Reining in on Equestrian Estates
Emerald paddocks, immaculately kept horses and luxury accommodation for humans too… equestrian estates appeal to more than just the horseys.
An Equestrian Estate Elite
Horses make a landscape look beautiful. So said American author Alice Walker and, indeed, equestrian estates – or estates with upmarket equestrian facilities – contain some of the most sought-after residential real estate in South Africa. They also happen to be home to a large percentage of the country’s wealthiest people. According to latest census information, the Blair Atholl estate to the northwest of Johannesburg, which has a top equestrian centre as well as a Gary Player-designed golf course, is the country’s richest neighbourhood, with at least one in four homeowners ranking as a multimillionaire. This is not so surprising, really, since acquiring and keeping horses is an expensive business, especially if they happen to be thoroughbreds, polo ponies or aristocratic Arabians that require the very best care that money can buy. What’s more, equestrian estates tend to have other things in common – like unusually large stands and exceptional security provisions – that are particularly favoured by well-heeled homebuyers. Here’s our round-up of some of the best of these exclusive equine enclaves in South Africa.
Blair Atholl Estate
Essentially a residential estate, Blair Atholl stretches across 600 hectares of land near Lanseria airport, half of which once belonged to internationally renowned golfer Gary Player. It also has a long association with thoroughbred horses, most famously the champion stallion Peralta. So it is no surprise, really, that it boasts a top-class equestrian facility as well as a magnificent golf course. Indeed, horses grazing peacefully in beautiful grass paddocks surrounded by white post-and-rail fences are a signature feature of the estate. Blair Atholl’s equestrian centre is set among these enclosures and consists of about 50 stables that pivot a quadrangle, tack rooms, hot and cold-water washing bays and three arenas, including a newly-laid silica jumping arena, as well as a canter track around the outside of these. The privately-owned facility is managed by horse pro Brendan McNiven, who lives on site and has a staff of six full-time grooms and a teaching assistant to deal with children as young as four who come to learn to ride on the centre’s six stable ponies. Older and more competitive riders are taught by Brendan, who also encourages participation in outside jumping and dressage shows. The facility owns an eightbay truck to transport horses to these events. And for those who just want to enjoy a peaceful outride, there are some 20 kilometres of bridle paths inside the fully-secured estate.
‘We have made a wonderful network of friends since we have lived here and have found an old-fashioned sense of community’ – Blair Atholl homeowner
As for the cost of the full stable and livery service at Blair Atholl, it is ‘competitive with any of the similar facilities located nearby’. These include Chartwell and Kyalami, where prices start at around R3 500 to R4 000 a month. Meanwhile, for those who would like to have their own luxury accommodation in Blair Atholl, developer Wraypex is currently selling homeand- stand packages off plan for just under R5 million. The current advertised prices for single stands (averaging 3 700 square metres) start at around R2 million. Homes start at R8,5 million and go all the way up to R29 million, with one exceptional property currently being advertised at R60 million.
Blue Hills Country & Equestrian Estate
Set in Beaulieu, arguably the heart of all things equine in Gauteng (where even the roads are named after breeds of horse), this estate offers buyers the opportunity to acquire stands of between 5 000 and 15 000 square metres – the largest being quite big enough to accommodate stables of their own if owners so desire. Aimed at those who enjoy ‘country life’ but also want suburban convenience and excellent security for themselves and their valuable animals, this estate encompasses greenbelts alive with abundant birdlife as well as a shopping centre, several business parks and a new Redford.
House private school opening next year. It is, of course, also close to Beaulieu College (which has an established and successful equestrian team and offers equine studies as a subject up to matric) and its Equestrian Academy, which offers adult courses in stable and stock management and riding instruction. The estate itself has grazing paddocks, lunging rings and eventing and dressage arenas and is being developed by Century Property Developments, following the success of its awardwinning Waterfall Country Estate, where property prices have doubled in the past three years. Property prices in Blue Hills currently start at around R2,3 million.
Mooikloof Equestrian Estate
One of a group of estates in an upmarket area to the southeast of Pretoria, this upmarket residential development offers horse owners the choice of stabling their animals at the privately owned equestrian centre on site, or building their own stables, since the 548 stands here are all at least one hectare in size. As well as stabling, the equestrian centre incorporates a riding school, tack rooms, feed stores and several arenas, and there are about 20 kilometres of bridle paths and horse trails in the estate, which is secured by electric fencing and biometric access equipment. Animals stabled at the centre are cared for by a stable manager and a team of grooms who live on site, and training is available for everyone from beginners to advanced-level riders.
Established in 1996, Mooikloof also offers tennis courts, bowling greens, a chapel, a clubhouse and a spacious recreational area around a dam. However it is probably best known for its very large and luxurious homes, many of which afford residents panoramic views over Pretoria’s eastern suburbs. Current advertised prices for stands start at R2,2 million, while homes sell for anything from R4,5 million to R27 million. The private Curro School at Woodhill is a short drive away, as are the Parkview and Woodhill shopping centres.
Val de Vie Estate
The new residential development launched in this estate on 9 August says it all, really. Named The Polo Village, it offers buyers the opportunity to acquire a Stefan Antoni-designed apartment – or ‘Polo Pad’ – right next to the Polo Pavilion and overlooking the green expanse of the estate’s two international-standard polo grounds, at prices from R1,5 million. Situated in the heart of the Cape Winelands, Val de Vie is renowned for its award-winning wines, as well as state-of-the-art security and gracious homes, but it is also increasingly famous as one of the top polo venues in the world, and its equestrian facilities reflect this. These include a stable block with 64 loose boxes, fully equipped tack rooms, lunging rings, an exercise track and a practice field as well as change rooms, all professionally managed with the assistance of highly trained grooms.
The monthly full stabling cost here is around R5 900 and current occupants of the stables include polo ponies belonging to both local and overseas riders, as well as horses belonging to residents of the estate – who can take lessons in various disciplines from two onsite instructors, or simply enjoy outrides along the banks of the Berg River and through the estate vineyards. A 60-square-metre, all-weather arena is currently also under construction so that the estate will be able to hold dressage and showjumping events in the near future.
Waterfall Equestrian Estate
An award-winning development, Waterfall Equestrian Estate was the first of the Waterfall series of residential estates to be developed in Midrand by Century Property Developments. It includes facilities for equestrian shows as well as stables, tack rooms, jumping and dressage arenas, a lunging ring, a training track and paddocks, as well as a scenic bridle path on the banks of the Jukskei River. The minimum size of the stands in this estate is 8 500 square metres and several very large and very luxurious homes have already been built here. Those currently advertised for sale are priced at R18 million. The estate also offers easy access to main roads and highways, and it is close to several top schools and shopping centres, such as Waterfall Corner and Sunninghill Village. The equestrian centre is, however, currently only occupied by the Jaroma Stud, which has 16 animals in the stables.
‘Living at Waterfall is really ideal. As I enter the gate, I leave everything behind me to enjoy the tranquil surroundings’ – Waterfall Equestrian Estate resident
Stoneford Equestrian Estate
Situated in Alverstone just outside Hillcrest in KwaZulu-Natal, Stoneford is the serious horseman’s equestrian estate – with world-class stabling and exercise facilities at its heart, as well as 24 hectares of paddocks and extensive bridle paths for the use of just 57 homes (once all the stands are sold). Just down the road from Kearsney College, the estate is on a sloping site adjacent to the Phezulu Game Estate and overlooks the Valley of a Thousand Hills, so even those who don’t ride will be able to enjoy some spectacular views.
The minimum home size in the estate has been set at 350 square metres plus garaging but the large stands (a minimum of 3 600 square metres), plus the fact that a large percentage of the land has been given over to conservation, will ensure residents’ privacy. The Equestrian Centre, which is being built in stages, will ultimately have 60 stables, two lunging rings, two outdoor arenas and one indoor arena, locker rooms and a coffee shop, as well as accommodation for a team of six grooms. Most of the stands in the first phase of the 85-hectare estate have been sold and there are already a few resale homes available, as well as stands in the second phase of the development. Prices for stands currently advertised for sale start at R1,35 million.
- Blair Atholl – blairatholl.co.za
- Century Property Development – century.co.za
- Mooikloof Equestrian Estate – mooikloofestate.co.za
- Val de Vie – valdevie.co.za
- Stoneford – stoneford.co.za
Text: Meg Wilson Photographs: RealNet, iStock, supplied