Sunday, 05 May 2013

Sunray Farm Horse Riding Holidays; College groups, families & friends



Merrist Wood College  on a Wild Coast tour
While the weather swings dramatically between the extreme heat of a Durban summer and the chilliness of the start of winter, so Wild Coast Horse Trails vacillates between being wildly busy to sedately not so busy but quietly ticking over.

Nicky, our freelance guide, decided to take a bit of a busman’s holiday in February and March, travelling up north to visit our friends at Horizon Horseback Safaris and Wait A Little Big 5 Horse Safaris. In her absence, suddenly, trails were booked and 14 girls from the UK’s Merrist Wood College descended on Sunray Farm for a week-long riding holiday and cultural experience.

Swimming on the Waterfalls Ride
Visiting the local school
It was a delight to have them share their enthusiasm and energy with us and the local community. With lots of riding, visits to game reserves, an overnight trail and a trip to the local school, the girls were kept busy throughout their stay and returned to England with many happy memories and tales to tell. We know that both they and all at Wild Coast Horse Trails eagerly await their return in 2014.

As the girls departed, so we welcomed a group of four riders, also from the UK, who joined us for a farm stay and trail. With African Horse Sickness still in our midst, we have had to be careful about travelling too far with the horses for fear of exposing other equines to the virus or increasing the risk of our own horses catching different strains. As a result, we have been challenged to develop alternative itineraries and to explore the local area for additional rides. Nevertheless, the riding remained fast-paced, breath-taking and diverse, incorporating everything from a game experience on Endalweni Game Reserve to explorations into the hilly grasslands of the Wild Coast and unforgettable beach canters.

A family horse riding holiday at Sunray Farm.
Hot on the heels of this trail, we welcomed an Israeli family to the farm. Yaacov, Leanne and their four daughters enjoyed a week of getting to know our horses and our ways of working with our equine companions. We have never had such a hands-on group on our farm stay before and Roz and Nicky, who hosted and guided the group, enjoyed a rather leisurely week as the four girls pitched in with the grooming, tacking up, feeding and pretty much any other horse-related task thrown their way!



Julie-Anne’s son, Ashley, has also returned to Sunray Farm after 2 years of working for Perseverance Endurance Stud in Graaff-Reinet. As a competitive endurance rider and an experienced horseman, it is wonderful to have his influence back on the farm once again, especially with the wealth of experience he picked up during his time away.


As well as assisting with the general running of the farm, Ashley has taken on four potential endurance horses and is beginning backing and training them ready for competition. The oldest of the four is our Anglo Arab stallion, Torstone Tashbah – a stunning animal with lots of personality and a rather bouncy gait that puts many a rider off but will provide little challenge for Ashley! The other three range between four – six years old and have been selected on the basis of their conformation, breeding and temperament.

Starting Torstone Taz Man
In addition to these steads, Ashley has been assisting Roz, our yard manager, in the backing and training of some of our younger horses. We are delighted to have some young Percheron/Arab crosses and nice tall Anglo Arabs coming into work and hope to see them excel as strong, solid, weight-carrying trail horses.

As the cooler weather begins to creep in, we are hoping for an end to our African Horse Sickness problems; certainly, infection rates seem to have slowed considerably and our latest patient is well on the mend after a medium-term battle with this lethal virus. Between the Disease Control Africa vaccines and the MMS treatment, we seem to be getting on top of this particular strain and hope that next year will see far fewer cases than the 35 or so we have had to treat this year!

The Wild Coast is fortunate enough to enjoy a relatively mild winter, with temperatures rarely dropping below 200C during the day and 100C at night. Our days are usually dry and sunny, making for some of the nicest riding conditions – a secret few seemed to be aware of … until now! Our trails are booking up nicely and we have a base-stay at Endalweni Game Reserve booked nearly once a month for the foreseeable future (although places are still available should anyone be interested).

We are also looking forward to returning to our pre-AHS haunts further up the coast. In May we will be taking clients on a seven-day beach trail up to Wavecrest and the Kob Inn – an itinerary we have had to abandon during the horse sickness outbreak. This stunning ride takes in some incredible, long beach canters and provides accommodation at some of the best-situated hotels on the Wild Coast – and there are still places available for anyone who might be interested in joining us on this adventure.

We have a steady influx of working riding holiday guests coming throughout the winter so have a lot of work planned for horses, both in terms of keeping them fit and ready for trail, and schooling them in order to enhance their responsiveness and suppleness to provide the best mounts for our trail clients.

Our horses are really the most important aspect of this company as they are the ones that create a riding experience that our guests will never forget. Their hard work, reliability and enthusiasm for their work is really what makes Wild Coast Horse Trails stand out as one of the best beach-riding operators in Africa. Come along and enjoy a unique experience on horses that are full of character, endurance, stamina and sure-footedness.
The mares enjoying the autumn sunshine

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

It is summer on the Wild Coast


On the Wild Coast, it is not only Santa Claus who arrives at Christmas – in fact, it usually feels like half of Johannesburg and Bloemfontein also descend on the area to celebrate the festive season. As a result, December through to early January always prove to be busy for both the equine and the human team.

With 18 of our working horses located at the beach paddocks in Kei Mouth, Amanda, Jenny and Roz lead literally hundreds of people up and down the local beaches – mostly at a steady plod. Every year we experience a great sense of pride that those same horses that gobble up the kilometres on trail with the wind in their manes and the sand under their pounding hooves, then take completely inexperienced riders safely along those same beaches, carefully following nose to tail in a study of concentration and equine responsibility.

In addition to the day rides at the beach, we enjoyed a mid-December trail with return client Werner Vogt and the McLennan family from the Western Cape. Time Warp proved himself once again, carrying Werner safely and expertly for the full four-day trail. Initially, we were concerned that Time’s old leg injury would mean he would struggle to carry the extra weight (Werner is about 6 ft tall and weighs around 95kg) but he did a sterling job and came back sound and still full of running. The McLennan family experienced a few aching muscles being unused to such long hours in the saddle, but nevertheless enjoyed the thrills and spills (well, just the one spill!) of the trail.

Sunray Farm has seen many guests come and go over the past month, with several clients from previous trails returning to enjoy a stay at the farm. We welcomed back Laurence LeGal and thoroughly enjoyed her company once again. We also hosted the indomitable Christiane Dubat who, at 67 years of age, nevertheless rode us all into the ground! A good five to six hours a day in the saddle was not enough to weary this rider! On the one ride, a lady walking past us on the beach commented, “I used to do that in my younger days.” and I thought to myself, well, I hope that, like Christiane, I’m still doing it in my not so younger days!

To assist with this steady flow of mouths to feed, Sarah Dawson (The Ride’s quieter third party) joined the team at the farm and produced a consistently impressive array of meals… even her packed lunches were full of variety and surprises! She also brought her son, Fynn, along to provide a running commentary on life, the universe and anything else that popped into his 10-year-old mind at any given moment!
We are already missing them both, even though they have only been gone a couple of weeks, and many tummies and taste-buds have happy memories of their stay here.

In addition to the usual business of getting bums in saddles, we’ve had the unfortunate challenge of an outbreak of African Horse Sickness in the area. For those unfamiliar with the disease, this is a midge-borne virus that causes a leakage of fluid within the body and affects the inflammatory system. There are several different strains of the disease which are indicated by a variety of different symptoms, often making it difficult to diagnose in time to treat effectively. There is no known sure-fire cure and some horses die within a few hours of infection. The outbreak began over Christmas with one of the first confirmed cases occurring on Christmas Day itself.

It has been a difficult and stressful period for all horse-owners in the Kei Mouth/ Morgan Bay area, with a total of over 60 horses dying as a result of the disease. On a more positive note, we have received huge amounts of support from people far and wide. Professor Alan Guthrie, one of the leading specialists in AHS, came down to Kei Mouth to offer advice and support to our local equine community.

We were also fortunate enough to receive a donation of a new AHS vaccine developed by Disease Control Africa which enabled us to vaccinate all our horses. While this vaccine is still very new and, in general, available only on prescription, many believe it offers horses a new hope of surviving this dreaded disease. A booster of the vaccine produced by Onderstepoort Biological Products was also provided free of charge to horse-owners in the area, giving individuals the freedom to choose the most effective method of managing the outbreak according to their own personal philosophies.

Wild Coast Horse Trails lost four horses in total, including our Percheron stallion, Bobby, and managed to save about seven horses that have been confirmed as having AHS. Our method has been, firstly, to check horses regularly for swelling above the eyes and around the muzzle in order to identify the virus early in its development. Frequent checking of temperatures has also been vital in helping us to pick up infection early on.

We have been using MMS intravenously and orally to treat those infected horses and it seems to have proven successful in the majority of cases. I won’t go into the complexities of MMS here as I am not really knowledgeable enough, but the basic premise of it is that it works as an oxidizer to kill the pathogens of various diseases. MMS is made up of, primarily, of weak solution of chlorine dioxide mixed with water and several additional neutral trace elements. For more information about MMS, please visit http://www.miraclemineral.org.

We are now in the fortunate position that the outbreak seems to have abated. Whatever this can be attributed to, both ourselves and our horses are relieved at this respite and hope it continues throughout the remainder of our summer.

So, as the New Year begins, we put old sorrows behind us and focus on the brighter future ahead. We are eagerly marketing our trails although the year has got off to a slow start in that department – please do contact us for further details if you are interested in a thrilling ride along some of the best beaches in the world! Our working riding programme is looking busy throughout the year so we are delighted to have so many keen riders coming to join us and share their knowledge and experience. We wish all our readers, clients, followers and horses a very happy 2013.