They said he wasn’t allowed to jump. He didn’t listen


Enos Mafokate’s first attempt at riding a horse just about killed him. At the time he was a groom in the stable of a Springbok showjumper. Apartheid meant that this was the only way for him to get close to the animals he adored. He gambled on a quick ride one day while his boss was out. The owner returned to find a broken Mafokate on the ground after being thrown from the horse. Impressed by this display of determination, he offered to teach Mafokate to ride after he healed. Now a spry 72, with a triumphant career behind him, he’s passing his knowledge and love for the majestic creatures on to the kids of Soweto.

Mafokate’s wisdom was not easily gained. Racial discrimination plagued the course of his riding career. He competed in overalls for the first time in 1962 and won his class at the event, but still could not showjump professionally. In 1975 the laws softened and Mafokate saddled his horse officially, becoming South Africa’s first black showjumper. His desire to compete had remained charged. Thirty years later he represented a democratic South Africa at the Olympic Games in Barcelona.

What Mafokate achieved during his career in the midst of racial discrimination is remarkable, but what he is doing now is even more inspiring. There was a time when the equestrian world could not believe he had a horse – now he has a stableful at the riding school he started a decade ago. The Soweto Equestrian Centre is Mafokate’s investment in the future of showjumping, and more importantly, in the youth of South Africa. His goal is to educate township kids about horses, in a space where they are often neglected, and to show them that South Africa is number one.

Click here to make a contribution to The Soweto Equestrian Society on GivenGain.