Thursday, June 19, 2014

19th June, 2014 The Night of the Naughty Elephant

A keenly anticipated trip to Kenya to catch up with old friends, human and horsey, make some new ones, and to watch some heavenly wildlife. First stop was Monica's, deep in Manzoni, where she has horses of her own and liveries. Monica follows IH principles and in time hopes to become an RA but in the meantime she is used to bringing horses back from the brink, particularly in their ridden work. Ex-racehorses, Warmbloods and a Somali pony all grace her yard plus a two year old Irish Draft cross Somali pony called Xani who is living the life of Riley. We did some groundwork with her, Tatonka and Warren, Monica's eventing horse and had our first ride out in the bush.

Xani, first introduction to groundwork

Tatonka, a very splendid looking horse - one of Monica's horses in for training.
"Xani, the little two year old, has become an angel since you worked with her!!!  So I am keeping it up.   Tatonka's owner is very chuffed that you did him too." MC 15th June, 2014

After a couple of days it was off to see Debbie next to Naivasha lake and to meet her new horses, Thoroughbred Skuba, Arab Avalon and Somali pony Da Vince, so called because his scars looks like code. All appear to be absolutely thriving.

Skuba has now started eventing, prompting Debbie to replace her 1970's riding cap with a real one!
Skuba shows us why he has such a shiny coat
Avalon is starting to jump

Da Vinci has scars on his nose and back probably caused by rope or burns.
Following a five hour journey and one car crash we made it up to Loisaba Wilderness to be reunited with Adam and all the horses and ponies he looks after for Jo and Tom, the managers there. Five years ago there were a few waifs and strays, all coming from Ethiopia or from the race track but with a lot of care and an abundance of grass, thanks to the rains, the horses all look fantastic now. The stallion, Yamaha, (just a reminded not to let a man name your horse), has sired three decent foals which are just coming up for starting. There has been a real shortage of proper ponies in Africa and those imported from Ethiopia and Somalia are often quite traumatised as a result of the abuse they experience there. I am proud to have made a real difference to the way that un-handled horses are handled at Loisaba and to be told that as a result the ponies are much easier to train in the long term. However, I must not take away from the real skill and love that Adam has for the horses. He has a real feel for them which is missing in some of the mechanical handling of horses taught to grooms by rote.

Adam and just two of the horses
Riding out in the morning on Bold Deed, a horse I rode here five years ago. 
 I have high hopes for Monica's 'syce school' where she is eager to introduce a good dose of horse psychology onto the syllabus but it is the owners of the horses that need to be convinced that building up a relationship of trust with a horse does not start and finish with their own handling and training; the grooms need to be able to do it and do it with love – not an easy subject to broach in the rather un-level employer/ employee relationship sometimes found in Kenya. I can't delve into a political and class system that makes me rather uncomfortable – particularly when I don't live there, can't influence anything, and probably don't know what I am talking about. It is especially so when the other aspect of our holiday was reveling in the luxury of  Loisaba Cottage where every meal is gorgeous and our bedroom is not only open plan but open air with just a mosquito net between us and the sky. I had to balance enjoying food with a real need not to squash my horses when I got back.

Maasai, one of Yamaha's three sons
 Loisaba Wilderness is such a special place. Privately owned there is just one huge cottage with its own staff where you are waited on hand, foot and finger. When we came last time the rains had failed for four years in succession but this time everywhere was lush and green. As well as gazing at all the beautiful wild animals, I earthed myself every day by visiting Adam and the horses, riding out on Bold Deed and doing a little work. It's hard to decide whether my favourite African animal is the elephant, the giraffe or the Grevy's zebra with their 'Minnie Mouse' ears. In the end I think the Klipspringer wins. Perhaps the restless night we had when one elephant kept trying to break in to the grounds will influence my decision. Of course elephants are incapable of being naughty – he just wanted to eat the flowers and drain the swimming pool!

Bally, another of Yamaha's sons