Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Story From South Africa - With a Smile - Bertus Venter

(I once asked a friend living in South Africa why he’s always smiling during an endurance event. He answered whit a smile and a few weeks later I received this mail.)
A game farm, 20 plus workhorse to choose from, long hours in the saddle doing the usual farm work, 18miles of game fencing to patrol…. Could this be where I changed from being a horse-person to a person using a horse? Things happen and some change and so I was forced to let go of everything I loved so dearly the only way of live known to me.
Seven years is a long time behind a disorientated IT desk, caged by walls and managers that see u as an implement funny how the wheel of live does actually turn…. Driving back through rush-hour traffic too my miniature “replacement” farm outside town, where my Arab X would be waiting to help me chase after lost bits-and-pieces of happy memories. The only comfort that dragged me through the next week and the next….,but for how long will this emptiness last?
The Arab mare was just over 4 years and not excepting any human handling. For some reason I agreed and weekend after weekend I halfheartedly took away some of Shaila’s freedom until she finally felt save enough to start trusting me. After she turned 5 her owner came knocking once more, this time inviting me to their club’s local endurance event. They needed a rider and I had noting planed for the weekend.
It happened that Friday night between 10 and 2. For some reason unknown to me at that time, sleep just couldn’t find me. She was glad to see me and we shared thoughts quietly through the night “Shaila” and me. The 30km went well, she impressed everyone, maybe just a bit too much for the following season she was back at my place, back to stay. They pushed to hard with her training and in the process she damaged a ligament. I deposited the money the following day and by doing so, filled a hole in my sole somewhere.
I knew what a good working horse should look like and based my search on previous experiences. This took longer and harder that I planed. Eleven months later a found what I was looking for, a “replacement”. He was in a hectic condition. The last remaining registered Arab stallion at a has-been stud. Skinny but spirited. It took me over 2 days, 8 stitches and one broken thumb before being able to load him in the horse box. After a nightmare-drive, spending most of the 400 KM-plus in the box we finely arrived back home. It took a while to get rid of the biting, kicking and aggression and finally, I was left with a wonderful friend that rears a lot. I tried everything, from bitless bridles to moderate bits, different saddles, everything, but finally excepted that he just love being flashy. It took 2 long, hard training years and lots of 30km before we entered for his first 80km endurance ride. We took it SLOW and ended up in 14th place with heart rates of 40, 38,42, and 49. I gave him a bit more room on the next 80km and he did even better.
He’s now 13 years and in better shape than ever. Hard as a rock, and more flashy than a 5year old, no wonder Shaila is still “resting” running around with their little colt, trying to get rid of build up energy.
Hope you understand the lengthy pause whenever someone needs to know just exactly why I’m taking part in endurance if they only realize for how long I could keep them busy with my boring story, one that forced me to walk the full circle. To find true happiness on the back of my companion, enjoying the distance that lies ahead. Every hoofbeat forcing a satisfied smile onto my face..

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