Text: Amelia Campbell-Horne
When Equitation was first introduced to South Africa, it was not just to form another competitive discipline but also to educate riders and improve the general standard of riding throughout South Africa. As not all riders had access to coaching, Equitation aimed to educate through the competitions, and Bursary Courses were also held nationally. These courses were initially sponsored by BP and were presented by the top South African Coaches who were known to instruct on internationally accepted techniques.
The objective of Equitation is to educate and give exposure at a grassroots level to as many instructors and young riders as possible and should, therefore, be viewed as a critical development arm for the sport as a whole.
This past year, Equitation has grown from strength to strength, with more awareness and attention directed towards the discipline and with the invaluable sponsorship of the Gauteng Equitation Series provided by Liquid Intelligent Technologies. In this series, competitions were held at Kyalami Equestrian Park and Eaton Farm, with the finals at Fourways Riding Centre on the 29th of October. Despite some of the most bizarre adverse weather conditions Gauteng has seen in recent years, the judges, officials, competitors and parents persevered, and the competition at Fourways was a great success.
Pony Rider Series Winners (Victor Ludorum)
PR Novice – Angelique Lombard
PR Intermediate – Lianka Grobler
PR Open – Charlouis Khun
Charlouis Khun has had a super Pony Rider career in Equitation, as at this same competition, she won the Gauteng PR Open Equitation, a title she also won in 2022.
Junior Series Winners (Victor Ludorum)
Junior Welcome- Nakai Kativu
Junior Novice – Zara Pappalardo
Junior Intermediate – Catherine Priest
Junior Open – Isabella Saunders
Zara Pappalardo has also had a successful Pony Rider career, winning in the Opens with her pony Rooigras Elle. After Elle had to have an operation in the middle of the year, Zara stepped up to Juniors aboard mom Caryn Pappalardo’s special mare Vix. The pair went on to win several Junior Novice Equitation classes and secured their Victor Ludorum title after winning their class at finals.
Adult Series Winners (Victor Ludorum)
Adult Welcome – Chantal van Dyk
Adult Novice – Chanel Lotter
Adult Intermediate – Nhlanhla Viilakazi
Nhlanhla Vilikazi, one of the development riders, came through with an exceptional performance to win the Adult Intermediate Victor Ludorum. Along the way to the title, he won four of the six Liquid Intelligent Technologies Series classes, which is quite an achievement in itself! The Gauteng Equitation Committee sponsored Nhlanhla’s entries for the Equitation shows in 2023, having seen his potential, and were thrilled with his outstanding results. The Committee said, “He is certainly a young rider with tremendous potential, and we wish him all the best in the future”.
HQ had to hear more about Nhlanhla’s story, so we had a quick catch-up with him:
HQ: How did your journey with horses begin?
Nhlanhla: When I was young, I loved horses a lot, well, actually all animals. One day, in 2013, it happened that I was walking past an equestrian centre, and I saw people riding horses there, so I went in to inquire. They told me to bring my parents to register me, and that is how I started riding. I was taught by the well-known Enos Mafokate at the Soweto Equestrian Centre. I rode and did lots of vaulting as well. I left there in 2017, and in 2019, I started riding with Barbie and Kayla Gertenbach at Riba Stables. I appreciate everything they do for me and am grateful to be able to reach my goals and continue to make everyone proud. I wouldn’t have made it this far if it weren’t for my mentors.
HQ: What do you enjoy about working with horses?
Nhlanhla: They teach me something new almost every day! Working with such big animals is not easy, but eventually, it becomes second nature, and everything flows. I also find it relaxing; even though, at times, it can get tough, I still love it. It also helps me forget about everything that is happening around the world, so they really play a big role in my life. If it weren’t for horses, I’m sure I would be a completely different person.
HQ: How would you describe Equitation, and what do you enjoy about it?
Nhlanhla: Equitation shows are more like riding lessons, where almost everything is noticed and corrected. And, riding with a correct and effective position makes everything look neat and easy.
What I enjoy about it is that they judge the rider, especially the effectiveness of the rider on the horse and your riding position and how effective it is. It also helps because you know what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong, so you can improve and work on what the judges say you should work on. It’s also nice for the horses because as a rider, you should always be working on making sure your horse is happy, confident, and loving their job.
HQ: Can you tell us about the horse you are riding in the Equitation?
Nhlanhla: His name is Big Ben. He came from a farm when he was four, and I schooled him from scratch with the help of Kayla and Barbie. I’ve slowly produced him up the grades, and now he’s winning nearly every class in the Equitation. He is my sweetheart, that boy; I really love him a lot. There are others that I love, but Ben is really close to my heart because we have come such a long way together. I taught him; he’s taught me, so it is like 50:50, and we are still learning. I am really proud of him and where he is now, and I think he still has a lot of potential and a long way to go.
HQ: Do you have any tips for people to succeed in Equitation?
Nhlanhla: I think you always need to be willing to learn and always try to be a better rider in order for your horse to be a better horse. Whatever you do on a horse’s back affects how they look, how they jump, their transitions… Everyone’s aim should be to be a better rider every time they sit on their horse. Also, it’s not all about winning; it’s about making the horses happy every time and considering the horse before anything else.
HQ: Do you participate in any other disciplines?
Nhlanhla: Yes, I compete in showjumping and dressage, and I also lunge for vaulting.
HQ: What are your goals for the coming years?
Nhlanhla: I want to produce lots of horses and see them compete all over in big classes and around the world. I would also love to compete in some of the bigger classes as well. One day, I would love to run my own stables as well, but that’s a really big dream for now, almost too big even to think about it. I also aim to always make each and every person who has helped me on my journey proud.
HQ: Any closing comments?
Nhlanhla: The sponsors and sponsorships are very helpful and the shows are always great. I am so thankful that they allow me to participate and pursue my riding career.
HQ: We wish you all the best in the future and we will surely be seeing many more wins from you! Congratulations.