Over 2 000 a year thoroughbred racing and show-jumping horses retired when performance levels wane fall through the cracks to the informal market where they hew wood, scrap metal and water carts to a secondary billions rands market that does not realise its potential. Picture: Leon Lestrade
Over 2 000 a year thoroughbred racing and show-jumping horses retired when performance levels wane fall through the cracks to the informal market where they hew wood, scrap metal and water carts to a secondary billions rands market that does not realise its potential. Picture: Leon Lestrade

The informal industry loses out on quality horses

By Dineo Faku Time of article published Sep 19, 2021

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OVER 2 000 a year thoroughbred racing and show-jumping horses retired when performance levels wane fall through the cracks to the informal market where they hew wood, scrap metal and water carts to a secondary billions rands market that does not realise its potential.

This is as the country’s climatic conditions and superior horse breeds have borne an international market that takes at least 20 000 foals and full-grown horses to stables in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Hong Kong, Scotland and other areas in need of the traits and genetics at about R500 000 a pop.

Allister Jack, an Equine and Equestrian Specialist assigned under a special equity programme of the Council of Equine and Equestrian Professionals South Africa (CEEPSA), said the organisation has started an advocacy programme to teach the secondary or “informal” market about the value of the horses abused for the enforced labour they give.

“The informal industry is not benefiting from the quality of the horses they get. They could breed the horses and sell the foals to the international market but they are not aware of the care they should give, nutritional needs and other care issues,” Jack said.

Jack said to identify the prolific performers who slip through professional care at retirement to the informal market, CEEPSA is also looking into creating passports for each performing horse in the country so it or its offspring could be identified for the lucrative international market.

“Every day there are horses leaving our country for international shores," Jack confirmed, detailing that the market was limitless.

Jack said depending on the breed of horse, a foal could start from R500 000 to a million for pure breeds like the Friesians and Boerperd. Thoroughbreds like the Leprezano easily fetch a million per animal depending on the animal and the breeding stable.

“Nobody cared before, when a horse is being retired, the stable owner would give it to a groom or a madala in the community to do with it as they please. We are trying to teach the communities what horse they are working with to realise more value than before,” Jack said.

Families in under-resourced communities use horses for transport, scrap collection, and to collect and deliver essentials like food and water, said CEEPSA this week.

CEEPSA director Di Pieterse said the active racing sector, regular competitive events, riding centres and horse trails, the equestrian industry drew a lot of attention and attracted visitors from all parts of the world.

She said horse racing alone contributes R2.71 billion annually to South Africa’s gross domestic product.

“While equestrian tourism in Africa contributes significantly to our economy in South Africa, we need to remember that horse welfare is a key priority for every sector that uses horses,” Pieterse said.

She said whereas horses in the events racing and leisure industry are generally well looked after, people from under-resourced communities who rely on their working horses for income, struggle to keep up with the costs of meeting the needs of horse’s well-being.

CEEPSA said horses play an important part in South Africa’s history and heritage, dating back to 1653 when Dutch settlers created the Kaapse Boerperd and South African Boerperd breeds.

Today, horses are not just reserved for “the elite”, but play a more diverse role in society, and across many different economic sectors, including tourism.

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