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“Horses are like people”

Patrick Mapanga works at the Turffontein race course. He told Learn and Teach about his job:

I was born on a farm in the Eastern Transvaal. I was born 42 years ago.

My parents were farm workers. Our whole family worked on the farm. I did not go to school. My brothers and sisters also did not go to school. The school was far away.

I looked after the cattle on the farm. I like animals. But I did not like my job. The farmer did not pay well. He paid me one rand a month.

In 1959 I left the farm. I wanted to find a better job. I went to Johannesburg. I was lucky. I found a job quickly. I found a job at the Turffontein race course.

I stiII work in the same job. I look after the race horses. And I clean the stables. I live at the race course with the other workers.

I start work at 5 o’clock in the morning. We clean the stables first. Then we take the horses to the track. We give the horses exercise. Sometimes we ride the horses slowly. Sometimes we ride them fast. The trainer tells us what to do. Race horses need lots of exercise.

At 7 o’clock we bring the horses back. We clean the horses with brushes. And we give the horses water. At 9 o’clock we give the horses food. We give them pellets, lucerne and hay. We stop working at 10 o’clock.

We go back to work at 2 o’clock. We walk the horses for half an hour. After we walk the horses, we clean them. And then we feed them again.

On Saturdays and Wednesdays the horses race. We clean the horses very well. The horses must look good on racing day. We talk softly to the horses. We tell them to win.

I like betting money on the horses. In 1974 I won R 1 700 on the jackpot. But some­times I don’t win for many months. Horse racing can eat your money up. I know many people who spend all their money on the horses. I am very careful. I always send money home first. I only bet when I have some extra money.

People always think I know when a horse will win. They ask me, “Is the horse good? Is the horse trying?”

I don’t know when the horse will win. Nobody knows. But I know when the horse has a chance. I know when a horse is fit.

When a horse is fit, the lines on the horse’s bottom stick out. The horse does not “piss” a lot. And a fit horse never finishes his food.

But a fit horse often loses the race. Horses are like people. Sometimes the horse feels good. Sometimes the horse doesn’t feel good. Nobody can tell what the horse is thinking. If I knew everything about horses, I would not be cleaning stables. I would be a rich man.


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