We’ve all read so much about the achievements of South African racehorses abroad this year, but there’s a little known corner of this country that’s developing a growing reputation for the quality of the horses it produces. While the spectrum of breeders of endurance horses in this country is reasonably widespread, the reality is the bulk of the good ones are bred in the Eastern Free State, in reasonable proximity to where the nation’s Champion Thoroughbred breeders, Summerhill Stud, ply it’s trade.
Commenting on the depth of quality in South African endurance horses following the 200km Fauresmith Challenge, Chief Vet, Dr Henk Basson, said that “our local breds (Arabs and part-bred, Appaloosas, Nooitgedachters, Boerperde and others) are in great demand internationally, especially in the Middle East, and particularly in Dubai. South Africa now has one of the most consistent ranking lists in the world. A few hundred South African horses have achieved world records, and six out of the top ten are acknowledged horses of the Federation Equine Int (FEI)”. This means that six of the top ten in the world rankings right now are products of this country, and that’s a staggering statistic.
Yet this is not a new tradition. Students of the Anglo Boer War will recall the frustrating elusiveness of the Boer forces under General Jan Smuts, who straddled the length and breadth of the country aboard their Boerperde during the final 18 months of the war, galloping from their original base in the Free State as far as the furthest reaches of what is now known as Nambia, and back. While the British forces had fresh animals at their disposal, General Smuts’ cavalry comprised very much the team he started out with, and while the enormous distances they had to cover took their toll, no greater compliment could’ve been paid to these animals than that of the British Generals, who acknowledged their considerable toughness. It’s this legacy that’s taken them to the top of the endurance charts in modern times.