Our latest mini-adventure took us to the beautiful location of Sanctuary Farm which can be found at Lake Naivasha in Kenya. Sanctuary Farm can be found not far from Camp Carnelley’s at Lake Naivasha where we have previously stayed but this time, our visit to Sanctuary Farm coincided with a horse show. Mr Nomad and I embarked upon another wonderful camping expedition, this time taking the horse with us. The remaining elements of the Nomadic Family Unit stayed at home as Sanctuary Farm is a conservancy and home to many wild animals and we had no desire for our beloved pooches to be taken in the night by an errant hyena!
Sanctuary Farm is a 400 acre dairy farm which is covered in an Acacia forest on the southern shores of Lake Naivasha. The lake is a freshwater lake and is home to over 350 species of bird, whilst also accommodating hundreds of hippo. On the grounds of the farm itself, an abundance of wild life can be found in the form of waterbuck, Thomson’s Gazelle, Grant’s Gazelle, Impala, Maasai giraffe, Zebra, wildebeest (or Gnu), hyenas and apparently, pythons. Crescent Island is within walking distance of Sanctuary Farm, a magical place we had previously visited when we stayed at Camp Carnelleys. It is also around the corner from Mount Longonot and the iconic Hell’s Gate National Park. The purpose of this visit was however, to allow me to compete in my second horse show in Kenya. The setting was stunning and we revelled in how close we could get to the wild life, even with the horse in tow!
The horse show ran from Wednesday 6th November 2019 until Sunday 10th November 2019. Our arrival on Wednesday met with a vet inspection to ensure the horse was fit to compete, and then I jumped aboard and had a quiet ride round, if only to settle Charlie (a.k.a Miriam) into her new albeit temporary surroundings. We had a quick blast round a clear round of jumping but just took some time to take in the stunning setting of Sanctuary Farm.
Charlie was not at all perturbed by the wild life and seemed as curious about the giraffes as they were with her! She was not even bothered by the pitter patter of tiny monkey feet along the roof of the stables! Mr Nomad and I were in awe from the first day as to the beauty of the place, and the animals which were quite clearly habituated to humans and indeed, horses.
We set up the Thunderdome and settled down for the night, taking in the sounds of the wild life. As the sun set, we were privileged to see two dik dik gambolling around the garden where we had pitched the tent. We were surrounded by zebra and wildebeest mooching about and through the night, we could hear them munching on the grass around the tent! We could also hear the eerie noises made by hyena and whilst we didn’t see them, they sounded incredibly close. We chose not to leave the tent to investigate!
Thursday brought a round of show jumping. The fences were set at 1 metre and the class was an accumulator – points were scored for each fence jumped. Charlie jumped well in this class but we unfortunately, had a couple of knock downs and we crashed through the final fence which was a ‘joker’ fence so our score was simply not high enough to be placed. This was only our first class and I was happy to get through it with no mishaps and Charlie herself jumped well enough and did not get too excited. The knock downs were merely rider error.
Friday brought the start of the 2 day event and my dreaded dressage test as the first phase in this class. Charlie was superb whilst we were warming up and my hopes were high but by the time we entered the arena, boredom had set in and Charlie became argumentative and distracted. Our dressage test was not our finest moment!
That said, we did another show jumping class in the afternoon, and save for another knocked down fence, she jumped well and the disastrous dressage was put firmly behind us.
Saturday brought the hotly anticipated cross country phase of the event, followed by a further vet inspection and then the show jumping phase of the event. Mr Nomad and I had walked the cross country course the previous day and we had both thought that it was challenging. This did not help my nerves! Following our success at Mount Kenya Horse Show in Timau in August, I had felt that the pre-novice class in the event was too easy for Charlie so here at Sanctuary Farm, I had taken the steps (perhaps foolishly) to enter us into the next class up. This obviously involved bigger jumps and a little more technicality which after having seen the cross country course on foot, I was beginning to question whether this was too ambitious!
Mr Nomad and I had enjoyed the walk round the beautiful location and had revelled in the fact that the wild life was scattered amongst the jumps that I would face! The giraffe, waterbuck, zebra, impala, gazelle and wildebeest were completely undaunted by our presence and roamed freely, often nonchalantly galloping across our path, or blocking the jumps with a rather laissez- faire attitude.
I need not have been so worried. Mr Nomad had positioned himself strategically around the cross country course with a view to taking pictures, and we whizzed past him in sheer delight! Charlie was foot perfect and never so much as hesitated at what I considered to be slightly terrifying and far too robust obstacles. She was an absolute dream to ride!
I had been quite cautious with her and our time in getting round the entire course was a little slow, but she flew round and we achieved a magnificent clear round once more. I was more than happy to have been slow, not just because we went clear but we did so safely. There were no slips or trips, no stumbles, no hesitation and not once did her legs touch a fence. She cleared everything with ease. I had to remind myself that this was only our second show ever and we had already moved up a class.
Charlie did have much more in the tank but this stood us in good stead for the show jumping. She was again, jumping out of her skin and although we had one knock down, this was rider error (again) and I could not have been any happier with her performance. She kept trying, and never let me down and whilst we were not placed, we were amongst some of the elite in that we actually finished. The tough cross country course had tested many riders and their gallant steeds and not all had made it across the finishing line without penalties. Some did not make it across the finishing line at all. We lay in 9th position overall which I was incredibly pleased with, particularly when taking into account our poor dressage (again), the bigger and much more daunting class and the very fact that this was only our second show ever.
The final day brought our final show jumping class. This was 90cm jumps and although we were both tired, Charlie jumped a steady and beautiful clear round. We jumped once more in a ‘jump off’ to determine the final standings, where two knock downs brought us into 4th place.
After an intense few days, I could not have been prouder of how Charlie performed for me. Our dressage still requires more work but aside from this, Charlie tried so hard, she held herself together (as did I!) and she proved once more that she has so much more to give. Good pony!
Mr Nomad had been a terrific support to me at the horse show and I certainly could not have got through it without him. It turns out that he is rather a good photographer too. The horse show was great fun but rather exhausting given the searing heat and the lack of sleep in the Thunderdome, but Sanctuary Farm was a stunning setting. I have no doubt that we will return in the future. The wild life experienced was awe inspiring and reminded us how lucky we are to be in such a wonderful country.