It was a typical winter’s day in Stellenbosch. Everything was covered in mist, which meant that I was that person driving extremely slowly in order not to miss the Wild Clover turn off. ‘Should I wear my Woolworths boots?’, I kept pondering the previous evening. ‘Preferably a narrow shoe’, I was told. I’ve been on a horse before. I have photographic evidence, but an 8-year-old me sitting on a horse posing for my mother’s camera isn’t quite the same as riding a horse – that I can assure you.
Equine Sport Centre is a privately-owned horse-riding school situated on Wild Clover, a farm next to the R304, just outside of Stellenbosch. Its three owners, Uzel Mouton, Veronica Mouton and Carien du Plessis, have transformed this business from its humble beginnings as a mere riding school to the successful equestrian mecca it is today.
The farm currently hosts 42 horses of which 25 belong to the riding school and 17 are privately owned. Appaloosas, Arabians, and farm horses (boerperde) are all on the farm ─ there are even two Flemish horses and a miniature horse! A lot of the horses on the farm are ex-racehorses. Horse coaches from the racing industry often reach out to the school to have their beloved steeds adopted when they’ve reached the end of their racing careers. When they arrive they only know one thing: run to win. But at ESC they are lovingly retrained for show jumping, hunting, eventing and trail rides.
Apart from livery and trail rides, Equine Sport Centre offers a wide variety of services for every type of rider, from basic horse riding lessons for non-competitive riders, to lessons for riders who’d like to participate in more advanced equestrianism, show jumping and compete in SANESA. Equine Sport Centre is home to the Western Cape Mounted Games ─ a more European-style of equestrianism where riders are challenged to complete different games with their horse adhering to strict rules. In 2018, ESC hosted the inter-provincial competition which was a huge success due to the different facilities available on the farm, including the Wild Clover Restaurant and accommodation that borders the Villiera Wildlife Sanctuary, which is home to a wide variety of different wildlife from antelope and zebra to giraffe and eland.
ESC not only boasts great yard and facilities, but also amazing riders. The team regularly participates in showjumping, hunting, showing and dressage all over the Southern Peninsula and Boland. An ESC rider will even be competing in an international competition in New Zealand later this year! One of ESC’s trainers also offer horse therapy to disabled children.
Spending a full day on the farm is quite possible. The public is more than welcome to attend the Mounted Games, which is a truly unique experience. Relaxing outrides are offered to those who want to experience the rush of the giddy-up themselves. Guests are taken on a route next to Villiera’s game camp, through Villiera’s vineyards and the nursery on the neighbouring farm, Pete’s Place. The Wild Clover Restaurant is open to the public and offers a delicious menu. The local brewery, Wild Clover Brewery, has teamed up with Saggy Stone Brewing Company in Robertson, and offers beer tasting at the restaurant. ESC has partnered with the Wild Clover Restaurant and offer regular specials, so keep an eye out on their social media for updates!
Having decided to wear my rundown Asics instead of Woolies’ finest, I was introduced to Command ─ my trusty steed for the day. I thought that I’d be more nervous, but was surprisingly calm. As Veronica said, ‘To work with horses is an unbelievable privilege. It’s a world full of secrets which only a few are allowed to experience, because it is the horse who decides who’ll be allowed into their world’. It takes time to get to know a horse and for a horse to allow you into its world. That is why Equine Sport Centre is such a peaceful haven for both horse and rider.
I encourage everyone who’s ever been curious about these magnificent beasts to visit the farm and experience it for yourself. You might just find yourself planning your next outride sooner than you thought.
Dates to keep an eye on:
20th of July: ESC Mandela Day
25th of August: ESC will be hosting their very first hunting event
Stop horsing around! Go and experience an exciting weekend at Wild Clover!