Inter Africa Cup 2009 in Swaziland



by Karen McGowan – Malawi


If I had been allowed to have my “moment” at the prize giving ceremony after the competition, perhaps it would have been a little like those celebrities who receive an Oscar!  Certainly I was disappointed as Chef d’Equipe/coach/Mom of the 3rd placed team in E grade with two individual winners, one of the whole of E grade and the other being the winner of the Under 10s category, not to be able to say something.  Although my humour is not as sharp as Rogan’s I would have tried not to “goos” it!  But I have to say something - so I am putting it in writing.  It also gives me an opportunity to thank you all personally.


The organisation of putting together a team, even a small team of 4, and raising the funds to attend such a venue is almost overwhelming, more so I venture to suggest with such a small club of hobby vaulters.  The great majority are under privileged kids, so I teach for free and we have to look for income from to keep it all going from other sources.  It’s daunting being in charge of 4 children under 12 of whom 3 have had so very little exposure to anything outside their current environment on the farm, but their behaviour was remarkable.  All 4 children did take part in the competition last year in South Africa, and this year, as I mentioned at the opening ceremony, they were chosen, not only on their abilities in vaulting but also their achievements at school, to represent their country at this prestigious event. 


There is no doubt that this year sponsorship was all the more difficult to raise due to the economic climate.  Despite this, Air Malawi gave us a reduced rate on our tickets and FES and Multichoice Malawi assisted us with the hiring of a vehicle & MEF assisted us with the various entry fees, hire of the horse, taxes etc.  Our thanks must also go to many private donors from all over the world who follow our website and were inspired by our dream – to Vault for Malawi!


Leaving the farm at 4.00am on Tuesday 18th August we eventually arrived at our camp at 6.30pm in Swaziland.  14 hours were taken up with drives to airport, flights, delays, car rental in Johannesburg, driving the wrong way out of the airport, and the long trek to Swaziland.


Swaziland is certainly the land of the friendly!  From the border crossing onwards we were met with smiles, friendliness and courtesy.  The journey for the 4 children was very exciting with many new things to see on the way, from the huge power stations, to big dams and herds of cattle in South Africa, to the beautiful landscapes and game of Swaziland.

Our first practice on Cobra was worryingly terrible.  His gait was very different to the 14’3 pony that the Malawi kids are used to.  It was lovely to meet up with old friends and make new ones.  The stables are wonderful and the setting a dream.  Warthogs got some of the visiting horses excited, not to mention our kids, but on the day they really put it together and both kids and horses were amazing.

FEI director of filming Nigel Fraser and Lee were filming the second half of their Swaziland piece on Vaulting for the BBC.  TV is not something our kids have access to, but this was definitely a point of interest for them with the big camera and friendly faces of the crew.  Mary Binks head of Group IX was kept amused (as were we all) by Rogan Asken (MC) through the long hours of watching routines from 5 different countries at 3 different grades.  Although a spectator friendly sport, watching 32 kids perform compulsories at E grade, and thereafter at D and C grade, can sometimes cause a yawn no matter how cute or how good they are!  Well done for being supportive and jovial through out.

Zambia’s arrival caused quite a stir with our children and the lively little girls from ZambiaRachel Howard, who introduced vaulting to her busy yard in 2007, hurriedly brought in German coach Silke Jens who worked marvels, and they put together a team and individual vaulter using Michael Jackson songs as their theme which was terrific.  All this put together in a very short time frame, as only Rachel could.  It was a pleasure to be with you all again Zambia. sharing our bus ensured it was always full of giggles and squeals. Chef d’Equipe of the Zambians,

From South Africa, Soweto kids have grown not only in size but in numbers and how well they performed and how proud Enos and Franz are of them.  Steffi and Nichole brought a lovely little pony Plum and along with the Soweto horse Thambazimbi they made up 6 teams who performed admirably.  Well done for the organisation – I found keeping 4 kids on track a task!  It is always good to go home having learnt from others, and our kids are really great fans of the Soweto kids all of whom are fun and very friendly.


Barbie at Riba Stables lent us a horse and despite tears at not being able to use the favourite and most amazing Boet, with Barbie’s patience the Malawi team got it together at a quick practice on Riba’s Cobra who behaved impeccably for them.  Time in the salon with the horses is good for bonding and much fun was had by all Riba and Malawi kids alike preparing the horses for the show.  Thank you Riba for bringing a horse for us.  These vaulting horses are always very special.  Our lunger, Sarah Newton, and mounter, Victor, were also from Riba and essential to our teams’ success.  The Riba groom is from Malawi and he is also called Victor.  It was great to have such a fan supporting us!  The Riba kids pipped us into second and were great fun to watch. 

Mauritius – many new young shiny faces, their elegance and poise is difficult to match and they did things on a horse one would not think possible even on the ground (I swear they feed them rubber)!  Steffanie’s care and friendship with the kids is admirable and the Malawi kids have come home with yet more ideas of new moves to try.  It was wonderful to see Anja Traub who assisted the Mauritian team and coaches before coming to Swaziland.  Well done Mauritius in defending your title.  Maybe you will host the next show!!


Swaziland, what friendly kids you are and how proud Renee must be of you all.  Thank you for sharing your wonderful country, fabulous facilities and beautiful horses with us all.  Closest in circumstances to ourselves, Renee and I had a giggle about trying to get training underway when kids do not appear because they have gone to harvest their crops or do the family washing at the river.  Things that we take for granted in our lives are so exciting for them, like getting a new T shirt.  Malawi kids salute you Swaziland for being such fantastic hosts – Thank you.

Renee, Yolanda and Kate – what a lovely show you put together at such a superb venue.  Every Chef d’Equipe has commented on your fantastic communication skills Renee, on co-ordinating horses and kids and parents and Judges.....and Kate!  You were amazing and we thank you for always having time to answer a question no matter how busy you were and always with a friendly smile – we hope you return to Australia proud of having organised such a wonderful show in real Africa.  Swazi Lizkhar is going to be a hard act to follow.

To the 4 Judges, Hilde Ocenasek, Barbie Gertenbach, Kim De Villiers and Helen Anderson, we admire your patience and skills, this is a difficult sport to judge and it was two long days for you and your scribes .  We do hope that Hilde has recovered from her fight with the umbrella.  A big thank you from us all.


The Malawi kids had a wonderful time.  They learnt lots and have seen performances to aspire to in Grades C & D.  Vaulting is a special sport.  Over the 3 years that I have been involved I have found vaulters and coaches alike to be positive and helpful.  I am proud of our achievements and would like to say a big thank you to all those who have helped us in so many different ways.