Are horses being stolen for racing?

A boerperd and two appaloosas were stolen on 27 June from the Pletts family and two other owners in Howick.

The Boerperd was found days later in Mpophomeni township with its tail and mane cut off and its muscles torn. Local informants said stolen horses are being used for bush racing.

“Bush racing is big and it’s going to continue,” said the manager of a Natal Midlands stock pound. “I’ve been to some of the races. It’s a shotgun start, and then a straight dash from A to B and the fastest horse wins. The money is quite big – R72 000 for the winning horse at the last race I went to.”

The Appaloosas were found on 20 July at Mpande, one of the major bush-racing venues. The Pietermaritzburg stock-theft unit’s Colonel van Tonder said bush racing there is highly organised and much of it is legal. “Many stolen horses are relocated in this area, but we have no hard proof connecting bush racing to horse theft. Many legal bush races are registered by Golden Horse, and they’ve assured us that stolen horses, or horses they don’t recognise, won’t be allowed to race.

“I think the thefts are the work of guys who just ride the horse for a few days for the pleasure of it before turning it loose. We recover many horses through our rural informants. I’m not saying these guys aren’t emulating legal events. It’s possible, but we don’t have any proof of that yet.”

The jewel of legal bush racing in KZN is the Dundee Rural Horse-Riding Festival, which took place on 24 July this year. The event has grown and now attracts international visitors. Stake money has risen from R15 000 to R100 000.