TMSA is well rounded. We are driven by what can be achieved in the field of temperature monitoring, but also committed to participation in other arenas too. Our owner, Samantha Sharkey, has promoted the value of community development through years of assisting small businesses like High Veg Herbs. She is also deeply invested in furthering the equine industry by supporting South African grooms training.
The racehorse breeding industry employs nearly 2000 farmworkers across South Africa, nearly 50% of whom are within the Cape. Samantha spent many years working in the breeding industry, mostly for Graham Beck at Highlands Stud, and forged connections with many industry contacts. Beck’s passion for community development rubbed off on her and led to the establish of the Grooms Skills Training Programme.
Samantha recognised an innate ability within the grooms to work with horses and saw an abundance of raw talent that could be harnessed. She concluded that if their existing ability were aligned with a structured skills development programme, the industry would benefit. A technical skills program together with a business skills program was developed to brighten the grooms’ prospects both within and outside the horse racing industry.
When taking over the family business, Samantha’s time was limited, but with the assistance of a number of partners, the programme launched in 2013 in association with Elsenburg Agricultural College’s Department of Equine Studies, the Graham & Rhona Beck Skills Centre and the Cape Breeders Club. Training was delivered at Elsenburg’s farm near Stellenbosch. Kate Hurst of the Department of Equine Studies developed the technical skills programme for grooms and the Equine Qualifications Authority of South Africa (EQASA), boosting the programme’s credibility.
The training has since moved to the Oaklane Equestrian Centre near Villiersdorp. This venue is EQASA accredited, providing wonderful facilities for grooms who come from all over South Africa. The programme involves four levels of technical and business skills development. The groom will progress to the next level based on their technical ability and performance in oral exams.
Learning how to work with horses is one thing, but to be able to do that and see it from the perspective of a sustainable business operation is something else. It is therefore important that a stud farm is seen from a business perspective, so grooms are encouraged to start thinking about the monetary aspect of the business too. All cultural groups and levels of education are catered for and the program makes use of a number of language interpreters during their oral assessments to allow grooms every opportunity to succeed
To date, the programme has been financed by the Cape Breeders Club through fundraising initiatives. Since 2016, the Thoroughbred Breeders Association and KZN Breeders Club have become involved and provided funding for grooms from other provinces.
The programme aims to provide grooms with the opportunity to become involved in their own equine businesses. “This year, 2018, we are working on three different initiatives to develop sustainable enterprises with grooms taking on ownership roles.” says Sam, adding “It’s a long process, but the best way to create sustainability is the slow way, and in my experience a 10-year plan will create winners in the end.”
All in all, the future of Professional Horse Handlers in South Africa is bright and full of promise, thanks in no small part to Samantha Sharkey’s initiative.