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104 Horses: A Memoir of Farm and Family, Africa and Exile

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‘A letter is handed to you. In broken English, it tells you that you must now vacate your farm; that this is no longer your home, for it now belongs to the crowd on your doorstep. Then the drums begin to beat.’

As the land invasions gather pace, the Retzlaffs begin an epic journey across Zimbabwe, facing eviction after eviction, trying to save the group of animals with whom they feel a deep and enduring bond – the horses.

When their neighbours flee to New Zealand, the Retzlaffs promise to look after their horses, and making similar promises to other farmers along their journey, not knowing whether they will be able to feed or save them, they amass an astonishing herd of over 300 animals. But the final journey to freedom will be arduous, and they can take only 104 horses.

Each with a different personality and story, it is not just the family who rescue the horses, but the horses who rescue the family. Grey, the silver gelding: the leader. Brutus, the untamed colt. Princess, the temperamental mare.

One Hundred and Four Horses is the story of an idyllic existence that falls apart at the seams, and a story of incredible bonds – a love of the land, the strength of a family, and of the connection between man and the most majestic of animals, the horse.

272 pages, Hardcover

First published April 1, 2013

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About the author

Mandy Retzlaff

2 books5 followers
Born in Ghana and raised in South Africa, Mandy Retzlaff now runs Mozambique Horse Safari with her husband.

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181 (19%)
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35 (3%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 136 reviews
Profile Image for booklady.
2,200 reviews65 followers
March 6, 2017
Pat and Mandy Metzlaff lost everything except what was most important: love for each other, family and their animals, especially their horses. They had worked hard to scratch a farm from the bush of Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia. Married in 1978, they had 3 children (Paul, Jay and Kate) who grew up on Pat’s childhood farm recently returned to (relative) peace after a bloody civil war which resulted in the country’s name change.

One Hundred and Four Horses tells a heart-wrenching story of the Metzlaff’s loss of home, every material possession, many beloved friends (human and animal), country, and much more—which I cannot go into without completely giving the book away. Suffice to say, every time another calamity occurs you think this has to be the last; finally they have hit bottom. There can’t be anything more. How much can one family endure and yet go on? Well you don’t know Pat and Mandy. This is a story of courage, love and generosity in the face of much violence, suffering, and danger. Yet they stay true to themselves, their animals and hope for the future. Truly we do not know how good we have it in our country.

I bought this for my horse-loving daughters, but SO very glad I read it first! Highly recommended; very inspirational! And I learned so much African history to boot.


Picked this up for a dollar at our library's annual Friend's of the Library Sale. Hadn't been to it in years – since our girls were little – my adult daughter wanted to go. All hardbacks were (still) $1 and paperbacks $.50. I used to walk out with a box of books. This time I only spent $5 for 5 superb books. This was one of them. Plan to share it with my girls who love horses ... but I get to read it first.
Profile Image for Trish Jackson.
Author 24 books124 followers
November 11, 2013
Compelling, heartbreaking and triumphant.
This book is the voice of abandoned animals all over the world.
It tells the dreadful story of the plight of the animals in Zimbabwe. While the human suffering is hard enough to digest, the fate of the horses and dogs and cats and livestock left behind when their owners were given just a few minutes—or the lucky ones a few hours—to pack up their worldly goods and leave their homes forever, was and still is a terrible tragedy.
The book is extremely well written and tells the true story of the sacrifices the author and her husband made when they couldn't bear to leave their beloved horses or those of their neighbors to be tortured and massacred. In the end, having run out of all their options, they had to leave their homeland and find new pastures for the one hundred and four horses they had rescued.
Each and every horse had a name and its own character and one cannot help but become invested in the fate of each one.
I couldn't put the book down and it brought tears to my eyes more times than I could count.
Profile Image for Ashley.
25 reviews
February 6, 2014
One Hundred and Four Horses offered an exciting tale of adventure, not the kind you look for, and resilience. Resilience of family, love and the will to survive and help your "herd" survive. The author, her family, and their herd of horses face more trials than you could think. Never once does the author curse the universe for her plight, she simply faces it with her family, and they make a plan over and over to deal with the obstacles that are before them.

I was inspired by her resilience, but also unexpectedly I am reminded that I am stronger than I know, and that we have within us to face what lies before us with grit, and clear seeing, if we take a moment to breathe and then simply make a plan for what is right in front of us. Though, by the end of the book there is a part of me that wonders why all of this should happen to one family, and one herd of beautiful African horses, what I gained in the end is the understanding that this is just simply life. One experience after another, all of us are in a constant state of change in experience, and we all have difficult life experiences we must face, but int he end we live, and we find and create a home for ourselves in the ones we love, and we find beauty no matter how small. We are resilient,and we are able to heal after unimaginable pain, and love and live fully in each changing moment.
Profile Image for Rosie Shephard.
111 reviews
December 29, 2017
This is an extraordinary true story of Mandy (Amanda) Retzlaff and her family as they brave Mugabe's stand in Zimbabwe. Both charming and tragic, this well written book demonstrates the love between a family and their horses. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in horses, adventure, and suspense. I could not put this book down!
Profile Image for Ashes.
342 reviews39 followers
August 19, 2019
Hands down one of the best books I've read this year. One to reread time and again for sure.
Profile Image for Jill.
291 reviews11 followers
June 15, 2015
I’m not really a fan of animal themed books, (they usually die) so ‘One hundred and four horses’ by Mandy Retzlaf, would not be something I would normally pick up. However, the theme for ‘Bookchat’ this month was animal stories, so this is what I went with. And yes (spoiler alert) some horses do die, and I did cry. But aside from the equine carnage this was actually a really gripping story.
Mandy and Pat Retzlaf met in South Africa in the 1970s. They married and moved to Rhodesia (as it was known then) which was in the middle of a civil war. They bought some land to farm and were producing bumper crops when the war ended in 1980 and Robert Mugabe was voted into power. Rhodesia transitioned to Zimbabwe and it was around about this time that things started to change for the worse. Farms were slowly being confiscated and turned over to the “veterans of the civil war”. As neighbours were being evicted from their properties, they would ask the Retzlafs if they could look after their horses until the situation improved. Well, what could they do?
One day Mandy was home alone, there was a knock at the door and she was handed a letter telling her that the farm did not belong to them and they had four hours to get off the land. Like a game of checkers, the Retzlafs move from farm to farm, facing eviction after eviction, all the while accumulating more and more horses – not knowing if they will be able to feed them or keep them safe.
‘One hundred and four horses’ is the story of the bond forged between man and horse. Each horse has its own distinctive personality, each like a member of the family. It is also a really good insight into the tense political situation in Zimbabwe and what life is like there. It’s a really good read, a bit harrowing at times, but if you are a lover of horses then you will definitely enjoy this book.
January 25, 2014
A profoundly moving account of perseverance and courage.
This is a riveting story of a couple’s perseverance, courage and dedication to providing a safe home for 104 horses, many of which they generously took in after their owners were forced to abandon them during Zimbabwe’s violent farm seizures. Later, like hundreds of other white farmers, Mandy and Pat Retzlaff were also robbed of their land and means of making a living. For their family and horses to survive, they undertook a frightening and grueling trek into neighboring Mozambique, fighting the weather and bandits along the way. Their story is heartbreaking, but it is an inspiring tale of sacrifice, perseverance and courage in the face of nearly insurmountable odds. I found this book almost impossible to put down, even though it had me in tears much of the time.
91 reviews1 follower
September 21, 2013
This was one of those books I just couldn't put down. It really gave you an amazing look at a type of life that most people couldn't comprehend. The strength and determination of these people is amazing. Well worth reading. I do need to disclose that I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads.
8 reviews1 follower
October 20, 2013
This was a fantastic book which appealed to me because I love animal stories, but turned out to be a history lesson told by a woman who was affected greatly. I loved this book, in spite of the gruesome tragedies that befall the horses.
Profile Image for Heather.
578 reviews8 followers
April 19, 2018

What would you do if you had to leave your home in a few hours?  Could you leave your animals behind knowing that animals left on other farms had been killed?  That was one of the issues facing farmers in Zimbabwe when Robert Mugabe's government instituted a series of land seizures.

The Retzlaff family didn't leave Zimbabwe right away like many of the other white farmers they knew did.  They moved farm to farm but the chaos followed them.  As they moved across the country over a series of years, they collected animals.  Eventually, they moved to the neighboring country of Mozambique.

I imagine that this is a book that could have a hard time finding an audience.  Readers who care more deeply about people than animals might be offended by the effort and resources that went into moving and housing the horses when so many people were suffering.  Horse lovers don't like to read books where horses are mistreated.  Horse lovers do need to be warned.  Most of the horses you meet in this book don't survive until the end.  Many bad things happen to them regardless of the efforts of the Retzlaffs.

Another issue in this book is historical accuracy versus personal experience.  Reading the book, the land reform movement seems to come on suddenly.  I've been looking a bit more into the history because I assumed that there had to have been some colonial shenanigans that resulted in all these large landowners being white people.  Yes, Rhodesia (the former name of Zimbabwe) had favored whites in land distribution.  The black population was put onto the least productive land. 
"Following Rhodesia's Unilateral Declaration of Independence, land legislation was again amended with the Rhodesian Land Tenure Act of 1969. The Land Tenure Act upended the Land Apportionment Act of 1930 and was designed to rectify the issue of insufficient land available to the rapidly expanding black population.[3] It reduced the amount of land reserved for white ownership to 45 million acres and reserved another 45 million acres for black ownership, introducing parity in theory; however, the most fertile farmland in Regions I, II, and III continued to be included in the white enclave.[3] Abuses of the system continued to abound; some white farmers took advantage of the legislation to shift their property boundaries into land formerly designated for black settlement, often without notifying the other landowners." 

"In 1977, the Land Tenure Act was amended by the Rhodesian parliament, which further reduced the amount of land reserved for white ownership to 200,000 hectares, or 500,000 acres. Over 15 million hectares were thus opened to purchase by persons of any race.[3]Two years later, as part of the Internal SettlementZimbabwe Rhodesia's incoming biracial government under Bishop Abel Muzorewa abolished the reservation of land according to race.[3] White farmers continued to own 73.8% of the most fertile land suited for intensive cash crop cultivation and livestock grazing, in addition to generating 80% of the country's total agricultural output.[3]"

"The Lancaster House Agreement [1980] stipulated that farms could only be taken from whites on a "willing buyer, willing seller" principle for at least ten years.[4] White farmers were not to be placed under any pressure or intimidation, and if they decided to sell their farms they were allowed to determine their own asking prices"

"Between April 1980 and September 1987, the acreage of land occupied by white-owned commercial farms was reduced by about 20%." - all quoted from Wikipedia
Ok, so they can't say they didn't know this was coming.  They talk a little about the politics of it and how they weren't paying any attention.  They mention the vote on a referendum in 2000 only because their black workers asked to borrow transportation so they could all vote.   It was the day before voting and they hadn't really considered it?

"The government organised a referendum on the new constitution in February 2000, despite having a sufficiently large majority in parliament to pass any amendment it wished. Had it been approved, the new constitution would have empowered the government to acquire land compulsorily without compensation. Despite vast support in the media, the new constitution was defeated, 55% to 45%." Wikipedia
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It was after this failed that the government started to encourage mob violence to steal land without compensation.  I understand that they were both born and raised in Africa and felt protected because they legally owned their land but the writing was on the wall.  Things were about to get ugly and they were completely unprepared.  

What happened as a result of the seizure of white-owned farms was a complete disaster.  They were given as gifts to friends and family of powerful people who didn't know the first thing about farming.  Zimbabwe's economy was based on farming and when the farms collapsed it collapsed.  So no one is saying that this was a good and just plan but it couldn't have been completely unexpected.

There are also some other statements that come across as very colonial.  One time when they move to a new farm she discusses her family moving into the farm house and then talks about her workers settling into the huts around the property.  She also has this quote - "John's was a good old-fashioned cattle ranch of the kind the first pioneers in this part of the world had kept."  Sure, they were the first people in the area if you ignore millennia of existence before then.  The author has commented negatively on reviews on Goodreads that bring up these aspects of the book.  That's never a good look.

As a horse person I wish there were more details.  They talk about sometimes transporting horses in trucks.  Where did the trucks come from?  How many trips did you make?  How many horses did you have at any given time?  The synopsis refers to over 300 but the book doesn't talk about that number.  How are you affording all this?

What happened to this family is bad.  But I can't muster 100% sympathy for them.  I would have liked to see a bit more self awareness.  This book would have benefited from including the perspectives of the black workers who traveled with them.  A few of these people are mentioned once or twice by name but generally they are described as a faceless group of grooms.  That's a big oversight in a book that describes many different white horse owners in detail.   This review was originally posted on Based On A True Story

Profile Image for Stephanie A..
2,303 reviews62 followers
July 6, 2016
A gut-wrenching account of racial and political tensions as unstable government gives rise to a menacing policy of "taking back" the land from white farmers. Well, not so much "taking back" as "utterly destroying so nobody can have it" in a bizarre blaze of wanton violence to consolidate political power. The adventurous flight described in the subtitle is a relatively small part of the story overall, but I thought it was set up very well, giving the couple's background and the farm's idyllic history before moving toward the present day and encroaching threats as the political climate slowly shifts toward instability. Due to these threats, the family moves several times before ultimately having to leave the country entirely, and even then they aren't completely safe.

As a horse lover, I identified with the author immediately. I loved how much time was spent getting to know the horses' names and personalities. There were a number of losses, but not as much gruesome violence as I feared there would be (though there definitely was some, and I feel a lot more was glossed over with generic mentions). One question I was left with was why none of these people seemed to attempt securing safe homes for their horses overseas as they were taking flight, since they were worried about them being killed at best and tortured at worst, and I wish the author had touched on that more. But overall? A fascinating account of survival.
1 review
May 1, 2015
I wanted to like this book. Horses? Dramatic rescues in a part of the world is like to know more about? Sounded like a winner, but the more I read, the more wanted to throw the book in the ocean.

Although I did not expect a full discussion of Zimbabwean history and politics in a memoir of this sort, the book was so one sided in its viewpoint (that of a white Zimbabwean farmer) that I began to wonder about the other side of her stories. Questions starting with why the black people in Zimbabwe wanted to take over the white farmers land were glossed over. Mandy was part of a very small minority in an African country, but you wouldn't know it from her book. The only black people she is on relatively good terms with are those who work for her and call her Madam.

I believe that Mandy Retzlaff and her family genuinely wanted to help horses and that they went through some very difficult times in order to do this, but the way the book is written, in an overwrought breathless style, made me wonder if Mandy is one of those well intentioned would-be dogooders who end up accomplishing much, much less than they would have if they had used a little common sense. Still, horses were saved and Mandy survived some very difficult experiences.

The book irritated me by its writing style, its evidence of the continuation of colonial thinking, and the ill planned nature of the horse rescue venture. Find something better to read, really.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
27 reviews2 followers
April 26, 2014
As a horse lover and someone wih had been to Africa and has friends living there, I thought this book might be an interesting read, but was disappointed. One of the reviews said this was a. 'Triumphant' story, but have to say that it was anything but that in my mind.

Spoiler alert. It was really depressing and going from 104 horses done to around 30 isn't what I would call a triumphant or uplifting story. The author and her husband persevered to care for all these horses while others leave the country due to the political/racial atmosphere, but I didn't find much that was compelling in the writing style or descriptions the author uses. So I just kept reading thinking surely this is going to get somewhere soon, but it didn't really.

I also thought it interesting that the author mentions that she isn't really 'religious' and yet when they found themselves in dire straights she mentions that they pray for help...and in those couple of times help 'arrived' and yet there is no other acknowledgement to the One who answered their prayers...so like for many, 'God' seems to just be the big vending machine in the sky, and when they got what they wanted/needed, the vending machine was ignored or discarded until the next dire situation.
Profile Image for Mlmaxie.
14 reviews2 followers
August 28, 2016
LOVED this book. Could not put it down from the moment I started it. Such a great read about the true story of a family's journey from war-torn Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) to Mozambique with their own horses as well as those they have picked up along the way. The love of their animals shows thru and the book is an amazing testament to that and their will of survival in war torn land.
December 9, 2013
Beautiful story of courage and strength in a beautiful country. Couldn't put it down! I feel like I know the author and her family after reading this story of love!
Profile Image for Carol Van.
5 reviews
January 12, 2014
This is such a compelling read - a must read for anyone who lives in Africa.... Tragic yet beautiful
Profile Image for Charlotte.
146 reviews1 follower
August 27, 2019
This is such a striking novel told by Mandy about her and her family’s lives. It’s filled with love, joy and like any good book sadness.

It’s her story of how they went from 4 horses and their farm/ plantation to 104 rescue horses and the journey they embarked on. You can see the love that Mandy has for not only her family but the horses who became her family out of the kindness of hers and pats hearts. As a horse lover myself it was inspiring to see a novel where the personality’s if every individual horse shone through and you see how well Mandy really knew every horse.

From crofton to Mozambique and the horrors they faced along the way I was captivated at every turn and i jumped for joy in some places and grieved in others. This book not only is an amazing book about horses but it has taught lots about Rhodesia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and the struggles about the Rhodesian war and how the natives were forced out of their homes. The story of how Zimbabwe was destroyed in some ways.

A great book for horse lovers as well as those who aren’t and want a honest, soul wrenching book.
1 review
April 19, 2020
A patient read but a heartfelt story of how the land raids tore up a working Zimbabwe and the plight the tyrant had on animals. The book bridges the feelings of human and horse... Well written and a true story reminding the reader of the power entwined between human and horse spirit... A joint and loving effort to survive jointly as a family of 2 species man and horse is seen in this book
Profile Image for Liralen.
2,693 reviews146 followers
September 10, 2016
Not really sure what to think about this one. It's the story of the author and her husband being pushed out of their land in Zimbabwe with other white farmers, and of trying to hold on to their horses and those of other white farmers who lost land.

There's certainly a sense of drama and romance to the story, but it's also so deeply one-sided. I mean, on the one hand, of course it is. The author's husband fought on the side of white Rhodesia; it's not until the very end of the book that she acknowledges -- barely -- that that was the wrong side to be on. But history (and I freely admit that I am by no means an expert) is much, much more complicated than 'Mugabe and war vets = bad; farm with horses = good'. This isn't really written for someone with much grasp of Zimbabwean politics (if anything, it's written for romantics and horse lovers), but it also doesn't fill in very many gaps.

I can't criticise the author for the politics with which she was raised, but I can wish that the book had gone deeper: why are only white (or equine) characters described with any substance? Why are the war vets painted as a sort of vague, teeming, uniform threat? Why does every other piece of dialogue end in an ellipsis?

It's not that I think that Retzlaff and her family were entirely in the wrong here -- more just that I don't think others were entirely in the wrong, either. I suspect (and I'd have to do more reading to substantiate this) that some of those war vets were just angry because the things they'd been promised by Mugabe's government had not come to fruition, and here were colonisers (should I not be calling them that?) -- still relatively wealthy -- reaping the benefits of the land. That doesn't excuse the destruction they (or at least some of them) wrought, but it does make me think that books like this one are missing an important chunk of the story.

On a more positive note: They did manage to save -- for the most part; I'll leave that part up to you to read or not -- more than a hundred horses, demonstrating along the way a tremendous amount of tenacity and love for what they do. It might have been easier for them if they hadn't been saddled with (yes, sorry) so many horses as they tried to find a new place to live; while it was sometimes a struggle for me to understand why they were just shuffling from farm to farm, knowing that their stay in any given place would be temporary, she makes it abundantly clear that they wanted to do right by the horses. There's never any doubt, throughout the book, that they love their horses and their kids and the Zimbabwe/Rhodesia they once knew.

Glad to have read it, but a less substantive read that I would have liked.
17 reviews
April 10, 2014
This book had been recommended by a good friend and because we were going on a long trip we bought the audiobook. We have an African background and in the past I had a lot to do with horses.

Within this book there is the nucleus of a great story but it absolutely cries out for a good editor. The author repeats herself ad nauseam. To give a blatant example - the scene in the prologue is rehashed almost verbatim later in the book. She gives us repeated litanies of horses' names, frequently qualified with the same adjective, "regal Shere Khan" for example.

The story is from the perspective of white Rhodesian/Zimbabweans. Very little insight is given to the condition of the black Zimbabwean workers who appear strictly in the role of servants to to their white employers. This is unfortunate because without these black people, the author and her husband would not have been able to achieve their aims.

The portrayal of African politics is simplistic. Robert Mugabe is the bogeyman and there is no doubt that he is a very obnoxious guy. However, it was the short sighted racist policies of the white minority that led to the bush war and to the emergence of Mugabe as the leader. Rhodesia was well on the way to achieving a black middle class prior to regime of Ian Smith and the illegal declaration of independence by the white minority. At this point the black middle class pretty much evaporated, either through legislation or emigration.

Something that is never explained is where the author and he husband got the money for this enterprise. Keeping horses is an expensive proposition and yet farming in Zimbabwe with all the disruptions and occupations can not have been a profitable venture.

I thought Ms Retzlaff did a good job in the epilogue when she describes how Zimbabwean lands are now being sold to the Chinese and how this represents a new colonial power.

I was amazed at the favourable comments this book has received. All I can think is that reviewers are more captivated by emotion about horses than about literary competence. This book could easily have been half the length without losing the basic story.
Profile Image for Peggy.
33 reviews
March 9, 2014
Mandy and Pat Retzlaff love horses. Their devotion to horses is so strong they risked everything to save as many as possible. This is a hard to put down memoir of one couples experiences in Zimbabwe during the rule of President Mugabe. Pat and Mandy were born and raised in Africa. As a young married couple they bought an abandoned farm in Zimbabwe. Over the years they built it into a successful commercial farming operation and were raising their three children. The plan was to spend the rest of their lives on this idyllic homestead. Then the situation in the country started to deteriorate. The white farmers were being pushed off their land by members of President Mugabe’s War Veterans’ Association. As Pat and Mandy’s friends and neighbors abandon Africa, they agree to take on the responsibility for the horses that would have to be left behind. Word spread about Pat and Mandy’s willingness to save horses and their herd grew. They were referred to as the horse people. Before long the war vets started to slowly overtake the Retzlaff farm. This started the family’s trek across the country, moving from one farm to the next. At one farm they were handed a written notice to be out in four hours. With so little time they packed what they could and left, leaving the herd of horses behind. That night, under cover of darkness, Pat with a group of men went back to the farm and walked 72 horses to the new location. Just one of many monumental feats. They did eventually get themselves and one hundred and four horses to safety only to be met with new and mysterious challenges.
The book takes place at a politically charged time in Zimbabwe’s recent history, but the politics was left out. Mandy simply relates what happened to her family. Her dedicated family repeatedly made a plan and maneuvered around every obstacle they were faced with, all for the love of horses. It is both tragic and triumphant at the same time.
Profile Image for Greer Noble.
Author 7 books33 followers
February 23, 2014
Lucky enough to have known the author and her husband, having holidayed (apart from the 15 year long civil war) in the Bazaruto Archipelego since 1958, when still a child, having come from the same farming area to where they were farming and having gone to school in Umtali, I'm probably biased but anyone who's ever lived with a pet they loved will be able to relate to how much these horses meant to Mandy and Pat, and anyone who hasn't will want to rush out and buy their own or at least take up riding! Tastefully collated in a gentle yet decisively unique style, Mandy's memoirs are a classic reminder of the appalling and sinister way in which the notorious Mugabe systematically destroyed the lives and aspirations of not only white Zimbabweans but his own people too. Instrumental in these cowardly acts which epitomise his fear of the white man who, by their mere presence, remind him of his own inadequacies. Pat and Mandy rose above that, evident by their tremendous courage as well as their selflessness and compassion shown not only to their family but their friends, their staff and equally to their horses. Their charm is also in their humbleness and honesty. I for one had no idea of what they had endured and we were virtually neighbours in Vilanculos for months on end. Last but not least (but especially), the masterful way in which Mandy introduces so many of their horses, characterising each one's personality not only by name but by their idiosyncrasies, their antics and peculiarity of appearance.. and orchestrated with such love to be truly remarkable.. and, at the same time, enthralling, enabling one to fully understand and follow their life's journey in the hope of finding safer pastures. If there were six stars it would get my six but there's only provision for five so will have to settle for five!
Profile Image for Connie.
88 reviews64 followers
September 9, 2016
Many thanks to the author and publisher for this free copy through the Goodreads “First Reads" program. This was a very interesting story about a time and place I knew nearly nothing about. Mandy Retzlaff and her husband are true heroes. What they endured and what they achieved is both unimaginable and inspiring.

You don’t have to know horses to enjoy this book, but the author really captured some of the horses’ personalities, and by the end there were some I’d grown quite attached to. Though it’s been decades since I’ve spent time with horses, there were times throughout this story that I felt I was right there in the stables with Grey, Deja-vous, Princess, and the others, and it was in some of the smaller, quieter moments with these characters where I caught myself shedding a tear or two.

As another reviewer mentioned, I had expected something a little more in-depth about the political situation, but then this is a memoir and not a history book. What I did learn about the political turmoil in the country really scared me because it seems all too easy for a tyrant to take control when you have supposed social justice on your side. That part of a story always fascinates me.

Other than that, I wanted just a little more of the finer details – how they were making ends meet during certain periods. Some of that had been covered in the earlier times, but in the middle I wasn’t so sure how the Retzlaffs were getting by. Then again with the exile. There were just a couple of broad strokes in places when I wanted just a touch more detail. All in all I am glad to have read this book, and am thankful to know people like Mandy and Pat do exist in this world.
Profile Image for AJourneyWithoutMap.
791 reviews73 followers
November 25, 2013
This is a story that would make any animal lover proud. And for that very same reason many will choose to keep off this book, not realizing what the book really is about. My first impression based on the title was to keep hands off policy, and I almost missed a really good book.

One Hundred and Four Horses: A Memoir of Farm and Family, Africa and Exile by Mandy Retzlaff is a heart-touching and beautiful story. It is a gripping story of one family's dogged determination to do something good in the midst of ruins in Zimbabwe under dictator Robert Mugabe.

Mandy Retzlaff, her husband Pat and their three children, along with four horses, arrived in Crofton, Zimbabwe to begin a new life. They spent over a decade leading a contented and happy life. But their happiness was short-lived. In 2002, they were told to leave Crofton within four hours. The sea of change sweeping over Zimbabwe was dramatic. A country once known as Rhodesia became Zimbabwe. Once considered the breadbasket of Africa was now a devastated country, almost in total ruins. Its economy has plummeted beyond salvage. A free country was now under a dictator.

Though fearful for their own lives, the Retzlaffs refused to be cowed down. They kept moving from one friend's farm to the next, and kept on sheltering any horse in need. Soon, the number swelled to 104. And with all their horses they managed to escape to neighboring Zimbabwe.

Though not a great writer, Mandy has rendered in a lovable way a beautiful story that will touch the reader's heart. This book is not just about the Retlaffs' love for horses, it is also a book of history and adventure - about and in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe.
Profile Image for Eventer79.
43 reviews32 followers
July 27, 2020
As a horse owner, wildlife biologist, & human in the 21st century, I found this difficult to read. While I commend the impulse to protect animals during human conflict, this book is rife with cringe-worthy issues. It reads like it was written in the 1940s instead of 2000. There is naive, blatant colonialism, in which no people are described in any detail except for other wealthy white friends from the polo club. Black workers are either referred to possessively ('our' gardener, 'our' driver) or completely dismissively as 'the labour.' Perhaps that is less surprising in the light that the author's husband fought to defend oppression by the white minority in Rhodesia before it became Zimbabwe.

In addition, there are constant references to "driving back the bush," to create more farmland, i.e. destroy native habitats (wildlife species are only referred to as 'game' & take water to irrigate for personal profit (which sometimes just included non-native flowers for export). An archaic view of the relationship between farmers & the land they depend on.

There is no mention as to whether this family engaged at all with local communities during this time or just took their wealth (I don't care where you are, 100 horses take a massive amount of resources to care for) & fled. I hope there was some effort to do the former, but it certainly wasn't in the book. I try to remain open-minded at all times to the complexities of navigating such a situation, but after the 2nd time the author referred to villagers asking for meat as food from an already dead horse as a "braying horde" I didn't have any more latitude to extend.
Profile Image for Bonnie.
983 reviews10 followers
February 15, 2014
I don't know that "liked" is quite the word, but it was a good book. Heart-breaking through. Watching a country destroyed and trying to understand differences in culture, politics, lifestyle and ethics just wasn't easy for a sheltered Midwest American girl like me. And it was painful getting to know so many of these 104 horses only to watch them come to sad, often gruesome, ends. Although the depictions of the deaths were generally brief, it should be warned that some of them are rather graphic and made me not only sad, not only angry, but a little nauseous as well. I also wonder who chooses photographs for books like these and if they are done in conjunction with the text at all. It was nice putting faces to names (horses and humans alike) but there were horses in the photo section barely mentioned while major names like Brutus, Shere Khan, and Grey were not represented. I found that disappointing. And while I realize that Zimbabwe and many other places in Africa are not happy places to this day, the ending of the book was a little disheartening for me. So I liked it but I didn't love it. It was kind of a downer.
Profile Image for Glenys.
311 reviews
April 10, 2021
What a story! What a life!
The Retzlaffs are a couple who have been through much and survived.
Moving from one place to the next as they were forced off the land they farmed and loved due to the political uprisings of Mugabe era in Zimbabwe.
While colonialism changes the face of a country and the term "driving back the bush" brings a shudder to a conservationist nevertheless, the farmers whose families worked the land were also generations into heritage of the same lands and their roots were deep.
The seasonal challenges, the droughts, the rise and fall of the markets - familiar to farmers everywhere.
Beautiful productive land, growing tomatoes, spices, fruit and the horses! The horses.
The herd grew as farmers lefts the land, left the country and those like the Retzlaffs took up the responsibility of the animals.
It is not an easy book to read. The land was devastated and laid waste, animals were butchered senselessly. To live through these things and the threat to their family and yet hold hope for the future, albeit it over a border in another country, only slightly more welcoming, shows immense strength of character and purpose.
Profile Image for Maureen Moriarty.
243 reviews11 followers
March 4, 2015
This true story had me at Africa and horses. But I was unprepared for the emotional journey I was about to take reading it--I couldn't put it down. I was in Zimbabwe in 2005, the only tourists staying at Elephant Camp (they took in orphan elephants that were also victims in Mugabes wake). This amazing story brings to life the unbelievable human spirit and commitment of a heroic couple, Mandy and Pat Retzlaff in their remarkable perseverance to rescue 104 horses left in the wake of farm land reclamation and a brutal time in Africa's history. It renews faith in the power of love and compassion between man/woman and horse despite the brutality of what they experienced along their journey. I had tears in my eyes reading this more than once. Mandy did a marvelous job capturing the essence of both the beauty and brutality of life in Zimbabwe and the grace and nobility of the horses. I feel compelled now to travel to their horse safari camp on the Mozambique coast and meet this compassionate resilient couple. Words fail me at how much I admire them.
Profile Image for Paula.
193 reviews40 followers
February 22, 2015
What a great read. This was one of those out on a whim books that I decided to try and I am glad that I did. Mandy tells the story of her and her family during an uncertainty of Zimbabwe.

They, along with their horses were forced from one farm to another to another and finally out of the country. Their story is of defeat, survival, risk taking, separation, and heroes. Not knowing what tomorrow would bring, they continued taking on horses from other farmers who had fled the area.

At the end of the story-they return to Zimbabwe and what it use to be but no longer is. It is a story that I never knew about, growing up in America we think about others but cannot really picture the happenings elsewhere and the struggles of others.

I recommend this book to people looking at African history but also horse lovers. Some parts are sad but the overall feel is about helping each other, especially those living beings that cannot fend for themselves.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Alison.
2,382 reviews35 followers
February 25, 2016
This was a very intense and interesting story mainly about Pat and Mandy Retzlaff and their family, in their quest to save not only their own horses but many that had to be left behind by their neighbors and friends as their farms were taken over by armed members of President Robert Mugabe's War Veterans' Association, who began invading the farmlands owned by white and black Zimbabweans and violently reclaiming the land. The Retzlaff's devoted horse lovers, did their best to keep as many of these animals as they could, safe from harm. They themselves had to move time and time again as the places they moved to were reclaimed, stealing back quite often at night to get their horses.
A very well told memoir, of life during a stressful time in Zimbabwe, and of the people who loved their country, and of their resilience to keep each other and their beloved pets safe from harm.
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