Nine Lives on the Wild Side...
And Still Counting

Nicky Hoseck

Wild Coast Horse Trails catches up with return client Tony Marshall to find out what keeps him coming back and why he’s so passionate about the Wild Coast experience.

If you really love something, you might think about doing it a second time around, or even a third, but when you commit to doing the same thing nine times, you know you’ve fallen in love, and that’s precisely what happened to Wild Coast Horse Trails enthusiast Tony Marshall. 

When I asked when he first rode here, he struggles to remember, saying, “I can tell you to the nearest year or two!” As far as anyone can remember, Tony first rode with us back in 2012, and now he’s back for his ninth trip along the Wild Coast, largely because of one special lady.

As a young chestnut mare, Tzarina won Tony’s heart almost instantly. When I ask him what attracted him to her, he explains that it’s a combination of things. 

“She’s got a lovely comfortable trot, in fact, all her gaits are really comfy. She’s fantastic on the beach - super fast. She can be a bit of a handful so she’s not boring to ride and she keeps you on your toes and then that’s just that thing you can’t quantify where you just hit it off with a horse.” 

Falling in Love with Riding Holidays

Wild Coast Horse Trails was by no means Tony’s first ride and to date he’s done around 100 different horse riding holidays, mainly in Africa, southern America, and Europe. 

Unlike most people, who learn to ride in an arena, Tony has honed his skills in the saddle touring the world. His first ride in Montana in 2005 saw him mount a horse for the very first time and, like little girls all over the world, he was instantly smitten.

So, what made a 45-year-old Englishman suddenly decide that his future lay in the saddle? 

“I read about a guy in one of the UK weekend travel supplements,” Tony explains, “And I was looking for new ideas for holidays and this sounded really good. It ticked all my boxes. It was outdoors, there was a bit of a challenge in it, and, being the completely arrogant idiot I was in those days, I thought, “How difficult can this be? You sit on the horse, the horse does all the work.”

On returning to the UK, he booked himself in for a total of six lessons. Just enough he says, “to learn not to hurt the horse, how to make sure the horse didn’t hurt me.”

With those lessons under his belt, Tony was confident enough to start booking himself on the easier rides and learning from the guides and other clients. 

By the time he reached the Wild Coast, he was a confident intermediate, but it was still one of the first of the more challenging rides he attempted. 

Wooed by the Wild Coast and its Horses

So, what brought him into the lives and hearts of the team at the Wild Coast? “It was probably a combination of recommendation and advice from the agent at In the Saddle,” Tony replies thoughtfully.

Despite how far he’s come in the saddle, Tony has no interest in being the perfect rider. “I do it for enjoyment,” he explains. 

Nevertheless, he’s come a long way since Montana and now enjoys the more challenging rides on offer, including the high-speed multi-day trail in Namibia and big game encounters at places like Wait a Little. 

When it comes to beach riding, however, the Wild Coast is the pinnacle, he says.

“The beaches here are unlike anywhere else in the world. The bit that’s firm enough to ride on is really wide here so the canters on the beach are spread out, which I think is pretty unique.”

Not only that, but the sense of emptiness and space is so extreme that Tony describes it as “a real edge-of-the-world feeling.”

While it’s not all about speed, Tony does like the pace of the ride, which includes plenty of canters and the legendary Wavecrest beach gallop, which he says “is great fun.”

The accommodation may not be luxurious, but for Tony, it’s comfortable enough and in such stunning locations that you stop caring about whether you’ve got a four-poster bed or not!

The only thing that bothers Tony is that the best time to visit the Wild Coast is precisely the time of year he prefers not to travel. 

“One of the nicest times to come is in your winter, which is our summer, but because I don’t like the English winters, that’s when I want to get away and find some sun.”

Fortunately, summer on the Wild Coast is quite pleasant with temperatures hovering around 25 to 28℃ and sea breezes offsetting the high humidity. 

Certainly, the weather hasn’t put Tony off yet, even though he says he “really enjoyed” his one May-time trip some years ago. 

Wild As it Is, The Wild Coast Isn't For Everyone 

As its name suggests, the Wild Coast can be pretty wild at times so, although the trail may appeal to riders of all abilities, it won’t necessarily tick everyone’s boxes. 

As far as Tony is concerned, the riders who would most enjoy the ride are those with a bit of experience who enjoy a fast-paced ride. 

“It’s not crazy fast and there’s no dangerous game or anything like that” he explains, “But, while the days aren’t crazy long, on days like today you ride for four and a half hours without stopping so you need to be reasonably fit.”

“In terms of hours of riding per day, it’s pretty average compared to other trails, but because of the long canters and varying terrain, it’s surprisingly challenging.”

Indeed, although the trail is marketed as a beach ride, the terrain varies from flat beaches to steep cliffs, plunging river valleys, and long rolling hills. 

As Tony points out, the inland sections not only add variety but also amp up the riding.

“It can be pretty challenging,” he says, “Cantering around corners and things like that mean you need to be able to control your horse.”

There’s certainly something that keeps Tony coming back for more and he’s not done yet. When I ask him if he’ll be back he replies, “It’s not if, it’s when.”

Wild and Remote but Easily Accessible 

Just because Tony visits us every year, it doesn’t stop him from discovering new rides (and horses) or revisiting some old favorites. Last year, he visited Moolmanshoek Game Reserve in the Free State for the first time and after this trail, he’s heading north to Macatoo Camp in the Okavango Delta. 

Although Tony has ridden over 100 different rides, he’s stuck mainly to Europe and Southern Africa - partly out of convenience and partly because they appeal more to his sense of adventure. 

“Coming down here is great,” he says. “It’s an 11-hour flight but it sets off at 6 pm so you knock yourself out with a couple of bottles of wine and then you sleep. When you wake up, they serve you breakfast and then you’re here, so it doesn’t feel like a long journey to get here.”

Riding Around the World - Tony’s Top Recommendations

Having experienced so many different rides around the world, I’m dying to know which ones stand out as his all-time favorites. 

“There’s one in Namibia, run by Andrew Gilles who’s good fun and the rides are super. If you want a fast ride - that’s the one to do.” 

“In terms of wildlife, if you want really, really close up, then I think Wait a Little is as good as it gets. The guide there [Phillip Kusseler] doesn’t just come across the game, he tracks them down and you get within 10 meters of the Big Five.”

“Then the other one I’d recommend, because of the beautiful countryside, is Hipparion in Romania. They do a wonderful trail ride that takes you through Saxon villages where there are no walls or fences and you can canter for mile after mile. There’s also no tourist industry so it’s like stepping back into the 16th century - there are more horses and carts than there are tractors!”

Unsurprisingly, Tony’s confident he’s ticked every dream holiday off his bucket list, but that’s not to say he won’t add more. 

“When I go on rides, I always ask people which rides they’d recommend and why, and very occasionally one comes up that I think I’ll try.”

Despite having traveled the world on horseback, Tony’s been unwilling to experiment with the rides on offer in Asia. 

“I don’t deal with humid heat very well,” he explains, “and I’m also a bit of a philistine. Because I don’t ride in the UK, when I go on a ride I just wanna ride. I’m not interested in the local culture, museums, or watching people doing local dances for me. I have zero interest in that.”

As a result, Tony’s mainly ridden in Europe, Southern Africa, and South America. 

“I don’t tend to go back to North America,” he says, “because I don’t like Western tack. It’s very comfortable but I just feel too detached from the horse. It’s like sitting in an armchair.” 

What Makes the Wild Coast So Special? 

 Tony may be a philistine but he’s certainly passionate about his riding and the horses. When I ask him how our horses compare to those on other trails, he has nothing but compliments. 

“You can’t fault them,” he says with confidence.

Aside from the spectacular horses, challenging terrain, and empty beaches, there’s one other thing that sets Wild Coast Horse Trails apart from the crowd and that’s gender. 

I ask Tony if he knows of any other horse trail companies that are run and staffed entirely by women, and he looks surprised. 

“I’ve never thought about it,” he replies. “I guess that’s a compliment.” He adds thoughtfully, “You simply don’t notice.”

He gives my question a bit more thought before answering in more detail. 

“It’s weird isn’t it?” He says, “Because I’m quite often the only guy on a ride, and it's a predominantly female pastime so it’s surprising that a lot of the guides and owners are men.

“If you gave me a day to think about it, I might come up with one or two, but off the top of my head, I can’t think of any.”

I can’t help feeling a sense of pride and achievement that my colleagues and I compete with the best horse riding holidays in the world without a man at the helm, or even at the steering wheel of the support vehicle.


Tony is living proof of just how addictive trail riding on the Wild Coast can be. With a strong horse underneath you, vast empty beaches stretching in front of you, and comfortable beds waiting for you at the end, it’s a trail ride to remember…. And if you’re worried about forgetting the experience, be like Tony and come back again the following year to jog your memory!  

To find out more about why our Wild Coast Horse Trail is so addictive and to book your spot on our next adventure, click the button below: