Australian Stock Horses in Tanzania
Africa in general is never short of surprises. My son Hugh had taken a two-year position as teacher at the International School in Iringa. Actually reaching there is an exciting adventure in itself. The only access for mere mortals is by ‘bus from Das es Salaam. This can take from 10 to 14 hours depending on traffic conditions in the major coastal city. Market days are worst! The bus is shared by a varied assortment of people, agricultural produce and animals. The latter are accommodated on the roof and might include sheep, goats and chooks. Muzungu 2% (white people) are outnumbered by locals 98%. The only alternative is a charter flight to a game park; usually the domain of the big game hunters aka shooters!
Kibebe Farm is situated on the outskirts of ‘Iringa’ in the idyllic Southern Highlands of Tanzania. It is the rural idyll of a bygone era. Still owned and run by white ‘colonialists’ the farm employs no fewer than 230+ locals who actually live quite well. It is a very productive unit in an excellent location for prolific fecund farming with a superb climate all year round.
Victoria is the matriarchal dominatrix at Kibebe Farm. Originally from the midlands of England she emulates her eponymous Monarch as ‘ruler of all she surveys’. It’s partly true. Her husband is an expatriate Scot who I may have met on the playing fields of Edinburgh; specifically Raeburn Place, the home ground of Edinburgh Academicals. It was an enormous surprise when Victoria announced she owned ‘some Australian Stock Horses’! I could hardly believe my ears. I explained who I was and where I lived. I embellished my association with the Australian Stock Horse Society. She appeared to believe it? I sincerely hope so!
The story of these horses’ arrival in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania is remarkable to the very precipice of credibility. When Tanzania (then Tanganyika) gained independence as a sovereign state in 1961 the Australian Government offered inaugural President Dr Julius Nyerere a gift. It was assumed the nascent state was short of horses. This was essentially correct. Australia had horses in abundance; although the Australian Stock Horse had yet to emerge as an entity about a decade later. Dr Nyerere was asked if he wanted ‘broken’ or ‘unbroken’ horses. He thought there were enough things ‘broken’ in Tanzania already; so selected the ‘unbroken’ option. The vagaries of language were ruthlessly exposed already. Swahili was decreed the lingua franca of East Africa. It may have been a junior bureaucratic clone of Sir Humphrey Appleby in charge but the decision stood. It was determined to send 1000 unbroken young horses.
According to legend the first shipment of 500 made it to port in Dar es Salaam. That was as far as most of them travelled. Mayhem prevailed at the unloading. There were no horsemen in Tanzania and no suitable unloading facilities. The unshackled cargo made a break for it as soon as landfall was sighted and reached. Pandemonium produced fatalities by drowning and other chaotic misdemeanours plus anarchic misadventures. The second shipment of 500 was abandoned. Many of the initial survivors succumbed to ‘sickness’ and pestilential diseases prevalent on the swampy African coast. The newcomers were not immune to any of these biological challenges. This had been the case for time immemorial. Maybe it explained the scarcity of equids in this part of the world?
It appears a few individuals made it across the marshy coastal plains to the safe and secure healthy higher ground inland. The Southern Highlands is essentially free of the dreaded Tsetse Fly and its deadly Trypanosome (‘Sleeping Sickness) parasite. The horses we discovered at Kibebe Farm were reputedly the descendants of the inaugural pioneering stock. It certainly makes a very grand story. There is no doubt they have discovered the ideal African nirvana. All of them appeared in excellent health thriving in their new environment. The following photographs provide an elegant montage of the idyll at Kibebe Farm.
Australian Stock Saddle
Victoria was quintessentially English. However she did admit to owning an Australian made stock saddle which may have come with horses? It featured a Stylecast Tree; Syd Hill & Sons Pty Ltd; Makers ; Brisbane Australia. ‘Polocrosse’ was imprinted clearly on the right side saddle flap.