Horse Riding on the Wild Coast

Words: Grant Hollins. Images: Julie-Anne Gower.

Wild Coast Horseback Adventures has been offering horse riding trails along the Eastern Cape’s spectacular eastern coast for more than a decade and is listed as one of the top beach riding destinations in the world. Grant Hollins went to Kei Mouth to meet with owner Julie-Anne Gower to find out more.

The Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast, which stretches some 280km from the Mtamvuna River in the north to the Great Kei River in the south, has a rich history of adventure and is renowned for its rugged beauty. It forms the coastal heartland of the Xhosa people whose cattle often roam unattended along vacant beaches or graze on grass covered hilltops with cliff faces that plummet directly into the ocean. Notorious in the seafaring community as one of the world’s most treacherous stretches of coastline, the region is home to numerous shipwrecks and with about half of the area comprised of indigenous forest, it supports a myriad of fauna and flora. This largely untouched coast is also interspersed with quaint hotels, which make it an ideal destination for nature-loving, adventure-minded travellers to visit.

Read about a man who loves his horses Where Gary Player Plays.

Horse riding Wild Coast
Horses and riders relax after arriving in Mazeppa Bay on the wild coast. With a number of quaint hotels located along the wild coast horse trail routes, trail riders get to bivouac overnight in comfort and are afforded plenty of time to enjoy the facilities before moving on to the next stop.

With extensive knowledge of this region and a strong background in long distance horse riding, Julie-Anne Gower established Wild Coast Horseback Adventures in 2002, which is considered by UK based agency In the Saddle as “providing access to the most spectacular beach riding in the world.” Catering primarily for intermediate and experienced riders, the organisation offers (among other packages) a week long horse trail deep into the spectacular Wild Coast region.

Horse riding on the Wild Coast
Wild Coast trail riders water their horses at the bottom of a gorge along their route. Approximately half of the wild coast in the Eastern Cape is covered by indigenous forest and Wild Coast Horseback Adventures’ trail riders enjoy a mix of both beach and turf riding as they navigate the coastline.

Horse riding and other activities

Trails are limited to about 8 clients per trail group, which are generally conducted during the third quarter of the year rather than during the December period in order to ensure the availability of accommodation at the popular hotels along the coast. “We allow plenty of time for our guests to enjoy the facilities of the hotels we stay at, including kayaking, fishing or just relaxing,” she says. “But ultimately it’s about the riding and we work hard to ensure everything is in place so they can focus on this aspect of their holiday.”

Horse riding in Wild Coast
Trail groups are generally restricted to 8 riders or less to facilitate safety along the routes which meander through rural villages and rugged terrain.

The guests’ luggage and extra equipment for the horses are transported via backup vehicle to the different overnight stops each day and guides are required to undergo a 6 to 12-month training and evaluation period before being permitted to lead a trail independently. This ensures that the guides are not only qualified to handle any equestrian related issues that may arise but are familiar with the routes and terrain and can impart some local knowledge to guests.

Horse riding in the wild
One of Wild Coast Horseback Adventures’ most popular trail rides is the surf and turf Horse Safari which consists of a 5 day trail along the wild coast to Wavecrest followed by a 4 day stay on a Private Game reserve at the 5 star Miarestate Hotel & Spa where riders are free to explore the reserve amidst non dangerous game such as giraffe, wildebeest and zebra.

The horses used on the trails are Arab, Boerperd, Thoroughbred and Percheron crosses, and are kept in a herd free to roam large areas of ground when not on a trail. The horses have strong bonds with each other and traverse the 20km to 40km of rugged terrain each day with ease. Having become very familiar with the routes along the trail, they are now also able to navigate terrain, allowing trail riders to relax and experience the full magnitude of the Wild Coast’s beauty on horseback.

Horses
The Wild Coast horse trail begins in Kei mouth as riders disembark from the ferry used by locals to cross the Kei river without having to travel to the bridge on the N2 – more than 20 km away.

“The Wild Coast offers so much for a rider and the experience of our horses help unlock this potential,” says Julie-Anne. “From galloping across beautiful sandy beaches untouched by man to navigating your way around steep coastal cliffs and cantering across grass-covered hills, it’s just a spectacular experience.”

Wild Coast on horseback
Part of the wild coast horse trail’s appeal is the opportunity to experience the region’s dramatic landscape from horseback as riders make their way past plunging sea cliffs under the watchful eye of highly trained and experienced trail guides.

Working Holidays with Horses

Another facet of Wild Coast Horseback Adventures that has become very popular with international tourists – particularly with “gap year” students – is the working riding holiday package. Participants stay in a separate house in Kei Mouth and aside from doing lots of riding, they also learn various horse management tasks and handling techniques. The guests help with daily feeding and grooming and receive introduction training on among other tasks, barefoot trimming, endurance riding, training and horse management. Aside from assisting on various horse trails and swimming with horses, an added attraction is the opportunity to exercise the 12 horses Wild Coast Horseback Adventures keep at a nearby game reserve – Miarestate – where they will take regular rides amidst nondangerous game such as giraffe, zebra, Wildebeest and various species of antelope.

Horse riding on the beach
Offering horse trails along the wild coast since 2002, Wild Coast Horseback Adventures has a reputation for providing access to some of the best beach riding in the world.

Want to add this adventure to your bucket list? Let us know: Ultimate South African Bucket List.

Contact:

082 567 0972

[email protected]

www.wildcoasthorsebackadventures.com

 

 

 

Send this to a friend