summerhill stud farm natal midlands
summerhill stud farm natal midlands

Summerhill Stud… in the heart of the Natal Midlands

(Photo : Leigh Willson)

Co-ordinates:  South:  29° 13min 175 sec; East:  29° 56min 288sec:

Latitude:  29.216715; Longitude:  29.933413;

Elevation:  1,433m above sea level

wendy saint
wendy saint

Wendy Saint After three months of being employed at Summerhill Stud as Mick Goss’ new PA, and my probation period “safely” behind me, I thought it fitting to contribute my very first article to the Summerhill Blog.

My previous career as an international flight attendant, with our national carrier SAA, spanned ten wonderful years.  It was a privileged life and the memories of jet setting around the world, Paris one week, New York, London the next, will remain with me forever.  This was job satisfaction at its best and I wondered, when the time came to plant my feet firmly on terra firma, how I would ever be able to find fulfilment and happiness as I had, cruising at 35,000 ft?

Destination: Mooi River; Co-ordinates: Summerhill Stud / Hartford House (Co-ordinates:  South:  29° 13min 175 sec; East:  29° 56min 288sec: Latitude:  29.216715; Longitude:  29.933413; Elevation:  1,433m above sea level).  Who could ever have imagined that the little farming town of Mooi River in the heart of the Natal Midlands would be my next port of call, and that a Stud Farm would be my next ticket to job satisfaction and personal fulfilment?

As I approached the long, winding road that was to lead me to the Summerhill offices for my interview; immaculately lined with its freshly mown lawns and crisp, green pastures where pristinely groomed mares and their foals grazed contentedly, I was overcome by a sense of panic - the realisation that I hadn’t yet attended my first interview and the overwhelming sense that I knew that I had to be a part of all of “this”.  On being warmly greeted by Mick in reception, I knew that there was something special about Summerhill Stud / Hartford House and it had to be more than the way they mowed their lawns and trimmed their hedges. (Although now three months later, I realise, that even this is done with the greatest of pride and precision.)

It goes without saying, that as Champion Breeders for five consecutive years, it takes a team of champions to achieve these results.  The Summerhill team, with their hard work, dedication, commitment and extraordinary levels of competence and ability are the reason for these results.  I have the privilege of working, on a daily basis, with these dedicated people who comprise the stud personnel and their gifted team of horsemen and women, Vuma Feeds, farm and agricultural employees, Goss Insurance, the construction and maintenance team, administration and accounts departments, Hartford House and our marketing and advertising team.  It’s thanks to each and every one of these individuals, that the steep learning curve I have embarked on since joining this fascinating and highly complex industry of bloodstock and racing has been made that much easier, and dare I say it, even fun.  I have yet to live down leaving a message for Mick to phone Pierre Jourdan, after the historic weekend where we won the Gauteng Colts Guineas, not knowing that Pierre Jourdan was in fact the horse that won the race, and not the trainer or his owner. 

To achieve the level of success which Summerhill enjoys, takes great management.  To maintain it, however, requires extraordinary leadership.  Summerhill is one of those rare organisations that has this in abundance, characterised all the way from the top down, with humility, vision, energy, passion and compassion.  It is this world class leadership that inspires me to get up at the crack of dawn to report for duty every morning, to read more, to learn more, to try harder and to work smarter.  

I was told by a close friend of Summerhill’s only a few weeks ago that “if you just hold onto their coat tails, you’ll fly.”  I’m hanging on firmly and while I’m still only navigating my way around the runway, it won’t be long, I believe, before I’m soaring at 35,000 ft again, and Mick won’t be having to phone his horses to congratulate them on their weekend win!