Lasses who don’t horse around

2013-01-19 00:00

WITH three As and 4 Bs under her belt, Andrea Govender is not horsing around with her future by gambling on the jobs crisis bottleneck for young South Africans.

She and Andrea Hartze are the only two rookie female jockeys at the South African Jockey Academy and have made the cut for a professional racing career. They have joined five other women there.

Govender (19) dreams of becoming a championship jockey on South Africa’s racing tracks.

If Govender, all 1,4 metres of her, stays the course after her gruelling apprenticeship, we might just see the Pinetown aspirant jockey cracking the whip on her prized filly in the Durban July in 2018.

Said Charles Grey, South African Jockey Academy marketing manager: “The South African Jockey Academy would like obviously to produce a champion female jockey. We really hope that both Andreas will succeed in this physically demanding male dominated career.”

The Westville Girls’ High matriculant will need to saddle up and hits the straights in the misty valleys of the Summerveld racing retreat in Shongweni at 3 am each day.

“My days of the comfort zone of my home, home-cooked food, doting parents and two caring siblings, are numbered,” she said. “I am up for the challenge of a life-changing career of focusing on the rigorous schedule and training as an apprentice jockey.”

Hartze has come to grips with the housekeeping rules and regulations: no communication, house calls or home-cooked food for months as the rookies undergo a punishing programme of punctuality, precision, protocol and mental and physical fitness. She will only return to her Doone Road home in three months.

Govender said she “got the edge because I did horse vaulting with horses and rode horses regularly in stables in the Highway area”. She is grateful to Dave Cave, a fellow parishioner at a local Catholic church, who taught her how to ride.

“I have to get used to the routine of getting up early for the daily chores of training to ride horses. But I have to have a stomach for the smell of manure and the humility to clean stables.

“I love horses and the tradition and glamour associated with horse-racing. I will work doubly hard to stay the course and succeed. Once I get past the first three years, it’s two more challenging years to chalk up 50 wins. Through hard work and passion I hope to get my racing colours and licence from the racing board.

“Women have made it to the top of the rung in many careers and I would like to be among the first women championship jockeys.

“My dream is to race and win the Durban July … I wish to set my sights on a professional career in Dubai and Hong Kong.”

Grey said Govender and Hartze had “passed the strict pre-assessment training workshop and meet the physical requirements to undertake a jockey apprenticeship”.

“Three of these five women [out of 16 students] are race riding apprentices who are struggling to reach their target of 60 winners before they qualify. There are no female professional jockeys racing in South Africa,” he said.

Since 2007, Genevieve Michel, Vicky Minot, Nicola Welch, Nadine Rapson, Danielle McCreedy, Jessica Goslett and Melishini Pillay have qualified as apprentices.

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