Friday, 9 November 2012

Of Winston Churchill, Riding Stables and German Ponies...

Written on 30/09/2010


I first met Christine at Sleepy Hollow Horse Riding Stables in Cape Town. She did not like me at all when we first met but was forced to hold horses for me while I worked, and make me tea as well... :) She went off to England to work for the Olympic gold medallist Matt Ryan, but returned to her mothers bedside after the cancer she had been fighting flared up. So, Christine was back holding horses at Sleepy Hollow for me (and making me tea)! Although Christine did not know it at the time, my father too was dying of cancer, so I could understand her emotional state. I listened and obviously gave lots of advice...and that was the start of our friendship which along the way took a serious turn and then a fanciful horseback expedition across Africa...

Sleepy Hollow Horse Riding Stables (disabled riding and trails as well) not only brought us together but were/are an important part in Noordhoek's social fabric. Many children over the years have passed through their hands learning to ride, have fun and socialise outdoors etc. After hours, weekends, holidays, rainy days, scorching days the place was full of children who did not have riding lessons but just came to hang out. They would muck out stables, groom horses, clean tack, be bossed around by older "salted" kids... I cannot quote Winston Churchill perfectly but he said something like "There is something about the outside of a horse which is good for the inside of a man" (My father would do flick-flaks in his grave if he knew I couldn't quote properly...)

Khartoum International Community School's (KICS) riding stable was a big challenge for Christine. The owner of the school has a property adjacent  to the Blue Nile where he keeps his racehorses. He built 6 stables and a classroom, sand arena with round pens and bought 6 ponies for the riding school. 2 ladies, at different intervals, had tried to start up the riding school for KICS but it was not sustainable. Christine committed herself wholeheartedly to these stables for 3 years and is still on the upward curve. If it weren't for the fact that I would like to finish our expedition she would not leave... She approached each facet of the riding school with an open yet determined mind and made some interesting decisions... horses living out in 50 degree plus heat, unconventional training methods, unconventional teaching methods, unconventional fitness training...etc

The KICS Stables

Back of stables, arena with round pen and lane.

The Blue Nile is flooding the farm...

Grass paddocks in front of stables... 
I think Christine will leave a riding stables that is not only sustainable and very successful, but also has that other dimension...the one of bringing people together!

So we're on the road again on 08/10/2010. Taking a route through Southern Sudan (Kosti, Kadugli, Bentiu, Rumbek, Juba) to Nimule on the Ugandan border. Churchill (again!) said Uganda was "bicycle country" and so I'm quite looking forward to it. You know if it weren't for the last minute nothing would ever get done, so I'm waiting for just then to finish all the little tasks...stitching new saddle bags together, replenish medical kit, Ugandan import permits... 

The "boys" Chami and Nali are looking fit and frivolous. I strapped my old blue saddle bags together with my red bedroll to see the fit on the new saddle...WELL, you should have seen Nali's face when approached with this rig he knew all too well... He belongs to a South African and by international horse law that makes him one as he has to cheer the Bokke and dip his toes into the cold Atlantic Ocean at Cape Agulhas...without whimpering!!! I think Christine will post a video of Nali jumping a course without a bridle on Facebook...then you can see my boy shine! Oh, and Chami is cute too...

Cute Chami

Shiny Nali!
On a sad note Pepsi is going to have to say goodbye to the boys, particularly Chami. He is a little skewbald pony from Germany, who's health was failing and was lame as hell, when we took him under our wing. He has made great friends with the boys and they are inseparable.

We have made great friends in Sudan and it makes us sad to leave.

William and Christine

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