John Motaung aboard Igugu at the Ready To Run Gallops
John Motaung aboard Igugu at the Ready To Run Gallops

John Motaung breezes Igugu at the 2009 Emperors Palace Ready To Run Gallops at Summerhill Stud

(Photo : Summerhill Stud)


A British Olympic rider staying at Hartford House, recently witnessed a passing string of two-year-olds on the Imperial Despatch track; he was at once mesmerised. Here was a gallery of the old masters, as glorious a gathering of the good Lord’s finest creatures as he’s witnessed. It was their Zulu riders though, that really beguiled him, as much at one with the horses as he’d known.

When he enquired of the lead rider where he’s learned his trade, the response was quick. “I was born to ride horses, sir.” He might’ve been talking for his fifteen colleagues as well. You never want to underestimate the Zulus. Our British forebears made that mistake at the Battle of Isandlwana in 1879, and it’s never been forgotten. There is only one nation on earth, whose name is known to every airline pilot on the planet: “Z” for Zulu, and it’s because of the events that took place within two hours of where we live in those turbulent times.

I’ve been to all the major stud farms of the world, and while it’s never advisable to claim best, I believe the people we’ve assembled here are as good as they get. That doesn’t happen overnight though; it’s taken us more than three decades to put this lot together, and these days we’re celebrating the outcome. Something approaching 100 members of staff have served Summerhill for a decade or more, and a few for the whole duration. Remember, we kicked off with just six members of staff, so it says something for their loyalties and the fact they love this place that so many have stayed for so long.

Another eight crafted their names onto the Long-Service awards board in the Summerhill office this year, and two of them, Irene Zuma and Porka Mlambo, etched up twenty years. Irene is the widow of an ex-head groom in the stallion barn, Mandla Zuma, where the family have presided for decades. Her neice, Zandile Mnchunu, has just completed ten years in the Hartford kitchen, after representing South Africa at an international cooking exhibition in Shanghai last year. Most Summerhill customers know Michele Muir, not only as the wife of a man who’s given us 26 years as the Head Stallion man, Greig, but as the lady in charge of customer’s accounts at Summerhill. Hartford’s celebrated head-chef, Jackie Cameron, cracked a decade and turned 30 in the same month, while the Head Girl in the Ready To Run division, Tarryn Liebenberg, joined us ten years ago straight out of school. Tembi Shangase is second-mother to a Goss grandchild, Hannah, whose bright face in these pages is well known to our readers.

Finally, you mightn’t have expected John Motaung to have made ten years as a rider when he first arrived, but a 10 year stint with Tarryn and Michael Booysen and two years on scholarships to the United States, makes him one of the masters of his profession. Here’s a guy who epitomises the Summerhill dream, and reminds us all, that nothing is beyond reach. When he first arrived, he was off the horse more often than he was on it, and he was nicknamed “Woza Weekend” (come the weekend), as it generally meant a break from the rigours of sitting on undisciplined two-year olds.

Whatever else they may be, our people are paragons of enthusiasm, good humour and curiosity; Renaissance people in an era that needs them. Every farm has a personality, but very few get to spell it with a capital “P”, and that’s the reason we’ve made the investment in the educational advancement of those who make their crusts here.

There are already three learning institutions at Summerhill. A crèche, a preparatory school and a life-skills mentoring class. The “prep”, with just 65 pupils, has fashioned a mayor and two junior international athletes in recent times. The mentoring class has seen the award of 44 overseas scholarships to people who’d never ventured too far from the boundaries of Mooi River in their lives. These are the “home runs” that get us up in the mornings. And that’s what prompted the development of our School of Management Excellence. As the first institution of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, its erection filled a void in the needs of an industry involving billions of dollars in investment, but woefully short on the educational opportunities this facility delivers.

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

Heather Morkel +27 (0) 33 263 1081

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