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The South African Lipizzaners Development Programme

Equilife was proud to attend the launch of the South African           Lipizzaners Development Programme, held at the SAL headquarters in Kyalami on the 6th May. Chairperson Heather Partner welcomed everyone with an introduction to the vision, as well as the necessity thereof, that has had life breathed into it through the generous sponsorship of First Rand Limited.

Equestrian sport in South Africa has rightly been labelled as elitist for many years, despite the fact that between all of the factions they are one of the biggest employers of people of colour. Transformation has lagged behind sadly with almost no development riders in the ring, let alone at high level, to a point that we stand to lose all support of national committees if there is not fundamental change in diversity and more opportunities being made available across the board.

Enter MD and head trainer at the SAL, Adriaan van Wyk’s programme, a dream to transform the non-profit organisation of the Lipizzaners – a place where students have always had to pay their own way – into a top-class development and training facility for under-privileged aspiring learners. His tenacity lured Sam Moss and Sifiso Mthembu from First Rand Limited into backing his radical proposal:
Firstly, there has been a thorough upgrading of facilities at the SAL. Ramshackle rondawels have been converted into living facilities for the students – a residential programme is far easier to run as the students are more cared for, supervised, transportation worries are eliminated, and they have access to all aspects of horsemanship (including the 2am colics!). The students have been absorbed into the SAL riding and training programme, where they interact with the schoolmaster stallions on the ground and under saddle, whilst also writing tests and assignments to ensure their horsemanship is rounded and complete. These skillsets mean that at the completion of the ten-month course, we have a degree of education which equips the student to enter the industry in a variety of careers and make a meaningul impact, allowing the next wave of students to take their place in the programme, for at least the next three years that First Rand Limited has committed to. With more inclusion and exposure, the programme will get more coverage, and be beneficial to more riders!

The long term positive effect of this is undeniable: Olympic aspirations will be realised under fair quotas, empowered people will empower the next generation, sponsors get invigorated, and a mechanism for social and sporting upliftment is created… the responsibility now lies with the riding community to see this initiative through. Supporting the programme by hiring the students, furthering their education, and encouraging others under our umbrella to further themselves, means that the industry gets set on a steep curve for growth that we so desperately need. A good example of someone already making waves in the industry is Shepherd Zira, a groom’s son who has been taken under the wing of international showjumper Ronnie Healy. This promising young rider is turning heads, and is included in the development programme as a mentor to the other students. Under the programme we will soon see Shepherd producing his own string of competition horses for the jumping arena, riding in the Lipizzaner performances on Sundays, and creating an empire of his own.

The SAL yard is alive with possibility; there is even a new play centre for the grooms’ children, run by a groom’s wife.

Western Shopppe’s Daryl Gershow and Deon Augustyn have generously come on board, by reducing the cost of all the riders clothing.

We see the older students giving lunge lessons to the younger ones, Shepherd coming to grips with a half-pass instead of an oxer, Pretty buttoning up the iconic red tailcoat of the Quadrille riders, and Adriaan setting questions for this week’s test. Watching this evokes goosebumps, and I realise that we, as a community, are on the cusp of something truly great. This is our moment, our opportunity, to change the face of horse sport in South Africa.

Please visit: for more information on the centre, as well as booking to come see one of their exceptional shows, the only one of it’s kind in the country!

Many thanks to First Rand Limited for backing this incredible initiative.

A Tribute to Nabab Forever

Thank you Nabs for showing me what special horses are made of. You are the horse of a lifetime, and I will forever be so honoured and privileged to have ridden you’ – Lorette Knowles -Taylor

Professional riders have horses come and go through their yards all the time. What separates one from the other? In the case of the imported Belgium-bred warmblood, the holder of the South African 6-bar (high jump) record, the Nissan sponsored Nabab Forever wriggled his way into the Taylor family’s hearts with his (as Lorette says) ‘big head and bigger heart’.

Nabab was bought by Lorette and Barry Taylor from Chris Ellis in Europe in order for Barry to campaign for the Kentucky World Equestrian Games in 2010. Their friend Dave Macpherson had been desperate to buy the talented showjumper for years, and when Ellis decided he needed money to build his house, Macpherson orchestrated the sale to help his friend.

But as many riders know, the strain of competing overseas while trying to still maintain business in South Africa is heavy, especially when doing so as a privately funded individual. Not only that, but ‘Nabs always needed extra help, and in Europe it was hard to maintain him without the support structure of physiotherapists, veterinarians, grooms, solariums, and all the other things we have included in our care routine at home,’ Lorette says. The decision was made in 2010 to bring him home to their yard Farnham, based in Chartwell, Gauteng.

Nabs spent  the  next  year  competing  on  the local circuit,  winning the Shongweni leg of the World Cup series. But the next legs saw him struggling to maintain soundness, and they decided to retire him in 2012.

Nabab did not want to be retired, they say laughing.

He spent much of his time plotting escapes, dragging grooms, and cantering loose around the yard to keep himself occupied, until in January 2013 they decided to try him on Fulvic to help maintain soundness and offered the ride to a client who was horseless at the time. They thought that she could have fun just popping him around the odd one metre class, giving her confidence and Nabab some purpose. Lorette starts giggling as she recalls the ‘trial ride’, which ended after fifteen minutes of flat-out extended canter around the arena, leaving the pupil shaking and saying ‘I’m reeeeeally grateful… but I don’t think this is going to work.’ Nabab for his part was completely unapologetic, proving that as much of a schoolmaster as he was, he was not just for anyone. We debated who would be best to partner with this quirky horse, until our work rider Emma Garson stepped in.

Nabs was delighted. He’s always loved girls ‘Lorette smiles’

Emma was his original partner in the 6-bar event, taking him to the occasional 1.30 class as a warm-up, but when she left for Europe in December 2013, it was my responsibility to take him over. I was reluctant because he loved her, but he also loved competing.

The next two years saw Lorette and Nabab together in the ring at many events. Our highlight was winning the Nissan 6 bar at Shongweni Derby 2015 with a new record of 2.05m, ‘I cried as I cantered into the arena because when he saw the jumps and pricked his ears, I new we had won it!’ He excels at the six-bar because he really does believe he knows best, and we should not be interfering with his towing into ANY jump! I had minimum input at the best of times and just trusted his ability.

‘He’s a true showman’ – when he sees the competition arena, he suddenly pricks his ears, focuses, and says “That’s my arena,” you can see him absorb the atmosphere and grow. He just loves jumping for people, that’s really his game, he loves the acknowledgement.

And in true form, the big black horse could come haring out of the arena, and then stand patiently for bare-footed fans to have a photo with him at the truck. ‘He would suddenly say “Oooh! A photo op!” and stand carefully around the kids minding their toes. I don’t know what to say. He’s a truly strange horse.’

In keeping with this, Nabab has retired in their back garden with his ‘girlfriend’, an old mare. But he won’t let her in HIS paddock… he’s still a bachelor, after all. He occasionally gives the grooms hell, but will play ball with their eleven year old daughter Ashlee. A special and strange horse, Nabab and his big personality will continue to occupy this space in the Taylor’s home and hearts indefinitely. ‘Although if he keeps trying to escape, he might need another whizz around the arena from time to time’, Lorette shrugs with a twinkle in her eye.