Saturday, February 24, 2007


This weekend, the Ishtar Mares were at the race track, although it was only Arwen who was competing. Sahara was just there as moral support. The program was to have semi-big 1600m races, but on Saturday, no one wanted to race against Arwen and so the initial race was canceled. Instead, she raced a 1300m, where she came second just behind the leading horse. You should have seen the look on YB's face when he brought her in. I don't know any horse who will come second (isn't she always the constant second...?) and make her jockey be just as proud as if he won. But she makes them happy - probably because she always gives her best (and she's the only horse apart from Sahara who runs without a whip). The crowd loves her too. It doesn't matter how she performs, because in their eyes, she's the best. If she performs well, they say that she hardly even made en effort (=that she has so much more to give, you've seen nothing yet!) and if she fails in something, they make excuses for her (she wasn't feeling well, or she had worked to hard, or it wasn't her distance etc). She is so overestimated that her real competitors - the ones who are at the same level as her and whom she should be racing against - aren't allowed to compete against her. Instead she has to race against the really good horses who have far more experience than her, and of course, she can't live up to it.

Saturday was an interesting day. The 1600m race was canceled and she came second to one the Gold Man's horse in the 1300m race - and still the crowd treated her as if she had won.

A custom's officer came up to her and watched her with hunger in his eyes. The Snow Man introduced me as Arwen's owner, but he just looked past me, I wasn't even there. Instead he returned his gaze to my little bush mare and you could just see how he was already making future plans for her. I was told later that he wanted to buy her, and the other horse owners asked me for my price.
"She's not for sale," I said.
"Oh but you must have a price!" Everything in Niger can be bought for money, or so the rich believe.
I thought for a while, and then said, "No, I don't. Even if someone came and offered 2 million CFAs for her, I still wouldn't sell her."
At home later, my Dad thought I should set a price. "Just set a price that is ridiculously high and you'll get them thinking."
"Yes," I said, "I could do that, I could say five or ten millions and everyone would stop bringing up the issue, but the Gold Man might actually be crazy enough to show up at my gate with that kind of money just because he wants her so badly! And then I would have to be true to my word and sell her and that's just not happening!"
He still thought I should sell her and make money on her reputation (I don't know any horse that is as over-estimated as Arwen - it doesn't matter if she makes it or fails, they always see the "miracle" in what she does...) but I'm not setting a price on her head. She's a faithful horse and I couldn't find a better mount even if I looked around the whole world. And people need to learn in this country that some things just can't be bought with money. Go find your own Arwen! There are plenty of them in the bush!

Apart from that, the weekend was sad. I'm tired of the race track community right now, but I haven't really figured out why. When I went there last year, I was naive and full of inspiration. I met a lot of people that I enjoyed talking to and I made many friends (or should I say good acquaintances?). Today, the attitude is different. I have my friends, my small entourage, and I have cut away from the Gold Man as I cannot stand his owning attitude, even towards me. I may be female but I am used to being respected, even in this country, and I don't want other males to "take care of me". Nor to tell me what to do or not to do with my mares.
So the track is now divided in two camps, and the Gold Man is playing the champ just as if we were still in kindergarten. It would be funny if it wasn't so tragic, because the rich (whether they really are rich or just act rich) control the poor so easily.

It's a man's club, as I have figured out. I'm the only female and lately, I had been wondering whether they didn't want to talk to me because I was a woman - but the Snow Man informed me that they're just sour because of Arwen. Oh well, that will pass as her true colours come forth and her gradiose reputation takes a slight fall. :-)
Concerning being a female however, I had an interesting conversation with my jockey. I asked him if his wife had ever seen him race, and he said: "Habba, no way!!"
I asked him why, and he said: "There are no women at the race track."
"But I am here," I said.
"Yes, Ishtar, but you are not a woman! You are a horse-owner!" Lol, so much for being put in a category... :-)

Either way, I did meet some nice people - nice sincere people (most probably not horse owners themselves!) - and at the end of the day, I did enjoy myself. But that was Saturday, and the worst was yet to come...



Rising Rainbow said...

I know how you feel about putting a price on your mare. I have a young stallion I have been asked to put a price on. I don't want to sell him but I need to. I need to support my breeding business so I can keep doing what I do. But I can't put a price on this horse, I fear (as you) even if the price is ridiculous, the man with the money will come through and I will have to keep my word and sell. So I just don't set a price.

I thought it was interesting how being a "horse owner" over rode your status as a woman.

Ishtar said...

I'm a big animal fan and I enjoy working with them; but there is a different between any animal and a perfect match. I've had a few perfect matches cross my ways and not been able to take the opportunities (two dogs and a stallion). When I finally bought my first horse (Arwen), I was really lucky. She's a perfect match - to me. Unless I get very, very poor and can't afford to feed her, she's not going anywhere. Somethings in life (like life quality!) just can't be bought for money. I hope you get to keep your stallion Rainbow, but even if you don't, you'll always remember him as someone very special!