Lesotho Horse Racing
A network of rivers and mountain ranges crisscross the high-altitude, landlocked nation of Lesotho, which is bordered by South Africa and home to the 3,482m-tall Thabana Ntlenyana peak. Ruins from King Moshoeshoe I’s rule in the 19th century can be found on the Thaba Bosiu plateau, close to Maseru, the capital of Lesotho.
Horse racing is a significant social event in Lesotho, a mountain kingdom in landlocked southern Africa that is surrounded entirely by South Africa.
The two most prestigious days are King Letsi III’s birthday in July and Independence Day in October. Races are held here once a month throughout the winter. Gambling is a significant component of competition, as it is in most competitive sports.
Prior to each race, the horses are paraded in front of the public, who evaluates their ancestry, structure, and fitness before the betting starts. The majority of bets are head-to-head wagers on which of two chosen horses will be faster, as opposed to picking the overall race winner.
The horses are either thoroughbreds from the neighboring country of South Africa, cross-breeds or local ‘Basotho’ ponies that are often better suited to the terrain and climate, and are still used for everyday transport in the country.
Mohale Mpapa, a leading racehorse owner and the local farmer says of the racing in Lesotho, “It’s an entertainment but it’s also our culture.”
Without the racing gates you see in the Western world, the horses line up chaotically and, with the wave of a small white flag by an official steward standing precariously close to the racetrack of rough grasslands, they set off at a furious pace.
Undoubtedly a bizarre image, it features the stunning Blue Mountains, a rocky dirt track, excellent horse meat, and jockeys wearing gumboots. It’s hardly the Melbourne Cup or Royal Ascot, but it is a distinctive cultural festival.
The races are expanding as a cultural event and have government support to increase tourism to a nation with a distinct heritage separate from neighboring South Africa.
Price For Winners For Lesotho Horse Racing
The owners of the first four horses in each race win between $20 and $70, and while it may not sound like much money to our Western ears, it means a lot to the people of Africa. According to several reports, there is more than $1000 in prize money up for grabs.
Horse racing in Lesotho mixes the love of horses for the viewers, many of whom are dressed in traditional blankets, with an opportunity to test their luck and betting skills. It also unites individuals from all walks of life for the cultural experience, which is probably even more significant.
References: The Daily Mail and African News
Images via The Lesotho Times and African Independent