Horse riding holiday in the mountains of Lesotho and South Africa

Lesotho & South Africa

We spent an incredible week of horse riding in the African mountains during our first equestrian meet-up in Lesotho. I used to work with the horses at this beautiful farm in the Drakensberg, and Hooves has recently partnered up with them for their week-long horse riding holidays through the Lesotho mountains. 

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White horse in green grass in front of waterfall

Arrival in South Africa

The horse riding holiday starts in South Africa, where we spend the night at Khotso Lodge and Horse Trails before heading into Lesotho the next day. I arrived at Johannesburg airport and stayed at the Southern Sun hotel near the airport. After landing in the evening it was lovely to get some rest before flying to Durban in the early morning. I flew from Johannesburg to Durban with LIFT, one of my favourite airlines (cheap and flexible with super service). Our taxi picked me up first at the airport in Durban, and then we picked up Luzi and our guest, Serena at their hotel.

Galloping horse and rider on open plains between mountains

Traveling to Khotso Lodge in the Drakensberg mountains

The drive from Durban to Khotso Lodge takes three hours and we arrived just in time for a drink and a snack before heading out on a trail ride. We went for a sunset ride to get to know the horses and to see if Luzi and Serena matched well with their horses. It was freezing cold so we weren’t out for long but they fell in love with their horses! It’s super important to arrive early on this day to test the horses out as, once we’re in Lesotho, there is no turning back! Once we came back from our trail ride we warmed up by the fire with a cup of tea, and had a lovely dinner - a hearty stew and apple crumble for dessert. We all went to bed early, excited for the official start of our horse riding adventure tomorrow morning!

Horses and riders on green hilltop with snow capped mountains in the background
Arrival at lunch spot on day 1

The start of our horse riding adventure in Lesotho

The alarm went off at 6.30am, and we finished packing our saddlebags before having a big breakfast. We (our horses of course) carry our own saddlebags for the week, so it’s important to not overpack! I always pack one extra pair of riding jeans, one or two extra shirts, one set of comfy evening clothes, seven pairs of underwear and socks, toiletries (including wet wipes!), a power bank, some cash for souvenirs and drinks, a 0.5 L water bottle and a rain jacket. Towels and bedding are all provided, so it’s very doable to carry all what you need for the week in the saddlebags. 

White horse with rider climbing mountainside with snow capped mountains
Shadow and I

After breakfast, the horses were waiting for us in the horse truck, so we hopped in and drove to the South African border an hour away. By 9am we were at the border and loaded the saddle bags onto our horses, got our passports stamped, and headed into Lesotho! We had one loose (but tacked up) horse with us for our Basotho horseman - Charles.

Horse and rider galloping in green field on top of mountain
Charles and his horse Peaches

After about 5 minutes we found Charles (but don’t worry, I also know the trail!), he jumped on his horse and our adventure started! Charles was riding Peaches, a chestnut mare, Serena was on Dread, a stunning Boerperd gelding, Luzi was on Ali, a stocky and full-of-personality mare, and I was on Shadow, a big gray gelding that I’ve been riding since I first arrived at Khotso more than 4 years ago. 

Brown horse galloping on green field in the hills
Luzi and Ali

We crossed rivers, and had incredible views of snow-covered mountains as our horses effortlessly navigated to some of the roughest terrain I’ve ever ridden through. Being a small and experienced group of horse riders, we were able to cover ground quickly on our excited horses, and had many lovely canters and gallops. We arrived at a plateau where we had lunch, and the horses grazed. 

White horse and cowboy on mountain pass

The timing of this horse riding trip was perfect, just at the end of winter and dry season, so there was quite a lot of lush grass already due to recent rainfall, and it wasn’t slippery or muddy yet. The trails were perfect for fast paced riding, and the snow on the mountains was a real treat to see! The temperatures were perfect for riding too, around 20 degrees during the day, and a bit fresh at night, 5 to 10 degrees. 

Horses and riders lined up during horse riding holiday
Ali and Luzi, Peaches and Charles, Shadow and Sanne, Dread and Serena

By the time we set off again after lunch, everyone had fallen head over heels in love with their horses, and we couldn’t get enough of the scenic canters and gallops. However, there are quite some parts of this ride that have to be done at a walk, especially when it gets rocky or if we cross big rivers with the horses. Before lunch we did the most difficult part, so after lunch it was smooth sailing as we galloped over the plains to the start of Thamatu mountain pass. Crossing the mountain pass on horseback is the last obstacle before getting to our first destination. The last part of the way up is very rocky and takes about half an hour to complete. Once at the top, there is a steep and rocky descent into the village which we have to cross to get to the lodge. 

White horse in the mountains with rider

From lunch to the lodge took us and our horses two hours in total. During those two hours of riding, we also crossed the border into Lesotho! The border at which we started goes from South Africa into no-man's land, and the second border (a shipping container and a broken barbed wire fence) goes from no-man's land into Lesotho. You can clearly see the difference after crossing the second border, as you’ll suddenly see lots of local horses grazing freely on the wide open plains. Our sure footed horses and us made it to the lodge where we met Pascalina, a lovely woman that lives in Thamatu village and helps with the cooking and cleaning when we are at the lodge. The lodge is only used by horse riders coming from Khotso, so we always have the place to ourselves! After we fed the horses and set them free in the field, we took a stroll through the village and Luzi made a fire. We had a fantastic first evening in Lesotho sitting around the fire, the music playing and horses grazing in the background, and had some drinks while we watched the incredible starry sky. 

Black horse and rider on mountain top with view on the valley and mountains
Serena and Dread

Day two of horse riding in the Lesotho mountains

On the second day we got to sleep in, and we only had breakfast at 9am as we were staying at this lodge for a total of three nights and we all needed a good night's sleep! We started our trail ride at 10am and two of the lodge dogs came with us. We saw lots of animals and babies, both wild (baboons) and domesticated (donkeys, sheep, horses, cows, goats). We rode and galloped over the plains and through villages before heading down into a beautiful gorge. We crossed rivers, walked our horses down steep and rocky paths, and had fantastic views all the way.

Cowboy and horse riding by the river through green fields

We had lunch in the gorge, at a beautiful spot where the horses had lots of lush grass to eat, and we could see old bushman paintings, and swim in the river. The dogs had the time of their lives and for them it was time for a nap while we ate our lunch. After lunch, we had a couple more river crossings to go before climbing back out of the gorge for more gallops and heading back to the lodge. We made a fire again and had (quite some) gin and tonics. We had a simple but fantastic vegetarian spaghetti bolognese for dinner. The food we make at the lodge is simple but lovely, and much needed after the long days in the saddle (between 3 and 5 hours - except the last day…)! 

Horse riding in the mountains

A relaxing morning and an afternoon of horse racing

The next day the alarm was set for 9am again, but Luzi and I woke up as the sun came up, and decided to feed and hang out with the horses. We had a relaxing morning, brought the mattresses outside and laid in the sun for hours while we chatted away about horses and travel adventures. We had lunch at the lodge, and went for a trail ride in the afternoon - it was time to find out whose horse is the fastest! We went riding only for an hour and a half, but at a very fast pace.

Cowgirl in Africa on horse trail

We found some lovely trails that allowed for a safe race, and the horses were over the moon to finally be allowed to go as fast as they wanted! When we got back to the lodge we got the fire started for a braai (South African barbecue), and of course had a few drinks while we cooked a fantastic dinner over the fire. This was our last night at the lodge, and we decided to bring the mattresses into the living room/kitchen for a ‘sleep over’ by the fireplace, with a bag of marshmallows of course. 

Group of horse riders in South Africa

Riding our horses from the lodge to our stopover accommodation

On the 4th day of our horse riding holiday we packed our saddlebags again, as it was time to ride to the next location! This location is a stopover to break up the long ride to our final destination of the trip. We woke up, nice and cozy, in the living room/kitchen by the fire, and immediately got started on breakfast and getting the horses ready. We started the trail around 8am, back over the mountain pass, and over stunning lush plains to our lunch spot. We had lunch at a 50 meter high waterfall, a stunning sight! The horses grazed as we chatted, ate and napped in the sun. After lunch, we followed the river downstream into a valley, and had some fantastic canters as we were coming back onto the plains. We arrived at our stopover accommodation in good time and started preparing for another braai in the evening! As we were having a drink by the fire (a common occurrence on this horse riding holiday obviously!), the other guests of the accommodation arrived. We were a bit spoiled as we had the previous lodge to ourselves for three nights, but they were lovely (if not a bit drunk) people. We didn’t have the best night’s sleep, but were excited to ride again in the morning! 

Horse and rider in valley by flowing river

Our final destination and a scenic ride full of canters

We woke up at 6am the next morning, and got the horses ready to go after a quick breakfast. We simply couldn’t wait to start our trail ride to the next lodge. We started riding around 9am, and the scenery was absolutely stunning. We had the opportunity to do lots of long canters through the flower fields, and enjoy the views from plateaus high in the mountains. After a few hours of riding we crossed a different border again, this time from Lesotho into South Africa, and after the border we had to do some very steep descents on foot while leading the horses.

Horse riding holiday in the green mountains of Lesotho

We had lunch just before heading into the last valley of the day, and had a view of our destination from there! We made it to the last lodge at 3pm, which was great timing for a hot bath, and a drink at the bar with the fireplace roaring. We turned the horses out in a very big and lush pasture behind the lodge, and we enjoyed the luxury of a private cottage with a bathtub, a well-stocked bar, and a fantastic restaurant. 

Gin and tonic in the sun with a view on the mountains
Cheers to an amazing week of horse riding!

Our luxurious stay and riding back to the border

We spent two nights at this lovely lodge, and indulged ourselves in the absolutely fantastic food while the horses did the same. The day after our arrival we decided to rest, as the last day is an incredibly long ride. We chatted the whole day, had cocktails, hung out on our Basotho blankets under the trees, read our books, and played games. 

Horse riding in rocky valley surrounded by mountains

The next morning we had an early breakfast and got the horses ready for our last and longest day of the trip. We packed our saddlebags one last time and started our ride at 9am, to arrive at the border at 6pm! On this last trail ride we crossed plains, mountain passes, gigantic forests, rivers and lakes, and valleys. We were exhausted but fulfilled by the time we arrived at the border to load the horses and head back to Khotso Lodge for one more night before heading home the next morning. 

Important: for our upcoming equestrian meet-up in Lesotho 2024, the last ride will be a lot shorter as we will transport the horses by truck for the first half of the ride. It is optional to ride on this last day and you can also opt to go back to the border with the horse truck instead of riding.  

Make sure to contact us to join this horse riding holiday in Lesotho in 2024:

White horse walking on mountaintop in Africa

Last but not least, a big thank you to everyone that made this trip as amazing as it was. Khotso Lodge was fantastic as always, the horses were fabulous, and our favourite Basotho guide Charles truly made this week unforgettable! I absolutely cannot wait to ride with this lovely (albeit tiny) group again, thank you Serena and Luzi!! 

At the top of mountain pass in Lesotho with horses and riders
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