Mbongeni Noqwane has spent many years working with horses, but galloped into a new chapter in his life with these noble animals when he was introduced to polocrosse recently.
He has now become a fixture at the Lions River Polocrosse Club, riding a horse provided by his employer.
Mbongeni, or Bongi as he is commonly known, has received a grounding and put in some hard work with Belinda Campbell, the club’s chairwoman, and member Adam Campbell.
He spent 13 years working at Waterford Stud farm in Underberg, where he learnt to gentle-, back- and harness-train wild horses. There he was exposed to a variety of breeds and styles of riding.
He moved to Howick early last year, where he continued gentling and backing wild horses for Megan Frost at Broadacres Equestrian. Megan, who has Springbok colours for English mounted games, said the Campbells had kindly spent some time coaching Bongi and herself, after she had shown an interest in learning to play.
“The bug bit immediately,” she said.
Bongi played his first tournament in Mooi River earlier this year and his second in Richmond in early May, where he received recognition as the most improved #2 for his section.
He rides one of Megan’s ponies, Waterford Tiny, a six-year-old Quarterhorse cross, Fjord cross. The rider and horse learn to play polocrosse together and, said Megan, continue to grow with each session.
Recognising his ability and work ethic, Megan said: “Bongi is a big part of why I started polocrosse and would like to continue playing. Seeing how much he is growing, and seeing how much he enjoys it, is huge motivation for me, as well as motivation to train along with him.
“His drive to improve himself is inspiring. He’s recently started cycling every evening to ensure his fitness.”
Belinda, having played the sport herself for 39 years, helped start the club up again in 2017 after it had been dormant for a number of years. She is a big name on the SA polocrosse scene, having secured Springbok colours and provincial colours for five provinces.
Describing her vision for the club, Belinda said: “We would like to see and promote more riders who were previously not exposed to polocrosse and give everyone the opportunity to partake in this family sport.
“We would like to see Lions River growing into the biggest club in the country and offering people from all walks of life the opportunity to partake in an amazing sport.”
Adam, who is married to Belinda, has been playing polocrosse for three years. He describes himself as “chief motivator” and has a huge passion for inspiring other players.
“Working with someone like Bongi is extremely fulfilling. He never complains about anything or anyone, makes me look inwards to myself.
“His drive and willingness make me want to be better and do better. Regardless of the outcome of a game, he is always smiling and offering to help, on and off the field.”
Megan commented that Bongi was an asset to her yard. “He is a committed, hard-working, talented man, with a lovely way with horses. He ensures that he spends adequate time exercising his pony, and practising skills that he has picked up.”
She thanked the Campbells for the many hours put in coaching herself and Bongi, and the club members for being so welcoming.
Bongi said he loved to work with and ride horses.
A number of sponsors, big and small, are helping to fund activities, kit, prizes and tournaments, which is driving excitement around polocrosse in the Midlands.