Sunday, July 5, 2009

5th July, 2009 Loisaba Lodge, Kenya

Having flown overnight to Kenya, we met Debbie, the lady that has organised this whole trip for us and drove out to her home in Naivasha. With her collection of five dogs, a cat called Ping-Pong, two donkeys, a horse and a pony, we felt at home immediately and she made us feel very welcome. We went out for a ride at 4 p.m. with David on a ex-racehorse called Hot Spice and me on a horse that turned out to be an entire called Euphoria - as Debbie's horse is called Happy, you could say we had a good range of emotions! It was fabulous to be riding straight out into the bush with zebra one side and giraffe in the distance on the other and going right down to Lake Naivasha which is in the Great Rift Valley. Later I started work with one of her donkeys, called Dorian, who was rescued by the KSPCA. This little soul lives with the grotesque scars of some violent treatment including having half of his ear cut off, back sores and branding to his neck as well as having cateracts in both of his eyes. It is hoped that these will prove to be treatable but, understandably, he hasn't voluntarily allowed himself to be touched by humans for quite some time and it is doubtful whether he has ever felt a kind hand. Using exactly the same techniques as described in No Fear, No Force with the addition of a drop of lavendar oil on the feather duster, I was able to touch him first with that and then with my own hand and for the first time he didn't hyperventilate or shaken incontrollably. Indeed, in time he seemed to be enjoying it. The idea is that when we get back from Loisaba, where we are now, we will work with him again and use the lavendar oil as a reassuring signal that nothing has changed.

The next day we travelled up to Loisaba Lodge which is literally off the beaten track for some good two hours. The journey was interupted when our lead vehicle broke down twice and had to be towed most of the way. David had the exciting experience of being towed at speeds in excess of 100kms per hour on a 15 foot tow rope whilst I got to see two extremely rare Aardwolf. No time for any work when we eventually got back to the Farm. The view and the accomodation were so impressive (awesome as the Americans would say) and again we were greeted with nothing but kindness by Jo and Tom who run the farm and lodge.

We began work with some of Jo's 21 horses this morning and introduced Jo, Debbie, Cheka and four of Jo's staff (Adam, Simon, Paul and Moses) to the way I approach the work I do with horses. This starts with looking at the physical before covering groundwork, desensitisation, establishing pace and direction and then looking at ridden work. Saddle fitting is a major issue in Kenya, given that there are very few good saddles available in the first place and that many horses have extensive muscle atrophy from their early racing days. The tendency is to use old English leather saddles or to import Wintecs which all tend to be narrow fit to mirror the shape of apparently high withers. We talked about ways that these muscles could be encouraged to repair but it's hard to know how to get round the issue of old and lumpy flocking. Someone could make a killing out here if they were to set up a good saddlery company and then to encourage people to think about back shape. Many of the horses are also very assymetrical having raced in one direction only.

On the way back from the Farm to the Lodge, we met a herd of 30 elephant including two calves of less than two weeks old. Photos will follow.