Heroes with Hooves

(25 April 2015)

In the last year we’ve had a lot of vandalism to South African statues. They have been painted, broken down and stolen. I understand that not all of the figures depicted in these statues have value to the complete spectrum of our rainbow nation. But… what did the horses do to anyone???

I’ve heard that the soldier holding a bucket of water for his thirsty horse at the Horse Memorial in PE was pulled over. A local equestrian, Tanja Radke, has replaced the bucket to ensure the horse doesn’t go thirsty.

Look back at our struggle for freedom, Trace our present day's strength to its source; And you'll find that man's pathway to glory Is strewn with the bones of the horse. ~Author Unknown~

These horses did not choose sides. None of them killed, or injured any human during war. These animals gave their lives to their owners; the Khakis, the Boers, the Impies. So, the theme of this newsletter is:


We saddled our own horses, Brom and Kapow, for the long trip to Lichtenburg. We packed a few home-made zamies, strapped on a liter of water and made sure our hip flasks were topped.

Just before Lichtenburg, we reined it in as the hunger started eating our intestines. We made a small picnic next to the road.

STATUE 1: General de la Rey on Bokkie

(22 Oct 1847 – 15 Sep 1914)

Bokkie is one of the best known horse companions in SA. He was always by his master’s side and would help Oubaas de la Rey through trying times.

On 2 December 1900, the Boers were informed that the British where on their way to Rustenburg over the Magaliesberg mountains. Lead by de la Rey they decided to ambush the British, but in fear of being seen they decided to wait till dark before they headed up the mountain using a small hidden footpath. De la Rey wrote in his diary:

The night was hard. Since the mountain is so high, we had to walk up by foot leading the horses up the path. If it was not for my old riding partner, Bokkie, that I could grab by the tail and he would drag me up the steep parts, I would not have had the energy to climb over this mountain.

Everybody knew about Bokkie, even if they’ve never met him before.

An elder in the church in Lichtenburg once asked the church council to act against his brother, because this brother thought Siener van Rensburg to be a prophet and believe every word he said. The council decided to investigate whether Siener was a man of God or a false prophet and appointed General de la Rey and dominee du Toit to conduct the investigation. En route to Siener’s farm, one of de la Rey’s horses, Bokkie, developed a problem, so he borrowed another to pull his cart. When they arrived at the farm, Siener immediately asked de la Rey where his ‘old friend’ was. What friend, the general asked, and Siener replied: “Old Bokkie. I saw that he was pulling the cart when you left Lichtenburg.” De la Rey and du Toit reported to the church council that Siener was unquestionably ‘a man of God’.

Tears would flow when a horse died. When General de la Rey’s horse Bokkie died, this same fearless fighter cried like a child. For days he did not speak to anyone. Bokkie died in his arms. Yes, a horse doesn’t vrek; it dies like a man.

We left Bokkie listening to the blêr of the speakers from a church service held in the park by a man that spends more time lifting weights in the gym than time lifting the Bible.

Our next stop was Bothaville.

…but danger seemed to loom ahead just behind the mielies.

We galloped our horses all along the brim of the storm and played just out of reach of the lightning.

We found the next horse statue at the Dutch Reformed church in the center of Bothaville town, but the gates were locked. We were still testing the palisade fencing when one of the burgers stopped and asked what we were up to. We explained that we needed to get a good kiekie of the horse and he then suggested we come back the next morning. It would be Sunday and the gates would be open as there was an early morning service. Aaahhh, we forgot about Sunday service. *bloos*

In the mean time we booked ourselves into the Kraai-family hotel. Vyfster, ek sê! They did not have a horse, but darn it - that dog behind the bike came close in size.

STATUE 2: Anglo-Boer War Memorial with unknown horse

(1899 – 1902)

This is a statue for all the Boers that died in the Anglo-Boer war. The statue is of a Boer freedom fighter with his horse, his gun and some far-lookers.

But, the Oom is standing on the ‘wrong’ side of the horse… Apparently this was a way for the Boers to identify their own people. If the man was standing on the right (in this case also the wrong side) of the horse, it was one of their own men.

We had a quick nagmaal and waved goodbye the pretty white pony. Next stop was Bloemfontein.

Our horses stretched their legs over the great flatness of the Free State.

In one of the mielie fields was a mob of horses. I’m no horse whisperer, but lets call these horses the Boer Ponies. Please don’t keep me to it – I know a Suzuki from a Yamaha, but to me horses are all tall with four hooves.

The Boer Pony is a calm, tough pony originating from South Africa. In the Boer wars, its great mobility and toughness helped the Boers move around and they were able to hold out against the British Empire, a force so numerically superior that the war should have been over within six months. This war turned out to be the longest and most expensive war for the British to date. GO BOER PERD!

But I think the invention of a machine called the bakkie maybe contributed to the fact that the Boer horse on the farm almost disappeared. That’s no laughing matter Bud!

While our long faced friends were neighing around, a fly found its way straight down my throat. I was hoesing and proesing much louder than any of the horses and eventually drowned a hopefully non-swimming fly.

With a fly swimming butterfly in my stomach we headed to Oliewenhuis Art Museum in Bloemfontein.

Kraai, that’s NOT a horse you Tjop!

On the front lawns there was an exhibition of South African historical figures. I couldn’t find one of Charley Cooper?!? That sculpture is probably in the basement busy stripping his Triumph.

STATUE 3: King Sandile with unknown horse

(1820 – 1878)

He was a King, Warrior, Resistance Fighter and Legend.

During a war with the British he was mortally wounded. There are a few gruesome legends about what happened with his remains, but I don’t have a PG rating on this newsletter to post some of those stories. One of the better stories is that he was buried with a Pommie on each side (guess that would be the two Pommies that drew the shortest straws?). This was to ensure that the King did not ‘roam’.

STATUE 4: King Hintsa with unknown horse

(1789 – 1835)

He was a king known for his wise sayings.

“Love your cattle; my people love me because I love my cattle. I therefore exhort you to love your cattle as I have done.”

In 1835, Hintsa was lured into a British camp for peace negotiations but he found himself held hostage. In a dash for freedom he was pulled off his horse and brutally killed and mutilated by the British soldiers.

We took the shortest route through the city to a corner with a MASSIVE horse statue!

STATUE 5: Christiaan de Wet on Fleur

(1854 – 1922)

General de Wet’s son Kotie bought the 8 year old Fleur in 1899 for 30 pounds.

But de Wet was not impressed the first time he saw the horse. His first reaction was that the English would see him from miles away on a white horse and shoot him dead. In the end he took the white Arab horse and called him Fleur (French for flower). Fleur was to carry de Wet steadfastly through many battles and across thousands of ‘unseen’ miles on the veld.

Fleur was always anxious when the Khakis were near. Maybe that is why he did not recognize the hensoppers (traitors) that took General de Wet captive. He must have thought they were his own people.

You never know it’s hensoppers until it is too late…

We left to find the Women’s Monument on the outskirts of town, where two horse statues stood.

STATUE 6: Agterryer with unknown horse

Dedicated to the memory of the Agterryers who served with the Boers during the Anglo-Boer war.

The term Agterryer refers to about 12 000 black men who served voluntarily with the Boers. They had general assistant duties like cooking and cleaning but the most important duty was to look after the Boers horses.

STATUE 7: Afskeid with unknown horse

A Boer soldier bids his wife and child farewell (afskeid) after being called to war against Britain.

On our way out of the city we rode past Naval hill.

STATUE 8: Naval Hill’s White Horse


Standing on Naval Hill, is the famous White Horse, a sculpture set-up during the Anglo-Boer war by the Wiltshire Remount Depot’s men (the horse is a replica of a similar horse in Wiltshire, England). It is about 20m long, from head to tail, and about 12m high. The massive statue was an excellent landmark for the British cavalry who were returning to the depot. At this remount camp (or horse hospital for the Afrikaans-English speaking readers) the horses for troops were nursed back to good health.

The collectors of these remounts had to travel miles over unfamiliar country to round the horses up and needed some visual guidance back to camp. So it was decided to provide them with a direction marker. "Make for the White Horse" became the instruction given to the men bringing the remounts into the city.

It is also believed that every time someone receives a kiss at Naval Hill, the large White Horse moves one step forward. Look closely, there’s a well-trodden footpath right around this hill…


That night we staid over in Kroonstad, a town named after a horse (Kroon aka crown) that drowned in a river where the town is now located.

On our way back to Pretoria we stopped at the Tower Service Station and café for some biltong and koodrank. The owner came out and gave us some of the vegetable curry his family was having for lunch. This was by far the best veggie-meal we’ve ever had.

First stop in Petoorsdorp was the Voortrekker Monument. Kraai horsing around…

Voortrekker Monument

(1937 - 1949)

The Voortrekker Monument was built between 1937 and 1949. The Monument commemorates those pioneers who participated in a migration between 1835 and 1854 called the Groot Trek (Great Trek) which had nothing to do with the amount of zol that was smoked in the early adventure years. During this period approximately 15 000 pioneers moved northward across the Orange River and Drakenberg into the interior of South Africa.

RELIëF: The Battle of Blood River

(16 December 1838)

The Battle of Blood River is the name given for the battle fought between 470 Voortrekkers, led by Andries Pretorius; and an estimated 15 000 – 21 000 Zulu attackers on the bank of the Ncome river on 16 December 1838. Casualties amounted to 3000 of king Dingane’s soldiers dead, including two Zulu princes. Three Voortrekkers were lightly wounded, including Pretorius himself.

After more than two hours of fierce battle, the Zulus withdrew in defeat. They fled through the river that had turned red with blood (Blood River).

Pretorius gave orders that a 100 mounted men chase after the fleeing Zulus.

There are a few other horse reliefs in the monument (Marthinus Oosthuizen, Thérèsa Viglione and Piet Retief)

RELIëF: Battle of Gabeni

During the Nine-Day-Battle (Battle of Gabeni) the Ndebele warriors decided that they had to stand on the same footing as the attacking Boers. The Boers were on horses, but not having any horses to go head-to-head with, they took their oxen and sharpened their horns.

But the oxen, at first smell of blood, stampeded away from the fighting front and in the process trampeled a few of the Ndebeles. You can take an ox to war, but you can’t make him fight.

Into the city of Jacarandas to meet Oom Andries, whose apparently a Skinny forefather.

STATUE 9: Andries Pretorius

(1798 – 1853)

During the Battle of Blood River there was a few ‘vreemdelinge’ (strangers) that supported the Boers in the battle. When the Zulus fled and Andries gave order that the horses be mounted and the Zulus tracked down, one of the strangers jumped on the first horse available. But this was Pretorius’ horse and he then had to use one of the other horses.

But this horse was uneasy. One of the Zulus saw that Andries was having problems and stormed in attack. Andries jumped off the horse to block the attacker, but the Zulu’s spear went straight through his left hand. In the ensuing wrestle, Andries tried to get his knife out of his pocket, but it was a bit difficult with a spear still stuck through his hand. Two of the other Boers came to Andries’ help.

The next morning they decided to track down the Zulus again. Another piece of interesting man-horse history unfolded.

While the Boers on horse waddled through a river, the Zulus gave a surprize attack. The Zulus was on horses with guns??? In the chaos that ensued the Voortrekkers started screaming out orders. All of a sudden the Zulu horses started bucking and kicking. The Zulus were thrown from their horses and the battle was won.

But why did the horses react that way?

Turned out that it was the murdered Piet Retief’s horses and when they heard the Afrikaans orders they obeyed… loyally.

How times have changed? Michelle shot a few Skaterboys – AND THEY LIKED IT!

Off to the Union Buildings…

STATUE 10: Castor and Pollux

(1914, 1918)

A statue of two men symbolizing the Greek and Roman mythological figures of Castor and Pollux clasping hands over a war horse’s back. The twins had one mother and two different fathers, one mortal (Castor) and one immortal (Pollux).

The horse represents a physical energy, while the two figures would be two different nationalities of South Africa, clasping hands in friendship.

STATUE 11: General Louis Botha

(1862 - 1919)

General Botha was a heavy man weighing 140kg with his saddle. His favourite horse was a big skimmel called Charlie that could trot 12km per hour with Botha on his back.

But why does Charlie have one hoof in the air? Does this not mean the rider died of wounds succumbed during the battle?

“There is a lot of folklore about equestrian statues, especially the ones with riders on them. There is said to be a code in the number and placement of the horse's hooves: If one of the horse's hooves is in the air, the rider was wounded in battle; two legs in the air means that the rider was killed in battle; three legs in the air indicates that the rider got lost on the way to the battle; and four legs in the air means that the sculptor was very, very clever. Five legs in the air means that there's probably at least one other horse standing behind the horse you're looking at; and the rider lying on the ground with his horse lying on top of him with all four legs in the air means that the rider was either a very incompetent horseman or owned a very bad-tempered horse.”

~ Terry Pratchett ~

perde is motorfietse wat jou dra na avonture

wat geroskam word om te glim in die dag

perde van staal het wiele met spore

wat diep trap in harte van duiwels wat jaag

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