One of the most positive aspects of the annual South African National Equestrian Schools Association (SANESA) Championship is the dedication and passion of the parents. Leonard and Lizelle Openshaw, for example, drove all the way up from the Western Cape to Misty Meadows Equestrian Venue in Pretoria East to support their daughter Lizaan and her horse Levi.
“It’s worth every cent,” said Leonard. “Kids with a horse to train and look after don’t land up in drug rehab.”
All the parents of the Western Cape team took turns to mind the horses between classes, as well as feed and groom them.
The SANESA Championship, which ran from 3 to 12 October, drew a record number of entrants. Despite the fact that only provincial teams were involved, as many as 1 000 horse boxes were parked at the venue! Numerous spectators also attended.
One discipline followed the other, with several classes in each arena.
Games was followed on Monday by the first national championship for Western Performance and Reining. This was followed from Tuesday onwards by the core disciplines Equitation, Showing, Dressage and Jumping. Those in the top end of the competition are our future contenders at the World Equestrian Games and the Olympics. Jan Joubert, vice-chairperson of SANESA and well-known Boerperd breeder, was delighted at the huge turnout and the increasing ability of our school riders. It was gratifying, he said, to see riding becoming a major school sport.
The more disciplines a child can ride, the more points he or she can gain for the school and towards school colours. At the same time, each discipline has many levels, so even the beginner has a chance to compete and grow with the sport.
Practical for schools
A major advantage of riding is that it is affordable for many schools, as the trainers are not part of the staff and there is no need for facilities such as cricket pitches or tennis courts. In addition, the sport is managed by parents rather than teachers.
Horses and the rural economy
With children being involved, many smaller horses and ponies took part. Nearly 30% of the competitors in Western Games and a fair proportion of the other disciplines rode Boerperde. Arabians, Nooitgedachts, Paints, American Saddlers, Quarter horses and Appaloosas also competed in the Western disciplines. Horses in the core disciplines were mainly English Thoroughbreds, but Boerperde, Arabians and Warmbloods were also well represented.
SANESA is also good news for horse breeders and the rural economy generally. It helps to develop a market for good-natured, sensible performance horses of all breeds, and create opportunities in the management and training of these horses. It is essential that they be safe and suitable mounts.
Lesson in teamwork
Evidence of the character building that riding and teamwork can instil in children came to the fore on Thursday 9 October when a high wind drove a huge fire down the hill behind Misty Meadows. Although there were wide firebreaks, the smoke engulfed the arenas and horses panicked. The children and parents managed to gather competing horses safely together in the main arena and about 200 stabled horse were evacuated to the main road by their owners in order to avoid smoke inhalation.
Misty Meadows staff, members of the surrounding community, the fire brigade and Metro Police rallied round. Although it took about six hours to control the fire as it swept around the perimeter, everything was back to normal on Friday morning.