Igugu at Mike de Kock racing yard
Igugu at Mike de Kock racing yard

Field trip to Mike de Kock’s Summerveld yard as part of an “Introduction to Training” module.

Students pictured with Igugu, Vodacom Durban July (Gr1) champion

and South African Horse Of The Year.

(Photo : Heather Morkel)



Mike Moon - The Times
Mike Moon - The Times

Mike Moon

The TimesEducation and horse racing are not often bracketed in the same sentence.

Actually, racing requires stacks of knowledge and skill to make it tick. The know-how must be acquired somewhere, yet the game’s current educational process is woefully patchy.

At least someone is doing something about it. It’s an heroic, individual effort.

In racing and breeding much knowledge is still passed on in an informal way on the job. Pockets of learning excellence include the SA Jockey Academy, but for most workers on the ground, chances of career betterment are scant.

Racing is the most labour-intensive industry in South Africa, a recent survey found. Yet it has an educational void that reflects poorly on the sport and on a government that waffles about job creation.

A man who talks a lot is Mick Goss of Summerhill Stud in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. He likes to call his welter of words “bull”, but it’s not dung of the political kind, for he is an example of real achievement.

He gave up law to become a horse-breeder. When he and wife Cheryl moved onto a rundown farm in 1979, they had a handful of broodmares and a ragtag staff of six. Today, Summerhill has had seven consecutive South African Champion Stud titles and 370 people work there, skilled, housed, attired. The Gosses have built a community - and its engine is education.

The stud has three learning institutions - a crèche, a prep school and a life skills mentoring class. Forty overseas scholarships have seen young Zulu horsemen studying in the US, in England and in Ireland.

Now there is the Al Maktoum School of Management Excellence, named in honour of a Dubai ruler who helped uplift South African racing and Summerhill.

The aim is to “propel graduates into management roles” in breeding and racing.

The first seven students are well into the inaugural course and school head Heather Morkel said progress has been remarkable.

“The skills increment and their growth as individuals have been huge.”

In addition to tutoring by experienced farm staff, vets and farriers, students go on field trips to race days and training stables. Business experts, breeding gurus, trainers, physiotherapists, psychiatrists and acupuncturists all have input.

Heather said students recognise it all as a life-changing experience and, despite being from different backgrounds around the country, have bonded extremely well as a group. They’ve picked up bits of each other’s languages and will probably be lifelong friends.

“They are so grateful for the opportunity. They have grown in confidence enormously, talking to famous people like champion trainer Mike de Kock, learning how to use the internet, and many other affirming experiences.”

Don’t breathe it to Mick, but Heather said her experience of the new school is so inspirational that “I’d almost be happy to do this work for nothing”.

That tells a story about learning and personal growth that puts so much wrong-headed, ineffectual education to shame.

Extract from The Times

School Of Management Excellence, South Africa
School Of Management Excellence, South Africa