Sunday, 12 January 2014

Adding more horses to my show jumping experiences.

In 1958, we built another couple of stables and Hy-li-li was the first horse to move in!  She was a very slightly built, 15.2 hands high, dark brown mare that had been bred for racing by Jack Quinton in Umvukwees, a tobacco farming community 70 miles or so north of Salisbury. Jack was another of Dad’s contacts from work. 

Hy-li-li had been placed in races a couple of times, but it did not look as if a racing career for her was worth pursuing. She was a lively little horse and it was planned that I would use her for starting my adult showjumping career the following year, when I turned sixteen. We would both start in the bottom grades together and hopefully learn from each other!  It was also planned that I could use her for hurdling and steeplechasing;  at sixteen, I could then start my racing career as an amateur jockey.

Only a couple of months later, Kismet also joined my growing team of  horses. He was a complete contrast to the other two, being a gangly 17.2 hands high chestnut with a season's experience of show jumping. Not long after Kismet had joined the family, I took him to a paper chase, and while galloping across a large field, a sizeable hole opened up underneath his front foot!  We both did a complete somersault and luckily for him, he got straight back up on his feet, none the worse for wear. I had somehow contrived to hold on to the reins and not let him go, but I soon realised that I now had a very odd shaped left wrist!

I managed with some difficulty to remount him  and rode gently back to where my parents were with the horse box. We took Kismet straight home, where he was checked over and stabled and I was whisked off to hospital for x-rays. After discovering that there was a definite fracture, my wrist was put into a splint to allow for swelling and I returned a couple of days later. It was at this time that the surgeon realised that my wrist had started to set slightly out of position and he called in his partner for a second opinion. The partner’s comment was that I would probably fall and break it again, and if so, it could be set straight then! The end result was that it was left, and so to this day, I have a very odd shaped boney bump on my wrist which at times is still very painful. After the decision to leave it, I was then put into a full plaster cast for 6 weeks and I was back riding once more.

In December of the same year, I took Kismet to his first show since I had owned him and although I only had him entered in the "handy hunter" class, he won first prize!  In March 1959, I won my first cross country event with him.
Kismet - 1959 Bulawayo Show
During this same period, I had met up with a farmer friend of my Dad's, who owned several race horses and some others which he kept at the farm and hoped to hurdle race. I went out to the farm several times for weekends and rode 'work' on the track and helped with the training over hurdles. There was a large point to point meeting in April 1959 and as I had not reached my 16th birthday, the farmer applied for a special licence for me to be able to ride. He also went to the expense of special insurance, which was also a problem due to me being under age. I am pleased to say that I justified his confidence in me! Of the three rides on his horses, I won two of the races - on St Memo and Remember Me -  and I was third on Stephen. This was the start of my amateur racing career and one that I always enjoyed. Unfortunately, weight would always be a problem for me and it was impossible for me to ride much under 9 stone even with the lightest of saddles.
Newspaper cutting 30/4/1959
In May 1959, Kismet was at his best and was winning at several shows around the country. At about this time, a week-long show jumping training course was held by Chris Coldrey (a top rider, who went on to be one of the finest European course builders I ever met), and twelve of the top Rhodesian riders were invited to take part. I was lucky enough to be one of those riders and Kismet joined me on the course. It was a tough week with both practical and theoretical tests; we were all given points for our performance. The final crunch came on the last Saturday, when we had a show jumping event and the results of that would be added to the week’s points and prizes would be given. Kismet put everything into the event and when all the points were added up, Kismet and I were the final winners!  It was truly an amazing week and an experience of a lifetime; I learnt so much from Chris's tuition.
On the Chris Coldrey course.  I am 6th from the left, Chris is 8th from the left with his young son.  Normally, we never ride without hard hats, but they were removed especially for the photo!
Kismet with one of his 'famous' early 'take offs' at a fence during the course.
Kismet and Dusky showing some of their trophies and rosettes.
My Life Before Charente to be continued :-) 

The section of my life story during our overland trip is published on Kindle if you should be interested:-


  1. You sure were a talented rider, while I was absolutely hopeless. You and your parents must have been very proud. Do you still ride and own horses.

    1. Diane I was lucky, I had a good riding instructor in my early days, and I also was lucky enough to have a some good horses. Many I had were ex race horses, but I picked them on looks, that to me were the perfect show jumper. I had a couple of disasters but most turned out to be first class. Diane

  2. I would love to have ridden horses, but think that I have too many years behind me to try now. So, perhaps in my next lifetime! I did have one riding lesson when I was fifteen, but fell off, so while I have maintained a love of horses, I have never got back on one. You have had an interesting life, Diane, and must surely feel that you have your money's worth from all those experiences you have had. Vx

    1. Vera having ridden from a very young age it was just part and parcel of my life. I was always told if you fall off you get straight back on. Sometimes with broken bones this was not easy, and I broke a few! I realise now what an interesting life I had, but only in later years did I really appreciate just how interesting. Take care Diane

  3. Wow, must be thrilling to be able to ride a horse. The only big animal that I rode in is a carabao lol.

    1. Ha ha I have never tried carabao but I have tried a camel!! I loved my horse riding days but my back will not stand it any more sadly. Take care Diane

    2. Hahah yep, carabao are the work horses in the Philippines lol. So you don't ride horses anymore?


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