We had the pleasure of meeting with one of Burlington’s favorite grooms Paul Sizakele Ngubeni. One thing one can say about this animated gentleman is that he absolutely loves his charges and thoroughly enjoys his job. Like a parent with a favourite child he has a soft spot for Midgard Zingaro owned by showjumper Carolyn Chelchinskey. And like the favourite child that he is Zingaro hurt his groom on the left arm once, was forgiven and remains forever loved.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am 42 years old, from Zimbabwe but I have had S.A citizenship for the past 15 years. My wife, who stays with me here at Burlington, works in Fourways.We have two children, a girl who is 13 and a boy, 8. They stay in Zimbabwe with their grandmother.
And grooming, how did you get into it?
My brother got me into grooming after the company where I was working closed down. I used to be a supervisor at Indimex, we exported dried tomatoed from making outfit in Musina. He then called me down and got me a job as a groom at Linbro Park.
And now you are at Burlington….?
Yes, I worked for 2 years in Linbro park at Byerely Stables and then l moved to Sunlands and became a groom for Claudia Dvrettas for 6 years after that. I loved it there but I couldn’t stay with my wife so I started looking for a job where I would be able to stay with her. Anne-Marie took both of us in and we have been here ever since. That was seven years ago.
Describe a your typical day as a groom.
I wake up at 5am daily, bath and put on my work suit. I drink my special ZCC tea, a whole 2l. At 5:50am I clock in at the stables. I open the 6 stables that I am in charge of, wash the water buckets refill the water and grass. I check on the well being of my horses and note their temperature . If any of them seem unwell I tell the manager, David Wilken or Anne-Marie. All this takes me till 7:45. From 8 – 9 I go for my own breakfast. After that I dress them all up in their fly sheets, fly masks and put on their paddock boots. Then I take them out to their paddocks and come back to clean the stables. At 11:00 I bring all my horses in. All those on medication are dosed and then I feed them their different foods.Zingaro (came from Namibia) who is about 4 yrs old for instance eats Epol Gold cup (1scoop) and Cosmo rider cubes. After all the horses are fed, given their lucerne, bran and watered, its time for my lunch. It runs from12:30 till 2 :30 then I come back and check the water again and on the horses. From then it’s grooming for all of them till about 4pm. I fill up on grass, check the water again (horses hydrated much? ☺) , give them their evening meal from 4:50pm and settle them down for the night. If I am on night duty (which he loves as it brings in extra cash) then I check on the horses after hours to make sure that they are all fine.
Do you ride?
No ways, I fell off a donkey when I was young and I will never get on another animal again hahahaha.
What are your plans for the future?
I am happy as a groom, I have done well for myself so much that I even have my own car. One day I will get a truck driver’s licence and drive the big Burlington truck full of horses to shows. (Does anyone else want to be Anne-Marie’s groom? )
How do you tell if one of your horses is not well?
There are so many signs to pick from. A horse will paw the ground, absence of droppings, food and water not touched or a horse just lying down. It’s important to keep the horse’s temperature checked. I alert the manager quickly so that action can be taken quickly.
Any show experience.
Yes and I love going to shows. I have been to Shongweni , Bloberg and lots of other venues. Blouberg is my favourite as it has really nice clean toilets and hot showers. We sleep in the truck when we are away mostly. It’s fun to meet other grooms from all over and exchange stories.
How would you describe a good groom?
Know your horse, know the signs of a healthy horse. Be patient, talk to your horse, be gentle and gain the trust of your horse so that your horse is comfortable with you.
What advice do you give your clients before they compete?
Be brave but cautious , make sure the horse is warmed up enough and do not rush. I remember once telling that to Debbie Last when she was competing with Picture at Shongweni and they won.
Do you think some types of food affect horses’ behaviour?
Definitely. Epol Gold Cup gives them energy
How do you prepare your horses for shows
I am always careful about saddle marks. I use Palmolive Aloe Vera shampoo, Trident mane and tail detangler. I make sure they are well plaited and well groomed .For flies I always use Quadrepel, it works best. No, I do not rotate fly repellents.
How do you think the lives of grooms can be improved?
Grooming is a dangerous job, it would help if grooms had medical aid and life policies.
Would you own a horse it you could afford it?
Definitely, my son would ride it and jump it. The girl is too shy, she would never get on a horse