South African National Equestrian Schools Association (SANESA)

I became involved in SANESA in 2003 (called ESL back then) because of my daughters’ involvement in equestrian sport. 
Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the road that I would end up walking with this organisation.

Let our Children Ride

The South African National Equestrian Schools Association (SANESA) promotes all forms of equestrian sport within South African schools. It focuses on development, participation, and excellence, and complies with the principles of the Departments of Education, Sport & Recreation, and the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC).

SANESA is committed to making equestrian sport available to as many learners in South Africa as possible, by lowering barriers to entry and modifying the sport at entry level. Children who have access to a horse can compete in local and national competitions, learning the value of enthusiasm and hard work.

School Equestrian was fully accepted by the Department of Education as an official school sporting code in 2004, a year after I volunteered with the organisation.

I served as National Chair and, later, President until 2015. During my time there, I:

  • Helped to create, grow, and manage equestrian sport within South African schools;
  • Organised regional, provincial, national, and international competitions;
  • Coordinated over 140 volunteers who assisted at 450 shows every year;
  • Designed and implemented legal and policy guidelines, controls, and procedures;
  • Analysed and enhanced organisational performance;
  • Developed creative ways to lower the barriers to entry for equestrian sport;
  • Represented SANESA to the National Equestrian Federation; and
  • Worked on a range of other school sporting codes, always looking for ways to include more children in sport.

By the time I retired in 2015, I was proud that we had over 900 schools participating in the programme, impacting nearly 3500 learners. What’s more, almost 480 schools and over 1000 learners from all nine provinces participated in national championships.

An overview of some of SANESA's greatest achievements during my tenure.

First ever Official Provincial School sport colours awarded for Equestrian in SA.
Province Gauteng.
Nationals with 3/9 provinces
USSASA (sporting body for Department of Education) fully accepted Equestrian as a sporting code.

Inter districts held between 4/5 regions in Gauteng First time a Gauteng Finals were held to select the Gauteng Teams to participate at Nationals.

Core League Nationals was held with 4/9 provinces.


First ever Official Regional School sport colours awarded to Equestrian in SA in the Gauteng Region of Ekurhuleni as negotiated by myself with the then Ekurhuleni Sports Council.

The whole South African school sport structure in SA experienced a very turbulent time 2006 till 2009, with the ultimate winding down of the school sport regulating body USSASA. New sport regulatory bodies were created and phased in.  The Department of Basic Education and Sport and Recreation took combined responsibility for school sport with the signing of a MOU. Provincial and Regional Sports Councils were instated and the road to significant change in the structure of school sport started. 

Schools Equestrian took up their rightful position as autonomous body governing school equestrian.

Name changed to South African National Schools Association – SANESA

After all the turbulence in the sport, we had a slightly more calm period.

SANESA still showing significant growth, not only in numbers, but bringing together all the different disciplines (even the small and “insignificant” disciplines) the children compete in.

Core League Nationals represented by all 9 provinces.

First National Schools Endurance team selected top compete Internationally during 2102.

First year to officially award NATIONAL Schools Equestrian Colours. This was awarded to the first ever Endurance Schools Team.

First ever International SANESA Endurance competition home base.

Namibia, Italy and SA Schools  team selected at First Endurance Nationals Christiana, North West.

SANESA or School Equestrian celebrated 10 years of active competition.  

On home front SANESA National Champs also hosted a team from Brazil to compete against a team of SANESA in Showjumping. 

Endurance competed against a team from Italy in PARYS, FS. 

SANESA National Endurance team with Chef d'Equipe Colet Greyling and the Italian team.
Chef d'Equipe and her all girls National SANESA Showjumping team that competed against an all boys team from Brazil.
SANESA Core League Nationals 2013 held at Kyalami Equestrian Park, Johannesburg

Our National Endurance team selected in 2012, competed for the first time abroad.  Under the watchful eyes of Chef d’Equipe Zulu (Derek) Liebenberg this official FEI* 80km ride in Italy was an awesome experience for our children.
Overall winner at this ride was SANESA Maryke Wilken, and she also received the prize for Best Conditioned horse.  We also bagged 3rd and 10th place.

Maryke Wilken on her mount on route to the bag first horse in for the FEI* 80km in Italy.
SANESA National Team in ITALY
Zulu Liebenburg with the team and one of the Italian horse sponsors.
Chef d'Equipe Rene Erasmus receiving SANESA's contribution

SANESA still showing growth and offering as much as possible to the equestrian children in SA.

Various project were launched during this year to teach learners to give back to the sport, however little we could do.

Some financial support towards lessons for disabled riders in the Shumbashaba Therapeutic Centre; various holiday camps guided by the provincial committees and the co-organisation of the first Unified Sport day with Shumbashaba was done.  Here 3 children from Special Olympics was selected to compete in Special Olympics International competition in Los Angeles.

Nationals 2014

An eventful Core League Nationals with a major velt fire threatening the event.  BUT teamwork pulled us through.  After the eventful interruption, kids and horses all settled down and the children completed and enjoyed yet another National Championship!

This was my last year in SANESA as I have decided to retire.  After 12 years in this organisation, of which most was in a leadership position, it was time to hand over the reins to another.  It was a year with plenty achievements, with various highs and a couple of lows ……

National SANESA Endurance team to compete in France
International Endurance competition = France (Fontainebleau) 
6 Countries sent “school” teams adhering to our criteria.  Being an FEI ride, competitors from all over Europe, Japan, Quatar and Oman took part.
Tara-Lea and Mintie-Louise were awarded a plaque from Grand Parquet Endurance for competing and completing an exceptional difficult ride
Woodridge EC Equestrian Team
I was always blessed with the most awesome teams in the world! The team that organised Nationals during 2015.

but the biggest low having to say good bye!.  It was a humbling experience … and an honour to serve the equestrian children of South Africa.

May SANESA keep growing from strength to strength.

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