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A Horseman Called Hammond

Two – A life of loving horses

It was Hammond’s unfortunate love of the bottle that led to him becoming Nina Williams’s right hand man for so many years.

The love of horses ran in his family. His father had worked with them in the British South Africa Police and when his manager, Leslie Gaylard, retired from the force, he followed, to work with the Gaylards at their new Broadlands Equitation School.

Hammond was born at Broadlands. As a youth he was trained in equine management and also to ride, the Gaylards being leading dressage competitors at that time. He moved on and ended up working at the Marlborough Riding Centre, north of Harare, at the same time as Nina’s daughter, Sian. The two of them began a friendship that would last for life.

Ronnie Lawrence, owner of the riding centre and well respected in the horsey community, employed Sian part time. Hammond had started struggling with the weakness for drinking that affected him all his life and Ronnie eventually lost patience and sent him packing. Sian grabbed her opportunity. Hammond’s stable management knowledge and riding skills were too good to let go. She drove off with him in her parents’ Austin Westminster and he remained with the Williamses for the rest of his career.

For sure, Hammond knew and loved horses. He was an intuitive horseman and he would school or lunge my horse, Telstar, for me if I was on holiday or unable to get to the yard as often as I liked in any given week. It was he who spotted Telstar moping about in the paddock one Saturday, his instinct telling him that the unusual behaviour was a sign of something wrong. He marched up the road to Nina’s house to instruct her to call the vet; sure enough, Telstar was diagnosed with a form of equine influenza.

He was empathetic and competent with ailing horses, able to treat, dress and bandage wounds and to administer intravenous and intra muscular injections to the most suspicious of his charges. He competently rode horses of the type often described as ‘sharp’ – the same type that get advertised innocuously as ‘Not a novice ride’.

One of these was Great Scot, an ex-racehorse with a reputation for having an inner yearning to be a rodeo bronc. The trouble with Scotty, who stood over 17 hands tall, was his spontaneity; his bronco impersonations came out of nowhere. I didn’t ride him often but inevitably I got to do an impersonation of a limpet, which was clearly pretty good because I stayed in the saddle. I’m told the display only lasted thirty seconds but believe me when I say it felt a whole lot longer than that. His notoriety was boosted by the fact that in the end he was one of the only two equines Hammond refused to ride.

As for the other one….. well he would’ve been able to walk under Scotty’s belly if either of them had been brave enough to attempt the stunt. Having said that, you don’t mess with Shetland ponies, so maybe the indomitable Mighty Mouse would’ve taken up this challenge. Hammond, always up for laughing at himself, loved to take up a dare and Mighty Mouse loved to take adult riders who dared to dare down a peg. “Let’s see if he’ll buck you off THIS time,” was MM’s cue for “Hell yeah!” It was a double act.

The 1980s was the first decade of independent Zimbabwe and Sian made an attempt to obtain sponsorship for Hammond’s competitive career from local black businessmen. She had useful contacts but there was no success. Most of them felt that sponsoring only one black competitor didn’t give them sufficient advertising exposure. It was a sad fact that Hammond was one of very few. The Williamses had a few horses on which he could compete and they continued to encourage him to do so. In a few months he trained a Warmblood/Connemara cross called Shannon from absolute basics to win a Novice Dressage Championship in front of an international judge.

Refugee(gee), Prince, rescued by Sian and schooled up by Hammond to be turned into a safari horse in the Mavuradona Mountains.

Wedding ponies with Flower Girl, Maid of Honour, Flower Boy and Gent of Honour

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