Swear words. Lots of them. That was me two Sundays ago, after receiving a reminder from a colleague not to forget to collect her on my way to the office on Monday morning.
The reason for the swearing while dialling my morning alarm back to sillier than normal o’clock was that I’d cavalierly promised to help BEFORE realising I’d already accepted the invitation to join Snaith Racing for their annual beach breakfast outing in Muizenberg that same morning. We’ve just got through breeding season, Christmas and New Year – honestly, does anyone know what day of the week it is yet, never mind the date?
But having offered, I couldn’t very well retract, so turned in early (possibly a worse offense in my book than the early start) as graciously as possible, consoling myself with the thought that no bad day has ever started with watching horses on the beach.
Arriving as promised for the collection, we sped our way down the N1, dodging traffic as I attempted to report back on the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate weekend and the fact that with a single day’s break (less for most of us), we were throwing ourselves headlong into another crazy week.
As I related the weekend’s highlights reel and described some of our racing folks, I ended up a little in awe of all of us and our capacity for hard work, hard play and that endless appetite to cheerfully take on whatever life has to throw at us next. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded.
The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
There is a little joke that runs ‘If God wants to punish you, he gives you a love for animals’. If you are a horse person, life is lived with your foot firmly wedged on the accelerator (we don’t seem to have quite as healthy a grip on the steering wheel, but that’s a story for another day…). It’s a never ending cycle of breeding, racing or sales season – with the fixtures often overlapping or swapped around – and then of course our horses like to create some additional entertainment in between, just to keep things interesting.
If you’re South African, the ante is upped significantly for December, January and February. With foals still being caught and the stragglers in the broodmare band optimistically making last visits to their chosen stallions, it’s somewhat pointless asking horse folks about their ‘Christmas break’. It may be a holiday, but horses still need to be fed, cleaned and exercised and as they don’t take days off, well, neither do we.
But we love it. Somehow the horses get sorted, the chores get done, trees get decorated, presents get wrapped and festive feasts prepared and enjoyed. There’s just time to digest dinner and herald the arrival of another year, before it’s time to rue the festive excesses agonising over something blue and white for the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate Festival.
What Racing Is All About
I thought the LQP Festival was a particularly good event this year, which set the stage in such a way as to bring out all the best elements of what racing is about. Although one has come to expect a good day out, it merits emphasising that it was top class from start to finish and huge thanks and kudos are due to the army of runners, riders and organisers that made it all happen.
The Snaith Racing beach outing has become almost as firm a fixture on the calendar and is undertaken in very much the same vein. While this is usually scheduled before the running of the Queen’s Plate to give the press and selected guests the chance to see their big guns up close, this year’s event was scheduled on the Monday after Queen’s Plate weekend and with people comparing notes and highlights proved the perfect bridge from the festival to the serious business of the CTS Premier Sale.
The morning was absolutely made to order and the horses created a beautiful tableau splashing through the waves beneath a peerless blue sky. Charged with coffee from the excellent coffee station, admirers meandered down the beach in knots to chat, take photos and appraise their favourites up close.
The runners were beautifully turned out in their distinguishing saddle cloths and although there were lead ponies on hand just in case, as always, everyone was impeccably behaved and a credit to their team. It was particularly fun to see a seal playing in the waves close to the beach the moment the float turned up. I gather this has become a regular occurrence. He seems to have nominated himself an unofficial member of the team and regularly turns up to play and splash alongside the string on their walks.
With the horses’ legs cooled and their lungs filled with sea air, the grooms pulled the saddles from their backs and the air filled with shrill whistles as the horses were enticed to roll and stretch in the soft beach sand. Even after a good shake, each horse kept a frosting of sand on their coats, making them sparkle like giant sugar mice.
All too soon it was time for them to board the float and the crowd watched wistfully as the truck pulled off down the road.
Those who wanted to make the morning last just a little longer, joined the convoy for the short drive to the gorgeous Casa Labia. Courtesy of Snaith Racing and the Dish Team, we had the great treat of having it all to ourselves for a fabulous leisurely brunch and the chance to meet and catch up with any fellow breakfasteers we may have not have got round to on the beach.
What I love most is that there is no shop talk from the hosts. No hard sell, no post Queen’s Plate excuses or hard luck stories. It’s simply a gathering for the time-honoured tradition of breaking bread with one another in the spirit of gratitude – for our horses, for the excuse to stand on a beach on a Monday morning and for the extraordinary privilege of simply being alive. Not only a great excuse for a gathering, but a great attitude to life in general.
But as I said, no bad day has ever started with horses and a walk on the beach.
A huge and heartfelt thanks to Snaith Racing and their entire crew for a glorious day out.