Emmanuel Teunissen might be only six, but what this little boy with a wide smile lacks in years he makes up in the knowledge and understanding he has of race horses, and more importantly how they should be looked after.
Adopted as a baby, this Grade 1 KZN learner lights up when you mention winning horses. He knows every one of them and who rode them to victory.
“He was only little when he watched the first July Handicap on TV,” says his school-teacher father Bjorn and his wife Jo. “You can never say why these things happen, but from that moment on, he wanted to know about all the famous horses.”
His interest has never waned, say his parents.
“He even has his own jockey silks – by kind permission of local trainers who heard about his interest, and a mechanical horse to try out his skills.”
His biggest joy, says Bjorn, is that this year’s July has not been cancelled.
“He will wear his silks for the day and watch every race.”
Says the little boy with a larger-than-life love for horses, “I love to watch how the jockeys ride their horses. I try and learn from them. Now they’re back. I am so happy.”
Bjorn and his wife decided that their son’s love of horsemanship and riding should be nurtured.
“People might say that he is too young to understand the good and the bad things about horse racing. But if he becomes a champion of horse care that is a good thing.”
Emmanuel’s bedroom is like an equestrian museum. Statues and horse pictures are everywhere. Mike de Kock, Justin Snaith, Anthony Delpech, S’Mango Khumalo and Jeff Lloyd they are all in his hall of fame.
He can rattle off the names of his favourite horses at supersonic speed — Dynasty, Abashiri, Summer in the City, Ginger Biscuit, Zenyatta, and African Night Sky.
This future jockey can tell just by looking at a horse coming down to the track whether it is happy or not and whether the jockey is being kind to the horse.
“For him that is the biggest thing,” explain his parents.
“You must ride with your hands and your heels,” he explains. “If I am a jockey one day I will be kind to my horse.”
His tip for the upcoming virtual July Handicap? Rainbow Bridge.