As Republic Day celebrations came to an end at Delhi’s Rajpath, one of the President’s Bodyguards (PBG) was the centre of attention. The guard was none other than an elite dark-bay coloured horse named Virat, who retired soon after the parade.
President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh bid farewell to the horse, who has attended 13 Republic Day parades, and has been at the top of the PBG team, considered the most senior regiment of the Indian Army.
Guests cheered from the stands as top dignitaries met Virat and the Prime Minister patted him. On Army Day, January 15, Virat was awarded the Chief of Army Staff commendation for showcasing exceptional service and abilities for decades.
According to Ministry of Defence officials, Virat is the first horse to receive a COAS commendation. Commandant Colonel Anup Tiwari accepted the commendation.
Virat has worked with several presidents through his career, and is known for its patience and agility.
“It has been the most trusted steed over the years and was actively involved in Republic Day and Beating Retreat parades. Despite his old age, it performs very well and is quick. We call him a charger,” said an official.
Virat is a Hanoverian horse, a breed that originates from Germany and is used mainly for competitive sports events. It was inducted into the PBG in 2003.
On Wednesday, Virat and 200 other horses first escorted the President to Rajpath and later back to Rashtrapati Bhavan with other troops, bodyguards and vehicles.
Officials said the ceremonial escort is led by horses that have to be a minimum of 15.5 hands height. The horses are bred by Remount Veterinary Corps and looked after by 44 Military Veterinary hospital.