Winemaking horses at Waterkloof!

Three new arrivals to help grow great grapes at this Helderberg winery

26 Aug 2010

Waterkloof Estate, home to 120 hectares of fynbos and vines on the idyllic outskirts of the Helderberg Winelands, has welcomed three new Percheron horses to its ‘green brigade’, all eager to take bio-dynamic farming in their stride.

The entire estate is treated as a holistic entity and Waterkloof, a strong follower of sustainable farming, steers clear of conventional pesticides and fertilisers. By utilising pure horse power in its vineyards, the estate not only improves the structure and quality of the soils, but also reduces its carbon footprint by relying on fewer heavy machinery and tractors in and around its aristocratic vines.

The feisty, eight year old Percheron mare, Dawn, and her two year old foal Sampson, who came from Plettenberg Bay, are joined by Louis, a 14 year veteran stemming from Senekal near Johannesburg. Completing Waterkloof’s stable of Percherons is Lady G, who joined the farm in 2009 and was the first horse to get down and dirty for the love of European style wines.     
“Percherons only mature at the age of seven, therefore Louis has already earned the title as ‘schoolmaster’ on the farm and he will be a good influence on little Sampson as we will pair them together during Sampson’s training over the next three years,” explains Christiaan Loots, the trotting trio’s new ‘boss’ and farm manager at Waterkloof.


The farm rises up to 300 metres above sea level with the Hottentots-Holland and Helderberg Mountains as backdrop and descends to a mere four kilometres from the False Bay coast. In Waterkloof’s pursuit to capture the best quality and a unique sense of origin in each bottle, some of their grapes stem from elevated vineyards, which endure rather precariously on the steep slopes of the Schapenberg.

This elevated and somewhat dangerous terrain makes it almost impossible for the tractors to get to the vineyards. Thankfully the new horses can now also assist Christiaan and his team in removing boulders and undergrowth that are obscuring the way.

“Lady G is in her element with the new arrivals and she hit if off immediately with Dawn as they are both mares. With this strong female bond it seems that poor old Louis has his work cut out for him,” chuckles Christiaan.

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