Sport » Horses
Just shy of one year ago, South Africa’s equestrian world gained a new family member – indigenous horse riding.
Ironically, the discipline has been around for decades, but because it is a sport practiced in rural and remote parts of South and Southern Africa, not much is known about it.
Indigenous horse riding was formalised in November 2019, and went through the affiliation process with the South African Equestrian Federation (SAEF), to comply with policies related to sports federations, explained the president of indigenous horse riding association (IHRSA), Gerda Liebenberg.
This, she said, includes adhering to South Africa’s Sports Act, and being aligned with the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc).
The IHRSA has also drawn up its own set of rules and regulations, to ensure the welfare of the horses and riders.
Indigenous horse riding is often confused with bush racing, but the two could not be more different, Liebenberg emphasised.
“Indigenous horse riding is not racing, it is an indigenous riding activity with safety precautions, just like any other horse sport activity, with strict rules and regulations.
“Bush racing is unrecognised and unaffiliated flat racing, with gambling and betting connected to it. Indigenous horse riding is not flat racing, it takes month of preparation and training before a horse and rider can participate in indigenous horse riding,” she explained.
Saddle injuries incurred by a horse due to neglect in the bush racing scene. Saddles, bits and bridles are often unfitted and cause painful injuries, often resulting in starvation. Report by South Coast Herald’s Shona Aylward.
The sport is entrenched in the culture, heritage and traditions of the breeders and owners who partake in the sport.
It consists of three different gaits. The event sees horses and their riders run over a distance of up to 2,000m, in a controlled environment.
Liebenberg said when the “elders”, marshal, race stewards or judges notice any concerns regarding a horse’s welfare, they immediately intervene.
“They will… order the rider to take their horse home and take care of the issues before returning to any form of competition”, she assured.
To ensure that horses are looked after and owners educated, a special project was introduced in January 2019, which involved community leaders and owners in the Botshabelo area of the Free State.
Some of the community members and horse owners who attended a successful training session. Photo: Brooke website
“The project focuses mainly on practical and vocal training and education on the importance of care and welfare for all working horses in the Botshabelo area. It teaches these individuals the importance of safe harnessing for working horses, nutrition for horses and general horse care.”
According to international horse and donkey welfare organisation, Brooke, who assisted with the project, more than 200 people and 80 horses attended the largest of the training days.
Proud horse owners and riders. Photo: Supplied
It’s not any horse that succeeds in the gaited activity.
Liebenberg said indigenous horse riding takes months of training.
Indigenous horse riders strut their stuff. Photo: Brooke website
Horses used in illicit bush racing are mostly fresh off the thoroughbred racing track. However, not all horse breeds are “natural gaited horse breeds”, she explained.
Farmer’s Weekly reported earlier this year that breeds such as the American Saddlebred, Hackney or the indigenous Boerperd are often used for indigenous riding. Liebenberg said mostly crossbred horses partake in indigenous horse riding.
Essentially, anyone with the right amount of training can take part in this cultural sport – provided their horse is well taken care of.
“The sport is fun and all ages can participate. It is healthy for the mind and body to be active.”
Some images in this article were republished with permission from Caxton publication South Coast Herald. Read the article in which the images appeared here.
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