Louw Flyer On A High

Robyn Louw - all-round horsewoman, breeder, racehorse owner and Journalist of the Year at the Equus Awards

An accomplished all-round horsewoman, breeder and racehorse owner, the Sporting Post’s ‘Louw Flyer’, Robyn Louw, has been acknowledged for her outstanding contribution to horseracing’s print media  by being crowned the 2011 Equus Media Award winner at a glittering function held at Emperors Palace in Johannesburg on Thursday evening.

The 36 year old horse lover joined the freelance editorial staff of the Sporting Post in August 2010 and has an impressive and varied equine pedigree. Her mother was an endurance rider and her father Mike, a well known personality in Western Cape horseracing, was a talented amateur jockey who rode in the halcyon days of the Cape Hunt and Polo Club. The former Assistant General Manager of the Cape Turf Club is an acknowledged horseman who has also run his own breeding and spelling operations. He is the proud breeder and a co-owner of the favourite to lift the 2010/11 Eastern Cape Champion Two Year Old title, the brilliant Windrush colt, In A Rush. Robyn labels herself a ‘proud hanger-on’, having prepped the champion colt for the Yearling Sales.

Robyn sowed her equine oats in the traditional paddocks of the pony club environment, while growing up on a smallholding near the Swartland town of  Malmesbury. She completed her schooling at Rhenish Girls’ High in Stellenbosch. Malmesbury was considered pretty remote in those days, so she adapted to riding  various track hand-me-downs and also rode work on the family thoroughbreds. Besides having hunted, played polocrosse, show-jumped, evented and done her time with showing and dressage, she has also ridden in the Cape Hunt – an experience she labels as having taught her the utmost respect for our professional jockeys.

Finding any excuse to be close to horses, Robyn spent her teenage years doing weekend racecourse camera work for Heather Hildick and the Cape Racing Studio.  She left South Africa for the UK in 1995 and it was during this time that she first experienced Monty Roberts and met Kelly Marks, the first Monty Roberts Certified Instructor and the founder of Intelligent Horsemanship. She wasted no time in completing her first five day foundation course with Intelligent Horsemanship.  She further cemented her ties with Intelligent Horsemanship by becoming the first person to complete the 5 day foundation course twice and then completed the rest of their courses.  Robyn was the architect of the Monty Roberts tour of South Africa in 2007 and the concept proved so popular that it was repeated again in 2008.

It was through her exposure to Intelligent Horsemanship, that she developed an interest in equine body work and pursued courses with Equine Touch and then achieved an ITEC Equine Sports Therapy qualification through well-known equine physiotherapist Mary Bromiley.  As part of the practical aspect of the course, she got to work with the Household Cavalry horses in the Knightsbridge barracks and used to practice body work on the horses in the mornings before work.  As a token of appreciation for her efforts, she was given the rare honour of a ride out with the Household Cavalry in Hyde Park.

Robyn’s hunger for knowledge and an understanding of the most majestic of all animals, fuelled by a lifelong passion for the horse, had found a decadent feeding ground. The UK is a veritable mecca for all sorts of horsey and riding education and guidance and she attended as many courses and seminars as possible. This included Penni Hooper (another body worker), Lucy Rees (behavioural therapist), Mark Rashid (horse whisperer), Monty Roberts & Kelly Marks (where she helped out at some of their demos), Mary Wanless (founder of Ride With Your Mind) and Paul Belasik (dressage guru). She returned to SA in 2009.

She says she was ‘absolutely flabbergasted but extremely honoured and humbled’ to win the Equus award and last Thursday evening would go down in her memory as a blurr and an unforgettable night.  Besides being a lot more comfortable in her jodphurs with her hair in a pony-tail and grooming her horses, she says that the awards evening was an experience she would not forget: “ Just being in the company of so many achievers and industry champions was a rush. I met so many wonderful people and forged great contacts,” she said.

Robyn said that the encouragement, freedom and editorial support she received as a columnist on South Africa’s leading independent horseracing publication, had allowed her to grow and meant that her writing was more fun than work. She said she tried to ‘avoid the politics and focus on the horse’, but that sometimes the hard things had to be said.

She paid tribute to her husband Hamish and father Mike, and said that they both had been extremely supportive. “My Dad has always been the one to encourage the racing side of things.  His amateur racing as well as growing up on the spelling farm exposed me to all aspects of raising and working horses.  He has been so helpful and supportive with my horses and assisted with all the mare coverings and foalings and looked after them while I was abroad. It cannot be a walk in the park being married to a person who spends most of her daylight hours and disposable income on horses, and my photographer husband Hamish has the patience of Job. I am truly very fortunate.”

Editor of the Sporting Post, Karel Miedema, said that he was ‘extremely proud’ of Robyn’s fine achievement and said that the media’s role in the survival and growth of horseracing should never be underestimated.

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