Parallels between racing pigeons and horses

Sanna Botha, a renowned South African horse expert, says she was literally born in the stable.
Issue date 18 May 2007

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Sanna Botha, a renowned South African horse expert, says she was literally born in the stable. During our interview she speaks of her childhood days of wide-open spaces on a cattle farm in the Northern Transvaal, and recalls breaking an arm when she fell off her horse Captain at the age of five. Her zeal and enthusiasm for horses became a deeper commitment over the years and the welfare and safekeeping of horses became her passion. Sanna naturally participated in horse shows, and in the early 1980s her skill as a show trainer won her many competitions. In 1986 she turned professional and in 1987 she worked as a professional trainer and administrator in the equine industry in America, gaining valuable experience in Oregon and Kentucky for four years. In 1989, her daughter Nicola, then aged 12, became the youngest rider to earn Springbok colours. Virtually every year since then, Sanna’s students have been Springboks.

Similarities to racing pigeons

Marriage to renowned South African vet Dr Ockert Botha introduced Sanna to the fascinating world of racing pigeons. Besides his professional practice, Dr Botha has earned worldwide acclaim for his part in developing several world firsts in avian medication and vitamin ­supplementation. Working with her husband at a few World Racing Pigeon Olympiads held in Europe, Sanna was struck by the similarities between horses and racing pigeons.
Both horses and racing pigeons show extraordinary mental capacity and bond to human beings in the same affectionate way. They have the same needs for nutritional health and hygienic ­conditions, and the stress factor that is behind the breakdown of general immunity in ­racing pigeons is also recognised in horses. In training both racing pigeons and horses, the criteria of the fitness curve, weight control and superior condition are manipulated by skilful training in much the same way. Many of the same external and internal parasites plague both horses and racing pigeons; both experience conditions of the respiratory tract like “slime in the throat”, and similar problems in the gut or intestine. Quarantine by the state vet is required for both species during importation and exportation.

Similar health concerns

In studying the nutritional and healthcare of horses, Sanna researched the administration of many different medications and supplements. She recognised the gap between the health industry (veterinarians) and the consumer (horse and pigeon owners) in the South African market. The horse industry and the racing pigeon fraternity share a common concern over the lack of availability and poor supply of effective supplementation and medication. Over the years, Sanna has had a number of valuable products, developed in the horse industry, tested and adapted to suit South African conditions. Only the best active substances are used under strict quality control. Since 2003, some of the products she designed for use in racing pigeons have reportedly been used successfully in the US and Kuwait. Prof Nic Muller, the well-known South African racing pigeon enthusiast, has endorsed Sanna’s products as extremely effective.

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Availability and affordability

Sanna instigated a mail-order service that cuts out the major running costs of a standard supplier by delivering via mail and overnight courier. The savings are redirected into the pocket of the ­consumer. Most general medication and a few of Sanna’s specialised products can be speed-posted to you; simply fax your order with proof of payment and your remedy is in the mail the next day. Dr Botha now assists pigeon fanciers with the health of their birds at his practice in Pretoria, and does testing for all the common pigeon diseases. He offers professional but practical programmes for keeping pigeons and horses. The latest horse and pigeon diseases are investigated and the most effective treatment is recommended and monitored. Although Sanna and Ockert operate from separate locations in Pretoria, their combined expertise gives you outstanding service and advice. – Thomas Smit
Contact Sanna Botha on 076 792 9628, fax (012) 802 0941. |fw