Months of growing aerial confidence, smashed by a few gusty minutes. I ran around wild-eyed, did some quick math and frantically snatched the reins of my confused-yet-obliging horse from guide Aiden. Leaping astride, my nimble grey Arab and I galloped back down the direction from which we’d just come like we’d robbed a bank, me jamming the drone controller gear left in (what I hoped was) a diagonal direction, towards shore. All whilst Jono looked on, relaxed in his saddle and happily watching events unfold.
One could say, perhaps, that he was used to my photographic misadventures. After all, it was day four of the 7-day Sunshine Coast trail (an incredible beach horse riding trail) and by now he’d very much glimpsed the chaos beneath my ‘professional photographer’ demeanor. What I prefer to imagine though, is that this was simply another one of those events that ‘happen’ and ‘we’ll make a plan’.
Jono is the pinnacle of laid-back energy, hardly stressing and always keen to see life on the lighter side. It’s a character trait that I very much appreciate (especially at that moment) and one that comes in handy when dealing with horses, clients, watery river crossings and making sure everyone is A) having a good time and B) safe.
This beach riding horse trail had surprised me. Like many others, my knowledge of the Eastern Cape’s ‘Sunshine Coast’ was fairly minuscule. Few get to venture down the empty beaches or know of the rocky outcrops that frame them on either side. Fewer still get to canter and gallop down these beaches, spray from your friend’s horse soaking your jods and grins flashing all around.
It was on this beach riding trail that I first learnt how to swim with a horse. Disclaimer, you DO NOT sit on your horse and swim across the open water. That would result in your horse’s outstretched neck slipping beneath the water… and that sinking feeling. Rather, the saddles come off, camera and dry clothes get packed away and costumes come on. Bareback, you walk into the water and wait until your horse’s feet leave the ground – you’re mid-thigh in water, at this stage – and then gently slip off, holding your horse’s mane from the side and giving them enough slack so as to swim freely and unrestricted. A gentle pressure is enough to steer your horse in a specific direction.
Or you can be like Aiden cruising by as you hold onto its tail. (And yes, this is perfectly fine too, and doesn’t hurt.)
After a good day in the saddle, even the most avid rider is ready to hop off, get a drink and watch the sunset. The BEST place to do this is on the wharf of ‘Horns Up’ restaurant. It’s easiest to access by boat and, despite seemingly abandoned, welcomes travelers with brilliant views over the Kariega river and that feeling that you’re the only people in the world. It’s one of the places that you visit on this 7-day horseback beach riding trail but, if you ask Jono nicely and perhaps include a bribe, his arm could be twisted to take you.
So that’s where I left off, sitting on the wharf with Jono and Aiden and my new-found trail buddies. My drone zoomed off int the sky, only a little weather-beaten from having crash-landed into a sand dune and collected by a super-relieved me.
Promises were made to return and finally, after two years, they’re being honoured.
We’re joining Jono and his team on the 4-night SAND + SAFARI horseback beach trail happening from now until end-Nov. The beach ride is going to be filled with friends old and new and frankly I can’t think of a better way to shake off months of non-riding and being in lockdown.
My riding boots are waiting, and I hope my little grey Arab is too! (nudge nudge, Jono)
We want to thank all of those who have helped us spread the word, get seats in saddles and booked this trail either solo or with friends. You’re doing a great thing to help in a difficult time. And we hope you’ve been enjoying this beach horse riding adventure!
Click the button below to learn more + book yourself in!