I love horses!
They are some of humanity’s best friends. They willingly work hard for us on farms and help us in our recreation and sport. One sport that is popular the world over is horse shows. I have a small glass case of six ribbons (mostly pink and green with one yellow ribbon, I confess) that I would never have won were it not for the willing cooperation of horses!
Horses have been a part of South Africa’s history for many centuries. Lesotho and South Africa boast the famous Basuto pony, a small, heavy limbed, hardy horse, usually gray, bay, chestnut or black in color. It is also known as the Basotho pony. The breed has a heavy jaw, exceptionally hard hooves that do not need shoes, relatively short legs, a deep chest and a longish back. The average height is 14.2 hands or 147 centimeters (measured at the withers), so they are actually horses and not ponies, which are defined as under 14 hands in height. The above physical features are all related to the Basuto pony’s sure-footedness on rough, rocky terrain, an asset making the Basuto a popular and reliable horse used extensively during the Boer War. They are gaited horses since they have five gaits: the walk, the trot, the canter, the pace and the triple (trippel). The Basuto pony also has a friendly attitude. The Basuto is said to have originated as a cross between Thoroughbreds, Javanese, Arabian and Persian horses during the middle of the 17th century. The Dutch and Portuguese brought these horses to southern Africa. The Zulus crossed them with their own ponies and so a smaller size resulted. They were so strong and hardy that many horses were later exported to Europe and the United Kingdom to serve as war horses. The Cape Horse was crossed with the breed but it was developed into its own breed of larger size. The people of Lesotho and South Africa are very proud of their Basutos and use them in addition to or in place of mechanized farm machinery, but do not use them as draft animals, preferring cattle for that purpose. The breed is used in polo and racing and is also a part of the tourism industry. Many a visitor to Lesotho is carried on holiday on the back of the rugged little horse. Undocumented crossbreeding during the early to mid-20th century, when people all over southern Africa began to rely less on horses, caused a decline in the numbers of pureblood Basuto ponies. Because the breed was in danger of extinction the Irish and Lesotho governments worked together to save the breed. In 1978 the National Stud was established and now we can ride the Basuto pony on pony treks.