How horse power can make a bet­ter world

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Front Page -

and Ba­sotho ponies – stamp and snort for at­ten­tion in the open-sided sta­bles op­po­site.

Dis­il­lu­sioned with life back home, Frankie came to Malawi to spend time work­ing with her old­est friends, Alice and Nina Pul­ford. “Their dad is my god­fa­ther; we had Satur­day jobs in sta­bles to­gether,” she ex­plains. Alice and Nina founded an or­phan­age in Malawi 10 years ago, which grew into Love Sup­port Unite (LSU), a sus­tain­able model to lift com­mu­ni­ties out of poverty.

“When you spend time in Malawi,” says Alice, while serv­ing break­fast, “you re­alise peo­ple don’t need char­ity, but sup­port.” They raise money for LSU through the sale of Love Specs, fun fes­ti­val glasses that make wear­ers see rain­bow hearts (avail­able at lovespecs.org, from £10). “We want to see a world filled with love, so it’s the per­fect mes­sage for us.”

Frankie con­tin­ues: “Just be­fore I was due to go home, Alice and Nina ar­ranged a day rid­ing here at Kande Horse as a sur­prise. We were hav­ing lunch af­ter the ride and day­dream­ing about all the mag­i­cal things we could do if we owned it. The man­ager over­heard and told us it was for sale. We had some money put aside for a de­posit for a flat in London. But some­how one thing led to an­other and we ended up mak­ing an of­fer on the ranch! We weren’t look­ing for a busi­ness, let alone 15 horses, a guest­house and a 60-acre ranch!”

That was in Oc­to­ber 2015, and the girls – with help from part­ners and friends – have spent the past two years lov­ing Kande Horse back to life. “Of course we didn’t re­alise that noth­ing re­ally worked, or know any­thing about the chal­lenge of keep­ing horses in Africa,” says Frankie. “Or that mon­keys would keep eat­ing our pump­kins.” To­day peo­ple come as guests or, for a smaller fee to cover board and food, vol­un­teers. But ev­ery­one re­ceives the same warm wel­come.

The guest­house has had a makeover – wood-pan­elled bed­rooms are trimmed with lo­cal tex­tiles. And for vol­un­teers there’s a sim­ple but stylish dor­mi­tory as well as bell tents. The girls are work­ing to­wards cre­at­ing a sus­tain­able farm and tree nurs­ery, where herbs, fruit and veg­eta­bles are har­vested sea­son­ally. Guavas, mango, pas­sion fruit, pump­kin, toma­toes, tamarind and cashews end up in meals pre­pared in the kitchen by Amos the chef. And they’ve just hosted a yoga and well­ness re­treat, too.

Sleep­ing in bell tents at the back of the farm­house means that the day starts when the rooster crows at 5am. In the yard, a soft golden light dif­fuses the still­ness, and Mr Fin­ni­gan the cat sits atop a fence post sur­vey­ing his em­pire. The grooms be­gin to ar­rive at 6am, Nina’s small son In­die tot­ters about col­lect­ing eggs, and the ranch stretches into life. I shadow Christo­pher, who has worked at Kande since long be­fore the girls ar­rived. I’m vol­un­teer­ing with the horses, which in­cludes work­ing in the sta­bles, groom­ing and gen­eral wel­fare, as well as ex­er­cis­ing and rid­ing them, so good equine knowl­edge is re­quired and it’s not suitable for novice rid­ers. But, as Frankie ex­plains, they are care­ful not to let vol­un­teers take work from lo­cal grooms, of whom they em­ploy seven.

You don’t have to be horsey to vol­un­teer here, though. Ben – the other vol­un­teer at Kande dur­ing my stay – has been here for three weeks, and not touched a horse. He’s been busy build­ing an out­door bath and well­ness cen­tre where Alice will one day of­fer mas­sages. Pre­vi­ously Jodie, an artist and sign­writer, de­signed a sign for the drive­way; some­one else built an out­door pizza oven. Here, vol­un­teer­ing is what you make of it.

We ride out early, be­fore the sun is fully in the sky. Christo­pher and I talk about the dif­fer­ence the girls have made to the ranch: on his day off he farms maize and rice, thanks to a loan from Kande. The horses bounce along at a lively pace, throw­ing up clouds of red dust. There are sev­eral treks around the prop­erty, through the but­ter­fly and bird-filled for­est, or through marsh­land to the beach. I pre­fer the lat­ter be­cause we pass vil­lages and schools, giv­ing us an in­sight into lo­cal life. Fam­i­lies cook to­gether out­side, chil­dren play and ev­ery­where, there is mu­sic.

Best of all is the gal­lop as we ap­proach the beach, and the ride along the glo­ri­ous shore of Lake Malawi. Life here is lived on the lake. There are no sun­bathers, but in­stead fam­i­lies wash them­selves and their clothes in the early morn­ing sun. We ride our horses to the wooded area at the back of the beach and dis­mount, re­mov­ing their sad­dles. Then we ride the horses bare­back into the lake to cool them down, and drink, and swim.

Each day is dif­fer­ent here. There’s

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