summerhill yearling and groom (michael nefdt)A private farewell between Yearling and Groom
(Summerhill Stud)

“…not so much fun and games anymore.”

Time was, when our horses departed for the National Sales, the ladies and children of the farm would stand at the loading ramps to serenading the horses on their way to racing glory. The tradition was born partly of superstition, and partly to soothe the nerves of young, unhabituated “hot-bloods” as they alighted for the first time onto a horse-drawn trailer. In those days, before man intervened to the degree we do now, the horses were pretty much “rough and ready”, and they’d have tested every sinew and every patience on their daily walks for several weeks before they left.

Then we’d ask them to get on a trailer and know the movement of a vehicle under their feet for the first time, something some of their temperaments couldn’t handle.

Man’s intervention has once again played a role in disrespecting the pleasantries of ritual, this time in the form of a headmaster who no longer believes it necessary for the children to miss a morning of school, whilst the horses load. He’s witnessed the process himself, and seen how well behaved they are these days, and he doesn’t grab the line that they wouldn’t run as quickly, if we discarded the serenade.

In the old days, not only was the loading attended by a choral accompaniment, but the farm staff would dance the horses at single digit kilometres per hour to the T-junction at the top of the farm, whilst the “cargo” came to terms with the beast beneath them. Then off they’d go, carrying the aspirations and dreams of a community.

These days, it’s more matter-of-fact, and we console ourselves that these horses have been bought up in the hands of professionals, that they’re ready for every eventuality, and their next assignment is to keep the numbers ticking on the Breeders’ log. Thursday was the day, and as good a draft as any to leave for the National Sales, lined up at the old loading ramps at the back doors of the maker of Africa’s finest horsefeeds. No doubt, there’ll be those in Joburg awaiting their arrival, and soon they’ll be decamping for new destinations, some of them for the shores of new lands.

View the Summerhill Draft
Emperors Palace National Yearling Sales

3-6 April 2009