This week saw the launch of Race the Wild Coast: a wildly exciting new breed of horse racing.
The race, which challenged the endurance of the brave horseback adventurers taking part, saw people from all over the globe signing up to accomplish this massive feat.
The event kicked off this past Saturday in Port Edward and was the highlight of many horse riders’ careers.
Riders, with teams of three horses each, competed for victory over almost 350km of rugged paradise on the remote and unspoiled east coast of South Africa; their goal – to navigate through challenging wilderness, swim across rivers and keep their horses fit for vet checks in a complex multi stage race. During the five-day race, there were two horse changes at prescribed points and each of the 12 stages ended with a vet check for the horses (every 20-40km). Only after passing these rigorous checks could horse and rider continue without penalty.
13 international and local competitors competed in this year’s inaugural event and embraced the challenge of being the very first brave riders to take on Race the Wild Coast. Prior to the race, riders had to prove they were up for the task at hand – by being physically fit, confident swimmers and comfortable in the wilderness, and of course, experts at GPS navigation.
Over the past several months the Rockethorse Racing team have planned the race down to the smallest detail, including a recommended track through the challenging terrain provided on GPS to aid the riders’ navigation; with one of the biggest challenges being that were no route markings on the ground.
Day one kicked off with competitors facing a full day of adventure, endurance, horsemanship, navigation, strategy and, of course, whatever Mother Nature threw at them. Katja Joachim (Germany) led the first 23km, with Sam Jones (Australia) and Sarah Cuthbertson (Canada) quickly closing in on her at the 55km mark. After the end of day one, Monde Khanyana (South Africa) caught up to second position.
Monde (34), the event’s only South African born rider, has been riding horses since he was a young boy, growing up in KwaZulu-Natal on a farm near Kokstad. He has experience in endurance riding, polocrosse and is currently involved with horse training in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. In 2013 he competed in the Mongol Derby, the world’s longest horse race, finishing in sixth place and winning the Horsemanship Award for best care of horses.
Day two saw Sam, Sarah and Monde neck and neck with Damyan Serovic (Guatamala) unfortunately having to drop out due to a knee injury and Malcolm Hozack (Ireland/ South Africa) having to stay behind at The Kraal, Mpande check point after he lost his way and was eliminated from the competition.
By day three, the race was split into three clear groups, with Sarah, Monde and Sam finishing tie at first place. The next group was Louise Crosbie (Australia), Stephanie ‘Stevie’ Murray (USA), Rose Sandler (USA) and Jamey Altman (USA), who were closely followed by Chris Maude (UK), Brent Albuino (Australia) and Katja. Malcolm was determined to continue along the track even though he had stopped riding competetively and spent the night at Hole-in-the-wall.
Day four was where the nerves, excitement and adrenaline all really kicked in, with Monde leading the way across the Mbashe River early on the 26th and Sarah and Sam very close behind. In a sad turn of events, Louise’s horse was judged unsound by the vets and she was out of the race.
Just before the leaders reached Kob Inn, another disaster struck when both Sam and Monde’s horses each lost a front shoe. In a show of true horsemanship, they elected to wait for the farrier before continuing, allowing Sarah to head out alone and in the lead on the penultimate stage of the race.
By the time Sam and Monde left Kob Inn, Sarah already had a 33-minute lead, but Sam’s horse Madonna and Monde’s horse Kadar were up for the job. They caught Sarah on the hills and Sam arrived at the Wavecrest vet check just seconds ahead of Sarah and Monde. The rest of the riders were not far behind, making it to the Kob Inn vet check in good time even after another couple of lost shoes.
With a momentous galloping finish, Monde took the win with the crew cheering him on across the finish line. After a tense wait for the horses to pass the last vet check, the results were in: Monde came in first, Sam second and Sarah in third, with just seconds between them. After that there was an almost three and a half hour wait to the next group of Jamey and Rose and another hour before Stevie, Katja, Chris and Brent crossed the line to complete the nine race competitors. Malcolm took it easy and arrived at the finish on day five.
Race organisers, Rockethorse Racing, consider Race The Wild Coast an incredible success. horses were provided by Moolmanshoek Endurance and Amra Arabians. Rockethorse Racing co-founder, Barry Armitage had this to say of the event: “We wanted this race to be the ultimate riding experience of these competitors’ lives, and we achieved that. This will be an annual event, and we hope to grow the field significantly next year. It’s something that any adventurous rider will want to tick it off their bucket list. We are currently looking at doing another race in Southern Africa, with a view to franchising the concept worldwide.”
The entire race was ‘commentated’ via social media and via live feed on the Rockethorse Racing website, allowing people to follow along from all over the world. Sponsors of the event included Epol, Striped Horse, KwikBeet and Spot GPS Trackers by RentX. The extremely capable horses were provided by Moolmanshoek Endurance and Amra Arabians.
If you’d like to catch all the race action in a feature-length documentary look out for Rockethorse’s Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign, where they’ll be raising funds for post-production of the footage taken. And if you think you have what it takes to compete in the next Race the Wild Coast adventure, contact Rockethorse Racing to apply on [email protected] or visit their website: http://rockethorseracing.co.za.