Saturday, November 25, 2006

Introducing Sofia to the race track

Since I haven't been able to ride for a long time (I'm still waiting for my wound to heal, not wanting to aggrevate the infection), I decided to stimulate myself visually instead. So Anette, Sofia and I went out to the race track, hoping to get a glimpse of one of the "sprattelgubbar" - as Anette so kindly calls them: the jockey wannabees that sit on top of exhausting horse, jumping up and down with the most amazing fury you've ever seen (it's incredible how they manage to stay on top of the horse, despite its lack of energy) trying to squeeze out the poor horse's last drop of energy... It's a highly entertaining sight, but I have never seen it work, nor have I seen any of the "real" jockeys do it... (Chinada would just dare!)

Ali was quick to come up to us. He was riding Satellite, one of the horses that he cares for (owned by a certain Elhadj at the other end of town) and had "dressed" him in the headset I had given him as a token of appreciation for the work he had done for me this summer. Had to help him put it right, but the stallion definitively looked a lot more handsome!

The race track may have no fixed times, but there is certainly a fixed order. First, the race horses arrive and walk a lap around the track. The horse carers then hand over their horse to the jockey, who will only ride them if their owner has arrived (by car). It's a very hierarchical place, which I love turning upside down.

The horse owners are mainly the richest men in town. Depicted on this picture, you find the Snow Man and the Gold Man, as we now refer to them. The Snow Man generally dresses in white which is the colour that shows that you do very little practical work yourself, or you would get dirty... The Gold Man has a doubtful background and believes that money will buy everything. However, success at the race track comes with a lot of hard work and (if you wish to take a short cut, which I do - not possessing enough patience to do things the Nigerien way...) innovating ideas. Since he has neither, and still wants to be on top of things, he solves the issue by buying himself a new horse about once every second month... Costly habit!

Now... Who wants to follow a race?

Step "1: Abbas and Chinada preparing for the start, which is never organised and takes about 15-30 minutes every time... (on top of things, the horses are so full of adrenaline that they can hardly stand still).

Finally, off they go...

... leaving behind a trail of dust!

After the first three hundred meters, they disappear behind the euphorbia hedge, only to reappear again for the last 400 meters.

Though they rarely do any wonder, whips are hailing during this last part, even though every race horse will always do his best to win. In the end, it all comes down to food and training. And some innovating ideas!


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