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Wednesday, October 20, 2004

OUT ON A HORSE by Sanjeevani Seneviratne

Last Saturday morning I drove to Kandalama to be greeted by Chandrika and her team comprising Kasthuri, Neelam, Sham, Saroj, Mummal, Suman and Nabila who had travelled from Colombo separately the previously night for the safari.

The truth is they were all horses who knew everything about the "riding safari" that was to start in Dambulla surrounding the lake and end off in a ride around the Sigiri rock the following day.

The safari team included eight riders lead by Suranjith Premadasa, eight back up riders, two Indian vets and three drivers. Other than the riding gear, the double cab was well equipped with first aid and refreshments for the horses and the riders. The entire track had been thoroughly checked by the Premadasa group prior to venturing on this well planned safari.

Some of the fresh horses were a little difficult and had to be 'bribed' with sugar! But given half an hour, the tired herd trotted and galloped and beautiful to watch.

"Assayo Enava hemin yanne", "Assayo Enava hemin yanne"... that was the cab driver Jayatilleke warning the trickling oncoming traffic in the hot, dry jungle.

That was part of his job other than keeping in permanent tab with Suranjith via walkie-talkie to check on any emergencies, needs or unwarranted situations. A mini van drove along too, to pick up any tired riders.

In spite of the warnings, the villagers young and old came out of their houses and stood along the roadside with awe to witness this cavalcade.

When we camped at Elephant Corridor for lunch some riders did a beautiful canter with expert horsemanship while some stretched their tired legs. But the ever-energetic horses took a chance to play and bathe in the nearby lake.

Suranjith Premadasa serves as the president of The Equestrienne Association of Sri Lanka. This is the national body for horse riding in Sri Lanka which is affiliated to the Federation of Equestrienne International. The good news is that he plans to hold many more horsey events such as polo, reigning, show jumping and dressage.

So, brace yourselves horse lovers, you have more to look forward to.

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