Steady in the stirrups . . . across sand dunes and sunny shores

Posted under Travel Blog by Grootbos on 3rd February 2012

A beach horse ride from Grootbos to Die Plaat in the Walker Bay Nature Reserve is a blissful combination of extreme outdoor adventure and exquisite beauty . . . albeit not recommended for sissies and beginners! The 3 hour beach outride takes you through lush flowering fynbos fields on the Grootbos reserve, across the R43 to the endless white desert-like dunes that fringe the ocean. Only from the saddle of a horse can one truly get an authentic view and true experience of these age old dunes that hoard a sea of secrets in their hollows and peaks.

We were accompanied by Breyten, an experienced guide from the African Horse Company that runs the beach outrides for Grootbos guests who prefer a more strenuous session in the stirrups. Breyten is an expert at matching each one of his equine children with a potential rider according to riding skills and experience, temperament and traits. The horses are well-trained and acquainted with every bush and treacherous rock outcrop along the meandering trail. My lively, mischievous mare, Sarie, had to take the rearguard to prevent her from galloping off at full throttle from the word GO. Boy, was she ready, eager and willing to set the pace and show the others how it should be done! Luckily, the heat (it was one of the hottest days in history in the Western Cape!) and a good-natured temperament contributed to Sarie’s acceptance of taking the backseat as we zigzagged in single file through exotic scented foliage with the luring ocean in the distance. When we hit the majestic sand dunes half-way to the beach, our group felt like ardent adventurists - eager to conquer any desert demon in true Lawrence of Arabia-style. To be surrounded by nothing but hills and valleys of pristine white sand as far as the eye can see, is both a daunting and dazzling experience! The views from the top of the dunes over endless ocean and the rocky coastline is out of this world. The American mother-and-daughter team who accompanied me was happy to settle for a slow walk and an occasional canter in order to drink in the magnificent panorama. When we finally reached the beach, the horses (and riders!) were grateful for the welcoming cool sea breeze and the horses voluntarily embarked on a gentle, slow-paced trot with me forcefully and frantically pulling in the reins to restrain Sarie from performing a jubilant beach boogie! The ride along the water's edge is extremely invigorating and depending on the time of day, riders are often blessed with breathtaking sunset scenes and even a display of whales or dolphins frolicking in the surf. We were lucky to witness a pod of dolphins joyfully surfing the waves in the distance. On the shore, we encountered quite a few Black Oystercatchers nesting along the rocky outcrops.

Depending on the skills and experience of the riders, Die Plaat is the place where the horses generally gallop and gallivant freely in the shallow waves to cool off and escape the rays of the scorching African sun. After spending an exhilarating hour on the beach, it was time to steer the horses back home. By now, my Yankee co-riders and I could very well feel the impact of the unaccustomed movement and assault on certain parts of our anatomy and we were thankful when the horses graciously fell into a gentle canter and walk - equally anxious to get rid of the bobbing weight on their backs! The return journey was sheer bliss with a setting sun transforming the Walker Bay skyline into a live canvass of brilliant colours and silhouettes.

The 3 hour beach outride (only for experienced riders!) is one of various tailor-made horse riding excursions on offer to guests of Grootbos Nature Reserve. The resort boasts its own stables with 20 well-trained horses eager to take novice and experienced riders on guided horse-riding experiences of various distances and durations on the reserve. A mountain trail offers breathtaking panoramic views over verdant hills, valleys and the entire coastline, while children can embark on guided pony rides.

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