On March 10, four horse clubs launched Uganda Equestrian Association (UEA) to embark on a journey tipped to translate into Ugandans competing at the Olympics one day.
UEA vice president Miranda Bowser, believes it will take Uganda a minimum of 10-12 years to have an equestrian at the Olympics.
In a trip to Gigil in May, I met Rachael Robley, who at 23 years was on the reserve team for Great Britain ahead of the Olympics in Seoul – South Korea (1988), before settling in Kenya in 1994.
“I ended up not travelling because of quarantine. My horse wasn’t a full thoroughbred so it was feared it wouldn’t cope with the heat,” Robley, who had to go down a few levels from the Olympics to riding at novice stage when she came to Africa, shared.
Thoroughbreds are raised to race, with emphasis on flatness when they gallop, while warm bloods are propagated to jump with power in the hind legs and strength in height.
Most horses in Africa today are thoroughbreds but they are also trained for dressage and show jumping. This, somewhat, shows how the industry is still growing here.
“Our biggest challenge in Southern Africa is African Horse Sickness, spread by an insect smaller than a mosquito. We need new vaccines and issues of quarantine,” Binks, FEI (International Equestrian Federation) representative, revealed. FEI has over 136 members with 20 from Africa. UEA is yet to affiliate.
“If I want to take a horse from Kenya to Europe, I have to drive it to Botswana, stay there for 30 days then Cape Town for another 30 days then disease-free Mauritius for three months before another two weeks of quarantine at a port of entry in Europe,” Binks adds. From that experience there is no doubt that the continent will need concerted effort that must be championed by associations like UEA. For now Ugandan riders as it has been for over a decade can only participate, on invitation, in continental events.
Horse Association of Kenya (HAK), which has existed for over 40 years, is our biggest allies and inviters over the years.
Katie Bowser despite only making the adult grade from years as a pony rider dominated the annual HAK & Pony Clubs Easter Show held April 7-9 at the Jamhuri Show Ground in Nairobi.
She rode Jamieson’s Run to win the Victor Ludorum, overall trophy at the show, at the first time of asking and helped Uganda beat Kenya to retain the Equator Cup atop Balmain.
Katie, riding her top horses Balmain, Free for All and Jamieson’s won the main cross country and different show jumping classes in Soysambu later that month before combining with mother Miranda, teammate Siyan Hudda and their Kenyan friend Alit Manor to top the Team Chase.
Kasumba, taking part in his first Gilgil Event, came second in the biggest show jumping competition with a clear round.
Cattermoul, riding Soksi, came first in the Novice Combined Training and Pre Novice dressage while Miranda showed she was the star of her own course winning the best cross country round.
McComb, probably our biggest jumper, was second behind Kenya’s budding Quille Erskine in the Proud Command show jumping class but that result explains the strength of competition Ugandan riders come up against in Kenya. She was also beaten by Robley to the overall event’s Victor Ludorum. In August, Uganda had a record 13 participants at the Mount Kenya event in August.
Uganda’s Equator event
The heavy December rains didn’t deter spirits as over 40 riders from Uganda, UK, Kenya, Cameroon, France, South Africa, New Zealand and Bolivia battled for honours at the third edition of the Equator Event at Flametree Stables on December 3-4.