Exploring the diverse, fynbos-covered landscapes of the Botlierskop reserve on horseback is a unique, South African experience. Knowing that the horses themselves are truly South African and have developed from a long history in the Cape, makes the experience even more authentic.
Horses were first introduced to South Africa by Jan van Riebeck at the Cape of Good Hope. Horses were needed to work, so in 1963 the Dutch East India company imported Javanese ponies by sea to the cape. These imports faced a tough life, in which only the strongest survived. They had to adapt to the harsh, untamed land and live off the land for food.
An important addition to the original horses occurred when two freighters containing Andalusian horses arrived. These horses, along with the importation of Arabian horses over the years to improve the quality of the breed, resulted in the emergence of the Cape Horse.
The beautiful Cape Horse was hardy and could survive on meagre rations. It was a comfortable ride and had endurance, spirit and heart still evident in its decedents today.
The Basuto pony was also to play an important role in Southern Africa. Basotholand, now Lesotho, acquired Cape Horses as spoils of war between the Zulus and the settlers. As a result of the harsh terrain and bad grazing in Basotholand and interbreeding with local ponies, the horses lost height and became the small and hardy ponies known as the Basuto pony.
During the Boer War at the end of the 19th century, the English realised that they could not beat the Boer who fought on their sturdier, well adapted horses, and so they purchased thousands of horses from the Cape and Basotholand. Over time, the original Cape Horse disappeared and the resulting horse was referred to as the Boer Horse or Boerperd.
During the war, hundreds of thousands of horses were killed- the entire Boerperd breed was nearly lost. Thankfully after the war, the Boer’s managed to recover some of their surviving breeding horses that had been hidden in mountainous areas. They refused to breed with imported stallions made available by the British and so today the SA Boerperd still exists, along with the Nooitgedachter-a descendant of the Basuto Pony.
Botlierskop’s horses, 70 in total, originate from the “Cloete” horses. The “Cloete” horses played an important part in the development of both the Boerperd and the Nooitgedachter breeds. Both breeds descend from the old Cape Horse hence the modern name of Botlierskop’s horses, “Cape Riding Horse”.
As with all aspects of Botlierskop, perfection is strived for and their horses are no different. Botlierskop breed their horses in the wild on the reserve and they are handpicked for performance and character. The horses are meticulously trained to be responsive and prepared for cross country trail riding. They are used not only for guest rides but also as working farm horses.
Taking part in a horse-back safari at Botlierskop allows you the incredible opportunity to explore usually-inaccessible game trails through hidden valleys, dense bush and canopied woods and get up close to the wildlife on the reserve. Knowing your surefooted steed is traversing the landscape of its ancestors- survivors of great expeditions, wars and immense hardships- makes for a poignant, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Go here for more on Botlierskop’s Horse Riding activities.