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Summerhill Staff



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

or email




Welcome Mbatha - Summerhill Trading
Welcome Mbatha - Summerhill Trading

Welcome Mbatha

(Photo : Summerhill Stud)


“Mayor of Mooi River”

One division at Summerhill you hear very little about, is the trading store. The reason is, it’s tied with Goss & Co Insurance brokers as the least trouble! Those that remember the days when Vuma feeds were manufactured exclusively at Summerhill, will tell you that the trading store is tucked in between the loading ramps and the Vuma factory, convenient to everyone as they come and go to and from work. It’s the social gathering ground of everyone on the farm, and it’s the place where the bulk of our people first learnt to open and manage a credit account. You want to know what’s happening on the farm, formally or informally, how we’re managing the holidays, when the next shop bonus is going to be paid out, where the next party is, births, deaths, marriages and “scraps”, you’ll know it from a visit to the store.

The man in charge is Welcome Mbatha, whose name is already inscribed on the roll of honour of those who’ve received long service awards. He grew up the son of a labourer at Weston Agricultural College on the outskirts of our village, and joined us as a driver his first career job. As Group Business Manager, Ferdi Heinen puts it, Welcome made the job his own, and made it his business to know everyone and everything about the components of the group, as well as each and everyone of our suppliers. It wasn’t long, and he’d earned his nickname “Mayor of Mooi River”. His enterprise, his willingness and his decency compelled us to keep looking in his direction whenever a new position of suitable seniority opened itself, and when Ferdi’s late wife, Cathy, passed on, it was time to give Welcome a go. Shopkeeping was completely strange to him, but here was an entrepreneur, a trader from his toes to the top of his head, and it wasn’t long before he’d become the buyer, the merchandiser, the marketer and the salesman.

In a wink he’d become the administrator too, calculating his own mark-ups, reconciling debtors and the banking, tracking his stock holdings, signing off and settling creditors. Turnovers, budgets, GPs, net profits, you name it, Welcome has it in hand, and the Group Financial Manager, Kevin Fyvie, will tell you that when it comes to his monthly meeting with the money people, Mr Mbatha has all the answers.

Summerhill Trading has given Welcome an appetite for opportunity, and his entrepreneurial verve has helped him to spot the gaps. For many years, we’ve transported those that don’t live on the farm in and out of the village on a daily basis in the old Mercedes Benz five tonner, acquired in 1987 as a “rebuild”. Heaven knows how long it had been on the road before then, but it’s still going, though slowly. And that’s where the gap lay. Welcome noticed that a single vehicle made staff logistics cumbersome, without the flexibility of second and third shifts. He approached management with a proposal that he be contracted to provide a taxi service, for which purpose he would use his personal Toyota LDV. It wasn’t long, and he’d acquired a Hi Ace minibus, to which he’s since added a 16 seater Quantum and a 23 seater VW buss to his fleet. We know not the bounds of where he’s headed, but what we do know, he’s the same old Welcome we took on as a driver 11 years ago.



wendy saint
wendy saint

Wendy Saint

(Photo : Leigh Willson)


There was disbelief at Summerhill when the boss employed a new PA by the surname of “Saint”. Some wags were quick to ask whatever he did to warrant such an appointment, and “saintly” is probably the most apt term in describing Wendy Saint, who came to us from a career as a long-serving stewardess in the front cabins of SAA. This is obviously where she honed her skills with people, and she arrived complete with all the dulcet greetings including a habit of answering the phone “Good day, Wendy Saint”.

Our stallion manager, Greig Muir, whose daily task is closer to manure than it is to mink, enquired when he heard this rather Victorian line of answering, “are you always this posh?”. When she answered that it was just her way, he was quick to say he’d need to take her out and roll her in some horse bog, to get it knocked out of her!

Don’t worry, Ms. Saint has her sleeves rolled up, like the rest of us, and she’s never let her smart upbringing interfere with a good day’s work.


megan romeyn sea cottage
megan romeyn sea cottage

Megan Romeyn and Sea Cottage

(Photo : Summerhill Stud)


Unlike their very visible television counterparts, radio DJ’s are the anonymous voices of the electronic media. Our anonymous voice is our shop window, the lady who answers the telephone. In Summerhill’s case, most of you know the mellifluous tones of Megan Romeyn, always cheerful, always polite, and never short of enthusiasm. Megan’s not only enthusiastic about life, she loves the horses and is passionate about the Summerhill story. She took the liberty this morning of naming her top twelve racehorses of the past fifty years. She didn’t pick them solely for their race records, but for their personalities and their hearts.

1. Sea Cottage. 20 wins from 24 races. Dead-heated with Jollify in 1966 Durban July.

2. Hawaii. Winner of fifteen races in South Africa and six in America including the Man O’War Handicap at Belmont. Son Henbit won 1980 Epsom Derby.

3. Colorado King. Winner of the Durban July and Cape Derby – both Group One races. He won a total of 10 races in South Africa before being exported to America. Won the Hollywood Gold Cup (Gr.1) in 1964 and equalled world record for nine furlongs.

4. Horse Chestnut. One of the greatest horses to come out of South Africa. His racing record speaks for itself.

5. Mowgli. Winner of six races of current Group One status in twelve weeks. A feat never to be repeated again in equine history.

6. Northern Guest. Greatest broodmare sire in South African history with a record eight titles to his name. Even though he was unraced, his progeny have distinguished themselves on the racetrack

7. Wolf Power. Winner of multiple Group One races including back-to-back Queen’s Plates (83/84). Horse of the Year. Sired 334 Graded Stakes winners from 500 starters in 16 crops.

8. In Full Flight. Winner of four Group One races. Legendary duels with Sentinel whom he beat to win Queens Plate in 1971?

9.Politician. Bred locally by Scott Bros. Winner of 11 Grade One and two Grade Two races most under top weight. Horse of the Year 1976-1980.

10.Yataghan.Winner of Durban July (1973). Famous for his never say die attitude. Legendary duel with Elevation to win Champion Stakes.

11.Elevation. Champion horseracer and equine sire. Remembered for hat-trick of wins in Holiday Inns Handicap (Gr.1) Winner of SA Derby and 2nd in Met.

12.Sentinel. Bred here at Hartford House. Winner of 29 races. A superb sprinter, he became famous for his dead heat with rival In Full Flight in the Cape Guineas in 1972. Known for his deadly burst of speed.


chris helbold at the greaytown mountain bike race
chris helbold at the greaytown mountain bike race

Chris Helmbold at the Greytown Mondi Classic MTB race

(Photo :


While you may have come to think of us as a source primarily of quality racehorses, we’re rapidly developing a reputation in another realm. Knowing their obsession with horses, you might ask yourself what our people do in their leisure time. Things that spring to mind, because they’re champions of their respective arts, are football and traditional dancing. Our soccer teams have long dominated the Midlands logs, and it’s well know that our dancers are not only the national champions, but they ranked 3rd and 2nd respectively at the World Championships in Tokyo and Hong Kong in the past two years.

Sunday added a new dimension to the retinue of skills of our people, when no fewer than four of the team took their bikes to the Karkloof Trail Blazer. While our lead rider, Chris Helmbold, was laid low by a bought of flu, it seems Grant Norval, Kerry Jack and Tarryn Liebenberg all made satisfactory qualifying rides. But the one that really impressed was Ready To Run supremo, Tarryn, who in a field of 300 for the 20km cross country ride, was the first filly home in the entire line-up. We knew she could ride a horse, and we’ve seen her making a few strides on the two-wheeler, but this one didn’t only take us by surprise. You should’ve seen her face at the morning meeting!