Show-jumping: a subculture in Zambia

One Sunday morning, I announced to my family that we’re going to see the horses. The kids were delighted, as usual, and got ready thinking, “We’re taking a ten-minute drive to the Lusaka Showgrounds where we always see horses.”

fullsizeoutput_5b1My husband raised his eyebrows thinking, “Oh, this is another one of Mali’s outings.”

“It’s the South Polocrosse Fields. Do you know where that is? In Lilayi somewhere?”

“No. Are you sure?”
I was sure the place existed and I was sure the event was happening, but I wasn’t sure what we would find there.


Boy, was it a surprise.

fullsizeoutput_5b2I am aware people in Zambia participate in polo and there is a large community surrounding horses, but nestled in a prime residential area of Lusaka is the Lusaka South Polo Club. It’s an exclusive members-only club, and the venue of today’s tournament. The fields are lush, pristine green, the clubhouse is an old-world house, and across the fields is the redbrick pavilion that perfectly matches its surroundings. The tournament itself, was a regional tournament. When you think regional, you’re thinking the southern African region, right? Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho? And when you think of people from those countries, most likely a black person will come to mind, right?

One would think.

fullsizeoutput_5b4At this show-jumping tournament, we were the black people and we were not even in the tournament! Three countries were represented: Zambia, Zimbabwe and Congo, DRC. It was for high schoolers, and mostly girls participating. I imagined later in the day there would be a polo match for the adults, because I saw one solo black Zambian man wearing his white jodhpurs (or whatever they call those tight riding pants) and riding boots walking around.

There was a pretty decent crowd, too, mostly family members supporting all the riders as their horses jumped the fences and the girls guided them through the show-jumping course.

My kids had fun watching all the jumping, tracking the horses speed up between gates, knocking over some poles, clearing others. They got to drink sodas and run around. But Hubby and I kept looking at each other, mouths agape, wondering how is it that this thriving sect exists in our city and we don’t know a single person in it or even remotely connected to it?

They seemed such a tight-knit, absolute community and we were outsiders.

It wasn’t a hostile or unfriendly environment, no-one questioned why we were there, though I wasn’t totally comfortable taking pictures. But over and over, I kept thinking: this is for white people and the white people can manoeuvre their way through this country, completely separate to us black Zambians. They send their kids to schools where they can learn the sport, they live on farms with horses and earn enough to support this lifestyle (let’s face it, keeping horses ain’t cheap!).

I was amazed, I still think back on that day with confusion. An entire subculture, thriving and enjoyed by many, completely invisible to the masses. Huh.

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