Journey to Lake Natron and Back
by John Fuhring
Chapter 14
Admirable skills of the Ex-pats in Africa
and the limits of self reliance.

     Without a radio we had no idea what success our friend back in Arusha was having.  Jan had to assume the worst, that getting a part would take a while and we'd be stuck for a day or two or longer.  For a time it looked as if this would be the end of the safari, but our hero came to the rescue the next morning and Lisa decided to push on.  As I understood it, we would ride out on horseback while Jan got the truck back together.  If we didn't see the truck heading toward the next camp later in the day, we were to turn back.  Everybody had the greatest faith in Jan and the good parts he'd be installing that morning.

     One thing I greatly admire about Afrikaners like Jan and his family is their ability to improvise, adapt, build and repair with only the most meager parts and supplies.  I have always prided myself on those abilities too, but I only use them to save myself time and money and for the fun of it.  Here in this very remote part of the world, people have to be creative and inventive as a matter of survival.  I might add too, Jan and his family use their native intelligence, their high mechanical aptitudes and improvisational skills to make a great life for themselves and to get themselves out of situations that would completely stymie most people in "civilized" countries.  I see now that it was their improvisational skills that enabled the safari to get back to the Farm even though many things went wrong on this trip.

     Now having said that, here is one area where Lisa's family knows nothing and really needed some help.  I'm talking about foot care for the horses.  Yes, I'm going to start bitching about the shoeing again.  This aspect of the safari was inexcusable and I really need to tell more about it.  What I'm about to write isn't pleasant.  I don't take any satisfaction out of it and I'm sorry that what I'm about to write will be hurtful to those involved.  This is the way I saw and heard it and this is the way I felt about it.  And now I'm going to tell you about it.

     This was one time when the Afrikaner's virtue of self reliance and getting by with almost nothing JUST DIDN'T CUT IT and they should have known better and they should have done better.

     Earlier I told you that a couple of horses had lost a shoe and that some of the horses were started out without rear shoes.  By the time we got to this place, most horses (except mine) had lost at least one shoe, and some had lost all them.  All the feet that were without shoes were severely chipped up and worn down to the sensitive sole.  I was sure glad my horse still had his shoes because it is really miserable for me to ride an "ouchy" horse that I know is in pain every time it takes a step on hard ground.

     Before we started out this day, I noticed that Tom and his sister, Elizabeth  had decided to do some work on a couple of the horses' feet.  I was disappointed that they had not asked for my help although earlier I had stated my qualifications and willingness to help.  On the other hand, if they were competent to do trimming and shoeing, they certainly didn't need my help.  As it turned out, yes indeed they could have used my help, but there was precious little I could have done for them because they came equipped with almost no tools and no spare horseshoes.

     Immediately I could see they weren't even competent to pick up and put a horse's foot into position so it could be worked on.  If you look at my picture in chapter 11 you will see the standard way a farrier holds a rear foot.  Their method was to have one of them hold the foot up, while the other person used the tools.

     Speaking of tools, the only tools they had was a hoof pairer (like a giant pair of pincers with a cutting edge on one side), a farrier's rasp and a Leatherman folding pliers.  The rasp's tang had a golf ball stuck on it for a handle.  That's all they had.  They didn't have a farrier's knife, a shoe puller/spreader, a shoeing hammer, a cinch cutter, a cinching block, cinching pliers, nail pullers, portable anvil or a blacksmith's hammer.  These items are the bare essentials for doing any kind of foot care involving horseshoes.  They did not have even one, not one (1) spare shoe and not even one spare nail.

Minimum tools necessary for shoeing and foot care.
Hoof tester, shoeing hammer, blacksmith hammer, hoof knives, cinch cutter/pritchel, cinching block, rasp, hoof nippers, shoe puller/spreader, cincher, nail puller.

     I continued to watch while Elizabeth held up a front foot as Tom tried to remove the nails of the remaining shoe so the shoe could be removed.  Tom used - and I'm not kidding - a pocket Leatherman tool to remove the nails.  The right foot of this horse had lost its shoe days ago and the foot was worn down making the horse severely unbalanced in its stride.  Tom (rightly) figured he had better take off the shoe on the other side too.

     As I watched their clumsy efforts, I very much wanted to ask them to let me take the shoe off, but I knew better than to say anything.  After a minute or so I just turned away in disgust and yes, I was angry.  But, I had done my duty, I had offered my expertise and it was rejected.  It was hurtful to me to think that obviously they thought I wasn't the kind of person they could take into their confidence or trust to know what I was talking about.

     Maybe you're thinking that by this time we had come too far out into the brush and it was too late to do anything about the horses feet.  Perhaps the safari staff were only able to do as much as was possible under the circumstances.  Oh Bullshit!  That's bullshit.  If they could get a guy to come all the way from Arusha with a spare part for the Bedford, then there is no excuse why the shoer from the Arusha Polo Club could not have been brought out to do some emergency shoeing.  At the very least, somebody should have been sent back to get horseshoes and buy or borrow tools for ME to use to shoe those horses.  Yes, it would have been expensive to have a shoer come out from Arusha or they would have had to swallow a great deal of pride by asking for my help, but the horses feet really needed help - badly.  Help they didn't get.

     The fact that most of the horses were missing shoes by this time directly led to some bad decisions regarding our route when we arrived at Lake Natron and it certainly led to much unnecessary suffering by the horses.  I shall be addressing those bad decisions shortly.

     Again, I am sorry to have written the above and I'm sorry for what's going to follow - it's not nice either.  I swear to you that it was not written to be intentionally insulting to Lisa's family.  I want to tell you all right now that I have the greatest and most sincere admiration and regard for Lisa and her entire family.  My sincere hope is that the above criticism might someday help others make better decisions.  I want people to know that to accept help, generously offered, even from fools, is no disgrace and it may help prevent an even greater disgrace or even a disaster later.

     Please, let's get back to the story.

 Go to Chapter 15

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