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TThe hardy horses of southern Africa – be they the pioneering boerperd, the sure-footed Basotho pony or the imported Arab blends – have a proud history. For adventure travellers who see the world from a saddle and for history lovers, the horse-riding routes of South Africa are top quality.
In Eastern Cape province, in the middle of city traffic in Cape Road, Port Elizabeth, you will come across a scene that was common here more than a century ago.
A British trooper kneels before his horse, holding a bucket of water for his steed to drink. It’s the only horse memorial in South Africa, and it was erected by the local community. The inscription reads: 'The greatness of a nation consists not so much in the number of its people or the extent of its territory, as in the extent and justice of its compassion.'
In the South African War (formerly known as the Anglo-Boer War) from 1899 to 1902, more than 300 000 horses belonging to the British forces died.
The opposing Boers, however, nearly lost an entire breed of horse: the famous boerperd.
You can trace the boerperd (farmer’s horse) right back to 1652, when the Dutch commander Jan van Riebeeck arrived with his mounts, crossbred Berber-Arabian ponies from Java. A few years later, a ship carrying 14 Arabian horses to Persia ran aground near Cape Town. The horses swam ashore, were quickly captured and added to the gene pool of the Van Riebeeck party's stables.
Nearly 250 years later, at the time of the South African War, the boerperd had become a sturdy, hardy, clever and sure-footed horse thanks to the insertion of additional bloodlines that included Flemish stallions and Cleveland bays. The boerperd contributed to the Boer soldier’s international fame as a skilled horseman.
By the end of the war, however, the boerperd as a breed was in danger of extinction, the battles having taken their toll. However, the lines survived and now, through the excellent work of the Historic Boerperd Breeders’ Society, this legendary horse is flourishing all over South Africa.
Today, South Africa’s geography, with its dramatic mountains and vast plains, lends itself to varied and exciting outrides. Well-trained and superbly bred horses – which often include the boerperd – are there for riders of all levels. And history buffs will delight in following the old trails of the warhorses of more than a century ago.
TTravel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Horizon Horseback Safaris (Waterberg)
Tel: +27 (0)83 419 1929 [Laura]
Or: +27 (0)73 482 6131 [Kirsty]
Sleepy Hollow Horse Riding (Noordhoek, Cape Town)
Tel: +27 (0)21 789 2341
Saddle Creek Adventures (Magaliesberg)
Tel: +27 (0)79 467 9906
How to get here
The Horse Memorial is located on Cape Road, a main road near the central business district. It is easily accessible from all major roads in the city.
Best time to visit
Port Elizabeth is nice to visit all year round, although it is often quite windy.
Things to do in the area
Prince Alfred's Guard Memorial in St Georges Park is worth a visit. Port Elizabeth is also home to museums such as the South End Museum and the South African Airforce Museum.
Tours to do
If you are a horse-riding fanatic, there are horse-riding adventures and heritage trails to be accessed all over South Africa – just check the relevant websites.
Self drive is a good option and there are several car rental companies at the airport.
What will it cost?
There is no fee to see the memorial.
Where to stay
Port Elizabeth has several hotels in the area.