Visitors will tell you with breathless excitement. Residents will nod knowingly, a conspiratorial gleam in their eyes. It’s true: here in the Overberg, nature is the sovereign queen; her face as fair as it is formidable. From magisterial mountains to storybook rivers and beaches, visions of exalted beauty unspool in every direction. If you’re seeking a more visceral holiday experience, horseback trail riding with African Horse Company offers one of the most exciting ways to access the Overberg’s wealth of natural wonder.
African Horse Company, together with other nature-minded businesses like Cliff Lodge, is answering the need for a renewed connection with our natural world. Howard Krut, horse trail guide and ardent exponent of the Overberg, calls it a nature-based economy: inviting people into the heart of these untouched landscapes to offer an escape from the trappings of modern life. It’s the space, Howard says, and the sense of freedom it invokes, which enthrals and touches city-based guests most. With trails taking in swathes of the most pristine coastline and wilderness you could possibly dream of, it’s not hard to understand why.
Just minutes away from Cliff Lodge lies Farm 215, a private nature reserve of stupefying beauty and kaleidoscopic bio-diversity. Farm 215 plays base station to African Horse Company, and its here where my tentative initiation into the world of horseback riding would take place. While I’ll admit to fancies of galloping across Walker Bay beach conservancy or threading a forest or vineyard passage at speed (all of which and more are on offer with African Horse Company), walking the gently undulating terrain of Farm 215 was no less thrilling to the beginners mind, and the perfect introduction to these creatures of statuesque power. With the exception of a stallion in the herd (‘No more, please!’ jokes Howard) the horses – Friesian, Arab, Saddler and Boerperd crossbreeds – live completely naturally at Farm 215, roaming and grazing at their will. It’s their familiarity with the terrain and temperate nature which made it such a safe and accessible experience for our party, which included beginner adults and young children both.
Once we’d taken our seats on our obliging mares, the horses followed in single file over the rugged paths with such calm predictability that any worries of a capricious flight were quickly forgotten. Utterly relaxed and without the slightest effort expended from the rider, the elevated perch and gentle rise and fall of the topography offered up horizon after exquisite horizon for the eye to drink in. As the seas of Cape Agulhas gloried distantly in the late afternoon sun, our unique vantage point from the saddle showcased the indigenous flora of this region, known as fynbos, like I had never seen it before. Fynbos is endemic to the Western Cape and forms up to 80% of the Cape Floral Kingdom – the smallest but richest of the worlds 6 Floral Kingdoms. Being conveyed on horseback through this botanical cornucopia, with only sky above and space before you, is an immersion in beauty that will open your eyes, steady your heart and bring perspective to your life.
Trail options for every inclination and ability are available, including multi-day trails and outrides of up to 6 hours across some of the most remote and undisturbed tracts of Overberg wilderness. When the crush of the city starts to get to you, let African Horse Company spirit you away to another world.