summerhill horses grazing (michael nefdt)Khakibos and Blackjacks

We thought the following article might be of interest to our readers. Written by Mike Moon, it was first published in The Times on Friday 20 July 2007 :

“The top stud farm in the country is feeding its horses khakibos and blackjacks.

Before the animal rights activists’ hackles rise, I hasten to explain that this is a good thing.

Summerhill Stud near Mooi River has found that these notorious “weeds” are effective natural equine dewormers.

The once-reviled bushes have been clasped to the rural bosom. Or, rather, they’re being encouraged to grow along hedgerows and paddock fences, so mares and stallions can nibble on them – a kind of organic herbal side salad to go with the main course of pasture grass.

It seems to work: Summerhill is cantering home to the title of South Africa’s leading racehorse breeder for a third successive year. When the season ends in 20 days’ time, Summerhill-reared runners would have won more than R14million in stake money – R5million up on the record set last year.

Summerhill has been accused of flooding the market with average horses rather than concentrating on fewer excellent individuals.

The truth is the enterprise had relatively modest beginnings and needed a decent turnover to survive and grow to a point where it could indulge in breeding refinement.

The recent efforts of alumni Pick Six and Bold Ellinore, among others, have stilled some of the whining.

Summerhill’s owner, Mick Goss, is fond of saying: “We produce Toyotas, not Rolls Royces,” adding that he strives for “quality, dependability and good value” – attributes cherished by South Africans.

This sort of talk has people saying Goss should have been a politician. Luckily, he’s been prevented from joining that odious class by what he calls “the illness” – a hopeless devotion to horse racing.

But the man does have the gift of the gab, which was seen to good effect at the recent Summerhill Stallion Day. He regaled owners and breeders with encyclopaedic detail about the stallions, turning boring old stats into compelling tales of racecourse high drama.

Thrown in was a reminder to foreign visitors that civilization started in Africa.

If that didn’t get their attention, his stirring rendition of the Zulu war cry at Isandlhwana probably did.

It’s iniquitous to compare service fees, but the fact is the champion breeders’ top stallion stands at R50 000 as opposed to five times that for some leading South African sires.

This helps to keep smaller breeders and owners in the game, which is enough to make you want to hug a khakibos.”