Tag Archives: Sikhangele Mbambo

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”


A Gentle Hand ~ Sikhangele Mbambo

One of the lesser known special events at this year’s Derby was the presentation of long service certificates. We caught up with one of the recipients, Thembelani Mabhena, a very soft spoken gentleman, who has been a groom for the Bowyers for most of his working life. The 39 year old gentleman is originally from Zimbabwe. He first became a groom in his country of birth, at the young age of 18, for Gill Davis where he looked after 7 horses. He left because of the continually plunging  economy of Zimbabwe, looked  to Botswana for a better job opportunity and this is where he met the Bowyers who were then based there and has since been their family groom.


How long have you been a groom?:


Tell me a bit about yourself :

I am  39 years old, Zimbabwean, married and a father of 2. My children, a girl 14 and a boy 4, both live back home with my mother. My wife is here for a short while, working part time but she is going back home in December

What did you do before becoming a groom?:

I have always been a groom, first in Zimbabwe for 2 years, then in Botswana for 2 years and I moved with the family when they came to South Africa.

How did you get into grooming?:

My very first job was as a groom in Zimbabwe for Gill Davis, I was 18 years old then.

Why did you leave Zimbabwe?:

I left because of the economy was bad.

What has been the highlight of your job?:

I received a long service award from my employers at the Derby show. I have been with them for almost 15 years.

Describe a day in the life of a groom:

At 7am, I start by checking the water from the night before and replacing it. Everyday I lunge 2 horses on a rotational basis unless I am given a special request to lunge an extra one. I give them all grass and take them out then I go for my breakfast. When I come back I clean all the stables till 12pm when I bring 4 of the horses inside for lunch. The other 2 stay out for a while longer (their owner prefers it that way), then they all get their lunch. Their meal consists of Alzu 13% meal, teff and lucerne. They also get Complete (Equifox) At 3pm the other 2 horses come in and I groom them all. Supper is served at 5pm and all horses are settled down for the night. At 8pm before I go to bed I check all their water and make sure everything is alright.

Do you have any riding experience?:

Yes, I rode for a short while when I was 18. nothing serious, just walking around and I enjoyed it.

Would you like to take your knowledge of grooming a step further?:

I would have loved to do a few courses when I was younger but now I think it’s too late for me. I am too old.

Do you think a horse understands verbal communication?:

Definitely, one of my horses, Ascot Wonderland has serious trust issues, I don’t  know what happened to him when he was younger but he gets very aggressive when someone just approaches him. When I approach him, I talk to him softly and he calms down very quickly.

Can you immediately see if something wrong is wrong with your horses?: 

I have been working with them for a long while so I know when one of them is not well from the moment I enter the stables in the morning. We are lucky that none of them have ever been seriously ill.

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

For me, knowing your horse is very important, understanding their different characteristics. Get your horses to trust you and always be careful around them.

What has been the best venue for shows in your travels so far?:

We have traveled to Blouberg in Polokwane and Revil in Shongweni. I enjoyed Shongweni and would love to go back again. We were treated really nicely at both venues. We sleep in the truck when we are away. We were given food in Blouberg and cooked for ourselves in Shongweni.

What did you like most about going away?:

I have not traveled much, this is a good chance for me see the country. I also meet other grooms and learn about their lifestyles.

What are the characteristics of a good horse?:

A good horse has a calm personality, it does not spook easily.

How do you tell a horse is in a bad mood?:

Always look at the ears, they tell you if a horse is cross. The way that it stands can also tell you a lot about its mood. If its pawing the ground, you had better be careful

What horse food do you know?:

Teff, lucerne and Alzu meal.

Do you think the type of food fed a horse affects its behavior?:

Yes, a lot.

Have you ever tasted any of the food eaten by your horse?:

Yes, when I was in Zimbabwe we used to eat these sweet cubes that were made by a company called Agrifoods

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

No, I would use it to send my kids to better schools.

When horses are sick do you think they appreciate human comfort?: 

Everyone needs comfort when they are not well, even horses.

Is there anything you would improve in the way you care for your horses?: 

I always do my best,I hope my employers would tell me if there was anything more that I needed to do.

How do you prepare a horse before a competition?:

The night before the show,  I shampoo the horse with Silky n Soft shampoo (Equifox again) and make sure that it is well groomed. I always plait my horses in the morning before the show. I make sure they get Untye, which is good for their muscles because they jump and one of my horses Carl also gets given Redcell.

How would you improve the life of a groom?:

Respect is earned and should be given both ways. I witnessed a groom being shouted at one show and the same thing to the same groom at another show. It didn’t sit well with me. I also think it would be in everyone’s best interest if a groom had a basic grooms’ course when they start their job. Medical and life insurance would also be great as this is dangerous work.

How would you describe a good relationship between a horse and rider?:

The rider should be brave and put more confidence and trust in their horse. If the horse is treated well, it will always perform best.

Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?: 

I would like to be back home with my family, watching my children grow because I have missed out on a lot.

How do you deal with a difficult horse?:

I try and make that the horse knows that I know what I am doing and I am not going to harm it.