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Summerhill International Scholarship Programme

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BECKY THOMAS : MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Becky Thomas and Ricardo Christian
Becky Thomas and Ricardo Christian

“Click above to view a few photos of our trip…”

SUMMERHILL

INTERNATIONAL SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAMME

Ricardo Christian
Ricardo Christian

Ricardo Christian

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.

Ricardo Christian

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THIS IS CNN : TIDINGS FROM AMERICA

Becky Thomas of Sequel Bloodstock with Thabiso Mgoza and Ricardo Christian
Becky Thomas of Sequel Bloodstock with Thabiso Mgoza and Ricardo Christian

Becky Thomas with Thabiso Mgoza and Ricardo Christian in Ocala, Florida, USA

(Photo : Sequel Bloodstock)

“Breeze Up Sales

are frighteningly competitive affairs…”

On a weekend when one of America’s most successful racehorse investors was with us, we have news from our own young men in that part of the world. Ebony Flyer is the three year old on everybody’s lips right now, and Team Valor’s Barry Irwin and his wife Kathleen breezed this way for the weekend. One lunchtime with Mr Irwin is like a semester at Harvard when it comes to the racing business, so needless to say, we had an intriguing couple of days. The news on Ebony Flyer, incidentally, is that she’s no longer travelling : she’s staying to contest next year’s international version of the Queen’s Plate, given the ambitions L’Ormarins and their fellow stakeholders have for the prize money next year.

Closer to home, most readers are familiar with our international scholarship programme, and the fact that we have our 39th and 40th recipients in the form of Ricardo Christian and Thabiso Mgoza on tour as we write. More specifically, they are based at Becky Thomas’ Sequel Bloodstock farm in Ocala, Florida, dubbed by Floridians as the “horse training capital of the world”. We’ve been lucky in our association with Becky, as she knows and understands what these programmes mean to our young people, and especially to a man like Thabiso, the extent of whose travel experience was confined pretty much to Mooi River and the Durban precincts till now.

Because we’ve been associated with Ready To Run sales for more than two decades, there’s a perception that everything connected with this form of marketing of racehorses, starts and ends at Summerhill. While that may bear some truth in terms of the evolution of the concept of Ready To Runs and the technical advancement of sales of this sort, the reality is that it has its roots right there in Ocala, where the O’Farrell family initiated the idea as long ago as 1957, out of a frustration with the fact that they were unable to compete at the major sales in Kentucky against the established farms there. It was at a dinner with the present generation of O’Farrells in 1987 that Mick Goss and the late Chris Smith stumbled on the idea as a solution to a similar difficulty in this country. Wrapping our product up as a running horse (as opposed to the “walking” parade at conventional sales) founded the fastest growing and most popular sale in South Africa, one which has already witnessed six more Graded Stakes winners this season alone, Igugu, Hollywoodboulevard, Blue Voyager, Mannequin, Pierre Jourdan and Arabian Mist.

In the States, the “Breeze Up” sales, as they’re known in that part of the world, are frighteningly competitive affairs, and only supreme horsemen and women survive, and thrive, in such an environment. You see, in the United States, the breezes are timed, and, in order to realize their value, horses are expected to gallop at a spectacular clip. In Ricardo’s words, as a rider of these horses, you’d better know your stuff, right down to the seamless changing of legs, maintaining your horse’s balance, and always remembering that this is a raw, relatively uneducated talent, imbued with the exuberance of youth, as well as an often explosive capacity for self-destruction.

Our “boys” are keenly aware of their responsibilities to Sequel and they know that in a world which doesn’t always appreciate these things, having a mentor who genuinely cares, is a world away from the “take-it-or-leave-it” approach many work experiences entail. These are gifted young people, born to ride horses but limited in their exposure to “life”, as most of us know it. There is no measure by which we can judge the value of these scholarships, nor the impact it has on the aspirations of those who’ve never been before.

summerhill stud, south africa
summerhill stud, south africa

For more information please visit :

www.summerhill.co.za

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SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY : RETURN OF THE PRODIGALS (PRODIGIES)

becky thomas, prince mdunjane and thabane nzimande
becky thomas, prince mdunjane and thabane nzimande

Becky Thomas, Prince Mdunjane and Thabane Nzimande

(Photo : Sequel Stallions, Barretts, Summerhill Stud)

SUMMERHILL INTERNATIONAL SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAMME

Most of our readers know of our international programmes, and the scholarships we’ve established for members of our previously disadvantaged community. We’ve long been champions of the belief that the Zulus are among the world’s leading stockmen, but it took us many years to convince the world of their skill with horses. For the past thirteen, we’ve sent between two and four young Zulus abroad to work at the great farms in America, England and Ireland, and as we write, we have two in the States and two with the Swinburn family at Genesis Green in the UK.

Becky ThomasLackland Farm in Florida has been home for the past few months to Prince Mdunjane and Thabane Nzimande, where they’ve been riding out on the youngsters destined for the various Breeze Up Sales in those parts. From all accounts, they’ve been another roaring success, and both sides have benefited enormously.

If this world is going to work, it’s going to require an accommodation from those countries that preside over the financial resources of the planet, and a reciprocal effort from those who seek to be empowered. Becky Thomas recognised this long ago, hosting several of our staff over the years, and has been known to marvel at their skill, work ethic, and their sheer decency. Yet, not having visited South Africa, she won’t know what it means to these fellows and what it brings to our community. We should be forever indebted to Becky for sharing her expertise, and above all, for being so generous and caring to those we send.

The letter below, from our returning sons says it all.

Dear Linda and Everyone

I hope u all doing well and i hope the National Sale was good. And we are doing great and we are in California in Barretts Sale. I cant wait 2 see u guys because we have much 2 share with u guys, what we learn from Becky and her team. We learn a lot and most of the new things from us back there, in a short of time we spend with and her team. She is so great to us and she gave us a chance and teach us alot. Siyabonga kakhulu ngethuba enisiphe lona. Thank you very much for the chance that u gave us and i hope u will be proud about us when we teach others what we learn here. Thank you so much for this opportunity that you gave us to learn something new from Becky and her team and tell Mr Goss that We Salute him with greatest hornour and we so proud of him as our Tata. Until We Meet Again We Shall Simile. HAPPY MOTHERS DAY TO EVERY MOTHER ON A FARM.

Eric and Prince

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MESSAGE FROM OUR MEN IN THE STATES

thabani nzimande and price mdunjane
thabani nzimande and price mdunjane

Thabani Nzimande and Prince Mdunjane

(Photos : Summerhill Stud)

SUMMERHILL INTERNATIONAL SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAMME

The 33rd, 34th, 35th and 36th beneficiaries of our international scholarship programme; Elliot Bhengu, Sizwe Ndlela, Thabani (Eric) Nzimande and Prince Mdunjane departed our shores last month for Genesis Green Stud in Newmarket, UK, and Becky Thomas’ Lackland Farm in Florida, USA, respectively.

We received the following email this morning from Eric and Prince, our men in the States…

Hi Linda, how are you guys back there and we hope you all doing well back home. We starting to settle in here and enjoying our working because Becky she is a nice lady and she is trying her best to teach us everything and we goner try our best to take everything that she teach us and goner bring it back home and let other guys know how they do things around here at the State. Please greet everyone at the morning meeting and tell them that we miss each every one of you. Thanks again for giving us this great chance to learn things here in USA. Keep well and keep shining and keep that Summerhill Flag high.

From you lovely guys in America (Eric and Prince)

SUMMERHILL INTERNATIONAL SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAMME

elliot bhengu sizwe ndlela
elliot bhengu sizwe ndlela

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Please click above to view pics of Sizwe Ndlela and Elliot Bhengu

(Photos : Leigh Willson)

BON VOYAGE

Most readers of these columns, are people who know the meaning of opportunity. Flying, and in the majority of instances, flying internationally, is something we take for granted, so you might ask yourself what the big deal is, when we speak of the excitement we feel at the departure of our four scholarship recipients for 2010.

You have to put yourself in the shoes of a young Zulu from a previously disadvantaged background, to get any kind of an inkling of what it means to visit a strange country. Language and culture are just a few of the issues they have to come to terms with, but most of these guys have never even set foot on an aeroplane, let alone travelled across the seas. As the 33rd, 34th, 35th and 36th beneficiaries of our international scholarship programme,Elliot Bhengu and Sizwe Ndlela left us this past weekend, with Thabani Nzimande and Prince Mdunjane leaving this next one, for Genesis Green Stud in Newmarket, UK, and Becky ThomasLackland Farm in Florida, USA, respectively.

We have had a long and happy association with Becky Thomas’ outfit over several years, starting out with students who are now senior members of our management team, and Thabani and Prince will be joining a crew heavily involved in the preparation and sale of Ready To Run horses. Elliot and Sizwe team up with the Swinburn family, famed not only for having sold some of Europe’s high priced yearlings over the years, but especially for Walter’s two Derby victories aboard two of the Aga Khan’s greatest horses, Shergar and Sharastani.

While these guys are all rapidly climbing the ranks at Summerhill, they’ve nonetheless had to undergo a mentorship programme of several years in order to get to where they are. Competition for places is tough, and these men have been hand selected for this great moment. Reasonably worldly within the realms of their own territories, they obviously know cities like Durban and Johannesburg, but as little fellows growing up, they would surely never have dreamed of London or Miami.

They leave us with a sense of great pride, and the secure knowledge that while they will have much to learn and experience at the other end, when it gets down to horsemanship, it is they who’ll be sharing the secrets of what only a Zulu stockman can impart.

Of one thing we’re certain. Those that work with them, recruited like ours from across the globe, will be all the richer of knowing these boys.

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Summerhill Horsemen spreading their wings

Elliot BhenguElliot Bhengu The last two weeks have seen the departure of three of Summerhill’s top horsemen to foreign shores.

A few days ago, John Motaung who works with Tarryn Liebenberg in our pre-training yard, flew to Becky Thomas’s stables at Ocala in Florida, USA, where he will join their team of work riders and continue to learn more about training, breaking and schooling of young horses in America. John was very excited about his trip as this was his second visit to the United States (he spent some time at Gainsborough Stud in Kentucky in 2005).

Elliot Bhengu and Michael Ndlovu arrived safely at Derrinstown Stud in Co. Kildare, Ireland, yesterday. These two intrepid travellers are first-time flyers and were very keen to experience the thrill of flying in an aeroplane. Both Eliot and Michael have been employed at Summerhill for several years, where they work for the Broodmare division and the pre-training section respectively. They will undergo four months in-depth training at Sheikh Hamdan’s stud and will bring back a wealth of experience to their colleagues on the farm.

Posted by Marlene Breed 

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What's Annet Becker doing today?

Annet BeckerAnnet BeckerAnnet is the farm’s Broodmare and FoalCare Manager, but she also has under her responsibility last year’s foals (just turned yearlings) until the Ready To Run sale is behind us, at which point these horses are taken over by Tarryn Liebenberg and Michael Booysen. Annet plays a pivotal role in the intellectual side of our business as well, stimulating discussion on such issues as strategy, direction and promoting changes in the way we operate. Such is the energy of youth that the exuberance sometimes needs a little tempering with the wisdom that comes only with age (those of us that fall into the latter category like to think this is necessary, if only to maintain relevance in the affairs of the business!).

Thulani MnguniThulani Mnguni
Richard HlongwaneRichard HlongwaneAnnet came to us following her graduation from Ondersterpoort Veterinary School, and a three year stint with one of the great farms of the world, Juddmonte, in the United States, and she has brought an important dimension to our business. Her assistants include Richard Hlongwane (who inherited the yearling prep responsibility from the Mbanjwa family some seven or eight seasons ago), and already has some 15 years experience under his belt with yearlings, (Richard is a graduate of our international scholarship programme), while Thulani Mnguni (who has the broodmares as his responsibility and attends to all the teasing,) knows every single mare on the farm intimately. He is another graduate of a stint at Sheikh Hamdan’s Derrinstown Stud in Ireland.

Douw CoetzeeDouw CoetzeeDouw Coetzee, another of Annet’s assistants has just recently returned from the United States following a three year stint with Becky Thomas’ Lakland Farms (famed for their Ready To Run sales consignments in the States), among many other things. Douw’s family have long been associated with ex Minister of Agriculture, Hendrik Schoeman and his massive farming enterprise near Heidelberg in the Eastern Transvaal, and he came to us as an accomplished endurance rider.

Apart from caring for something of the order of 180 yearlings, Annet’s responsibilities right now keep her desperately busy as the foals have started to come in numbers, and she is a touch behind with the dissemination of our panel’s mating recommendations for all the mares on the farm, not to mention those belonging to the multitude of outside clients who wish to visit the stallions.

Ashley McNabbAshley McNabbRichard FitzgeraldRichard FitzgeraldAs pressured as Annet is to get the on-the-farm customers mating profiles concluded, for every one she completes, she gets another request from outside, and it’s the Devil’s own task to get over the present hump. Not that she’s complaining, as she knows this generates business for the stallion division, and as the busiest stallion division of its kind on the continent, keeping it there demands extraordinary dedication, not to mention ingenuity.

Of course, it hasn’t helped that we released the new Sire’s brochure this week, as that in itself, coupled with the results at the Emperor’s Palace Two Year Old sale, has stimulated further interest in the stallions, generating additional work for this girl. However, if she didn’t have broad shoulders and one of the quickest minds on the property, we’d be feeling sorry for her, but she gives as good as she gets. She tells us she should have the back of this mammoth undertaking behind her early next week.

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