Hell On Earth

We awoke to another beautiful Lesotho morning. Most of us were able to face the day, others who had welcomed it early in the morning weren’t so handy.

But all managed to get up, pack their tubs, and saddle their horses. Ethan was eager to try  his hand again at riding and I felt Pegasus would give him an ideal ride. I had (quite devilishly) talked Chrissy into riding Genghis and I would take Tequila (of “airs above the ground” fame). I was quite smug with my horse shuffling. I had successfully ducked another ride on the fire-breathing dragon and Aly had ridden Tequila up with little complaint.

I saddled up and prepared to mount. Left foot stretched high to the stirrup. Upon placing my weight down Tequila sank. I hovered above his withers and suddenly thought one of two things would happen – he’d flip over, or flop down. In an act of self-preservation I stepped back down – and promptly buckled, embracing the earth as if it were my mother’s womb.

In my graceful pirouette to avoid Tequila’s sudden antics I felt all the tendons in my right ankle stretch beyond their normal elasticity. I sat in an embarrassed heap while someone caught my horse.

And what do you do when you fall off (or can’t get on in the first place)?

You try again.

So I mounted up and we headed out. Chrissy and I found ourselves in front with our mounts. Both horses could be compared to a car on ice. They fishtailed their way over the landscape. Which is fine, if there aren’t cliffs and other objects of danger next to you.

After 15 minutes of Tequila I bowed out in defeat and gave Aly back her horse. It has been a rare occasion where I have felt defeated by a horse. But quite simply Tequila had no use for me, and in fairness, I didn’t have the patience for him.

I found myself on Lord Michael, Chrissy’s mount.

I fully expect you to have followed that exchange:

1)    Ethan takes Pegasus (my horse)

2)    Kevin takes Ethan’s place driving the Cruiser

3)    So Chrissy takes Genghis (Kevin’s horse)

4)    I take Tequila (Aly’s horse)

5)    Aly takes Lord Michael (Chrissy’s horse)

6)    Subsequent Tequila problems (sounds like a bad night at the bar) leaves me Lord Michael.

Right, so now that we are clear on that, more on the ride.

Now that I had a horse under me that wasn’t willing to throw his body off a cliff face, I felt much better. Giddy, in fact.

green valley

Sophia McKee (L) and Ethan Steinbrugger (R)

The ride continued at a more leisurely pace, past a waterfall and along a beautiful valley. Upon reaching the ridge, we looked down upon the village of Sehlabathebe – our ultimate destination. The mud huts were barely discernable at that distance from the surrounding rocks and earth.

Riders take a break at the base of the waterfall.

Riders take a break at the base of the waterfall.

We rode into town, reminiscent of cowboys in a western. Only, when 99% of your population rides a horse for transport, you don’t really stand out. At least, not like riding a horse into New York City.

Our ultimate destination was The Project. The Project is/was an agriculture center that perhaps started with good intentions but is now falling into decay. It was where we’d lay our heads for the next few nights. Our accommodations were what they were because we felt this was the one location where we could secure the horses from horse thieves.

The paddock railings were rusted and broken, but there was enough there to fashion a barrier of sorts, in part to keep the local horses out.

A lazy afternoon ensued with part of the group headed to the local bar and the rest of us headed to our bunk beds. I was in the latter group, still nursing a cold and my now swollen right ankle. But you wouldn’t hear any complaint from me when Richard’s foot was twice as big, twice as broken and he was twice as doped up on painkillers (subsequent research has revealed that Richard had a supply of non-FDA approved drugs from China).

The late afternoon descended on the sleepy village and we all piled into the land cruiser to drive to the pound, hoping to be there when the animals returned for the day.

The Lesotho Pound Rescue Project is centered around the conditions in the government run pounds, and it was this project that prompted the Lesotho Rescue Ride.

I can’t speak for the others, but I was filled with a bit of apprehension as we drove down the bumpy dirt road to an unmarked, nondescript, low-slung building that was also the police station.  My apprehension was well founded. Grazing around the building were four police horses in such a deplorable condition, they couldn’t possibly be ridden.

Police horses were in as bad a condition as the horses in the pound.

Police horses were in as bad a condition as the horses in the pound.

The pound itself sat slightly below the police building on a slight grade sloping off to the North. The border of the corral was composed of rocks piled thickly and dung blocks drying on top. Inside the small area, approximately 25 cattle huddled in a corner. It took me a minute to pick out the two equines amongst them – their hip bones as prominent as those of a dairy cow. Two walking skeletons with coarse hides and lifeless eyes stood on the top terrace of the corral. Ear tips were gone and brands burned over multiple times on their shoulders and haunches.

Tanza Crouch (L) and Chrissy Walsh (R) inspect the condition of a horse in the pound.

Tanza Crouch (L) and Chrissy Walsh (R) inspect the condition of a horse in the pound.

The girls in the group descended upon these two hapless creatures. Our sunglasses hid the tears coming from our eyes but the dejection in our bodies matched those of the horses. Unless claimed by their owners, the two horses would likely be dead in a couple weeks.

A rotting horse skeleton outside the walls of the corral just served to reaffirm this sorry future.

The rib cage in a wheelbarrow inside the building adjacent to the police building told a more sinister story. While the police officers, or pound master will not touch the animal while it is alive. Once it has starved to death, it is fair game.

A rack of ribs sits in a wheelbarrow at the pound.

A rack of ribs sits in a wheelbarrow at the pound.

When we inquired why there was a wheelbarrow full of meat in the building we were told it was for the dogs. We didn’t see any dogs. Nor could we understand why the dogs wouldn’t feed on the carcass laid to rest outside the corral (apparently this carcass had been left inside the corral a couple weeks prior).

The men in our group questioned the police officers about the very basic conditions. Why was there no water for the animals? Why weren’t they being fed? How could the animals be treated in such a horrible manner?

The answers were sorely lacking and I thought it would come to blows. I turned my head away and buried my face in the mane of a small grey horse, his breath soft on my hand. I cradled his head in my arm and he leaned into me, accepting what little I had to offer. We wouldn’t be able to save him. Even if there was some mechanism for taking him out of the pound, he was past saving.

I wished with all my heart that just a kind touch or expression of compassion would grant him a moment’s escape from the hell that he was in. A breath of air for a drowning man, a sip of water for someone dying of thirst. But perhaps my wish just prolonged his agony. He didn’t appear to express pain, but how can you see pain in a horse’s eyes when they don’t even reflect life?

At some point this horse belonged to someone, and then the police or stock theft unit did their job and rounded him up.  That’s when they stopped doing their job. As pound residents, the animals are supposed to be grazed and watered daily, but if they die, then the meat belongs to everyone, hence the rack of ribs in the wheelbarrow. The operation reflects a clandestine backyard meat business.

A cluster of ears swayed gently, hung from the rock building like a bouquet of flowers hung upside down to dry. They looked soft, like velvet and they were all that were left of the animals that had died in the pounds. That, and the sun bleached bones scattered about haphazardly.

It looked like hell.

All that is left.

All that is left.skeleton

 

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Stairway to heaven

There was a palatable buzz in the morning as we loaded up the cruiser with our supplies for the next week. Camelbacks were filled, snacks of dried fruit and biltong were handed out, and sunscreen applied. It felt like a regular school field trip. We all eagerly went to our respective paddocks to say “hi” to our steeds. The day was just dripping with optimism.

“We can’t get the saddles, the tack room is locked.”

I beg your pardon?

“Kim’s not working today, she has the keys.”

Well, blimey! Didn’t anyone think of that?! Our smooth morning came to a screeching halt and cell phones were whipped out and numbers dialed. As we waited for the gates of gamora to magically open, Rolene informed me that my fine grey, Umper Stumper, had been kicked in the left front leg the night before by one of the other stallions and was lame.

She must have sensed my reluctance to ride the spare draft cross her grooms had ponied over the day before. Throughout the 10 km ride I had watched them chase him with a whip just to get him to jog. The prospect of riding a snail for the next six days didn’t appeal to me and it must have registered on my face.

“I can have one of the grooms meet us by the road with another of the greys,” she graciously offered.

I immediately perked up! Yes, that would be an excellent option. Until then, I’d ride Mr. Snail and we’d switch at Rolene’s farm near the border crossing.

Much bolstered by my prospects, and the subsequent appearance of a tack room door key, we continued our preparations and saddled up.

We rode the same route Rolene’s group had ridden the day before, only in reverse. Harry the horse, Highveld Horse Care Unit’s mascot, was securely ensconced in Shirley’s saddlebag.

We stopped briefly so I could switch onto the new grey – horse #3! I watched wistfully as horse #2 galloped at top speed back down the road to his farm. Alas, if he had only shown such spirit on the way out… but that thought was quickly dashed as my new grey’s fleet feet got going. His name – Pegasus. This alone made me sit a little straighter in the saddle.

We reached the border crossing in minutes after a brief stop to get provisions at the last trading post in civilization. There Craig and his rat pack joined us. Or I should say “checked-in.” I didn’t see them again until we reached the top of Stony Pass.

The border crossing was like any passport control stop, but decidedly more pleasant than any encounter I’ve had with US Border Patrol. A deft stamp in the passport and we were on our way through a high chainlink fence bordered on the top with razor wire. It seemed a bit overkill and I couldn’t decide if they were trying to keep the Basuto out or the South African’s in. I settled on the former based on the angle of the razor wire slanted over the fence.

shirley_bordercrossing

Shirley Haywood at the border crossing.

border

South African border crossing.

The road immediately came to an end and we found ourselves on a single-track trail making it’s way up the valley. A swatch of green paved our way. The grass having been burned off and replaced already with new spring grass. In time, we began to climb on the stairway to heaven. Pay close attention to the first video – Kevin is already trying to pawn Genghis off on someone else. But more on that later…

And up we went. In just a short time I decided our horses must have been crossed with billy goats more recently in their past as they steadily climbed up, over and around boulders. Going up a trail that would otherwise have prompted any American horse to roll over and die rather than put out the effort.

Gally – Richard’s steady mount did the entire Stony Pass carrying his passenger safely, not a hoof set wrong. The rest of us dismounted and led our horses over the worst of it.

Guide John keeps a watchful eye out.

Guide John keeps a watchful eye out.

I must make mention at this time that if you are the designated “guide,” you best not get lost. John, our guide of sorts had occasion to take the path less traveled and Richard, Kevin and myself found ourselves on a bit of a ledge until we were reunited with the original trail.

Upon reaching the top Kevin graciously offered Genghis to me for a more “exciting” ride.

“He’ll be tired,” Kevin said convincingly.

I pulled my saddle off little Pegasus and Kevin and I switched horses.

pegasus profile

Pegasus

genghis and kev

Genghis and Kev

And I mounted a fire-breathing dragon. He was not tired. He was not subdued. With his tail a flag in the air, he and I trotted off and quickly found ourselves amongst the lead group. Hey! There’s Craig and his rat pack. As they picked up a canter and I set my hands in Genghis’ mane, I felt confident we’d manage a nice, easy, controlled lope. “Controlled” being the operative word. In seconds I found the wind screaming past my face and heard a distant voice say “whoa” with awe reserved for the awe-inspiring. The type of “whoa” a man says when a leggy, busty blond walks by. Or when a fire-breathing dragon roars past.

And that was the last I heard beyond Genghis’s thundering hooves as he carried me away. Gasping, I was struck with the realization that I was mounted on a horse that was essentially running away with me. And I was armed with the knowledge that this same horse took off with Kevin for 80 kms at one endurance race. There was nothing in front of me to stop us, and no one behind with enough gas to catch us.

A glance to the side and I think I saw an antelope. Hard to say at those speeds. Genghis and I proceeded to have an unspoken conversation.

Me: Please slow down.

Genghis: Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

Me: Genghis – there’s a rocky creek bottom ahead, please slow down.

Genghis: Yipppeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

Me: Creek, CREEK, CREEK!

Genghis: Oh, whoops.

A moment’s hesitation in his gait was all I needed to engage the emergency brake and we slowed just in time to scramble down and over the rocky creek bottom and regain our sanity on the other side.

Proud. That’s the only word to describe him. He was puffed up and bloody proud of himself and his dash across the veld. I was less proud at my complete and utter lack of control. Certainly wasn’t for lack of effort. At a much slower pace we continued to the lodge, me riding up as if nothing had happened.

Sehlabathebe Lodge

Sehlabathebe Lodge

The lodge sat as a lone sentinel below the Devil’s Knuckles. Stark, isolated and alone it was the only building as far as the eye could see. And it was empty. Our support crew, namely Ethan, hadn’t arrived yet.

That was odd.

As Genghis and I milled around the gate by the lodge, Rod showed up in his cruiser.

“They have a puncture, they are a few k’s up the road,” he shouted happily to me.

Phew. And here I thought my boyfriend may have been delayed at the border crossing. Turned out they had, but not in the manner that I expected.

After arriving in due course and distributing all the tubs to each of the riders, we learned that the boys had a slightly embarrassing encounter with the South African border patrol. Seems that after stopping for inspection and then continuing on to the Lesotho border post, one of the tubs popped it’s lid and the contents fluttered out.

I say fluttered, because that’s the only way I can describe white lace panties floating on the South African breeze. I will not publicly reveal who they belonged to, but it’s safe to say they weren’t Ethan’s.

The border patrol agents strolled up with the lacy items of clothing clutched in their greedy fists held behind their backs. Perhaps hoping for a bribe for the answer to Victoria’s Secret.

With the clothing items recovered, the boys continued on their way until their unfortunate flat tire episode. I’d like to note that throughout the trip, not one horse went lame. The vehicles on the other hand, were not so durable.

All the riders arrived with no further trouble. Aly and Tequila had apparently been practicing some “airs above the ground” after Genghis and I high-tailed it away but other than that, everyone was delivered safely to the lodge.

genghis_tequila_flag

Genghis and Tequila relax under the Lesotho flag and the Devil’s Knuckles.

flowers in rock

A flower grows out of a rock.

sheperd's cave

A shepherd’s home or a thief’s lair.

It would seem that now would be a good time to delve into a description of the landscape stretched out before us. We were in the Sehlabathebe National Park, an area of conservation between the South African border and Lesotho. Livestock grazing is prohibited here. The photos can’t possible do this arid landscape justice. At this time of year shades of brown and green trick the eye and made distances hard to discern. Wide runways of black cut through as well where fire breaks have been burned. Caves and rock huts blend and disappear into the landscape. It’s easy to see how stock thieves can move undetected amongst their cave hide-outs. Most you wouldn’t realize were there until you stumbled through their front door.

Short tufts of dry grass cover the landscape and paths knife across the treeless landscape, each path eroding until it’s a foot to two feet below the ground level. Then a new path would be created next to the old one until six or more paths cross the landscape like a multi lane highway, each one shallower than the next. Small flowers and bushes cluster around rocks and at the edge of streams. Hardy flowers able to withstand the tough winters, gale force winds and high altitude. The altitude of the lodge was over 7,000 feet. Something I had not considered in my preparation for the trip.

After the horses were settled we went for an early evening stroll. Tanza, our ever present authority on plants, tossed out names like confetti as we walked the short distance up to the rock formations. The “airwolf” cave was a surprise. Around a corner of rocks and situated above a pool of water, a cave full of lush green grass hid. The circular cave was nature’s Pantheon with an oculus opened to the sky.

It was here that Terence shot Mattias.

Intentionally perhaps.

Terence, one of our main sponsors, had been popping open a bottle of bubbly and the cork hit the Swede dead in the chest. The laughter exploded faster than the champagne bubbles.

mattias shot

Mattias after being shot by a champagne cork.

After the Swede had recovered, with alcohol poured into his mouth (not his wounds), we made our way back to the lodge. At which point I promptly fell asleep for the next three hours.

I awoke in time for dinner and entertainment – Mattias was shot a second time with a cork, this time in the face (Chrissy has better aim than Terrence).

Bodies began to drop, either in exhaustion or due in part to excessive consumption of the local Maluti beer.

rolene relax

Rolene embraces “african time.”

The atmosphere was exuberant and relaxed. Laughter echoed throughout the night.

I burrowed my way under the down comforter and fell blissfully asleep. Tomorrow, we’d make for Sehlabathebe village and the riders would encounter the sobering experience of a Lesotho Pound.

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The cast of characters

On October 1, riders from around the World descended upon the small farming town of Underberg, South Africa to take on a cause – the Lesotho Rescue Ride. The goals were to raise awareness and funds for the Lesotho Pound Rescue Project.

Undoubtedly, a difference was made in the small village of Sehlabathebe, Lesotho and a difference was made in the life of a young girl named Bellina in the village of Thamatu. This is the story from the eyes of American rider Sophia McKee.

***

It’s difficult to jump right into telling the story without an adequate introduction of the characters. As the co-ride manager, I had an opportunity to have an email/facebook introduction to all the riders prior to meeting them in person. Little would prepare me for this cast of characters as diverse and special as the fauna through which we would ride. Richard, Kevin, Chrissy and Craig, I knew from my exploits in the 2011 Mongol Derby. Katherine and Mattias were of the 2012 vintage. And Sonja and Derrick saw me sick and red-nosed at the National Endurance Championships in South Africa last year. Tanza and Shirley were new to me. Please allow me to introduce them to you with a bit of creative liberty in the descriptions. I promise it will make sense as the story develops (or at least I hope it will).

The cast of characters:

The foreigners

Katherine Friedley – Canadian. Says it all, impeccable manners, understated, can probably drink and dance us all under the table, but much too polite for that.

Mattias Gardlund – Swede. Viking. Embraces all activities with gusto and hands on application. Cows are scared of his beard. Frankly, so are we. 

Richard Allen – English. Dubbed a knight in Mongolia. Sir has now become King. Noble, gallant, and persevered with a broken foot. Surely eliminated 99% of the whining from the rest of us.

Shirley Haywood – English and just as fine. Everything out of her mouth is lovely, beautiful, and lovely. Hid a deeper, darker side with an unapologetic affection for latin men and a talent for suffering down the local brew.

Chrissy Walsh – American. Kinky. And that’s a reference to her hair, you sickos. Embraced the local culture – and my shorts.

Ethan Steinbrugger –  American. Mr. Smiley. My boyfriend (God bless him). Support crew. May have acquired the unflattering nickname of “twinkle toes” for his toe shoes that offended a local parrot. Embraced all elements (including me) except the local brew until properly fined at the end (more on that later). Can change a tire like no one’s business.

Me – American. Certain circumstances prompted a late night ride on a Lesotho pony during guard duty and the subsequent negotiations the next day for purchase. Horse was not for sale, but is now dubbed “Peanut.” Rode total of seven horses on the trip while everyone else had one.

The Locals (the South Africans)

Kev – Saddle up! Ride manager/slave driver bought every whip he could in Lesotho. Has supported the local hide economy solely through his purchases.

Aly – Kevin’s wife and voice of reason. Mother hen kept watchful eye on all her “girls” while engaging in eye rolling regarding the “boys.” Was glad she didn’t have gun – or else we’d have one less horse on the trip.

Tanza Crouch – Botanist, biologist, flowerist, vocabularist. Clearly those last two aren’t real words, but Tanza could provide me with the right ones. Calm and settled and lacking in drama. Her word choice (vermin instead of mice) is exquisite.

Rolene Roux – Unfettered. Dude ranch specialist – give them the damn horses and hope they don’t fall off (no one did).

Sonja – As crazy as her horses. Or are they as crazy as she is? Neurotic, fast, blond. Can talk faster than the guy reading the small print at the end of commercials. Entertaining as hell.

Derrick – Puck. Solid. Humorous, stable. Balanced his other half Sonja. I secretly took to calling him Chef Ramsey. But only in my head.

Craig, Wolfgang, Rod, Bobby – The Rat pack, scurried away from the group repeatedly and consumed all the booze when we weren’t looking.

Jon – Guide that got lost. ‘Nuff said. Also solicited multiple kisses from the women in honor of his birthday that has yet to be confirmed. Suspect it was a ploy.

L to R: Katherine Friedley, Chrissy Walsh, Kevin Price Moor, Shirley Haywood, Mattias Gardlund, Richard Allen, Sophia McKee, Aly Price Moor, Tanza Crouch.

L to R: Katherine Friedley, Chrissy Walsh, Kevin Price Moor, Shirley Haywood, Mattias Gardlund, Richard Allen, Sophia McKee, Aly Price Moor, Tanza Crouch.

A Canadian, a Viking and an American walk into a bar…

Well, they did. The bar was at Penwarn Country Lodge in Underberg, South Africa. And they were thirsty. As they should be, with most of the riders arriving after traveling 20 – 30 hours to make it to the Southern most part of the world short of Antarctica.

On October 1, 2013 we converged upon Penwarn to discover a rustic, quaint lodge with room names like “Sunflower,” “Guinea,” and “Zebra.” The windows opened to a short lawn surrounding a serene pond filled with trout. With such luxury, we thought we were on a easy retreat at a high end resort. Little did we know how steeply downhill the accommodations would go from there.

pond

We enjoyed the comforts of Penwarn for just two nights. The first night was a bit ritualistic. Toasts made, peace pipe passed. Well, no peace pipe, but the beginning of lifelong friendships were in the works. We introduced the riders at dinner and each received tubs full of numnahs (saddlepads), shirts, hats and more from our generous sponsors.

The items would be replaced with our most needed supplies (clean clothes) for the trip up to Lesotho on the back of the Land Cruiser.

The next morning, Ethan, Chrissy, Richard and I headed to New England Farm out Bushman’s Nek to pick out our horses for the journey. Tanza, Mattias, Shirley and Katherine went with Sonja. And Kevin and Aly headed to their home to pick up their two horses.

We were greeted at New England by Rolene and she welcomed us into her paddock full of stallions. They were mainly draft crosses and nooitgedachts – one of the few indigenous breeds in South Africa and a direct descendant of the Basuto pony. And according to Wikipedia (because that’s always right), it is a rare breed with only 400 purebreds in existence.

“I like the pinto,” I told Rolene pointing.

“Well, he’s mine so you can’t have him,” she replied.

“How about the bay?”

“You don’t want him, he rears.”

Hmmm.

Chrissy snagged the palomino as he raced past.

So with my top three choices off the table, I reverted to the most ancient form of horse selection.

I picked the cute grey horse with one ear.

“Umper Stumper” was his name. Ethan graciously rode McClaren – Rolene’s pinto stallion back to Penwarn and Richard ended up on a draft mix, Gallahad (later shortened to Gally).

On just our second day in South Africa we found ourselves galloping gaily across open fields on the 10 km back to Penwarn. The tone was set for what would be a wonderful trip. The horses seemed fleet and sure footed. Gally being the only one to languish slightly behind the others.

L to R: Richard Allen, Ethan Steinbrugger, Sophia McKee

L to R: Richard Allen, Ethan Steinbrugger, Sophia McKee

We arrived at the paddocks to find Sonja’s collection of Boerperds in one of the paddocks and another reserved for Rolene’s stallions. We settled them in and said our goodbyes until the next morning.

Kev and Aly’s Genghis and Tequila arrived with tails high. I would get to know both of them quite intimately in the days ahead (the horses, not the people).

Tomorrow we’d ride for the Lesotho border.

Richard Allen and broken foot.

Richard Allen and broken foot.

mattias fishing

Mattias Gardlund hooks a fish on land.

Chrissy Walsh soaks up some SA rays.

Chrissy Walsh soaks up some SA rays.

Categories: Lesotho Pound Rescue Project | 1 Comment

Riders Get Ready

Just a little video to pump up the troops. Ride is less than three weeks away.

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Riders Pony Up

Fifteen riders are confirmed for the Lesotho Rescue Ride, with just five spots remaining. The October ride will raise awareness and funds for the Lesotho Pounds Rescue Project. For a taste of the terrain, visit Derek de la Harpe’s Gallery.

The field thus far is a broad representation of the equestrian adventure rider. Mongol Derby riders from 2011, 2012 and 2013 have stepped up to the challenge.

Who’s Who:

Kevin Price Moor (South Africa) – Master of the “gees”, Kevin completed the 2011 Mongol Derby. And that’s something considering nearly 50% of the field was waylaid with injuries. Kevin is acting ride manager and head of ride operations. He’s a well respected endurance rider with a stable full of fine horses, a house full of mutts, and a heart full of compassion for the plight of the animals in the Lesotho Pounds. The Lesotho Rescue Ride is Kevin’s brainchild and is supported by the KwaZulu Natal endurance community.

Craig Egrebrink (South Africa) – A fierce competitor, Craig won the 2011 Mongol Derby in record time. The front runner for most of the race, Craig drew heavily on his endurance riding background and his competitive nature. A neighbor of Kevin’s, Craig and Kevin have been lifelong friends and partners in adventure. Craig also conditions endurance horses and runs a Dairy farm near Underberg.

Paul Erskine (South Africa) – A victim of the circumstances, Paul retired early from the 2011 Mongol Derby and went on to conquer other adventures of staggering heights -Mount Aconcagua – the highest peak in South America. All of Paul’s adventures support good causes, so the Lesotho Rescue Ride is right up his alley. Having trained with Perseverance Endurance horses prior to Mongolia, Paul is well versed on the challenging terrain of South Africa.

Olivia Swingland (United Kingdom) – The only 2011 Mongol Derby rider that gave Craig a run for his money. Olivia matched strides with him until day four. Olivia is an experienced polo player and accomplished rider. Her gentle nature and beauty earned her the nickname “english rose” from her fellow riders. And with her long eyelashes, even the horses were charmed. Olivia is a doctor by profession and should be able to make us all smile by handing out lollipops.

Richard Allen (United Kingdom) – Chivalry is not dead, as demonstrated by “Sir Richard” as he is called by his herd of 2011 derbyists. Subscribing to “no man left behind,” Richard escorted many an injured and dejected rider across the steppes of Mongolia and still never managed to fall a step behind.  On days when he’s not in the saddle, you can find him sleeping in a field with his horses.

Regina Bueno Ros (Mexico) – Known as “the crazy mexicana,” Regina kept all laughing with her constant chatter and laughter during the 2011 Mongol Derby. One tough cookie, this rider left Mongolia with a broken tailbone, but no broken spirit. A rider of fine mexican horses, Regina is now pursuing her Masters degree in Australia and has roped her husband Bildo in joining her on this next adventure ride.

Sophia McKee (USA) – Ride manager for the Lesotho Rescue Ride, Sophia has partnered with Kevin to bring this ride together. Nicknamed “Crash” in her first  years galloping racehorses at the track, she’s moved on to endurance racing instead, tackling the Mongol Derby in 2011 and Fauresmith in 2012. The Lesotho Rescue Ride will be her main endurance venture in 2013.

Wendy Chambers (Australia) – Wendy has trekked in Nepal and India, befriended orangutans, lived in the middle east for 3 years and raced endurance horses at championship level in the deserts of Jordan as well as her native Australia. She was the first ever female commercial diver to work in the Bass Strait. So she can hold her breath for AGES.

Mattias Garlund (Sweden) – Every ride needs a “Viking” and 2012 Mongol Derby rider Mattias managed to slide under the radar all the way to the finish line. In fact, his Mongol Derby ride was so off the grid, the race organizers only tweeted to say he was “riding super”! A credit to his skills as a rein man.

Inge Rall-Behm (South Africa) – This feisty rider hasn’t even completed Mongol Derby 2013 and is already looking for her next challenge to conquer – and she’s finding it in her own back yard. New to endurance riding, Inge is more used to flying over fences than flying over the steppe. She’ll have just enough time to recover from the Mongol Derby in August before saddling up for Lesotho. If anything, she’ll be fighting fit!

Bildo Saravia (Mexico) –  Bildo is the other half of Regina Bueno Ros and has opted to jump into the adventure riding world with his new wife. Bildo and Regina are no stranger to South Africa – having visited last year as part of their honeymoon.

Anne Schutman (Dubai) – Mongol Derby participant from 2012, Anne trained with Sonja Timani in the deserts of Dubai to prepare for the longest horse race in the world. The Lesotho Ride’s course up over the Drakensberg mountains will be a different type of challenge.

Katherine Friedley (Canada) – Her nickname is “Outlaw Kate” and she can wrangle steers with the best of them. This tough and tested Canadian spends her summers helping drive her family herd of cattle to the high pastures in Alberta, Canada. A definite “Cowgirl”, the Lesotho Ride organizers are planning on approximately 100 lbs of fresh ground coffee to see her through. Katherine is a proud Mongol Derby Alumnus – class of 2012. 

Chrissy Walsh (USA) – While not a Mongol Derby alum, this rider did help prepare fellow American, Sophia McKee, for the 2011 edition of the race. As Sophia can attest, “She’s bonafide crazy and took me on the ride of my life.” Chrissy has finished in the top ten of every endurance race she’s finished and currently teaches students the finer points of horsemanship and jumping. For Chrissy, saddles are optional and it will be all the race organizers can do to convince her to bring one for the Lesotho Rescue Ride.

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Recon Ride Reveals Sneak Peak at Stunning Landscape

This past week just saw a recon ride from Ride Manager Kevin Price Moor and he managed to control his steed and his camera at the same time. The following is an update from South Africa:

“HALI HAAI    Riders of the dragon!!

Just returned from Lesotho riding the route, sorry its not as gruelling as the Derby!!  And, there is a touch of luxury in the form of beds!!

Its not a race, but a challenge,and to create awareness of the horrific conditions in the Lesotho pounds.

Enjoy the scenic route at 3000 m altitude in this “equally hospitable and hostile land”.

It will be a test of your riding skills and horsemanship, to keep your trusty steed sound …..it could be a  long walk back!!

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Devils Knuckles, from the lodge fresh start 5.30am

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Rocks and pool near the lodge, where dinosaurs once played.

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Shepherds and stock thieves’ shelter.

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View from hill above the lodge, looking back into SA.

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On the ride – Devils Knuckles, always in the background.

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3 miles from the Lodge

Enjoy the Ride!

For the list of riders participating in the Lesotho Rescue Ride, click here.

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About the Lesotho Pound Rescue Project

Stolen horses in the country of Lesotho are rounded up and held in government pounds. Horses in the Lesotho Pounds endure harsh conditions with no food or water. Many starve to death or die of dehydration while waiting to be claimed.

Pound horses in Lesotho

Pound horses in Lesotho

The purpose of the Lesotho Pound Rescue Project is as follows:

1) Raise awareness about the conditions in the pounds

2) Improve conditions through cooperative collaboration amongst the government, police, stock theft units, horse owners, concerned citizens, and donors.

3) Provide a forum for updates on the effort

4) Provide a location for posting photos/descriptions of lost/recovered animals in the various pounds (www.facebook.com/lesothohorses)

A starving horse in the Mokhotlong pound

A starving horse in the Mokhotlong pound

Lesotho Rescue Ride

The Lesotho Rescue Ride is a seven day trek from South Africa into the tiny country of Lesotho and back out. The ride was created to raise awareness about the plight of the horses within the Lesotho Government pounds.

The Ride is an effort to work with local government officials and international riders to raise awareness and funding for the Lesotho Pound Rescue Project.

Who: All Adventure riders are welcome. The inaugural ride will be launched by Mongol Derby alumni, but all adventure riders willing to pony up the dough are welcome. This is NOT a tourist trek. The ride will be limited to riders that have demonstrated experience in adventure riding and horsemanship. Horses will be provided for this ride and their safety and welfare is paramount. The ride will be long and tough over challenging terrain with a real danger from horse thieves. Navigation will be done via gps along a set track. No guides will be provided.

What: Seven day rough trek from South Africa into the country of Lesotho and back out. Estimated six hours a day of hard riding.

When: October 1-8

Where: Kingdom of Lesotho – the “Kingdom in the Sky.” For a more detailed description of the route, click here.

Why: To raise awareness and funds for the Lesotho Pound Rescue Project.

How: The fee is $2,500 pending a successful application into the ride. For riders to apply, fill out the Form under “Sign Up” on the navigation above or click here. Payment is due by September 1. Flexible payment options are available. To learn more, email Sophia McKee.

What the entry fee covers: The entry fee covers bus transport to and from Durban, lodging each night, horse and food. Entry fee does not cover rider’s flights and accommodations in Durban or personal foodstuffs.

Riders will need to bring sleeping bag and personal kit as they are comfortable. Saddles, saddle pads (numnahs) and bridles are the rider’s responsibility. If you are unable to travel with your riding equipment, arrangements can be made ahead of time for equipment to be provided to you upon arrival.

It has been found that most riders are more comfortable in their own tack. The local horses are small working stock between 14 and 15 hands. Please be sure that your equipment can handle steep mountain riding.

A full list of recommended equipment will be provided to riders in advance of the trip.

 

Click Here for THE ROUTE or SIGN-UP!

Categories: Lesotho Pound Rescue Project, Rescue Ride 2013 | 1 Comment

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