(Photo : Gareth Du Plessis)
“Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams” William Yeats, Irish poet laureate.
The storybooks tell you, growing up is supposed to be fun. Ours was. For me, it happened in the remotest part of South Africa surrounded by the wonders of the wilds. Were it not for Marconi, who gave us the “wireless”, our isolation might’ve denied us the staccato of the race commentary. From the time I first sat on a potty, horses were part of my life. I don’t remember a visit to the loo without a Duff’s Turf Guide clutched in my hands.
You quickly sensed, if you lived where we did, that the crust of the earth is a vast museum, entombed with the history of mankind, and the secrets of our being. Where Mother Nature was in charge, our upbringing taught us to make her our partner. Nature has plenty of patience, and in the end she will get her way if you step on her.
These truths were the keys to Summerhill’s rise to the mountaintop. Unlike St Pauls Cathedral, where the bulk of the columns end a few inches below the roof and were erected to placate the sceptics, understanding the land, the climate, the people, the plants and the animals of the kingdom, were the pillars on which our business was built. As well as the realisation that right here, we’re custodians of some of the finest “dirt” on the planet, that in those great clouds which belong to this country alone, there rests a bounty that makes us, surely, the chosen people.
We are not mired though, in a religion of old fashioned beliefs. Nature matters, but so does nurture. Technology has revolutionised the world, and Summerhill has been at the forefront of its application, provided it found a bedfellow in the environment. In its nuclear disaster of this year, Japan sacrificed nature at the altar of technology, and was punished by both.
One thing technology can’t give us, though, is time for discovery. We need to re-invent free time. Inventions have always had many parents. “Doubt is the father of invention” said Galileo. Necessity is its mother, according to Plato. And in the modern era of convenience, sloth gave us the electric toothbrush, the universal remote and the drive-thru’ McDonalds.
In the world in which we live, there’s no substitute for the 10,000 hours at the grindstone. Inspiration comes to those that earn it. If there’s been a constant in our three decades at Summerhill, it’s been sticking to the truth of our roots. Ever since, we’ve pandered to the herd instincts of our horses, letting them run outside, remembering they are creatures of habit. That, despite their intelligence, like their cousins in the wilds, they display little reasoning in the face of danger. That some traditions, like an hour’s grooming, may not be every horse’s cup of tea.
Racehorses made the Summerhill way, tell the stories of their upbringings everyday on the racecourses of the world. In their association with the landscape, their histories, the characters of the soils and the people.
Like you we like to ask questions. We don’t pretend to have all the answers. But with a history of six Breeder’s titles, we don’t mind the questions either.
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