South Africa is one of our most popular destinations for a horseback holiday, with a diverse landscape, big game viewing opportunities, excellent accommodation, beautiful horses and all offering value for money. In The Saddle’s own Gail Tennant finally got to find out why so many people choose South Africa for their equine adventure. Here is the first instalment of her South African adventure…
Holidaying at Horizon
In December 2014 I traveled to Johannesburg to begin my adventure in South Africa. My first stop was Horizon, which is in the heart of the Waterberg Plateau, a few hours north of Johannesburg. Having been welcomed wholeheartedly, I was shown to my room in Rock Lodge, which overlooked the lake and was beautifully presented with rose petals on the bed and all the information I could possibly need during my stay.
It wasn’t long before I was enjoying a ride, on a nice forward going horse called Sparky, whilst enjoying the chance to view some of the fauna and wildlife, including zebra and warthog, before finishing up watching the sun go down on top of a rock overlooking the reserve. It was a magical start to my stay at Horizon.
After my first night’s sleep, and a good breakfast, we headed out at around 8am for our first ride. Guided by Shengie, who has a vast knowledge of the local fauna, we saw warthog, zebra, impala and giraffe before heading back for a delicious lunch and having a few hours to relax and soak up the sun! Then at 4pm we had the opportunity to learn how to play Polocrosse! I rode a horse called Toogs, a bay gelding in his late teens. He was very forward going, with a great turn of speed on the pitch. It was all great fun and we all got very competitive!
After breakfast on day three we were planning to try our hand at cattle mustering! I was on board Toogs again and we headed out to the cattle camp, however where the 50 heifers were supposed to be was empty! They were nowhere to be found! We instead took a different route and managed to see 5 kudu females, 2 zebra, a family of warthogs with 3 baby warthogs only a few days old, and a giraffe. We then changed horses and went swimming in the dam! I rode Swamp Billy who lived up to his name, as he really loved the water, it was great fun!
The next day some of the guests went on an elephant safari, but I stayed at Horizon with two other guests and went on a leisurely ride, meandering through the reserve, on a piebald mare called Storm. The hippo had been in the dam opposite the lodge so we headed there first to have a better viewing where we saw one male (called Motomoto), two females and a young baby hippo. We were able to get close to the water line and the baby was very curious and brave! Once back at the lodge I took Storm swimming in the dam before lunch and then had some time to relax before having a lot of fun doing Western games in the afternoon! The games consisted of a test to determine the team with the fastest walk, slowest canter and fastest trot, as well as bending races with a cup of water trying to get as much in the bucket at the end and also barrel races. After a quick shower we watched the sunset while the local gospel choir sang as we sipped our sundowners – it was very peaceful!
My next adventure was to spend two nights at Camp Davidson. We took a faster paced ride, with plenty of canters, on our journey to the camp and got the chance to track a male giraffe and see kudu and zebra along the way! Camp Davidson has been built high in the bushveld above the Matlapeng Valley and gives you the chance to explore the area from a tented camp nestled in the heart of the wooded hills. It provides you with the opportunity to spend a night or so living life by the campfire and has its own chef and camp housekeeper. We enjoyed a lovely lunch and iced guava juice, took a dip in the pool and had a nap and then took a leisurely ride on that side of the hill before an evening drink while watching the sunset and a delicious dinner of kudu stew with chocolate covered strawberries for dessert!
The next morning we were woken by Frans calling good morning and bringing hot drinks to our tents at 7am. That morning’s ride was quite warm as we meandered our way through the reserve. We met up with the others for a bush brunch at around 11am, which consisted of bacon, boer wors (sausage), scrambled eggs, hash browns, baked beans and fried tomatoes! Tea that afternoon came with a large gooey chocolate cake which was just heavenly. We then embarked on a lovely afternoon ride which took us along various tracks with times where we could trot and canter. We had our sundowners together on the plains with zebra, giraffe, warthog and eland surrounding us as the sun went down.
My final day was started with a hot beverage in my tent at Camp Davidson, before a breakfast on the deck looking across to the plains game. Our ride took us on one of the faster trails on the far side of the reserve and we went through a small village, which was still using mud houses to live in. We had the chance to really open up our horses as the route was straight and open with no aardvark holes. Then it was back to Horizon for a last tea and cake before I departed for the next leg of my African exploration!
Look out for Gail’s next blog coming very soon!