Sunday, November 26, 2006

Bringing out the mares

This afternoon, Ali came over with Chinada to take both the mares to the race track. Chinadahas not been around much after they moved to their new home. During the weekends, he has been away (there has been racing in both Magaria and Matameye) and during the weekdays, I have not asked him to come. Chinada has not been in my good books since he asked me for a motor cycle, and I think Ali wanted to patch things up a bit - as Chinada is like a second son to him, and Ali knows he has my confidence.

A funny and unexpected thing happened though: Ali galloped for the first time since I don't know when! People were cheering "Ali, Ali" as he spurred Sahara into a cantor just as he passed the crowd. I was thrilled! You see, Ali used to be a jockey in youth, but stopped galloping after he started training them. Don't ask me why, that's the way things are done. I understood that when he refused to run with me in October and I set off alone instead.

Now, Chinada had other horses to run as well, but Ali did a good job keeping the two mares together, even though both of them were full of anticipation.

Now, greetings in Niger are very important and at the race track, there is a unspoken rule that whoever arrives last has to walk around and greet all the people he knows; both his friends and the people that are higher in hierarchy (meaning, those with more money or influence). Being neglected is one of the worst insult here and if you do not get around to greet everyone by the end of the day, they will feel slighted and think that you do not care. Now, I always take care in greeting all my friends, but as you know, I don't always follow the rules. If Ali greet me and takes my one hand with both of his, I will answer by giving him both my hands as well. This is a gesture that shows equality and makes people confused; for in their eyes, I am a "horse-owner" while Ali is simply a "horse trainer". Now, today, I was not the first to arrive, but the three of us (Anette, Sofia and I) started by walking straight to the track. The first ones we greeted were of course Ali and Chinada. After a while, I turned around and walked over to the Snow Man, a friend of mine, whose company I enjoy. The Gold Man however is not among my aquaintances, and I so I never walk up to greet him. Despite this, we have never yet missed out on a greeting - ever - since we started meeting at the race track. No matter how much distance I keep - at the end of the day, he will always have found an occasion to barge in, wherever I am. Having worked hard on his social skills, all my friends are now his aquaintances as well and as soon as I approach them, he follows. Though he will not adress me first (he knows better, because I might just turn him my back and nothing would make him more ashamed than to be slighted publically), he will start talking to whoever I am speaking to. After a minute, he will turn around and greet me as if I am his best friend, but by then he knows that I am waiting for my friend to continue my conversation, and will not leave my friend just like that. Now, on top of it, my jockey is now his jockey as well and my horse-adviser, Ali, has also started doing some small jobs for him. I actually asked the Snow Man which horse he thought Chinada would end up riding if both a horse of a mine and a horse of the Gold Man were to participate in the same race. He answered without the slightest hesitation: "Yours!" Fortunately for the Gold Man that I have only two mares then...

For Sahara, today was her very first offical race, and she proved to be the exact opposite of Arwen last year (when Arwen did her debut), possessing top speed (which Arwen lacked) but having little endurance (which was Arwen's strong point and the reason why she did so well right from the start). Sahara started off well enough and kept pace with the other horses for about half a lap, before starting to lose ground. She came in last (as last as you can be) and I lost €5, but I did not mind because I wanted her to get the experience. Besides, I actually prefer working with an underdog than all the expectations in the world. Believe me, there will come a day when all the other horse owners will refuse to let their stallions race against her, but she is young and does not need to hurry. She's already doing a good job just eating like a horse, developing her social skills and growing in width.

Fortunatly for my honour (if I even care about it), I still had Arwen left and she was very keen to be taken to the race track.

Pregnant or not, my mare wanted to race! Which she did...

She ended up on second place, beaten only by a horse that the Gold Man bought for about fifteen times as much as I bought Arwen... Though Chinada was satisfied with his "revanche", he did not feel that Arwen had her usual "gudu" (speed), so maybe it was little junior helping out.


1 comment:

Kerri-Jo said...

What a great post! I can't wait to find out more about racing in Niger and your horses!!!