By the time we started our lesson the light had started softening and the paddock was quiet. Most of the grooms had gone home for the day so we groomed and tacked our own horses. I am getting spoiled, every thing is done for me in this country by virtue of my colour. It drives me crazy and poor Mandy has to keep a close eye on me else I will be cleaning the house and causing an international incident. Her favorite saying is “Everyone needs a job in Africa.” (I was told it is law that whites have to employ at least 20 blacks…but I have not been able to confirm this. )
After grooming the horses till they are shiny and bright.. as much as possible in a country permanently coated in dust, we go to the ring. First Pat has us lead our horses on foot – “If you cannot do it properly on the ground you cannot do it in the saddle.” Since the ring is sand, walking your horse is a good workout.
Finally we do it well enough and up we pop. Ok, not ‘pop‘. The wooden barrel is rolled out for us to get up high enough. Then we take the reins, snug against the bit, and a handful of mane while the other hand is placed on the seat of the saddle. Foot in the stirrup, you lift yourself up carefully, putting your weight on your saddle hand and – pause for a few seconds and then ease yourself over. No popping, ever.
The two of us follow Pat out and down the road. Today we aren’t going onto the beach, we are going to a lake via the paths that snake throughout the area. I am on Hot Stuff, who, as usual, is acting up and avoiding the bit by trying to smash my teeth out with his head while prancing where ever the f**k he wants. (Why do I love him so much?!) Paula is on Texas, a grey that kicks to establish clear boundaries, so I was given strict instructions to stay well back from him. Instead of telling me it might have done more good to mention it to Hot Stuff since he was determined to velcro his nose to Texas’ ass.
Finally Pat calls me up to him and gets me to let the reins go slack to see what Hot Stuff would do. What he did was go right behind Black Magic, his nose touching his horse’s ass. Hot Stuff is one of the new horses that Pat took in from a resort a few miles away and this was likely how the horses were expected to behave when they were out with clients. When I pulled ahead he was better… albeit still prancey and quick so we ended up some distance from the others.
Hot Stuff and I rode through the countryside, past small subsistence farms, struggling to grow anything in this drought. I talked to kids and said hello to the adults…when Hot Stuff permitted. The Africans are generally wary of horses and give them lots of room yet are fascinated by these alien creatures. The sun was setting so the light was all soft and dreamy. The land is covered in sand and scruffy brush with lovely trees spotting the land. Flashes of Bougainville splash colour onto golden land. It is flat so you can see far, the sky opening with a wide swath of deepening blue. It was such a lovely feeling of freedom and adventure. Hot Stuff and I imagine we are off exploring Africa by ourselves, riding its breadth… camping under the stars… my heart swells full of gratitude of my good fortune.
When the other two catch up we move onto the road down to the beach and then up the steep slope to the paddock where I perform another spectacular dismount. 🙂 (I am duly noting the good ones since I humiliated myself by falling on my ass in front of clients last week. Hot Stuff, thankfully ignoring my flapping at his feet in favour of the nice green grass to nosh.)
We walk to Casa Botswana have dinner and listen to some music until I could no longer keep my eyes open.
Ah, days filled with horses and sun and evenings with wine, music and conversation. Happy times, indeed.