It’s no secret that the breeding of Thoroughbreds is a labour-intensive process, one which stud farms would be unable to operate efficiently if it weren’t for the stud staff who are integral for their success… and they now have an even greater vested interest in the horses they prepare for the sales!

The Thoroughbred Breeders' Association (TBA), together with regional breeders clubs and stud farms, have created an initiative which not only invests in continual skills development for the stud staff, but also enables them to become part of co-operative programs with regard to the yearlings they help produce for sale.

These programs include ownership of a mare and her foals which are to be produced for the yearling sales and, apart from the potential returns, it also provides the staff with greater insight into the business side of the stuff farm and how all elements of the farming operation play a significant role in the final outcome.

Equestrian Life SA chatted to Catherine Hartley, CEO of the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association of South Africa, to find out more about the initiative:

How did the TB Stud Grooms initiative come about and what is the long-term goal of the program?

The TBA has prioritised transformation, skills training and development. for grooms and stud staff. The EQASA accredited training programme for stud grooms was specifically put together to give staff the opportunity to further their education and training, while allowing for transfer of skills within and across disciplines.

The stud staff program covers modules, from foaling, nutrition, stallion management, transport, lunging, sales preparation, stud farm layout and more. The program involves increasing levels of technical and business skills development, starting with the professional grooms’ program, and certificate, through to head groom and yard manager. Individuals progress to the next level based on their technical and practical ability and performance in oral exams. In addition to the training provided, long-serving stud staff and those that have passed specific levels are included in inclusive co-operative programs, which enable staff to be more fully vested in the industry and the outcomes. Mostly these programs include ownership of a mare and foals, and/or weanlings to be produced for yearling sales.

Apart from the potential returns, this also allows the staff involved to better understand the business side of the stud farm and gives a broader understanding of the importance of all aspects of an operation and how each relates to the final results. The long-term goal of the program is to give more farm staff a vested interest and equity in the operations and final product of a stud farm operation.

What does the program entail?

A few cooperatives were originally put together in the Western Cape. The most successful of these co-ops to date, has been the Riverside Thoroughbred Co-operative who were responsible for selling the up-and-coming young stallion Vercingetorix at the National Yearling Sale in 2011. The Silvano colt which they had pin-hooked as a weanling from Klawervlei Stud was sold for R1.4 Million. Vercingetorix began his career in South Africa, racing in the silks of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, and went on to race in Dubai and Hong Kong, with his most notable win in the grade 1 Jebel Hatta. He stands at Andreas Jacobs Maine Chance Farms in Robertson.

Some stud farms run their own grooms’ bloodstock programmes, independently of the Association, and as at this year’s National Yearling Sale, Cheveley Stud Farm consigned lot 394, the Futura colt on behalf of their staff. Cheveley’s Vaughan Koster says: “We bred the mare Siena’s Star and decided to keep her when she didn’t realise her value in the sales ring. I had been looking for a mare for our grooms to breed from for a little while and so when she retired from racing they accepted the offer to breed with her.

They keep the mare on Cheveley Stud at no cost, and I try to help them with services to stallions that we have shares in. The final decision on which stallion they go to lies with them. The gratuity runs deep, with our vet Dr Hannelu De Villiers, the dentist Gary Waters and our farrier John Gatt giving their services free of charge. “

The TBA encourages these initiatives by the stud farms, and supports the programme via subsidies, reduced fees at sales, and assistance with the business plans and structure.

How many stud farms/ grooms currently participate in the project?

All farms and grooms are eligible for training, provided that the staff member has been a permanent employee of the farm for 2 years.

What happens to the proceeds from the sales of the Grooms horses at the sales?

The TBA and Bloodstock SA waive all entry and acceptance fees, along with the usual commission charged by the sales company. All proceeds from the sale are thus for the grooms’ account. They are advised by their mentors and can elect to withdraw some money but retain most in the business for their next bloodstock investment.

How does a stud farm get involved in this initiative?

All farms that are members of the TBA can contact us for more information but we send out training schedules for eligible staff, for each planned training course. Training does need to be planned around the breeding season (August to December being busiest), and in-between the sales programme.


To read the interview with Cheveley Stud's assistant manager, Stoffel Mouton, visit page 12 of the digital magazine:

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