"Born to ride, sir"
You've got to take your hat off to any man or woman who's mad enough to want to educate young horses. A morning on the gallops at Summerhill Stud at this time of year tells us two things: jockeys who ride the finished product at the races have it easy: the real work is done in what we call the secret society, long before normal people go to work, long before these horses get to the races, and it's done with hot-blooded youngsters whose instinct is to run, and to run fast. By their nature, racehorses, like springbok and impala, are flight animals, "skittish" to the possibility of a predator in the neighbourhood, and it takes an extraordinary human being to bond with such a creature, to the point of earning his unconditional faith. Even then, just when you think the job is done, you learn they're no different to prep school kids; there are always a few that are there to test the limits.
You have to love this game and especially the horses, to get up in the murky hours of the morning, though on a morning like this, it's no "schlep" at all. But when you see a racehorse and a young man clocking the "seventies" in perfect unison, gliding if you will, only the smooth patter of the hooves on the soft sand betraying the fact that they're not actually in flight, you don't take much converting.
Last January, a British Olympic rider staying here at Hartford House, was out on an early morning ride. He came across a string of two-year-olds, and couldn't get over the harmony between rider and horse, as if they'd sprung from the same womb. At the head of the string was a youthful Zulu with just a standard four education, but the way he sat on his mount looked like he had a Master's degree. "Where did you learn to ride?", enquired the Olympian, and quick as a shot, the young man who'd scarcely spoken a word of English to a man of this stature, came back "I was born to ride, sir".
We've long sung the praises of our Zulus as some of the best horsemen we know, and a morning on the tracks at Summerhill, where we're "polishing" our youngsters for next Friday's Emperors Palace Ready To Run gallops, reminds us we're not far wrong.