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  • Writer's pictureNondiarist

A Horseman Called Hammond

One – A young man makes history

The Sunday Mail reports:

“A young African man made history at the Salisbury Showground yesterday. He became the first African to compete in an equestrian show ring event in Rhodesia.”

Yes, by “African man” they meant black man. And yes, it was unheard of, at the time, in that country.

Yet the horsey community welcomed and encouraged him. Possibly contrary to common belief, there were no rules prohibiting black Africans from entering equestrian sport events in Rhodesia. Several others, although employed as grooms, went on to compete as well.

Hammond, however, turned out to be a major prize-winner. He held his own among all competitors of all races as an elegant and skilled rider. The text of the Sunday Mail article is testament – it was a show ring debut for both Hammond and his mount, High View, and the pair finished in third place.

Looking through the article, I’m guessing that those of you who aren’t very au fait with the terms or the technicalities of equitation will be wondering what the hell a ‘flying change’ is when it’s at home. This seems like a complete aside but it’s very relevant in this tribute to Hammond.

Try to picture a horse cantering. Can you see that there’s always one foreleg that extends further than the other? Now it makes sense that this is the left foreleg if you’re cantering a circle to the left (we won’t go into counter-canter here right now). Okay?

So now, if you want to ride a figure of eight in your canter and change to circle to the right instead, your horse needs to somehow switch its leading leg to the other one and it can actually do this between one stride and the next. This is called a flying change of leg and most horses are very capable of doing it out in the field.

For a rider, however, it can be a pretty challenging task to instruct the horse to execute this on command, involving some subtle movements of the seat – aka the backside – and the legs. It takes skill and an instinctive feel for what the horse is doing under you. Hammond wasn’t just capable of performing these competently on a trained horse – he could teach an inexperienced horse to do them.

Have a look at the ultimate achievement in this movement – the one stride ‘tempi changes’. Just like skipping, really…….

No, I’ve never even attempted that.

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