There’s a remote village in Mpumalanga where legends of ghosts linger and herds of wild horses have roamed free for centuries. Home for these creatures is wherever they choose throughout a 17 000-hectare forest of eucalyptus and pine. In Kaapsehoop, famed for the early discovery of gold in the 1800s, the equine population, whose origins are shrouded in myth and mystery, outnumbers the locals. They answer to no-one. Except Christo Germishuys, who has made his life among them for more than two decades.
Germishuys’ unwavering bond with horses has taken him across the country to teach riding lessons and work in equine tourism. In 1994, he settled down and established Kaapsehoop Horse Trails for visitors to appreciate the group of almost 200 nomadic steeds up close. He’s cultivated a unique relationship with them through natural horsemanship, a technique that prioritises the animals’ instincts and focuses on understanding rather than controlling them. “I want to be his leader without abusing him,” says Germishuys. Horses willingly approach him for feeding and grooming, despite living wild. Eager to see others delight in this experience, he offers rides, week-long retreats, and school camps for those who want to discover the outdoors.
Germishuys has made his passion his work, in the process unearthing what so many people are missing. “I think our freedom has been taken away to a large extent,” he says. Here, he gets to ride all day until dark, taking in the views of the De Kaap Valley that plunges to dizzying depths below. Ambling along on horseback, his hair blowing in the wind, Germishuys reflects on how much we can learn about who we are from these majestic creatures. “Horses remind me a lot of human beings. There’s always a good side. Sometimes it’s a little harder to find, but I think we all have that ability to be good,” he says. In a village of wild horses and tame souls, Germishuys, like his equine counterparts, has found the ultimate sense of freedom and happiness.