“Click above to view a few photos of our trip…”
INTERNATIONAL SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAMME
Assistant Pre-training Manager
Summerhill StudThabiso Mgoza and I had the privilege to spend the last 6 months in ‘racing paradise’. If you have had the privilege to experience the ‘sport of kings’ in the United states then you have an idea of what this journey has been like for us.
Our mentor Becky Thomas, pin-hooker; breeder; trainer and owner of Sequel Bloodstock, generously took on another two Summerhill recruits last year and I am lucky enough to tell the story this time. We left our green pastures in Mooi River, late November and found ourselves surrounded by what Floridians proudly boast to be the ‘training capital of the world’ - and it truly surpasses that. Ocala (Marion County) hosts over 1,200 thoroughbred training centres. Furthermore, the county ranked third nationally a couple of years back (behind two counties in Kentucky) in total value of horses sold. Horses are big business in Marion County and Sequel Bloodstock is a prime example. Overwhelming, would be too subtle of a word for our first impression.
Upon arrival, we wasted no time and joined the Sequel team in the barns before our first sunrise starting at 5h30am. Becky and her team involved us in all aspects of the farm to get the whole ‘savoir faire’ down to every detail. It was not just eyes and ears; we were hands on from day 1. We walked away with a wealth of knowledge on keeping of barns, maintaining the horses nutritional needs, the racehorse soundness, 2 year old sales, pedigree analysis, training techniques and all the ins and outs of the ‘pin-hooking’ business. Riding her 2 year olds was our most vital part of this training programme and certainly what we valued most out of it. We were lucky enough to have ridden and worked with the progeny of the world’s leading Sires, such as, Bernadini, Distorted Humor, Freud, Elusive Quality, Read The Footnotes, Rock Hard Ten - amongst many. With the help of Becky, our riding has gone from strength to strength. As South African pre-training riders, the US training techniques and riding styles differ so much from our ways back home and in the beginning we really battled with the big 2 year old bruts.
The actual sales in the states was an amazing experience on its own; showing horses to some of the world’s leading trainers, such as Bob Baffert who came to view Sequel’s horses at the Barrets Sales in California.
Our six months in America exceeded our expectations, everything from training on the farm to working at the sales. Becky Thomas gave us an unbelievable opportunity and also taught us not just about horses but about the American lifestyle and the different traditions and cultures.
Becky’s motto was ‘make a difference’ and if Becky only knew what a difference her team and herself have made on our lives and the people we share it with back here in South Africa, then I know this scholarship programme (40 graduates later) is only a start of many successful things to come.