EDUCATION and training have always underpinned Summerhill Stud’s success, and the mentoring classes established on the farm more than 20 years ago have seen 40 overseas scholarships awarded to people who had never ventured too far from the boundaries of Mooi River in their lives.
The trust founded in honour of the late Ruler of Dubai, for whom the school is named, enabled the establishment of this one-of-a-kind institution, a unique stud management course undertaken on the nation’s Champion Thoroughbred Stud Farm.
Heather Morkel with her students during a lecture at the School of Excellence.
Potential students are keen horse people, who display an unusual potential and connectivity with horses. The course affords students the opportunity to perform in management roles within current or future employment, and is intended to fast-track graduates into a world they might never have accessed without it.
“With horses, it matters little what language you speak, because the skills you need are universal and the most important attribute is passion. Singularly, passion is the language.” Mick Goss
It’s been a long time coming, but we’re here. The first enrolles students from out of province, the Al Maktoum School of Management Excellence Class of 2011, walked into a warm, Summerhill welcome recently.
The dream is now a reality.
The Class of 2011 was purposefully limited, in order to give the students, all from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, every chance of success. The seven successful applicants, representing the cream of South Africa’s racehorse nurseries, Drakenstein Stud, Highlands Farm Stud, Maine Chance Farm, Summerhill and Mike de Kock through Stef du Preez’s spelling and pre-training yard, have had a week of lectures, practical sessions and assessments under their belts, and we’re seeing a wonderful cross-cultural (Zulu, Xhosa, English and Afrikaans is spoken) bond growing among them.
The Class of 2011: Delani Mtshali, Thobani Nzimande, Richard Hlongwane, Marius Losch, Mesuli Mthembu, Frederick Makerman, Mziwethemba (Dassie) Stuurman.
Good-natured teasing makes for a lot of daily fun and we’re already being rewarded with plenty of “aha” moments, thoughtful expressions in their faces when things fall into place: connecting the theory with the practical experience of many years, for some.
And in our part of the world where rival supporters of “Chiefs” and “Pirates” abound, the guys are learning to play rugby!
“iThuba” is the Zulu word for opportunity, and these guys have it by the throat, and they’re sprinting headlong into a future that’s theirs for the taking. We’re counting on it.
I’ve always considered myself lucky enough to be included in the ranks of the world-class team at Summerhill Stud, where we’re fortunate to work with people of great energy and vision. I’m even luckier to be getting lessons in humility and human spirit, from a group of students who are seizing the day, knowing this is their chance to be what they can be.
School of Excellence