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#381
Madagascar
Keymaster

The arrival of the first horses in Imerina is really a novelty and it is normal that they raise the curiosity of the populations. Gifts of the Governor of Mauritius, Sir James Farquhar, are brought by James Hastie, who speaks of it, in his Journal of November 14, 1817 to March 26, 1818. The first and only allusion he makes on the subject dates from 30 July 1817, when he arrived at Ambohitrony: “… I imagine that every woman and child in the village ran to see the horses. “
As for the reaction of the relatives of the king and especially that of Radama during his first lesson of riding, they are the same.
“As soon as he was in the saddle, one of his men presented him with a necklace of jewels; He put in his mouth a small thing of amber color. “Without a doubt,” says architect-paleographer Jean Valette, “an ody to ward off evil.”
The horses brought by Hastie really fill Radama, a truly royal gift that he appreciates all the price. He is interested in them as soon as they arrive in Antananarivo on August 7, 1817. The next day, he asks “to see the horses, always regretting the loss of his own, of an exceptional race”, during the crossing of the Rianila River In July, 1817, he was caught by the national holiday of the Bath. He neglected them somewhat, although he took news of the two sick horses because of the state of the road between Toamasina and his capital.
But on August 13, he took his first riding lesson. “Her Majesty asks me
To assemble one; Nothing could exceed her joy. He evolved with his horse all around the Court. He laughed loudly, shouted and danced, declaring that he had never experienced so much pleasure. He then rises every day, and as early as August 16, James Hastie notes his progress. “Radama, standing at five-thirty, mounted his horse until seven o’clock; as his fear of falling diminishes, his pleasure increases in this exercise. As he wishes to share this joy, he intimate to some of his officers to go up in their turn. “He sent for his captain, and ordered them to take over. He laughed a great deal at their awkwardness. On the 27th of August, quite assured, he made two hours of horseback riding and could even change horses. “This was the beginning of a passion which ceased only at his death. “

These first horses conveyed by James Hastie are embarked on the ship “The Phaeton” of Captain Stanfell which leaves Port Louis on June 28 or 19, 1817, and arrives in the harbor of Toamasina on July 5. Their number is not clearly stated by James Hastie in his Journal. According to Jean Valette, it is not until the 11th of January, 1818, that he furnished particularly interesting information on the subject. Invited by Radama to accompany him to Ambohimanga, he mentions: “I should go there in uniform with four of his captains who, like me, would have gone up,” so six horses with that of the sovereign.
“But we may wonder whether this is the initial fund brought by Hastie in July-August 1817 or whether there has been a new contribution in the meantime. “
Indeed, the first mention of a supply of horses provided by Hastie is on the date of
April 5, 1817, while he is himself at Toamasina: “… arrival of the Rosaline, Captain Arnoux, part of Bourbon … with three horses. The difficulty of moving horses between Toamasina and Antananarivo from November 1817 onwards makes it unlikely that horses could be traveled during the rainy season. The six horses that existed in Antananarivo in January 1818, therefore, may be thought of as the result of the first transport by Hastie.
Given the state of the road, this is a difficult task that Hastie insists on in his Journal. The first point to remember is that it takes from Toamasina to Andevoranto the road of lakes and lagoons, which is longer, of course, but easier for horses, whether they walk on the seashore or embark on board canoes. This means of transport must be dangerous as well as river crossings.
Just as difficult and dangerous must be the journey through the mountainous regions, from Ranomafana. It is very close to this village, July 23, that Hastie points out the first difficulty of the kind “… to arrive at a very high hill whose red ground is of a very painful ascent. The horses had great difficulty in ascending it, and the descent was still faster on the other slope. The horses were slipping away… “Hastie’s pride, then, is understood when he says:” The value of a horse tripled when he reached the heights. ” If I
Meets with similar paths, I shall never succeed in getting my horses to the summit. “
These difficulties encountered by Hastie lead us to believe that there is no attempt, after all, at least until the end of the rainy season of 1818, to bring Horses from Toamasina to Antananarivo.