ZIMBABWE’S largest horse-breeding estate, Spesbona Farm in the Trelawney area, was last week served a Section 8 notice, dealing a major blow to the mult
i-million dollar racing industry.
The Commercial Farmers’ Union this week said the notice was one of many that were being issued throughout the country to the few remaining commercial farmers.
Thoroughbred Breeders Association of Zimbabwe chairman Peter Moor confirmed that Spesbona, owned by Jeff Armitage, had been served with a Section 8.
“It’s a big blow to the whole industry,” Moor said. “Armitage has been one of the most successful breeders with a history dating back over 20 years.”
Moor said Armitage had been producing around 40 horses a year.
“Some of the horses he produced include Grand Challenge winners such as Match-Winner, Stay Alert and the Toss,” he said.
Moor said over 75% of the horse-breeders in the country had been forced off their farms, putting the whole industry on the brink of collapse.
“Around seven out of 30 breeders throughout the country are still operational,” he said.
He said the number of horses brought onto the market over the past three years had dropped as the farmers were being chased off their properties.
“This year we sold a mere 180 horses instead of a yearly average of between 400 and 500 horses,” he said.
The thoroughbred breeding industry was producing some 400 foals annually from a breeding population of roughly 700 mares and 30 plus stallions expensively imported from South Africa and Europe.
“Of those 400 foals, approximately 75 would be entered for the annual sale, whilst the rest were raced or leased privately,” Peter Lovemore, a longtime racing personality said.
“A small number were exported and roughly 250 new horses were coming into racing each new season,” he said.
Lovemore said the breeding industry had been destroyed and the future looked grim.
“Breeding stock numbers have fallen to an all-time low as mares have either been destroyed by peasants who have invaded farms, or exported to economically and physically safer countries in the region,” he said.
“The stallion band, a pillar of any successful industry, is also at an historical nadir in terms of numbers and, more importantly, quality.”
Lovemore said the effects were now impacting disastrously upon the racing industry where the number of horses in training had dipped well below the marginal line of sustainability.
He said three years ago Zimbabwe boasted a healthy breeding industry, two racecourses, a resident colony of some 22 jockeys and over 700 horses in training spread between at least 30 trainers.
“The number of horses in training has halved. No more than half a dozen jockeys actually live in the country anymore for security reasons,” Lovemore said.
“This effectively means that the Mashonaland Turf Club and various owners must expend vast sums of money importing jockeys from South Africa and Mauritius,” he said.
Since the closure of Bulawayo’s Ascot racecourse in 2001, only Borrowdale Park remains active in staging live racing.
Other famous breeding farms that have fallen victim to the land reform include Golden Acres in Marondera, which was forced to close down after invasion by the ruling party militants.
“Like every other industry, the breeding of racehorses requires finesse, expertise, capital and, more than anything else, hope for the future. That no longer exists,” Lovemore said.