In the north east of South Africa, known as the Limpopo province, you will find a mountainous range called the Waterberg. It was so called by the original Afrikaner settlers because of the abundant sources of water; a geological rarity and life giving necessity in this region. Wildlife thrives in this non-malarial environment: giraffe, white rhinoceros, warthog, impala, kudu, klipspringer, blue wildebeest Nile crocodile and hippopotamus all present in abundance.
In this mountainous bushveld, you will find Horizon Horse Safaris and Ranch. A collection of cottages and an old farm house overlooking a dam, amongst dense clusters of trees and tall shrubs. A languid sensation permeates the atmosphere; slow, relaxed and unhurried. Our hosts are Laura and Shane Downton. Laura is the epitome of hospitality and lends this tone to the whole operation. And it is a large operation. Keeping 80 horses stabled, fed, exercised and watered is a mammoth task yet to my casual eye, all goes smoothly in a similarly relaxed manner.
Horizon is promoted as a family riding destination. Firstly, there are no predators on the reserve so whilst you are looking at some buck or kudu at very close range, there will be no lion or leopard scaring you or your horses. Secondly, the environment is casual. You can ride as hard and as slow and as much or as little as you want. If you wish to take a long siesta (almost imperative in the dry heat of the midday sun) you can do that or you can just lounge around the pool.
For the keen horseman, you will be challenged by the undulating terrain and gallops on the dry grasses of the bushveld. The preference here is for trail saddles as opposed to English saddles for the hardy, Boerpad horses.
One of my favourite outrides was to a separate bush camp set up on an escarpment, Camp Davidson. About 10 kilometres away by a mixture of walking, trotting and galloping lies this fix tented, perfect bush camp. Arriving on horse, you have a sense of what it could have been like a 150 years ago with pioneers exploring this beautiful mountain range. Admittedly, these pioneers didn’t have crisp white linen, attached bathrooms and smiling waiters bringing you a gin and tonic but you get the idea!
My companion Faye, a much better horsewoman than I, was entranced by the experience. In this corner of Africa, riding silently to game who were unspooked by your equine presence, surrounded by pristine wilderness and breathing in the aroma of the bush, you have a natural perspective of the world.
With the marketing material for Horizon concentrating on family, it does itself a disfavour. This is a destination where anyone can relax in a home from home, kick their shoes off and explore the beauty of the African bush and that is something very special.
Riding in Africa by Nicolas Edwards