The owners of White Bridge Farm Accommodation joined us recently on one of our Magical Moonlight rides - this is what they had to say. (original posted on Facebook)
UNBELIEVABLE EXPERIENCES FOR VISITORS TO ENJOY:
Last night we were yet again privileged to enjoy a spectacular moonlight ride with Jo and John Lister from Horse About.
It was a perfect evening and since we were all reasonably experienced riders on this occasion, we went for a beautiful canter through the vineyards until we reached the foot of the mountain.
Here we took the forest path and slowed our pace to a stead walk in single file as it was by now pretty dark. We entered the thicket and could no longer see anything as the darkness surrounded us. This was a real lesson in trust between man and horse. Suddenly the moon crested and all the leaves on the surrounding trees turned a shimmering silver. We lost the moon again as we moved closer to the mountain and it appeared again as we moved the other way. In this way we experienced the "moon rising" about 5 times during this magical experience with the night jar calling in the back ground.
When we finally broke through and exited the forest on the far side, the moon was by now fully up and we headed through a paddock of cattle. We continued in moonlight on another bush path taking us past a tree which has signs of having frequently been visited by a leopard. This I have witnessed on a previous ride in the daylight.
We finally arrived at a wonderful new gathering place under some large trees where John and Jo have created wonderful log tables and chairs and a tethering pole for the horses. It was the first time that this site had been used by guests. We felt very privileged when we dismounted here to enjoy some wine and snacks as we looked over the valley below and, listening to the silence and toasting our good fortune with gratitude. Thank you Jo and John for sharing.
This wonderful experience, along with sun set rides, family morning rides, proposal or romantic rides etc. can be enjoyed by anyone visiting this valley and we are very grateful that the Listers have this wonderful activity to offer our guests.
Suprisingly many people, dont know that the winelands extends beyond Stellenbosch and Paarl - and boy are they pleasantly suprised! The Witzenberg Valley home to Tulbagh, Wolseley, Ceres and Prince Alfred Hamlet is very conveniently located to Cape Town, the Route 62, Riebeek Kasteel and easily incorporated into a visit to Aquila, Fairy Glen, Kagga Kamma and more. Stop over en route to the Cederberg or when travelling between West and East Coast. The roads are great and you are assured a warm country welcome!
Smiling happily after an hour in the saddle! What a Champ!
Parents often ask "What age do you take children on your trails" and it is such a difficult question as it depends entirely on the child.
We have taken many 4 year olds out on the trail - they usually have no problem managing the 1,5 hour trail and we have had 8 year old refuse to go anywhere near the horses.
So it depends alot on each individual, if they are confident and comfortable around animals, they will generally be absolutely fine on an outride.
This darling little girl, Angelique, is our youngest rider to date though - 2 years and 2 months. We had agreed on a quiet meander through the forest thinking that a short ride would be enough, but there was no turning back and she rode the whole way, forest trail and all!
Well done Angelique - we look forward to seeing you back soon!
On the drive from Cape Town to the Witzenberg Valley you will pass several of these historic block houses, sadly few have been maintained, fortunately the Block Houses of Wolseley can easily be visited.
From the beginning of the Boer War, Cape Town was the main port of entry for the war effort. Troops arrived, equipment was off loaded, the injured were sent to hospitals and the concentration camps were established at Green Point and Simon’s Town.
The railway line from Cape Town to the north, the Boer Republics, was therefore of great importance to the British Army and they were totally dependant on it. In 1900 as the British Army marched to Pretoria, leaving its southern lines of communication open, General Christiaan De Wet mounted a concerted attack on the railway lines and bridges forcing the British to act. A fine example of these old railway bridges are visible in Wolseley as is the railway line which is still the main line to the north today.
The British Army’s chief engineer, Major General Wood, was asked by Lord Roberts, the then Governor of the Cape to design the blockhouses and the first were built in March 1900.(other source 1901) The stone was quarried from the local area while all other materials were imported from Britain and the Colonies. The wood from Canada, the bullet proof steel doors and rifle slits and corrugated iron roof from England.
The standard stone Blockhouse design was a 3 storied building with the ground floor used for supplies and water tanks, the first floor served as a “living” area and was accessed by a retractable ladder and the top floor was the lookout post. These Blockhouses could house up to 20 men, had gutters to channel the rain water down into the water tanks and had their food, ammunition and mail delivered by passing trains. They were connected by barbed wire with tin cans and bells acting as “alarms” on the wire.
The Blockhouse system required an enormous amount of troops to maintain. Well over 50 000 British troops were involved in blockhouse duty, as well as 16000 Africans which were used as armed guards and to patrol the lines at night. This is comparable to the 30 000 Boers in the field during this time.
Only 441 of the stone type blockhouses, such as these, were built. There are very few of them left in such a good condition as those in Wolseley due to neglect and vandalism. They were found to be too expensive (£800 - £1000) and time consuming (3 months). Major Rice, under the command of Lord Kitchener, then designed a cheaper (£44 - £16), easier to construct (6 hours) circular corrugated iron blockhouse. By the end of the Boer War there were over 8000 blockhouses.
Not many of the Blockhouses experienced any action, merely boredom, which indicates the effectiveness of these structures! Not one bridge where the blockhouses were sited and manned was ever blown.
After the war the blockhouses fell into disuse and many were stripped for basic building materials. The stone blockhouses of Wolseley have survived mainly due to being on private property and they are a wonderful piece of history to come and experience. The Blockhouse next to the R43 in Wolseley now has a stable set of stairs for entry and is accessible for tours.
Please contact Natasha Dicey on 082 7807516 for any further information or tours of the Blockhouse.
Evaluating your riding skill and comfort correctly, before joining us on a ride, are essential for your safety and enjoyment. Unfortunately for many infrequent riders they have little to compare to so please always ask if you are unsure.
Many establishments are happy to "pack 'em in and pack 'em out" but Safety is our first priority and we do prefer that our guests enjoy their experience with us.
Our horses are well schooled, accustomed to the trails and do a great job of adjusting to different riders, regardless if they are novice or advanced. We have trails and horses to suit all levels, literally from novice and never ridden to experienced and competitive riders.
However we are dependent on your evaluation of your riding skill when you book.
Unless you are traveling as part of a group, you will usually be riding with other guests. Advanced riders are (understandably) likely to get frustrated if they are forced to walk on the Witzenberg Trail. This happens when inexperienced riders overestimate their riding ability.
Horse riding uses a very different set of muscles to your normal fitness, so if you are unfit we recommend that you book the shorter trail ride to avoid being too stiff. We don't recommend more than an hour and a half for beginners or anyone who has not ridden before. We don't recommend more than 2 hours in the saddle for novices and unfit riders.
Rather underestimate your riding skills unless you are an experienced horse rider.
Riding out in the open and riding foreign horses can "upset" guests who have only ever ridden in an enclosed area or only ride one horse.
There is nothing quite so rewarding as seeing a nervous or novice rider relax and start enjoying their horses, or advanced riders enjoying the freedom of a good canter.
We really enjoy having time to relax riders and teach some basic skills out on the trail, but we can only really allow time for this if you have booked a trail with riders of a similar level.
Are you truly comfortable at a canter?
Many see themselves as romantically galloping across the plains either as Clint Eastwood or Julia Roberts.. but without the practice it can turn into something closer to a nightmare on a runaway train.. or at the very least some extreme discomfort to certain body parts.
If you have never had any formal instruction or if you still need to hold onto the saddle at any speed, are not sure of how to use your lower leg or what it means to keep contact with your horses mouth - we highly recommend rating yourself as a novice rider.
Many of our guests book a short course in riding when they suddenly realise how much more they enjoy horse riding when they actually know what they are doing and start to feel in control of their horse. Once you have the basics it is like riding a bicycle, even if you don't ride regularly, you will be much safer when you do!
When in doubt ask and we will gladly assist you in choosing the best trail ride!
Some guests are somewhat taken aback when we ask about their height and weight when booking a horse ride, one gentleman even said that he "didn't discuss his weight.." and occasionally we have had guests who have clearly underestimated their weights!
Whilst it can be a touchy subject for some and can become awkward - it is even more so for the horse who will be carrying you!
Horses can comfortably carry about 15 to 20% of their weight - over that it not only causes the horse pain and discomfort, but it also becomes unsafe for both horse and rider.
Imagine how unstable you are when carrying a weight on your back, if you trip or slide, the weight unbalances you and you are more likely to fall - the same applies for the horse.
Experienced riders generally ride in better balance with the horse, whereas novice riders tend to "sit heavy".
Another important factor is physical fitness and mobility, in order to get into and out of the saddle, you will need some physical condition in order to support your body weight while you swing your leg over the horses back.
If you have a knee or ankle injury, do discuss with us so we can arrange the ideal activity for you.
When in doubt ask, please don't try to take a chance, we cannot endanger our horses or your safety.
Currently our maximum weight restriction is 95kgs - if you are tall and a few kilo's over, please just discuss with us.
I truly had the most amazing day out! Jo and John took me and my 4 year old twins out on the most amazing ride along the mountain range just outside Tulbagh. Me being slightly hesitant at first (I am a novice rider....) was a converted horse lover at the end of our trip. Needless to say that Jo and John effortlessly looked after my little boys and the slightly nervous mum. They have such vast experience, great patience and confidence with horses which was so important to me when I decided to take my still rather small boys out with me. They managed to teach my boys and myself the basics of riding which enabled us to have such a great family day out. The views were amazing and the horses just adorable. I cannot wait to get back on in the saddle for another memorable day and would recommend anyone (with or without kids) to do the same.
John & Jo
We are the owners of horseAbout Trails & Adventures in the Western Cape.
“We left the premises with heart full of joy, love for these amazing horses and admiration for the lifestyle of John and his family.”