|Press Release: Rocket Science
Just four short years ago, South Africa’s champion breeders, Summerhill Stud, launched the School of Equine Management Excellence, the only institution of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Thus far, the school has graduated three classes of students, and prides itself on the fact that every one of them has been placed in responsible employment afterwards. No fewer than half its graduates received international scholarships this year, to further their studies and work experiences in collaboration with some of the top farms in the world, as well as the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
Courtesy of the Childwick Trust, founded by the great English benefactor and avid horseman, Jim Joel, the school has a standing scholarship for its top graduates at the English National Stud, as revered an institution in horse husbandry as there is.
The first of those to benefit by this programme was a young Zulu fellow by the name of Thabani Nzimande, who along with Matthew de Kock (son of South Africa’s renowned trainer, Mike de Kock) attended the National Stud in 2012. One of 26 in his class, Thabani emerged as the top practical student of his year, a feat repeated this week by John Motaung, recipient of the same award for 2014, and closely pursued by a fellow graduate, Megan Trott. Thabani and John were former beneficiaries of Summerhill’s separate international scholarship programme, with stints under Becky Thomas’ tuition at Sequel Bloodstock in Florida; Motaung previously did a season at Gainsborough Stud in Kentucky.
Speaking from Summerhill, CEO Mick Goss said “I have been fortunate in my time to have visited all of the major thoroughbred producing countries of the world, and I have encountered some amazing horsemen on my travels. That said, I’ve yet to come across any country where the natural talents of stockmanship exceed those of our local African people: they’re not only outstanding horsemen, they have an incredible work ethic, a great enthusiasm and boundless energy, all the ingredients for success in this game. We initiated this school out of a realisation that if we wanted to compete at the highest level, we couldn’t do so without the enormous capital other individuals and countries have at their disposal: so we decided to intervene in those areas in which we could exercise some influence over our own destinies, such as our agricultural methods, our nutrition, greater attention to the finer details of our husbandry, and of course, raising the bar as far as the skills of our people were concerned.
“This school has exceeded all our expectations in each of those spheres; it’s not only one of the most fulfilling things we’ve done at Summerhill, but it ranks with the most important work in our racing industry at present, given South Africa’s social history and the need to fast-track the progress of our disadvantaged communities, in particular.”
With no fewer than five professors sharing their wisdom with the previous graduate classes, the school is now attracting students from beyond South Africa’s borders, not only for its exceptional tuition, but because, in relative terms, it’s the worlds least expensive option.
Sunday’s Summerhill Stallion Day is not only a celebration of the horses, but the auction of stallion services is held as a fundraiser for the School. “None of these achievements would’ve been possible without the help and encouragement of our sponsors, and those who put their hands up for the services on Stallion Day. Without these funds, South Africa would not have a school of this standing,” commented Heather Morkel, former Group Business Manager at Summerhill and the head of the school.