Santa Marilha Horse Excursions began when Carlotta and Teo decided to help horses whose owners could no longer afford to take care of them. Over the last decade, their stable has slowly adopted many beautiful horses found all over the islands of Cape Verde, and beyond. Thanks to them, unwanted Cape Verdean horses now have a home and are well looked after.
Horse-riding has really caught on with visitors to the Cape Verdean islands in recent years. However, they were an integral part of the Cape Verdean economy during colonial times. Initially, horses were brought in from Europe to be traded on the islands, but eventually, to meet the booming demand for horses on the African continent, horses were bred on the islands themselves. Some descendants of these horses can still be found roaming wild on the islands.
With Santa Marilha, we booked a “Romantic Ride”, which took us across the dunes of the Sal Island, ending with a bottle of wine and a blanket upon which we watched the sunset. Our chief guide was Ana, who is from Finland. She had come to Cape Verde on holiday and never left, leaving a boring retail job for a life of adventure, with horses, under the sun. “All my friends keep telling me how jealous they are that I’m living my dream, here, on Cape Verde”, she told us. “I told them they could do it too. They just have to do it. It’s that simple.”
The ride was beautiful, and the sunset a memorable one. But the best thing about the excursion was meeting Teo, Carlotta and their team. I loved hearing their tales about how they came to acquire, and care for, the horses we rode on. The story of Santa Marilha is a truly inspiring one.