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Scottsville Hosts Rural Horse Racing

Inaugural Umtelebhelo Rural Horse Racing Event

Dundee July (photo: CHCU)

Rural riders and their racing steeds (photo: CHCU)

The Umtelebhelo Rural Horse Racing Event is scheduled for Saturday, 30 September 2017.

The event is being organised by the Willowfontein Rural Horse Racing Club and and will be held at Scottsville Racecourse.  Although the races will be run as trotting, pacing or trippling races, the event is not run by Trotting SA, but falls under the auspices of the Rural Traditional Horseracing Association (who are also responsible for events such as the Dundee July and Christmas Cup). Competitors will feature rural riders and horses who have a ‘day job’ herding cattle or sheep, providing transport or carrying loads.

Traditional sport

Rural racing is an entrenched part of the culture of rural South Africa, and is growing in popularity as an organised sport. However, it is a developing discipline without the benefits of formal training facilities, race tracks or established regulatory systems. Enter the Coastal Horse Care Unit, headed up by Gill Olmesdahl.

Coastal Horse Care Unit

Coastal Horse Care UnitThe Coastal Horse Care Unit (CHCU) is part of the national Horse Care Unit group and is a non profit organisation based in Cato Ridge. They run an equine rescue and rehabilitation facility incorporating a Donkey Sanctuary and their mission is to address Equine Welfare across all disciplines from a neutral stance. It was from this perspective that they became involved with the Rural Traditional Horse Racing Association from 2009, when they first attended the Dundee July in an observation capacity.

Gill admits there was a lot of room for improvement at their first visit to rural racing in 2009, but says, “Whether one agrees with it or not, the fact is rural racing is here to stay. As one can’t stop it, the next option is to educate and to help where necessary. While we do not encourage or promote it, we have been able to work ourselves into a position where we are able to oversee the welfare aspect and ensure basic minimum standards are enforced. That means a better situation for the horses, and the owners too.”

Visible Improvement

Dundee July (photo: CHCU)

Proud of the progress they have made (photo: CHCU)

The rural community have been very welcoming and receptive to input from a welfare perspective, so much so that 7 years down the line, she is proud of the improvements that have been effected. “It’s very different to what one would expect from formal racing and formal equestrian competition, but I always say don’t knock something until you’ve seen it for yourself. Nothing is ever 100% perfect, but things improve every year and we are proud of the progress we’ve made.”


Dundee July (photo: CHCU)

Rural horses in excellent condition (photo: CHCU)

Rural horse racing is called Umtelebhelo in Nguni and this weekend’s Umtelebhelo Rural Horse Racing Event is the inaugural running of this event.  Horses, riders and supporters are gathering from across KZN, Mpumalanga, the Eastern Cape and the Free State and they are expecting between 100-150 horses. Competitors will congregate at a central point in Howick on Friday night and New Turf Carriers will be transporting all the competitors to Scottsville and back on Saturday.

The Coastal Horse Care Unit will be on hand to check that minimum welfare standards are met for the horses, both in Howick as well as on race day and Gold Circle will be ensuring that riders are equipped with adequate safety gear. Proceedings will open at 9am with a welcome speech with eight races of various divisions to be held throughout the day, with the last race is scheduled for 3pm.

Empowerment Through Education

CHCU Training Centre (photo: CHCU)

CHCU Training Centre (photo: CHCU)

Gill says being invited to add value from a welfare capacity serves as an excellent platform from which to improve the general standard by educating participants about horse care and assisting them to reach and maintain the CHCU’s minimum standards, both on and off the race track.  To achieve this goal, the CHCU has established the Emahhashini Training Centre where they will be able to provide formal training to horse owners.  Candidates will be trained in basic horse care as well as making saddles, bridles, farriery and wound care.  “This is not only a skill transfer initiative by our charity,  we also hope to facilitate them in setting up businesses to service rural horses in their communities,” explains Gill.  “As rural horse owners currently have no access to basic requirements, we hope to provide our trainees with the skills to open their own businesses, running horse ‘spaza shops’ in the rural areas to sell feed, dewormers, tack etc.”

Rural Racing vs Bush Racing

Dundee July (photo: CHCU)

Rural horses need to be hardy (photo: CHCU)

When discussing rural racing, Gill feels it is important to make a distinction between rural racing and what is referred to in the general media as ‘bush racing.’ “There are various forms of bush racing, which might vary between geographic locations, and these are conducted as a speed or galloping contest,” says Gill.  “Bush racing is unregulated, unmonitored racing, often using Thoroughbreds that are sourced cheaply or illicitly. It is this aspect and the fact that Thoroughbreds do not cope in a rural environment, that means the CHCU does not condone or support bush racing in any form.”

Gill explains that Thoroughbreds are not as robust or resourceful as their ‘less well bred’ counterparts and are therefore prone to suffering in less than ideal circumstances. With limited resources in terms of commercial feed, tack and medical care, horses need to be hardy enough to exist on whatever seasonal grazing is available, resilient enough to cope with the tack to which their owner has access and hardy enough to withstand the rigours of climate and workload and still stay sound and healthy.

Given the same care, a rural horse will thrive, or at the very least be able to survive, while a thin coated Thoroughbred with its delicate constitution is likely to decline steadily. A minor cut or scrape that will happily heal itself on a rural horse, will not be as easily processed by a Thoroughbred and without the necessary skills, or access to the required medical care, rural owners are ill-equipped and ill-experienced to deal with these challenges. As a result, Thoroughbreds are not able to cope under these conditions. At least not for very long. Not wanting to dwell on the negative, Gill stresses the need for Thoroughbred owners to be aware and vigilant as to where their horses go when they leave racing.

However, the good news is that through dedicated time, effort and outreach work, Gill and her team have successfully developed working relationships with rural horse owners and are proud of the standards they have been able to achieve through education and support. They have strongly discouraged the use of Thoroughbreds in the areas under their care, to the point where most people now opt for crossbreds. They are proud of the owners they work with and proud of the horses under their jurisdiction and promise that anyone brave enough to venture out to Scottsville is in for a very pleasant surprise.


DATE:          30 September 2017

TIME:        09h00 – 16h00

VENUE:    Scottsville Racecourse-Golden Horse Casino, Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal province

Contact: Mbuyiselwa Mkhize – Email: Mbuyi@tpa.co.za / Cell: (076) 052 5911

General entry is free / VIP ticket is R200

Tables of 10 are available for R5000

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10 comments on “Scottsville Hosts Rural Horse Racing

  1. Albert X says:

    We the people of South Africa get upset when our President and members of his cabinet disrespect our beloved Constitution. Horse racing is a microcosm of what is happening in Government. It looks like the people in horse racing have no regard for the Constitution and rules of the NHRA.

    The 2010 Gambling Act for KZN says that all races run on racecourses which have been licensed must comply with the Constitution and rules of the NHRA. Rural racing will never comply with the NHRA Constitution.

    Who is involved in this act which disrespects our beloved horse racing constitution. It is

    +The KZN Gambling Board for not doing its job

    +The Totalisator because it will take bets on races when it knows that the races cannot be held

    +Gold Circle for providing its race course and allowing betting

    +The National Horse Racing Authority for not knowing its obligations and not taking steps against Gold Circle.

    I have no problem with rural horse racing. I have a problem with it being brought into the main stream and given credibility and allowing people to gamble when we have no assurances that the horses are sound have not been misused, mistreated and are free from performance enhancing drugs or drugs which hide ailments.

    1. Robyn Louw says:


      It is important to make a distinction between the rural trot racing (which is what this event is) and unregulated flat or bush racing (which we are assured this is not).

      Secondly, according to the organisers, there is no gambling offered on this event and the Tote will not be operational.

      In terms of assurances on the welfare aspect, this is the reason the Coastal Horse Care Unit is involved. Their team will be on site to ensure that all the horses are adequately catered for both at the overnight stop in Howick as well as evaluating all horses, riders and equipment before racing starts. They will eliminate any that are not in adequate condition and will dispense advice, information and assistance where necessary. However, their authority extends to welfare aspects only, they have no regulatory authority.

      From that perspective the event is being organised by the Willowfontein Rural Horse Riding Club and run under the auspices of the Rural Traditional Horseracing Association, which seems to govern this burgeoning discipline.

      To break it down into its separate components, purely from a welfare angle, the CHCU’s stance is that rural racing is a fact, so there are two choices – either ignore it, or try and assist to improve matters for the horse. They are taking the latter approach and using it as an opportunity to ensure that the horses that are used are fit for purpose as well as educating and assisting rural horse owners in looking after their horses better. As Gill states, it is a work in progress, but they do feel they are having a positive effect.

      Gold Circle are providing their facilities in the same way as they might allow the venue to be used for any other event – equestrian or not. However, as to the question of whether it’s a good idea to do so, which might be seen as encouraging this form of racing (and whether that is a good idea or not), is a different matter. While they certainly have right of admission, in this PC day and age, it would be difficult to find sufficient grounds on which to refuse.

      With regards to unlicensed racing taking place on a licensed racecourse, those are definitely some questions for the NHA as well as the local – and possibly national – Gambling Boards.

  2. Albert X says:

    Dear Mrs Louw,

    Thank you for clearing up most things.Because the meeting went ahead I can only conclude that horse racing has been captured. The NHRA should have prevented Gold Circle from holding the meeting as it was against the KZN laws which made it obligatory that any race meeting in KZN had to be run under the rules and constitution of the NHRA. The reputation of horse racing being crooked can’t be fixed if the people in charge of looking after it are turning a blind eye to the law. Heads should be rolling.

    1. Robyn Louw says:

      Hi Albert,

      We enquired with Gold Circle for you and are advised that there may be a misunderstanding based on the old ordinance which regulated Horseracing prior to the advert of the Provincial Gambling Act, and when racecourses were licenced. Nowadays, only racecourse operators are licenced in KZN – the racecourse itself is not licenced under the Gambling Act. Also, as advised, there is no betting on these traditional horseracing events and they are deemed more of a community social event centred around these horses.

      1. Pops says:

        So according to the new act horse racing of any kind in Kwa-Zulu Natal is not conducted under and in terms of the constitution,rules and regulations of the National Horseracing Authority?
        On reading ,Amendment of section 89 of Act 8 of 2010 that seems so,
        Are we wrong and why?

      2. James George says:

        Amendment of section 89 of Act 8 of 2010 ( 2015)
        27. Section 89 of the principal Act is hereby deleted and replaced with the following section

        “Racecourse operator’s licence
        89.(1) A corporate body may make application to the Board, in the manner
        prescribed by the Board, to be issued with one or more of the following types of
        racecourse operator licences –
        (a) An exclusive right racecourse operator licence, which authorises the holder
        of such licence to hold race meetings of thoroughbred horse races on one or
        more courses specified in the licence and to acquire a totalisator licence,
        which would in turn authorise the totalisator licensee to conduct a totalisator
        on a thoroughbred horse race, on a sporting event, or on an approved other
        event or contingency; or
        (b) A standardbred racecourse operator licence, which authorises the holder
        of such licence to hold race meetings of standardbred horse races on one or
        more courses specified in the licence and to acquire a totalisator licence,
        which would in turn authorise the totalisator licensee to conduct a totalisator
        on a standardbred horse race, only; or
        (c) A harness racing racecourse operator licence, which authorises the holder
        of such licence to hold race meetings of harness racing horse races on one or
        more courses specified in the licence and to acquire a totalisator licence,
        which would in turn authorise the totalisator licensee to conduct a totalisator
        on a harness racing horse race, only.

        1. Robyn Louw says:

          James, I have made enquiries with the KZN Gambling Board. I will revert if I receive any feedback.

        2. Robyn Louw says:

          Hi James,

          The KZN Gambling Board have responded as follows:-

          “Section 88 of the Act must be read in conjunction with the definitions of a race meeting and a horse race as they provide clarity regarding which horse race meetings require a racecourse operator’s license.

          For ease of reference, a race meeting is defined as any gathering of the public to watch a horse race or horse races.

          The definition of a horse race precludes a hore race or contest of a private nature at which no betting takes place.

          Given that there was no betting that took place at the race meeting, they do not meet the requirements of a race meeting as defined in section (1) of the KZNGBB Act and as such no race course operator’s licence is required.”

  3. James says:

    Were these horses vaccinated with both AHS and flu vaccines and if so were their passports checked. Microchipping and verifications of the correct horse participating all in order?
    Just a few of the questions that go thru my mind

  4. Albert X says:

    Are you able to get confirmation that Gold Circle does not catch snoek at Scottsville because it all sounds very fishy to me. Initially I thought that the bad smell had permeated onto me and that I was the village idiot and fisherman. I am pleased to tell everyone that I checked the Act again and Gold Circle is selling us rotten fish from the head up. The smell gets worse every day that they try and throw a wide net with gaping holes into the world hoping to catch something with their primitive excuses. Even the fish are brighter than them.

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