Growth of Harness Racing in South Africa

Harness Racing in South Africa is only now started to take off, whereas in Europe, North America, Australasia and Australia harness racing has been enjoyed for many years. Dean Latimer and Swedish based harness racing enthusiast Peter Jansson are working tirelessly to promote this type of horse racing in South Africa. As a new horse racing division, many horse lovers have shown their support and interest in developing the sport.

For those who are not familiar with harness racing, it involves a sulky being pulled by a horse for a certain distance, under the guidance of a driver. A sulky, previously known as a bike, is a small cart that weighs no more than twenty kilograms and has only two wheels. Unlike in normal horse racing, the driver does not have a weight and height restriction. The horses used in harness racing are Standardbred, or trotters. Even though they look similar to the thoroughbred, they have shorter legs and longer bodies. Thoroughbreds are bred for their speed, while Standardbreds need to have stamina. These horses are also much quieter and gentler than Thoroughbreds. The races take place over an average distance of one thousand six hundred meters, and even though drivers use whips to indicate direction to the horses, there are extremely strict rules in regard to using a whip and how often the driver is permitted to use it.

It has most certainly been a year for firsts, as the very first registered Standardbred Trotter arrived in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, this year. The beautiful bay gelding, El Gloriousa, has seemed very happy settling into his new stable yard at the South African Jockeys’ Academy. Here, El Gloriousa will be teaching jockeys the ropes to becoming qualified harness racing drivers. This also gives retired jockeys the opportunity to remain in the sport and the first qualified black driver in South Africa, Menzi Buthelezi, showed off El Gloriousa’s talents at Greyville, to give the public a small taste of harness racing. More Standardbred Trotters are due to arrive in the country before the end of the year.

After a holiday in South Africa, Peter Jansson returned to Sweden with a mission to assist in the establishing of harness racing in the country. He managed to receive wonderful donations of sulkies and equipment worth over $150 000. At a trotting meeting which was held earlier this year, approximately six thousand people attended, curious to learn about harness racing. The Harness Racing Association of South Africa has about 630 members at present, which will most certainly grow as the sport does. Under the rules and regulations that are imposed by the Australian Harness Racing Council, everyone can look forward to great racing once the proposed tracks have opened in KwaZulu Natal, Bloemfontein, Pretoria and Cape Town. Harness Racing in South Africa is set to open many doors and the country will hopefully become a worthy international competitor in the future.