I don’t usually follow cricket. Not enough horses involved. But I was fascinated to read about the Afghan cricket team, which has been in the news recently.
Cricket took off in Afghanistan in the 1990s, in the refugee camps. British soldiers taught the children to play, using makeshift equipment — sticks for bats and tennis balls wrapped in gaffer tape for balls. In the total absence of any other entertainment, it began to flourish.
The first national team was formed in 2001, and they did not have a formal ground to play on for another four years or so. In February last year they won their first Cricket World Cup match, beating Scotland, (wich does make me wonder what the Scots practise with — a caber and a haggis?) and they are currently playing in the 2016 World Cup.
The team have become icons of positivity across the country. The hope is that young men will be encouraged to pick up bats and balls instead of guns.
I make the point because they have achieved all this in a war torn country with the bare minimum of equipment and support.
It’s such an uplifting story, and it makes me reflect that sometimes we make our chosen sport of horse riding a bit more complicated than it needs to be. Hands up, for example, if at the first sign of a problem you reach for a new bit of kit rather than just working through it.
If you are anything like me you have a drawerful of bits that you tried once in the search for a perfect outline and then abandoned because they didn’t quite work as you wanted them to. Likewise a selection of nosebands, training aids, martingales. Maybe you’d like to confess to a ridiculous large pile of rugs per pony, bought because you couldn’t resist the colour or because you didn’t quite have one the right weight for today’s weather. Not to mention the wardrobe of jodphurs and jackets, the grooming products, the feeds and supplements. And of course the infrastructure. All-weather arenas and even horsewalkers are considered essential these days. There’s even a smattering of horsey solariums (solaria?), hydrotherapy spas and swimming pools around the country.
I constantly bemoan the fact that our local planning authority will not permit me to install a sand school at home. We have the best hacking in the world, but we have to get in the lorry if we want to ride in circles. Really, I need to get over myself. It’s perfectly possible and very rewarding to do basic regular schooling out on a hack, and the ponies probably enjoy it more.
So next time you are tempted by the latest widget, just remember that to have a perfectly nice time all you actually need is:
- A pony (or horse)
- A headcollar and rope
- A saddle and bridle (although the Red Indians managed)
- A dandy brush and hoof pick
Wishing everyone lots of lovely uncomplicated riding and lots of chocolate over the Easter break.