By Caroline Malan

In April 2017, the Team Nissan Show Jumping team replaced their sixth rider with an equestrian development program which they named ‘THANDI’- meaning ‘loved one’ or ‘beloved’ – an acronym for The Heritage and Nissan Development Initiative.  All 7 of the THANDI beginners are from Footprints and are aged between 7-15. Members from the Team Nissan Show Jumping team will visit the kids throughout the year as they have their weekly lesson with the highly accomplished instructor and rider Tamar Gliksman at Farnham Riding School in Kyalami. In addition to this the 7 children joined Team Nissan at a local show at Kyalami Equestrian Park as they witnessed the team in action. Here’s what went down on that Saturday morning in June.

“It was amazing seeing their interest in the horses: from seeing the horses in the truck to the warm up arena and just generally being with and around the horses,” says four time SA Derby winner Barry Taylor.

“I think the part that they enjoyed most was going inside the team Nissan truck with the horses and seeing a totally different aspect of how our horses live. The one thing that I would love for Team Nissan to teach these kids is the ‘feeling for the horse ‘ – understand what he needs to perform at his happiest. The day was all about giving them a lovely day out with beautiful animals and hopefully one child might develop a love of our sport.”

Yolanda Zafi has raised these children since birth, and her vision for each one is to help create opportunities and to encourage them to be successful, self-sufficient young adults in the future.  ‘Mother’ to the children, she says that it was the first time that the children had watched a show as spectators,

“They thoroughly enjoyed it, and especially when they saw horses playing up (with the riders staying on of course!) I think that the part of the day that they enjoyed the most was being part of Team Nissan itself. It was a highlight for them as they felt that they were a part of the team of these excellent riders…they called them “our team.” They saw a rider fall off, who was doing very well on the course, yet this encouraged them, rather than discouraged as they felt that if the pros fell off… and got back on, then so could they! In terms of what they learnt from the day, I hope that they learned the hard work, dedication and commitment that the sport demands; that it is their choice to grab the opportunity given to them by Nissan, which we could never afford; and to have grateful hearts, winning attitudes and a greater sense of identity. The children are now getting to know the Team Nissan riders. Barry and Lor have been amazing with the kids and always make them feel very loved and welcomed. Sometimes I think that they are a bit overwhelmed by this world which they have not previously been aware of, but they are living a dream, and loving it. I have seen such a change in each child, such a new sense of confidence. My passion and gifting is to build and cultivate people’s identity and self-esteem, and I’ve seen this happen with every one of these children. THANDI development program should be seen as more than simply teaching children to ride horses. I coach children and people, and when they are given opportunities like this, and they are committed…. their characters, their identities and personalities are developed along with the sport. I am so grateful for the opportunity and investment that Nissan is awarding to these children. Our organisations name, which is registered, is Footprints P.L.A.Y. P.L.A.Y is an acronym for, ‘Participating in the Lives of Africa’s Youth’. This is our mission statement, and Nissan has become a partner in our vision. Thank you to all who play a part in this.”

Yolanda went on to say that on the way home, the kids were full of plans and suggestions, “From each getting their own horses, to Daniel and Lebo saving up and then renting their horses out to the others. Kagiso suggested that he would help groom if he could ride for free. Tebogo, Lebo and Jeanette loved the idea of a horse to practice vaulting on, and Nkosi simply wanted to ride every single day when the others are sleeping. I love these little people!”

Team Nissan rider Cheyenne de Beer says that the THANDI kids are an absolutely lovely bunch. She said “They were interested and they were always up to learning something new. I think they enjoyed the day thoroughly and got to experience the true atmosphere of show day. They came with me and helped me untack my horse after my class and gave my horse some carrots. I explained my course to them a bit and spoke about strides and the order of jumps. They also asked me a couple questions about the horses themselves, like how old they are and how much they weigh. I think they enjoyed this because they got to be a part of the show and they got to assist with the horses. They also enjoyed watching the big classes. The bigger grades are always exciting classes to watch as well as compete in and I think it caught their attention as much as it does mine. They definitely got a good idea of what happens on show day, learned a little bit about walking courses and what goes into working a horse on show day.”