FEI – This is the story of an adventurous and zealous horse doted with a multitude of talents called Nickelby. He is a ten year old Thoroughbred gelding (out of a mare by a stallion given to the Jockey Club of Kenya by HRH Aga Khan) who won six races in Kenya before moving on to Eventing, Jumping and Dressage. He occasionally finding the time to provide a sturdy mount on safaris. All was going just swellingly until…

Nickelby had been solicited to partake in a safari outing in September of this year in Loldaiga, Kenya. All the horses arrived safely on the farm in the morning but it was in the middle of the night, at the darkest hour, that the beginning of what would be an unforgettable story began to unfold. Thirty odd zebra went galloping past the tents where some of the safari goers were safely tucked in; a few moments later the horses started to move around in their boma just below camp.

The electric fence around them was on and there were three grooms in three tents on the corners. It all started to get very frantic as the grooms tried to calm the horses, but suddenly their poignant words echoed in the deep darkness “Bwana, Bwana, simba, simba”. Two of the safari goers leapt out of their tents and into two vehicles, with a groom and a tracker.

It turned out that Nicklebly had jumped out of the boma as the lions had jumped in! The grooms instructed them which course he had taken, the spotlights went on and the search began. Tracks were found and lost, until they began to follow a large trail of blood. The lions had also picked up on the trail, but were chased off by the vehicles.

Two kilometers from camp, and having lost track of the trail numerous times, Nickelby was finally found standing amongst a herd of zebra. He had lost a lot of blood and was standing with a section of the skin on the side of his abdomen hanging down; a vein in the side was bleeding profusely as well as a large tear in the muscle. If Nickelby were to have any chance at surviving, the bleeding would have to be stopped.

Flat canvas cushions, a tarpaulin, duct tape and rope found in the back of the vehicle were improvised as make-shift bandages – there in the middle of the night, in the middle of the National Park – while some of the other safari goers, who as racehorse trainers and point-to-point jockeys, well able to help with the more technical veterinary things, were fetched.

Naturally, the lions kept a close watch. Once the team had been assembled, extra guards and the safari goers (and a handy veterinary kit), a couple of large fires were built and the night watch began…

Nickleby also had a huge chunk missing out of his buttock and had almost lost his tail – with a deep bite mark at the base. They immediately administered a large shot of antibiotic, as lions claws are famous for carrying bacteria and causing terrible infections and gave him a shot of painkiller to stop the pain and shock. Water, with rehydrate powder, was offered to him every ten minutes or so and he had a mouthful every now and again. It was going to be an interminable night, the lions kept a close watch, as did the guards.

They were relieved in the morning by the safari goers, Nickelby ate a few mouthfuls and was apparently holding up well, sore as you can imagine but no signs of dehydration or shock. The vet arrived at about 11am and it was decided to move Nickelby before the stitching began as afterwards he shouldn’t be moved too much – lest we forget Nickelby had a sure fan club of lions nearby.

Loading him on to the lorry was easy and he was most obliging. The stitching began, and at some point after 300 they lost count (although it was probably double that in the end). Nickleby then spent the next few days in the hay barn, being waited on hand and foot before he was moved back to Nanyuki.

Four weeks later, and Nickleby was recovering extremely well.

And now for the perfect ending, it is now three months since his ordeal and Nickelby is set to compete in Dressage and Jumping (105m) at the Horse of the Year Show in Kenya in three days time!!!

So if ever you’re feeling like you’ve had a touch of bad luck, just think of Nickelby …

Thank you to Mary Binks (KEN) and the McConnell family for the amazing details of this story.