First rider of colour to take part in Lipizzaner performance

2016-06-02 08:55
Shepherd Zira (Supplied to News24)

Shepherd Zira (Supplied to News24)

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Johannesburg - Shepherd Zira always dreamt of becoming a pilot, but will instead become the first rider of colour in the history of the South African Lipizzaner riding academy to take part in a Lipizzaner performance.

While Zira has competed in smaller competitions, the Lipizzaner performance is something every horse rider aspires to.

The 20-year-old grew up in Midrand and attended the Sefikeng Primary School in Leeuwkop.

He then attended Midrand High School before dropping out and giving up on his dream of becoming a pilot.

Love of horses

Zira said he was always surrounded by horses, because his father was a groom for one of the top show jumpers at the time.

“I asked my dad if I could go see the horses at the barn where he was working. That was the day I fell in love with horses,” Zira said.

He said he was amazed at how these riders could stay on a horse for such a long time without falling off.

“I used to sit at the racetrack on a daily basis and just stare at how these horses would gallop around the track,” he said.

His father's dream of him becoming a jockey became a reality when Zira met Sharon Lipa, who owned a few horses.

Lipa said she still has memories of Zira’s father wanting him to become a jockey.

“I have known Shepherd since he was ten years old, he is such a great boy,” she said.

She said Zira was willing to work hard for everything he wants.

Lipa said he exercises some horses to earn extra money.

He still takes time to visit Lipa, who gave up riding to train young riders.

(Supplied to News24)

New dream

He has been part of the Lipizzaner academy in Kyalami for a month.

After spending a year under the leadership and training of Lipa, Zira competed in his first ever show jumping competition.

“A few years of riding with Sharon, I was jumping in the 1.20m and won reserve dressage,” he said.

Despite losing his father who introduced him to horses for the very first time, Zira now has a new dream.

“I want to become one of the riders in the Olympics,” he said.

Zira's talents were spotted by the well-known show jump rider Ronnie Healy, who gave him lessons.

The Lipizzaner performance, which is on every Sunday, will be a first for Zira.

He will take part in the Young Stallions performance at the South African Lipizzaner Centre in Kyalami on June 5.

The Young Stallion’s performance is at the beginning of the show. 

“He is just absolutely incredible,” said Heather Partner, chairperson of the riding academy.

(Supplied to News24)

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