The Lesotho Rescue Ride – part 2

August 4, 2014

It was late when we arrived in the dark, and I thought we’d just head to our rooms and meet the rest of the riders the next day. I didn’t realise we were special guests, our arrival eagerly awaited by everyone attending the big first night welcome dinner. So with the taste of vomit stuck still to my teeth I was more than mildly taken aback to be greeted with clapping and cheering of “Welcome our International visitors!” when we walked in the dining room of Penwarm Country Lodge

Sophia McKee, ride organiser, and Ally and Kevin, in-country hosts responsible for bringing the treatment of animals in the government-run pounds to all our attention, had clearly done a huge amount of work organising and garnering support for the ride. I don’t think I realised this (as I was little wobbly at the time) and I hope I managed to thank them enough later for the part they played in putting together a truly unique trip which I could join. As it was I sat quietly and nibbled on a dry bread-crust as we listened to speeches from the organisers, a heart-rending description of the animal welfare situation in Lesotho from the Highveld Horse Care Unit (being picked up by the pound staff is tantamount to signing up to a slow starvation death for the animals), stood for our official photographs, accepted our branded merchandise and paid full attention to the safety briefing – noting key points such as “armed locals” “dangerous ledges” “cliff faces” etc. Later I slept, although I’m not sure how well.

The following day – in the daylight – we could see where we’d come to. Penwarm Country Lodge is set alongside a small lake in a gorgeous area of lush countryside (sprinklers helping maintain the green in what was a very dry season). I can’t tell you how many thousands of acres the estate stretches across.  Pete Dommet, the owner and vet to his own dairy herd (although I should say herds, I think he has 11 different herds; one of which is  Jersey; the cattle operate as a unit up to 120 ish animals and bigger than that their yield drops, so Pete’s team run them as separate herds), 600 plus horses (these constitute Pete’s hobby!), goats, pigs and a couple of zebras (there’re probably more animals than this but that’s what I remember).

After more photos in the morning sunshine (in our individually named team shirts and an assortment of sponsor’s caps, with different horse feed bags at our feet) we climbed into the back of some trucks and headed off down the dusty stony road to meet our steeds.





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