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How horse riding built this Soweto rider’s confidence

by: Mbali Kgame - 28 October 2016


In Soweto, you’re more likely to see horses used as transport than for sport. But this is slowly changing. At the Enos Mafokate Equestrian School, for example, you can find young people like 20-year-old Hlobisile Mashaba riding for fun. The school’s founder and coach, Enos Mafokate, father to kwaito legend Arthur Mafokate, became the first black horse rider to be internationally recognised, which is a huge feat for a black man in a sport dominated by white men. He became the first black man to compete as a professional racer in Europe. Last year, Mafokate won the Steve Tshwete Lifetime Achievement Award. He opened the school to train the next generation of black horse riders like Hlobisile in 2006.

Being mentored by an acclaimed horse rider

Hlobisile was first introduced to horse riding by a friend in 2012. Before then, she had no interest in horses or the sport itself. However, seeing her friend ride and vault (doing gymnastics on a horse) inspired her to want to do the same. She says the first time she rode a horse, she felt fearless and relaxed. “That’s when I knew this was something I wanted to take forward,” says Hlobisile.

She’s been at the Enos Mafokate Equestrian School since 2014, and calls Mafokate a living legend. “Being at his school is a dream come true,” she says. “I love working with him because he pushes me to work hard and that has boosted my confidence and my willingness to push even harder.” This led her family, who were previously against the sport, to accept that this was what she loved.

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Horse riding takes great commitment

Vaulting was one of the most difficult things Hlobisile had to learn. “Not only do you have your own mind to deal with, but you’re also dealing with an animal,” she says. She says she got better once she learned how to be patient with herself. Hlobisile practices every Saturday. During the holidays she trains from Tuesday to Sunday. “I earned to plan my life around my training. On Mondays I choose to rest because the horses also deserve to take a break.”

She hopes to win an Olympic medal one day

Hlobisile is on her way to qualifying for the Gauteng team which will represent the province at the national championships. Earlier this month she was part of the Gauteng vaulting team which competed against other provinces in a competition held in Stellenbosch. “Gauteng came first, and I came first overall. I also came out first in my class and our team won against the Western cape,” she says. Hlobisile’s ultimate dream is to one day represent South Africa in the Olympics: “I want to achieve as much as my coach did, or more if possible.”

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