Recently my daughter, Joy, asked me to assist her with collecting a horse that she had been asked to back from Wesley Hayes.
Wesley is the owner of the Olford Arabian Stud, a stud that is the only 100% Crabbet Arabian stud in South Africa. Olford is also the oldest Arab stud in South Africa having been founded by Betty Arnold in 1948 near Bedford. The stud was bestowed upon Wesley in 1997 and he moved it to a farm called Cathcart’s Gift 18km outside Queenstown.
Clairebelle is not a full Arab,but is referred to as an Anglo Arab. Her sire (father) is a Crabbet Arab called Olford Count Amore and her dam (mother) is a thoroughbred, Year of the Rabbit. Some famous racing names, like Contraband feature further back in this line too. Her full pedigree name is Olford Silk Éclair and she was born in 2009. Anglo Arabs are known for their versatile ability to participate in various disciplines like endurance, dressage and open riding classes.
It was decided to walk Clairebelle (Wesley calls her that) from Cathcart’s Gift to Rookwood as this would give the horse and Joy a chance to get to know each other. This would also allow her to get used to ‘other’ sounds and sights as Wesley described her as being a little ‘scared’ of odd things.
We left Rookwood just after 05h00 in the morning equipped with a tuck box and some cold water and coffee (for me!) to meet Wesley before 06h00 as he leaves for work around that time. Wesley practises law in Queenstown. The day promised not to be too hot and we were quite grateful as it was going to be a long day. We had to cover a distance of about 35km on foot.
|Clairebelle and Joy leaving Cathcart's Gift|
Cathcart’s Gift residents are up early and we arrived at the gate as David Hayes (Wesley’s dad) was unlocking it to allow his wife, Justine, to leave for Queenstown, where she runs a very efficient B&B enterprise. Wesley had just completed feeding his calves and was full of conversation. Joy collected Clairbelle and set off for Rookwood leaving the two of us chatting away.
I knew that being the backup vehicle; I would not be travelling at great speed so decide to do some bird atlassing along the way. Cathcart’s Gift has a permanent dam full of water birds so before leaving the farm I spent some time marking off the different species I could see. I think many a bird watcher has not missed the opportunity to spend some time bird watching on this dam.
Fortunately, this first stretches of gravel road not too busy; however, Clairbelle did not seem too stressed with any vehicle that passed her.
|up the hill|
She did however not like rocks and as Wesley says, Cathcart’s Gift is not at all rocky. She initially did shy at a couple of ‘odd’ things,
but with Joy’s reassuring voice and hand walked on quietly.
Joy and Clairebelle crossed the Swart Kei River on the bridge and were met by the two Breetzke boys a little later. They had mistaken Clairbelle for a horse called Kate that Joy had backed earlier in the year for their sister. Their thoughts were that Kate had broken out of her camp. Kate is also a grey mare that came from Wesley’s line of horses!
|down the hill|
Initially the road headed towards Mapassa, but just after we stopped for a bite to eat the road took a long turn left towards Mapassa Leven.
|Mapassa still on our right|
Mapassa itself would now remain on our right hand side throughout the journey. We would just effectively walk around this landmark. With Mapassa Leven on our left hand side, we suddenly had a flurry of vehicular traffic, but Clairbelle was quite ok with that.
|giraffe from Maweni|
|Clairebelle studying the giraffe|
She stopped to look at the giraffe from Maweni Lodge who was equally inquisitive about this grey mare passing by. The weather had been kind to us for most of the morning and Joy and Clairbelle stopped off in the shade for a breather before hitting the busy Fincham’s neck road.
|giraffe at Maweni|
I had been kept busy writing down the different bird species seen and heard along the way. Strangely enough, the traffic was nominal and Joy could walk on quite comfortably.
|and the road just keeps going!|
|passing a tractor|
We passed the first milk farm, Max Geyer’s with the inquisitive black and white Friesland cows peering over the fence at us.
|Max Geyer's cows grazing with Mapassa in the background|
The next piece of land on our right was being prepared for maize planting with tractors (and dust) busy being driven up and down in rows. Typically where there were more trees or water, there were more birds, however, as we approached the T-junction the well-known call of the Fish Eagles greeted me. After the break, we moved onto what is known to be a busy stretch of road with 15 kms to go. This is where we met the first motorbike to which Clairebelle did not take too kindly. Our next groups of inquisitive cattle were young heifers who watched Joy and Clairebelle walk by from their pastures.
|a fairly large termite mound next to the road|
|the T junction ahead|
|an inquisitive heifer from Riverbend dairies|
I took over walking Clairebelle just after the Riverbend Dairy farm turnoff and the weather seemed to be turning hotter. I instructed Joy to take the vehicle and fetch water and a container for Clairebelle and promised to let her rest just after the Tylden road turnoff. One could feel she was beginning to get a little weary and I tried to keep her walking in the soft sand next to the road. We took a break and waited for the water to arrive. Clairebelle was quite happy to graze next to the road to ease her hunger pangs.
The last stretch of road was a long straight slow uphill and we slogged on. I am sure Clairebelle’s legs were beginning to feel like jelly and after every gate we had passed, she was beginning to wonder whether she would ever turn into one of them. Trevor Filmer met us on our way up the hill - he was travelling on his motorbike! He did stop and admire her and chat and then cautiously drove past us so as not to scare her too much.
We then reached the top of the hill and the farm Mellow Park with the two tall blue gum trees was the last farm turnoff before Rookwood. Joy took over from me and led her down the hill towards the dip and then the last steep rise to the Rookwood turnoff on the left.
|the last uphill before Rookwood|
|the turnoff to Rookwood|
Clairebelle by now, I think had given up hope as to whether she would ever get to her destination.
|Joy and Clairbelle after a long day's walk|
She was led to the water trough in the camp and her halter removed and left to rest her weary feet.
The long and windy road - The Beatles