TITLE: A Horse Deserves the Best
By William Stevenson
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A Horse Deserves the Best.
Amba Alagi was a superbly built bay, gelding of large proportions so that a special stable-hand was assigned to care for him. I can still picture the magnificent thoroughbred standing proud after winning a race.
First let’s talk about George, stable-hand extraordinary. George was a Zulu, whereas most of our stable-hands were from Basutoland. He was over seven foot tall and extremely well built. He often fascinated me by performing trumpet solos just with his lips. He would say, “If I had a trumpet I could outplay Louis Armstrong,” and I was certain he could. He had given himself the name George in honour of his chief, King George of England, who had defeated Dingaan.
When I was twelve years old George would take hold of my waistband with his right hand and hold me above his head at arms length. Because of his strength George was assigned to take care of this exceptional animal, Amba Alagi.
Amba Alagi was no ordinary racehorse and he did our stables proud: winning the coveted Durban July Handicap and the Gold Cup among other races. Sadly even horses grow old, and Amba Alagi reached an age when he needed to be retired from racing. Being a gelding, he could not be used for breeding, which meant that he was sold to be used as a polo pony, and disappeared from our lives. Or so it seemed. He was taken many miles from where we lived.
About four years later a mangy, dilapidated horse appeared in our stable yard and the stable-hands sought to drive it out of the place for fear our thoroughbreds would be contaminated with mange. My mother saw them through the kitchen window. She threw open the window and cried, “George! That’s Amba Alagi!” George ran to take another look and came back to exclaim, “True as God Missus; it is Amba Alagi!”
Out of respect for the great horse and to show him our appreciation we gave him room and called the vet to see if anything could be done for him. The vet regretted that the disease had gone too far and once again Amba Alagi must leave us.
The next day my elder brother and I went down to the local river to play and witnessed the local police officer shoot Amba Alagi, we cried bitterly and were told it was for the best. At that time, for us two little boys Amba Alagi was the best. For years the photographs of him winning the two great races stood above our mantelshelf and we believe he went to horses’ heaven.
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