Sunday 12th August - Day 4
Bots and Ed were taken by the herder to collect the horses that had travelled over 1km through the night with hobbles on to bring them back to get ready to ride at 6.30.
Seeing them both on the back of a motorbike with the herder of a similar size was an interesting sight, as the suspension bottomed out and the track they took off towards being anything but flat.
In any event, they arrived back with the horses to saddle up and start. We made station 12 and over the rolling hills to station 13, thinking at this point we were finally making strides and we had started to catch those racers immediately ahead of us.
The path to station 14 was again long and flat and we made good time and all managed to avoid penalties.
Out of 15 we were hopeful of making 2 more stations. Henry had chosen his horse, but the local herder refused to give it to him, instead pointing him in the direction of a beautiful black gelding tied on his own which, upon reflection, was red flag #1.
As they saddled it jack was again dishing out more cigarettes to the owner of Henry’s horse in appreciation. Once saddled, the herder then refused to ride it before Henry. Red flag #2. Undeterred, Henry mounted and headed in the direction of the rest of the group, the horse’s head between its legs with a not quite enough ability to buck properly or strong enough to return home.
As we moved on over the next few km the horse settled, and we decided not to turn around and change it as this would lose us time and with no guarantee that the next one would be any better, we carried on. We all laughed as the horse shied and bucked its way along for the first 15km.
Unfortunately, this would be the end of the laughter. As we neared the top of the first hill, Black Beauty as Henry’s horse was now affectionately known, was at a complete standstill.
We were by now halfway through the stage, so it was just as close to the finish as it was to the start.
We tried walking it, leading it, hunting it, and even scaring it along. Nothing worked.
We had moved a little over 1km in 45 minutes, and we had only managed to make a railway line Passover which appeared the final straw for Black beauty.
As a local truck driver pulled up behind, sounding his horn to help hunt the horse, he too grew short of patience and without word, got out of his truck, removed his belt and slapped it across the rump without warning.
Luckily, Black Beauty responded and walked over the bridge before moving along for another 1km and jacking up yet again.
We removed the saddle and tried leading the horse on its own with Henry walking behind. We found a local herder that proved, in exchange for a cigarette, a lift-up the hill for Henry.
At the top of the hill we re-saddled, re mounted and again Black Beauty remained stationary. It was at this point Rob asked Henry and Jack how many cigarettes Black Beauty had cost him. it was a welcome laugh.
We unsaddled again before walking and hunting Black Beauty down the hill.
Henry and Jack took it in turn to run it down before we found another herder who simply tied it to another horse and told us to simply ride.
He gave Jack a lift on the back of his motorbike for the final 10km and left the remaining 5 to slowly make our way, dragging Black Beauty, into the station 15 for the night.
We moved along well for ¾ of the day, but with the delay and problems of Black Beauty we managed only 3.5 stations. We were surprised not to have been caught by anyone.
We had avoided a late riding penalty by a matter of minutes and after some concern that Ed’s horse, after dragging in the other horse wouldn’t pass the vet, we were cleared and retreated for the night. As we spoke to our host for the night, we found out he was a businessman from the capital and doubled as both a CEO of a cleaning company and a spiritual guidance council for other business man.
Henry had wished he had seen him before Black Beauty and we were given, alongside our meal, a warm local beer, which was on the top of the list of the things we felt like least. It was a nice feeling to be over halfway through, and by now the worst of the soreness was gone and we were thankful that we had not had more rain in the past few days.
Day 4 Stations Travelled: 3.5
Day 4 Km travelled: 128