The horses that roam the streets of Sweetwaters daily have not only become part of the township’s identity, they are a local legend.According to residents, the horses, over 50 of them, were dropped off in the township by a “furious” white man after he had been given a raw deal at an auction in Pietermaritzburg where he had tried to sell them.While some locals dispute this version, most have accepted the tale as the only logical explanation for how so many horses ended up sharing space with the local population.“I was born here in Sweetwaters. There had never been any horses on our streets. The animals suddenly appeared from nowhere,” Themba Ndlovu (79) said.According to Ndlovu, the horses arrived in 2010.“Some people say they actually saw the white man fling open the back door of a truck before the horses bolted out. Those who witnessed the incident claim that it happened at the T-junction of Dennis Shepstone Drive that goes to Hilton and Sweetwaters road. “Most of us did not see it happen but started to ask questions after spotting some horses in the area,” Ndlovu.However, another local Philani Makhanya, was quick to dismiss Ndlovu’s version.“Yes, there is that kind of a story, but it’s a lie. The horses belong to the Mthalane family, who live here in Sweetwaters. They brought a few horses from Bulwer and when the animals reproduced and multiplied they did not have enough space to keep them and as a result they ended up roaming the streets.Sweetwaters horse owner Linda Likaje rubbishes claims that it was a white man who dropped off the horses in the area.However, the Mthalanes denied owning the dozens of horses now roaming Sweetwaters. “Yes, it is true that my son bought two horses in Bulwer. The female then gave birth to two foals and he ended up having four horses. Two of the horses have since died and the remaining two are still here. So, it can’t be true that all these horses you see here in Sweetwaters are his,” Ntombi Mthalane said.Mthalane, who lives next to the spot where the man allegedly dropped off the horses, said no locals saw this happen.“What I have been told is that the horses were brought by local residents from kwaMpande (near Henley Dam).“Honestly speaking, I don’t believe the story about the white man,” she said.One of the local horse owners, Linda Likaje, who owns a stable of 14 horses, backs Mthalane’s version.“Yes, I’m aware of the lies about the white man dropping horses in the area. The fact is that all the horses you see around here have owners and those owners live here in Sweetwaters.“The lies about how the horses arrived here are actually quite dangerous as they have resulted in some people stealing our horses using the excuse that they belonged to a white man. “All these horses you see on the streets have owners who take good care of them,” he said.Likaje, who is the former chairperson of the Mgungundlovu Rural Horse Riding Association, said the story about the origin of the horses has been investigated by animal authorities and found to be a lie.“There have been attempts to confiscate our horses but they all failed as we have proof showing the animals belong to us.“What people refuse to accept is that horse breeding has become part of our culture here in Sweetwaters. Some of the horses participate in horse-racing events in the province,” he said.Ntombi Mthalane denies that the horses belong to her family.One of Likaje’s horses (Khalazome) participated in one of the biggest horse-racing events in KZN — the Dundee July — which took place last month.SA Boerperd and American Saddler breeds are among some of the horses that form part of Likaje’s stable. Likaje, who was inspired by local horse-racing events to buy his first horse in Utrecht 15 years ago, said the horses are helping to uplift the Sweetwaters community.“The horses also assist in instilling discipline in local youngsters as many of them are now accomplished jockeys,” he said.