Monday, February 19, 2007

Advice from the Nigerien race track

I finally took a picture of the Nigerien way on how to keep your race horse in perfect shape!

Instructions: Stick a needle into its throat and let the blood flow into the sand. When the pool is big enough, exit the needle. Your horse is now "purified" and should not be worked hard for a few days. Repeat this procedure every second month, or the racehorse (because of the all the "rich" food it is getting) will produce too much blood, which will accumulate in the legs and lead to bloated feet. If you do not do this regularly - your horse will die. As we have all seen has happened with Arwen....
They: "No but Arwen is a very special mare, Ishtar. She is a pure arab!"
Me: Oh, my little Berber bush mare is now a pure arab? Interesting!
They: "Only Arwen can go without treatment, but if it was one of our horses... It just wouldn't be possible."
Me: "Do you know what function the blood has?"
They: "No."
Me: "It's like a road that brings the food you eat to the muscles so that they can work properly. If you have a tyre explosion on your way to Niamey and as a 'remedy', you remove part of the road, do you think your car will drive better or worse?"
They: ...

Although the race track sand is regularly littered by stallion blood, some people have stopped with this practice. When you speak in parables, people stop to listen, but in the end it's all down to what they see. I read a Hausa proverb today when I was studying:
Gani ya fi jî - S
eeing is Better than Hearing. It's just like the trees at the field station. Before they actually saw that they could grow, they did not believe that man could sow trees - only God did that. And before they saw Arwen "surviving" at the track, they did not believe that a horse could be trained without being released of its own blood. Nor did they believe that mares could race, but that does not seem to be a common belief anymore.

I spoke to another horse owner and asked him why he didn't train his horses together with Arwen.
"Because yours would win!" he said. "I don't want to lose my money!"
"So let's do it just for the fun of it," I said.
"Why would you want to do that? You already know that Arwen will win!"
"I don't know that. She's a horse just like all the others, she has good days and bad days. Have you seen her win lately?"
"No, but lap times don't lie. She's the best horse, that's it."
So... Rumor has it that my mare is the best race horse in town but no one wants to find out, so I'll just have to keep letting her train by herself and hope that Sahara will catch up one day. Then they can spend the rest of their lives racing together, which is another "impossibility" in this country. Two horses from the same grounds racing together?
"Are you crazy? They would kill each other!"
But then seeing Arwen and Sahara lick each other after training, they just shrug their shoulders and say, "Oh, but they are mares."
Of course. Was it Arab mares brought down by some nice sultan etc...? And by the way, what magical potion am I actually feeding them? I have been asked that twice this year, and the year is still young...



Hanna grönberg said...

I'm glad to see you're blogging again!

Ishtar said...

Me too! :-)