These pics from Semonkong's annual horse race will have you packing your bags for Lesotho

2018-07-26 13:08 - Gabi Zietsman
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Jockeys on horses in a race in lesotho highlands

In Semonkong, the celebrate the Lesotho king's birthday with an annual horse race. (Photo: Semonkong Lodge)

Lesotho has expansive mountains, enough cool air to sort out any city slicker's lungs and culture that's quite unique for such a small landlocked country - especially their skill and passion for horse racing.

A big event for locals and a great chance for travellers to immerse themselves as spectators, you'll find one of the top races in 'the place of smoke' - Semonkong. It derives its name from Maletsunyane Falls, one of the highest single dropping waterfalls in the southern hemisphere and the spot for the highest commercial abseiling descent in the world.

It's not just the water creating smoke in this area - the thunder of hooves hitting the dusty plains of the mountain range can kick up a storm as horses and jockeys compete for the top prize.

QUICK GUIDE: Visa-free travel to Lesotho

This year the royal birthday celebrations took place on 21 July, where the two main categories were the 800m for the foals and the 1600m for the big stallions. It's organised by the community with management support from Sekomkong Lodge, and locals not only spectate the thrilling sport but also place simple bets.

The owners show off their steeds to the crowds before each race, who judge the horses before placing their bets. You can bet either on a win, place or show - win means the horse comes in first position, place means the horse comes either first or second and show means the horse lands in the top 3.

Semonkong's next big race will take place on 6 October, part of Lesotho's Independence celebrations taking place on 4 October, so you'd better start planning if you want to see the show.

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Besides bringing glory to the local jockeys, horses are also the best way to see the hard-to-reach spots of the mountain kingdom. Pony trekking is available throughout the country, robust creatures that can take you on either short one hour trips or 6-day treks through the countryside.

Just remember to bring a carrot along to say thank you to your four-legged guide.

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You can learn more about the race and one jockey's dream of glory in the video from AFP below:

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