Peter and Christine Watt have a grand passion that befits the objects of their affection, a majestic Percheron herd that dwells under their protection at Outeniqua Moon and the Heavy Draft Horse Foundation near Mossel Bay on the Garden Route.
Beautifully located in a region thick with forests and rambling fynbos, this charming lifestyle farm offers a soothing staycation bolstered by nature and therapeutic interactions with these majestic, gentle animals.
The Percheron is an ancient breed that originated in France with a lineage that can be traced back to the 17th century. Huge yet agile they are born black and turn grey (and vice versa) over time, a process that can take up to ten years.
A DREAM REALISED
Loyal and magnificent, with a strength that defies belief, they have served mankind loyally, tasked with pulling colossal war and agricultural machinery and the Watts have dedicated themselves to their preservation. “Peter always wanted horses and his own farm,” reminisces Christine who in her day was accomplished in dressage and a show jumper of note. “But it’s a costly business, not for the faint hearted. I had other ideas, to globetrot and write. But I adore him, and here we are.” She fell in step with his dream and they found an idyllic spot at the foot of the Robinson Pass in the Leeukloof – Ruiterbos valley in the Outeniqua Mountains.
HORSES BELOVED & RESPECTED
Twenty years and twenty-seven beloved horses later, Outeniqua Moon is one of the most successful and largest studs in SA alongside others such as Elsenburg in the Boland. The Watts’ are accredited breeders and acknowledged as frontrunners in the noble quest to ensure these even-tempered beasts endure and thrive. “Working Percherons have sacrificed so much and they have my utmost respect. I want our horses to grow old here and be buried with dignity,” Christine says quietly, emotionally.
Strolling through the fields she greets each horse by name – Juno, Artemis, Vulcan, Mr. Darcy, and the others – pausing to rest her forehead against a silky neck, crooning softly and murmuring endearments, The bond between them is tangible and being able to introduce and share the connection with others is one of her greatest rewards. The horses’ docile demeanour is calming, and people are immediately at ease.
Being close to them and being able to physically interact with them is an enchanting experience and when Aragorn the foal drops onto the grass next to you to lay his head in your lap, it’s enough to make your heart do a somersault.
SHADOWFAX THE GREAT
The star of the stud and a major drawcard to Outeniqua Moon is Shadowfax. A splendid specimen, he is the biggest horse ever bred in this country, weighing 1250kg and measuring a massive 18.3 hands (186.5cm at the shoulder) and 1.86 at the withers. South Africa has some of the last true working draft conformation horses, those of the original bloodline that stand as deep in the shoulder (from the top of the shoulder to the bottom of the chest) as they are long in the leg. Along with the Percherons, other draft horses like Clydesdales, Shires and Brabants and the Suffolk Punch collectively number in the mere hundreds across the world, and in South Africa, the true Percheronis increasingly scarce. The purpose of the Draft Horse Foundation that Christine and Peter founded in 2020 is to draw awareness to this plight and to show the worth of the Percheron specifically, to get them the recognition they need and deserve and nurture the magical partnership between horse and human.
And when it comes to pulling power, none compares to the four-wheel drive power of the Percheron that can pull up to five tons on wheels and its own weight at a dead pull, without the use of wheels. At the farm, buggy rides are the most popular activity and when Vulcan gallops with the carriage behind him, it’s effortless. “With up to eight passengers on board that horse will still hare off like he owns the world,” laughs Christine. “The strength of this breed is legendary and with the correct kit and a gentle but firm hand, the Percheron comes up magnificently.
KEVIN OERSON, RIGHT HAND MAN & HORSE WHISPERER
Aside from her husband, whose offshore work is what largely funds both farm and foundation, Christine depends heavily on right-hand man Kevin Oerson, a groomsman and farrier and a horse whisperer in his own right.
Growing up around the donkeys belonging to his grandfather, he has been with the Watt’s since day one and he knows each horse intimately, down to every neigh and whinny. His dream is to see Percherons back in the field working the land and doing what comes naturally. “It would be so lekker,” he says. “Christine and Peter have given me a small piece of land here. I want to grow things- use a tractor to lift the soil and then bring in a draft horse to pull the plough, like old times.”
KAROO~STYLE HOMESTEAD & QUAI
The guest house with its brick red and military green corrugated walls and broekie- lace detail has a Karoo homestead feel. It’s rustic with old fashioned charm and has four rooms that sleep between two and five people, each one done up differently.
The honeymoon suite on the first floor is perfectly private, a two roomed self-catering unit that overlooks the pool and Shadowfax’s paddock, and the bedroom comes complete with a Victorian slipper bath and four poster bed.
Christine is a fine cook and dinners, by prior arrangement, are served in the lounge that’s warmed by a fireplace in winter. During the day, a huge bay window beckons as a cosy reading nook, if you don’t mind sharing the space with Willow the adorable greyhound-Africanis rescue. Breakfast is laid on the verandah where you can expect visits by two resident miniature ponies with a taste for muffins, so keep an eye on your plate.
While day visitors are welcome to meet the Percherons and to hike, swim or picnic, Outeniqua Moon Farm begs an unhurried stay to take full advantage of all that’s on offer. So take the trip, meet the horses and be changed. “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” – Winston Churchill
PS- To read my post on Mossel Bay, done differently, click here.
Outeniqua Moon Farm is on the R328 (the road from Mossel Bay to Oudtshoorn) in Ruiterbos on the Leeukloof-Kleinbrak Road.
Room rates vary per suite and include a paddock tour, an interactive session with the horses, use of braai and picnic and pool facilities and access to hiking trails.
Extra costs: all meals arranged in advance and activities like outrides (experienced riders only), a two hour scenic carriage ride and tours of the herd and hikes.
Bookings made via the website receive a 40% discount.
For more info visit www.outeniquamoon.co.za or call 076 629 2213.
Please check ahead re day visits that are at times on hold due to COVID-19 protocols.