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Easy Rider

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Actor Randeep Hooda, who recently bought a polo team, talks about rediscovering horse-riding.

Back when he was dealing with a crisis on both personal and professional fronts, actor Randeep Hooda had remarked, "I lost my money on slow horses and fast women. "In sharp contrast today, with his career on an upswing and his days as a playboy behind him, what has stayed constant is his passion for horses. Recently the actor, along with two other investors, bought a polo team, cheekily crowned 'The Royal Roosters'. Despite the team name, Hooda says the game's regal roots have been highly exaggerated. "There are farmers in Ireland who play polo," he says admitting, however, that it is an expensive hobby as a riding pony, smaller than horses used for dressage, can cost up to Rs 50, 000, not counting monthly maintenance. Hooda today owns five ponies in Mumbai, and eight in Delhi, and is looking at importing six to eight more animals to be ready when polo season begins in October. Hiring players will be another cost, but the actor is hoping to get sponsors as the season progresses. "I want to operate like any other IPL team, only on a smaller scale, " he says, keen to encourage more children to pursue the sport. "Kids are so impressionable, and they love animals. I would like to tie up with schools and get kids and horses together in a natural setting to teach them about the sport, " he says.

The Murder 3 star says this initiative is also a way to give back to the sport that has seen him through tough times. A rider since his school days at the Motilal Nehru School of Sports in Haryana, Hooda says, "I found horse-riding to be like an amazing adventure. Nothing else gets even close. " He restarted his riding after a gap of 17 years, in Mumbai when work was slow. "It has always helped me de-stress and take my mind off things. I used to do a bit of show-jumping and dressage, and was looking join a club in Mumbai when I learnt that Naseer bhai was also interested in horses, " he says. Along with actor Naseeruddin Shah, he registered at the Amateur Riders Club in Mumbai, and was given a reference by director Milan Luthria, another equestrian enthusiast. The two connected over horses and subsequently, winded up doing Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai (2010) together, which helped put Hooda's career back on track.

Despite a shooting schedule that's become increasingly busy, the actor takes time out for his passion. He's keen to play polo himself, but says, "I am practising as much as I can, but unless I am sure of my game I won't play on the team. I haven't bought the team for my personal glory. " His aim is to see the sport develop. "If my celebrity status contributes to that, I'm happy because it will be good for the game, " he concludes.

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