Tuesday, 29 January 2013

It is summer on the Wild Coast


On the Wild Coast, it is not only Santa Claus who arrives at Christmas – in fact, it usually feels like half of Johannesburg and Bloemfontein also descend on the area to celebrate the festive season. As a result, December through to early January always prove to be busy for both the equine and the human team.

With 18 of our working horses located at the beach paddocks in Kei Mouth, Amanda, Jenny and Roz lead literally hundreds of people up and down the local beaches – mostly at a steady plod. Every year we experience a great sense of pride that those same horses that gobble up the kilometres on trail with the wind in their manes and the sand under their pounding hooves, then take completely inexperienced riders safely along those same beaches, carefully following nose to tail in a study of concentration and equine responsibility.

In addition to the day rides at the beach, we enjoyed a mid-December trail with return client Werner Vogt and the McLennan family from the Western Cape. Time Warp proved himself once again, carrying Werner safely and expertly for the full four-day trail. Initially, we were concerned that Time’s old leg injury would mean he would struggle to carry the extra weight (Werner is about 6 ft tall and weighs around 95kg) but he did a sterling job and came back sound and still full of running. The McLennan family experienced a few aching muscles being unused to such long hours in the saddle, but nevertheless enjoyed the thrills and spills (well, just the one spill!) of the trail.

Sunray Farm has seen many guests come and go over the past month, with several clients from previous trails returning to enjoy a stay at the farm. We welcomed back Laurence LeGal and thoroughly enjoyed her company once again. We also hosted the indomitable Christiane Dubat who, at 67 years of age, nevertheless rode us all into the ground! A good five to six hours a day in the saddle was not enough to weary this rider! On the one ride, a lady walking past us on the beach commented, “I used to do that in my younger days.” and I thought to myself, well, I hope that, like Christiane, I’m still doing it in my not so younger days!

To assist with this steady flow of mouths to feed, Sarah Dawson (The Ride’s quieter third party) joined the team at the farm and produced a consistently impressive array of meals… even her packed lunches were full of variety and surprises! She also brought her son, Fynn, along to provide a running commentary on life, the universe and anything else that popped into his 10-year-old mind at any given moment!
We are already missing them both, even though they have only been gone a couple of weeks, and many tummies and taste-buds have happy memories of their stay here.

In addition to the usual business of getting bums in saddles, we’ve had the unfortunate challenge of an outbreak of African Horse Sickness in the area. For those unfamiliar with the disease, this is a midge-borne virus that causes a leakage of fluid within the body and affects the inflammatory system. There are several different strains of the disease which are indicated by a variety of different symptoms, often making it difficult to diagnose in time to treat effectively. There is no known sure-fire cure and some horses die within a few hours of infection. The outbreak began over Christmas with one of the first confirmed cases occurring on Christmas Day itself.

It has been a difficult and stressful period for all horse-owners in the Kei Mouth/ Morgan Bay area, with a total of over 60 horses dying as a result of the disease. On a more positive note, we have received huge amounts of support from people far and wide. Professor Alan Guthrie, one of the leading specialists in AHS, came down to Kei Mouth to offer advice and support to our local equine community.

We were also fortunate enough to receive a donation of a new AHS vaccine developed by Disease Control Africa which enabled us to vaccinate all our horses. While this vaccine is still very new and, in general, available only on prescription, many believe it offers horses a new hope of surviving this dreaded disease. A booster of the vaccine produced by Onderstepoort Biological Products was also provided free of charge to horse-owners in the area, giving individuals the freedom to choose the most effective method of managing the outbreak according to their own personal philosophies.

Wild Coast Horse Trails lost four horses in total, including our Percheron stallion, Bobby, and managed to save about seven horses that have been confirmed as having AHS. Our method has been, firstly, to check horses regularly for swelling above the eyes and around the muzzle in order to identify the virus early in its development. Frequent checking of temperatures has also been vital in helping us to pick up infection early on.

We have been using MMS intravenously and orally to treat those infected horses and it seems to have proven successful in the majority of cases. I won’t go into the complexities of MMS here as I am not really knowledgeable enough, but the basic premise of it is that it works as an oxidizer to kill the pathogens of various diseases. MMS is made up of, primarily, of weak solution of chlorine dioxide mixed with water and several additional neutral trace elements. For more information about MMS, please visit http://www.miraclemineral.org.

We are now in the fortunate position that the outbreak seems to have abated. Whatever this can be attributed to, both ourselves and our horses are relieved at this respite and hope it continues throughout the remainder of our summer.

So, as the New Year begins, we put old sorrows behind us and focus on the brighter future ahead. We are eagerly marketing our trails although the year has got off to a slow start in that department – please do contact us for further details if you are interested in a thrilling ride along some of the best beaches in the world! Our working riding programme is looking busy throughout the year so we are delighted to have so many keen riders coming to join us and share their knowledge and experience. We wish all our readers, clients, followers and horses a very happy 2013.