Bonginkosi Nkosi: Maintenance training the key during lockdown, says Geoff Woodruff.
If the severity of the coronavirus had not sunk in yet, day one of the South African lockdown will have put everything into perspective as millions of people have been forced to stop everything, including the jobs that put food on their families’ tables.
One of the major questions circulating the horseracing community following president Cyril Ramaphosa’s lockdown announcement, is whether livelihoods of thousands of people employed in the horseracing industry – like the grooms – could be protected to some degree.
Fortunately, there seems to be some hope.
“Under the Animal Care Act, I believe grooms and trainers can work,” explained trainer Geoff Woodruff.
The Animal Protection Act contains a detailed list of prohibited acts of cruelty including abandonment, unnecessarily denying food or water, keeping in a dirty or parasitic condition, or failing to provide veterinary assistance – just to name a few.
By the above-mentioned list, although a lockdown is imperative, it is also clear horses need humans right now more than ever.
“We honestly can not afford to stop and, it is not just about money,” added Woodruff. “Horses are creatures of habit and are accustomed to routines. They need to be kept healthy, fed, fit and happy.
“What we do now is more of maintenance training more than anything else.”
There have been fears the lockdown may last a lot longer than 21 days. If this happens, Phumelela have unfortunately announced that feature races like the SA Derby and Wilgerbosdrift SA Oaks (originally scheduled for Saturday 4 April) will most likely be cancelled.
“I am hoping that is not the case but I saw in the news this morning that two people have died because of this virus in South Africa. Judging by how it (COVID-19) is behaving, we honestly may not be back in mid-April.
“I really would not be surprised if we only started racing again at the beginning of May,” said the conditioner.
The President’s deployment of the military is a reflection of how serious government is to ensure people do not leaving their homes unless it is for food or medical reasons.
When asked how stressful that process was, Woodruff said: “I am very lucky because I am based at Randjesfontein (training centre).
“Unfortunately, some trainers and people like veterinarians and jockeys – who may want to work horses in the mornings – are not. As a result, they will have to get some sort of permission to leave their homes and come to work.”
Grooms are an integral part of this sport and it is a relief, Woodruff confirmed, they understand the seriousness of the virus and how they may contract or spread it.
“The bottom line is that we need to ensure that the groom population is kept healthy,” he stated.
“At this point we all need to keep safe and be mindful of each other and our surroundings. If anything, this is one of the major reasons why I wish the grooms could get all the food they need to buy from the Spaza Shop we have here at Randjesfontein.”
As of now, every trainer will continue to work their horses and hopie horseracing returns after 21 days.