By Christopher Wyngaard
Azraa Salasa, from Wildwood in Mitchell’s Plain aims to encourage children to step out of their comfort zones and go against the norm.
Azraa, a matriculant at Mondale High School says, “If you discover what your passion is, even if its weird, you should still pursue it. I do Saddle-Seat which is something that is very rare, especially amongst the coloured community.”.
Saddle-Seat is a style of horseback riding within the category of English riding, designed to show off the high action of certain breeds. The goal of the Saddle-Seat riding style is to show off the horses’ extravagant gait, particularly the trot.
She told YOH Radio that in the beginning she found it intimidating to do a sport that was not really known about by her peers, and she thought it was for people from more affluent areas. “I used to feel like an outcast, but as time went on, I got used to it. The people are actually friendly and I have made some friends”, said the 16-year-old.
“I love horses. I remember I got my first horse when I was four years old, it was a pony and from then I knew this is what I wanted to do”.
Azraa obtained Western Cape colours with a Saddle-bred horse in October 2018, and was chosen to perform for South African colours, but fell short this time.
“There were performers from five provinces, in total there were about 40 performers. It was my first time performing for national colours and considering there were only 12 spots available, it was already difficult, but I will continue to work hard to achieve my goal of getting national colours.
Azraa also commented on the role her parents have played in her striving towards her goals: “My parents supported me through this and they will definitely continue to do so. I think other parents should do the same if their children want to do a sport or whatever their goals and dreams are”.
When asked what impact school has had on her horseback riding journey, Azraa said:” School is important, I have been able to do both school and also competitions. I’ve managed to balance both of them. I did competitions, but I made sure my marks did not drop. Because I’m in matric I had to cut down the amount of shows I do”.
“Saddle seat is very specific”, said Azraa’s father, Goosain Salasa. “The judging is very complicated, you get judged on equitation which refers to the rider’s position while on the horse and also the rider’s ability to ride the horse correctly. So, you do need a good horse, which is rare to find and could cost at least R80 000”, said Goosain. Attire in saddle seat is also judged. In equitation classes, where the rider is judged, the coat and jods must match. In performance classes, where the horse is judged, a matching equitation-style suit is appropriate, or riders may wear a day coat.
“The clothing is very expensive, it needs to be designed, it needs to look a specific way, it’s unique which is why it’s so expensive. I think this is why more people are not involved in horseback riding, because it’s very costly”, said Azraa’s mother Shehaam Salasa.
Azraa, who has won many championships, including the 2015 and 2018 S.A Girls Fine Harness Champion title, says she will not stop pursuing her dream of representing South Africa abroad, while also encouraging others to do the same!