored to represent the U.S. and wish to compete and give it all I’ve got. I never knew this opportunity would happen in my life. It’s so surreal.

Stay tuned for part two of this interview where Harsangat Kaur shares her experience that riding is a meditation and inspirations for the youth.

If you want to be a sponsor or donate please contact her at: www.theheartwarriors.com

by Harsangat Kaur Khalsa
~ Source: http://www.sikhnet.com/

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