To understand what that means, horses are creatures of habit, flight animals whose early histories in the wilds were punctuated with the petrifying sight of stalking predators, and they have an inbuilt sense of distrust of anything they don’t know. In the right hands however, and with a sympathetic education, they will follow their handlers through brick walls; witness their feats of daring and courage celebrated in the screen hit, War Horse.
Time was when the youngsters were raised rough and ready, unaccustomed to human intervention until a matter of weeks before they were asked to step aboard the odd-looking crates that comprise a horse float. The result was pandemonium. In those days, rituals developed around the departure of these precious animals, crafted in the traditions of the horsemen of yore. The local headmaster at Mpofanyana Junior decreed a day off for his pupils, who joined their mothers at the loading ramps in soothing serenades to console a process proclaimed by a man in his late 80s. Nkomiyaphi Mbanjwa was never quite certain of his age though, and in some betting markets, he was priced up in the early 90s. Literally translated, his appellation means “where are the cattle going?”. The old fellow’s shuffling countenance would confront me at the onset of December when the agapanthus were coming into bloom, with a directive that the yearlings should already have commenced their preparations for the sale. The advent of the cosmos in March was a reminder that here was just a month to apply the finishing touches, and now the “falling stars” signal the loading time.
You see, Nkomiyaphi was a traditional old Zulu, who never knew the inside of a classroom, and apart from Christmas day (which he knew as “bonus day”), he’d never lived by the Western calendar. His intuitions were informed by the rhythms of the seasons and the prompts of nature, which dictate the routines at Summerhill. He was 102 when we buried him, and like the horses, he went off to the sounds of a lilting serenade.
Greig Muir & Bronwyn Goss (p)