Tag Archives: Grooms

A Special Kind of Groom ~ Sikhangele Mbambo

Have you ever spoken to someone on the phone and instantly wished you could meet them? Ngqayimbana Mveleli or Franz as he is famously known is one such gentleman. He has a keen wit, thinks on his feet and had me laughing from the first sentence till I had regrettably finished my interview.

Franz comes from the Eastern Cape and is one of a family of 10. A married man, he is a father to 3 boys aged 11, 6 and 4. His schooling journey reached its end in 1995, and his journey as a groom began in 1997 when he was employed by Linda Augustyn from Epona Equestrian Centre, in the Western Cape. He looked after 6 horses, which competed in Eventing, Showing and Dressage.  This is where he learnt all the basics of grooming and looking after horses. After 4 years he left Epona and became a relief groom for the next 3 years, eventually joining Equestria Show – Jumping Yard working for Tori Rohde Coughlan in 2013. 4 years later, he is still there, evidence that he finally has found his niche. His happiness and contentment clearly comes through.



Tori herself cannot say enough about him, they have a very strong working relationship;

“Franz joined Equestria Show – Jumping Yard in 2013 He very quickly became my right hand man, as his knowledge of horses soon became apparent. He  seems to instinctively know when a horse is unhappy or having an issue, particularly his beloved Nachtmusik. But it is more than just his proficiency with horses, it is his deep love of horses and all animals, his Pitbull Febe makes regular  appearances as his Whatsapp profile pic. In short it is this  combination of experience, knowledge and caring that  makes Franz such a wonderful member of the  Equestria Show – Jumping Yard team.”

 What more can one say? Beautifully said and I bet everyone wants a groom like that.  

So what does a day as a groom entail?

Franz gets to work at 7:00am, and goes to check that the horses are all healthy and physically well. He then dishes out breakfast and changes the water. He also fills the teff nets and water buckets in the paddocks before taking the horses out. Depending on the season, the right blankets are put on and at 8:30am the horses go out and Franz comes back to muck out the stables. Lunch for the horses is at 11.30am and this takes him to his own lunch at 12:00pm.  He gets back at 2pm, cleans the paddocks, checks that none of that horses have been hurt and the fences are still intact. The horses are then taken back to the stables and given a thorough grooming, The horses have different owners so each has their own grooming kit. Supper is at 4:30pm and it is important to ensure that the horses have fresh water for the night and their hay nets are filled. His day ends at 4:45pm

Has he got riding experience?

Oh yes, he grew up around horses, racing them with his friends, nothing commercial, just boys having fun.

What other duties has he got?

He helps Tori in handling and working the horses, on some days he will lunge the horses or walk them out. They get a lot of young horses, train them and re-sell them

What shows has he attended?

He and Tori have been all over, Shongweni, Johannesburg, Polokwane

What is his best venue?

Shongweni, it has a lovely environment and beautiful amenities.

What advice does he give Tori before she enters the ring?

Believe in yourself and trust the horse. She is such an amazing rider, she is talented and is lucky to have a good horse to work with. She needs to believe in herself, he does and Muse does too. (sniff, sniff)

What would Franz like to see changed in the lives of grooms?

It bugs him a lot the way some employers view their grooms. They look down on them and do not have faith in their capabilities. They forget that the groom is the one that spends the most time with the horse and therefore knows more about the horse than most people. Trusting someone with your horse is like trusting someone with your child, for your horse to be given love and respect, you have to give it to the groom first. What he feels that most people do not get is that it is teamwork between groom, horse and rider. He has witnessed instances where the groom will tell the rider what he thinks is wrong with horse and it gets brushed off with a ‘what do you know attitude‘ and later it comes to light that the groom was right all along.

What does he forecast in his future?

He would like to learn how to train horses properly, own a horse farm, produce good horses and run a livery.

 It was a wonderful chat and I hope that one of these days I will meet Franz face to face and experience his humor first hand. He is very passionate about horses and I imagine that he has a lot more to tell than this interview can cover.

Tori sums him up quite nicely,

 “He’s funny – has pulled the Mickey on me a few times with  a straight face. He takes it seriously if I mess  up a round with his beloved horse”


Happy, Jack of all Trades ~by Sikhangele Mbambo

When Happy Ndlovu first entered South Africa as an illegal immigrant in 2002, who would have guessed that he would become an accomplished work rider, passionate and extremely knowledgeable about showjumping, oh, and chickens .


We arrived at 8 in the morning to talk to an exhausted Happy, who had been up since dawn preparing and loading horses that were going to Shongweni for the big show, but he graciously chatted to us and even told us about his second passion, also a source of pride and joy, his egg laying Lavender Orpinton chickens.

Tell me a bit about yourself :

Happy Ndlovu, 33, I am from the village of  Tsholotsho in Zimbabwe. My wife and 2 children, 13 and 10, are back home. she looks after the kids who both go to school in the village.

How did you become a working groom?

Just after I finished my O’levels I decided to come to South Africa to look for work. My father, who was already in the country then, working for Phillip Tucker so I followed suit and got a job as a groom, with my father’s help of course. Jacky, then also had her horses in Rogan’s yard.  When Jacky opened her own stables in 2004, I went with her and I have not regretted it once. She needed a riding partner, so she taught me to ride on her horse,  White Magic. At the time she had 5 jumping horses and 2 retired ones that I looked after. I started off riding a horse called White Magic. The first time we went on a out ride the horse bolted with me and I followed advise that Megan Jackson had repeatedly given to me, which was that when the horse bolts with you, you should try to turn it instead of pulling to get it to stop.

I then began having lessons with James White, he taught me all the basics of riding and I grew to love the sport. My next horse was Pohlands Whyle and together we started showjumping. Our first show together was at Witkoppen, jumping 90cm. We came 1st and won a voucher for jods from Midfeeds.

I have learnt quite a lot since being here. Jackie taught me to drive, I can tow and I also know how to trim horses. I do shows once a month and I really enjoy and look forward to it.

 Describe a typical day in your life

I start off my day with a lesson from Rogan Asken at 8am on Pohlands Whyle, one of Jackie’s horses. I go for tea break at 10, when I get back, I prepare Greg’s horses Sparkling and Vuitton. I maintain jumps for him and make sure that all is well till he is done riding, which normally takes me to my lunchtime, 12 – 2pm. During my lunch, sometimes I fetch Jackie’s son Cade from school, in Beaulieu and run errands as needed.

After my lunch, the horses get theirs, basically Epol pellets, Capstone lifetime balancer, and Cooltime. This is also the time when horses get their supplements, i.e Fulvic, Diamond V, Omega oil.

I then get Ronette’s horses, Edward and Lawrence, ready for her. Afterwards, I check on my chickens, layers, Lavender Orpingtons. I am the only one in this area with this breed, as far as I know. I got them from a guy who came to build our teff shed and bred them from a rooster and 2 hens, now I have 25 hens and one rooster, on average, i get about 16 eggs a day from them.


4:30pm is dinnertime for the horses, I supervise their eating while dong individual checks to see that they are all well. I knock off at 5pm but I do a final round at night to check that all is still well.

What was your worst experience as a groom

I had to tow Megan Jackson’s horse to be put down, very tough thing to do. One of our horses, Toyitoyi, got biliary and died in the yard.

Have you ever fallen off a horse while riding?

I have fallen off but I have never been hurt. I rarely come off so when I fall everyone celebrates.

 How would you improve the life of a groom?

I have been very lucky to work with and for my employers. They are awesome, considerate and they push me and encourage me to do more all the time. I even have insurance with Equipage which I know a lot of other grooms do not have, I feel that this is something that employers need to take into serious consideration. Horses are unpredictable animals and as much as one can try to be, accidents are bound to happen.

I also feel that if grooms are given the proper training, there would be less grievous accidents and less blame to throw around. Riding has helped me to understand a great deal about horses, how to better communicate with them as well as handle myself around them.

Feedback is also very important for both groom and employer, let your grooms know that they are doing well and correct them if they are wrong. Respect is earned both ways, grooms provide a much needed service as much as they also need the employment. I have seen grooms treated realy badly by their employers at shows and how they do their jobs without any feelings in return.

What do you think are the characteristics of a good groom?:

One must be level headed around horses, a little common sense, be careful of your tone of voice, good body language. Always remember that horses understand verbal communication and that one should be able to establish discipline and respect from the horse.

As a show-jumper, what advice would you give to others before they go into competition?

Warm up more.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I would like to do my NQF, I have already started researching the requirements, with lots of help from Chris Topping, Jackie’s husband and I am looking forward to starting.

If you had the financial capacity, would you own a horse?:

Definitely, since I started riding, I have grown to love horses quite a lot and I can see myself owning one.