The School Of Excellence is gaining a fine reputation for empowering the previously disadvantaged.
— David Thiselton / Pretoria News
David Thisleton

The current class of Summerhill Stud’s School of Equine Management Excellence visited Summerveld last week in order to get a better feel for the industry they are to be trained in.

The School Of Excellence is gaining a fine reputation for empowering the previously disadvantaged.

The worth of the school is highlighted by the fact that in the three years of its existence two learners, Thabani Nzimande and John Motaung, have gone on to graduate as the top practical student when furthering their studies through bursaries at the National Stud in the UK.

Motaung, who received the pre-mentioned accolade in the last week of June this year, began his career at Summerhill as a stable cleaner and groom. His handling and workriding skills saw him rising through the ranks within Tarryn Liebenberg and Michael Booysen’s Pre-Training and Sales division at Summerhill and among the horses that he pre-trained was the great Vodacom Durban July-winning mare Igugu.

The National Stud experience was the second scholarship Motaung had been awarded as he had earlier been sent for a stint with the renowned pinhooker and bloodstock agent, Becky Thomas in Florida, USA.

Another success story from last year’s class is Hazel Kayiya, who was appointed as the Corporate Service Executive of Gold Circle at the beginning of this month.

Summerhill embarked upon a programme of upliftment over two decades ago that originally consisted of a crèche, a preparatory school and a life mentoring class.

The life mentoring class saw the award of many overseas scholarships and this prompted the development of the School Of Management Excellence.

The Gainsborough Stud of the late ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Maktoum Al Maktoum, is always honoured by Summerhill for helping get the school off the ground.


The South African government have now also come to the table and provide bursaries for the school through CATHSSETA. A SETA’s main function is to contribute to the raising of skills in any given sector. Horseracing falls under the sports sector and sports is included under CATHSSETA’s authority.

The School Of Management Excellence was the first institution of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and one of its aims as stated by Summerhill’s owner Mick Goss was to “fill a void in the needs of an industry involving billions of dollars in investment, but woefully short on the educational opportunities that this facility offers.”

There is a forty seater theatre from which lectures are held and it is equipped with state of the art technological aids. Alongside it is the groom’s convention centre, which has a capacity for 150 people. The stone under thatch buildings guarantee coolness in summer and there is underfloor heating throughout to offset the chilly Mooi River winter weather.

The curriculum is intended to propel graduates directly into management roles through a range of subjects designed by experts for the strategic, practical and financial demands of the horse breeding industry.

The lecturers include highly placed academics, veterinarians, trainers, nutritionists, bloodstock agents, stud managers and insights are also provided by leading industry personalities.

Heather Morkel is the head of the School Of Management Excellence. She has a wealth of experience in the industry, having held positions as PA to Mick Goss, CEO of the first South African Equine Trade Council, CEO of Summerhill’s in-house horse feeds business, Vuma, and Group Business Manager at Summerhill.

The students are usually chosen on their leadership potential.

On the current course only two of the ten students have not been subsidised.

Mary Slack of Wilgerbosdrift Stud has financed one of her own grooms.

David Hepburn-Brown of Hemel ‘N Aarde Stud, Cape trainer Glen Kotzen and Sharon Patterson of the Bayshore Barn spelling centre in Gauteng each recommended a groom, who all attained bursaries from CATHSSETA. Three grooms from Summerhill Stud and a student from the South African Jockey’s Academy also received CATHSSETA bursaries.

Patrick Merven, a trainer and stable manager from Mauritius, sent his son as a private student and there is one other private student.

The course runs from May until the end of September and two students are then chosen on merit to further their studies at the National Stud in the UK along with 25 to 30 other students from around the world.

This pair are each given a scholarship from the Trustees Anthony Cane, John Wood and Karen Groom. Cane and Wood made this decision after a chance stopover at Summerhill in 2011.

Another international internship is also usually offered and one of last year’s most deserving students, Marius Losch of Maine Chance Farms, has spent time gaining work experience at Rich Hill Stud in New Zealand.

The funding of this international internship was assisted by CATHSSETA.

Last week the class’s Summerveld trip began with a visit to Mike de Kock’s stable where among other day to day workings of a yard they were shown an equine treadmill in action. They then went to the training tracks to witness the gallops.


Later, Gold Circle’s Racing Manager Jay Harriellal gave the students some insight into the establishment of the national racing program as well as regaling about a day at the races and other facets of the industry.

The students then visited the South African Jockey’s Academy.

Mick Goss has always been known for his intuition and innovation and the School of Management Excellence will be a legacy largely indebted to those valuable twin assets of his.

Extract from Pretoria News