The excitement was clearly visible on the faces of seven young hopefuls from the Footprints Orphanage in Johannesburg, who wanted to learn everything they could about horse racing, as they paid a visit to the Joe Soma stables in Turffontein on Wednesday.
Usually seen on the business side of horse racing and totalisator betting, Phumelela Gaming took the hands of these orphans who had expressed their interest and passion in horses, and showed them what it took to become a part of the industry.
The betting company also invited various industry players to explain the various parts of the industry including a trainer, a professional showjumper, a jockey, a veterinarian and more.
Phumelela Gaming spokesperson Jerry Warie said the company felt it was their responsibility to assist children who were interested in their industry. He said bringing industry experts to speak to the young children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, was their way of giving back to the community. He said the company felt good about how the day turned out and that they would also make plans to follow up with the kids and assist them if they were still interested in the industry.
In attendance was popular showjumper Oscar Bongani Ncube, who became interested in the sport at the age of seven.
He said his mother was a domestic worker for a woman who owned horses and she noticed his interest in horses, taking him under her wing and training him.
“This event is something that needs to be done, especially in South Africa. Obviously the sport [horse racing] needs a little boost and this is what we are trying to do, which is a good thing. I think this is everybody’s dream, to have someone who can give you a leg up,” said Ncube.
Twelve-year-old Daniel Zafi said the excursion deepened his desire to become a jockey. “I want to be a jockey because of the speed, and handling an animal that’s bigger than you amazes me. It makes me excited when I just see the horse and I see their natural instinct,” he told The Citizen.
“I only want to be a jockey because I think horses are amazing. They are interesting and beautiful to me,” said Lebo Pienaar, aged nine. .
Respected trainer Joe Soma said the experience was even better than winning a horse race and seeing hope in the children’s eyes as they happily interacted with the horses filled his heart with joy. He said he would play an active role in following up and that they would collaborate with Phumelela Gaming again to make events like this occur more frequently.