Seeing the Margaret River region from horseback is one of the world’s great experiences – don’t miss your chance to saddle up and be one with nature. By Gabi Mills.
I’m no natural horsewoman despite my desperation as child growing up in Scotland to own my very own Palomino. I used to fantasise about coming downstairs for breakfast and finding one tied up to the washing line, its white mane and golden flanks gleaming in the watery Edinburgh morning light. It wasn’t to be (I got a dappled wooden rocking horse instead) so imagine my delight when I discovered a Palomino – and many other beautiful equine specimens – at Jesters Flat, just up the road from our campsite near Rosa Glen, ten minutes or so from Margaret River township.
Jesters Flat is a truly beautiful spot and has evolved over the years thanks to the vision of one man: Paul Brennan.
If ever there was an example of a true Blue Aussie man of the land, it’s Paul. In the saddle, it’s hard to see where Paul ends and the horse begins; he commands his steed as if they were one mythical creature. Named after Jester, a star Polocrosse ride and Paul’s first Australian Stock Horse, the equestrian centre has grown over the decades to become an extraordinary place for horse-lovers to visit at least once in their lifetime.
It wasn’t always thus; for years Paul and his family farmed the land, but eventually the call of the bridle was too strong and over the years he added one after another horse to the collection, and offered rides to visitors keen to experience a taste of the drover’s life, for an hour or so at least.
There are a variety of tours you can choose from depending on your riding ability; we took the country lane tour, me on George, a beautiful black gelding (‘this horse can jump!” I read worryingly in his description) and my daughter Daisy on Sausage, the most requested riding horse of all, apparently. Sarah, the Palomino I’d spotted with so much glee wasn’t available the day we arrived but no matter. George is more than ideal. The Jesters Flat team, led by Paul’s wife Fiona and a small legion of eager horse-loving local girls and boys, make sure you’re matched with the right horse, kit you out in hats, boots and all-weather coats if necessary, and then it’s into the arena to get on board. I mean, mount up. I was dreading this bit, being about as flexible as a park bench, but I needn’t have worried.
There’s a raised platform making embarkation of your ride a breeze.
Update, March 2017: Jesters Flat has just launched a fabulous weekend horse-riding tour. Watch the video below to get a taste!
“Heels down, and keep his head up,” says Paul, leading from the front. I put my heels down and instantly find my hands holding the reins rising up, which makes Paul laugh. It’s like rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time; a knack to master. We begin to weave our way through the bush, Paul telling us all about his life and horses as we go, Sprockett the cheeky blue heeler keeping us company, then racing on ahead, jumping into freezing feeding troughs and ponds on command.
It’s such an idyllic way to see the landscape from a new perspective, the gentle pace of our horses and the elevated view from their backs making for some special memories. If we were a little more experienced we could have opted for a Bushman’s Ride, a two-hour hack across farmland and into the Rapids Conservation Park and nearby state forest, or a half-day forest trek – the Wanderer Tour – putting our trotting and cantering skills to the test. For now though we’re just about to trot our way back up the track to home. I encourage George to move in a sprightly fashion. Unfortunately I morph into a bag of potatoes on his back and the poor beast reverts to a walk. Paul encourages me and reminds me how to rise and fall with the trot; I give it another go and by the time we arrive back at the camp, I’m a legend in my own lifetime.
There’s a never-ending campfire in full swing – huge logs that Paul tends during the cooler months to ensure they never lose a flame.
There’s homemade dukka, wood-fired bread and best of all a glass of Jesters Flat wine, made in the little vineyard that Paul tends.
Next time, Daisy and I say, we’ll come for a beach ride, or maybe watch the sunset during a twilight ride. Because there will be a next time. You can bet on that.
THE HUMBLE HORSE
Want to combine a foodie tour and an hour or two on horseback? Why not book a two hour picnic ride (including drinks and nibbles) or take a nougat and wine tour taking in the beautiful surroundings of Bettenays? The Humble Horse caters for the whole family with pony rides for the young ones, lessons for those looking at learning how to ride, trail rides for those after adventure or a relaxing amble through the bush riding down the historic Rails to Trails bush setting.
356 Miamup Road, Cowaramup, open 9am to 5pm
MIRRAVALE RIDING SCHOOL
Whether you want to brush up on your riding skills or take a ride through through the beautiful Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park, Mirravale Riding School has something to suit all levels of experience. Riders can choose between a quiet, relaxing walk, the more adventurous can try a trot and experienced riders will enjoy an exhilarating canter through the shady bush where kangaroos, birds and beautiful wildflowers are in abundance if you pick the right season. Safety is of primary concern and all rides are escorted. Young or nervous riders are given special attention to ensure that they enjoy their ride. Riders from as young as six are welcome and children aged eight and below will be led on their ponies by one of the escorts.
Cnr Biddles and Caves Road, Yallingup, open seven days.
THE HORSE RESORT
Add horse power to the holidays with a ride around The Horse Resort working farm. They have horses that are ideal for youngsters to sit on while they’re led out on the ride from another horse. Parents and other family members can join in, allowing the family to experience it together, rather than letting the kids have all the fun.Osmington Road, Margaret River, 6285
Jesters Flat offers a variety of riding experiences depending on your skills on horseback.
1549 Rosa Brook Road, Margaret River