Californian Night Skye

10th Oct, 2018

Written by Gaynor Lawrence

Professional photography by EarthChild Photography

Skye was one of 19 neglected horses which were surrendered to the Highveld Horse Unit. When Kirsten visited their facilities, she fell head over heels in love with the beautiful Shire horse and knew, without a doubt, that he had to come home with her.

An emergency

While enjoying a break in the Cape with my Dad in July, taking photos of a whale and her calf playing in the surf off Dolphin Point in the Wilderness, my daughter Kirsten kept calling me. Eventually, I answered, worried that there might be an emergency at home.

But this was an “emergency” of a different kind: an excited Kirsten asked if I’d looked at my WhatsApp messages and wanted to know what I thought. When I checked, up came a photo of a chestnut horse with white feathers around his feet – and many messages from Kirsten asking to adopt him.

For several months, HHCU had been monitoring 19 horses on a stud farm in Mpumalanga. With the horses in terrible condition and no sign of improvement, they got the owners to voluntary surrender them to HHCU in late June 2018. The horses were extremely thin and neglected, their coats rough and their spirits low; on arrival at the unit, they didn’t stop eating. Skye was one of these horses.

Making dreams come true

Miles away, I was concerned about adopting a horse I hadn’t met and worried about any underlying problems. But with the experience of our yard owner, Gelanda, and Kirsten, I was assured that he was a good horse.

And so I took the huge step and agreed to adopt him, thus making my daughter’s dreams come true to own her very own horse.

Upon my return to Johannesburg, we went to see him, and, like Kirsten, I fell in love with him too. However, I was still concerned about adopting an eight-year-old horse that had never been backed (accepts wearing a saddle and someone on its back) or ridden. But Kirsten confidently reassured me that everything would be fine. And so it was.

Skye wasn’t coming alone. A female friend, Pearl, would be adopted too, and, prior to their arrival, Kirsten and Gelanda made a trip to visit them and take them blankets, good food and grass. This way, they could start gaining weight and get used to the food we use.

We told Kirsten that HHCU would bring Skye to our yard on Friday the 27th of July 2018; how hard it was to keep the secret from her that he was actually coming on Wednesday the 25th of July. Gelanda and her daughter had planned a big surprise, but as Kirsten and her dad were coming down the road she spotted Skye; the car had hardly stopped and she ran down to the paddock to see him. We decided to name him Californian Night Skye – Skye for short.

He bounced back

A few days after he arrived, Skye took ill. A late-night visit by the vet revealed that he’d developed a small complication from the gelding operation. Fortunately, this beautiful boy bounced back and has not looked back since.

Skye received his vaccinations and dewormer and saw the farrier and dentist – all basic, important things that had been overlooked for many years. He was introduced to five small meals a day to get his stomach used to the food and has recently gone onto three meals a day like the rest of the herd. Some of the horses taken in had obviously never had carrots before as they refused to eat them.

Within 28 days he’d gained weight and his coat started to shine. He loves his grooms and – boy! – can he make a noise when he sees his food coming.

The sky is the limit

Kirsten started to back Skye around two weeks after he arrived, once he was strong enough, and he’s been brilliant – no bucking or resisting. At this stage, they only ride for around ten minutes a few times a week and only in the lunge arena (a circular enclosed area used for horse training). We know that it’s a long road and requires lots of time and patience, but we look forward to the future where Kirsten and Skye can enter dressage competitions.

He’ll eventually be introduced into the herd, but for now he shares his paddock with Pearl. They have an incredible bond, and if they can’t see each other, they neigh and get rather stressed out, so they’ll stay together all the time.

Skye is an incredible horse, a gentle soul, and in no time at all has brought so much joy to our family. We’re so happy to have adopted him and given him the chance to reach for the sky.


By Kirsten Lawrence

Skye is my “everything” and I am his; he is my soulmate. The day we met, it was love at first sight. I believe Skye chose me to be his owner and there was no turning back. He astounds me with his progress each and every day.

I’ve never met a horse like him, and I trust him with my life; he never spooks or fights with me – he just listens and happily does whatever I ask him to do.

Our stables held a jumping training show on the 9th of September 2018, and we decided to enter Skye to see how he’d respond in the jumping arena with visitors and visiting horses. He was entered in the “Poles On The Ground” category and proudly won his first rosette for a clear round. He stopped once to glance at the three horses that were taking part from other stables and was so cute as he walked over the jumps and peered curiously down at his feet each time to see what he’d stepped over.

We’re truly blessed to have this amazing gentle giant in our lives and cannot thank Highveld Horse Care Unit enough for allowing us to give him a home and shower him with love, treats and a wonderful life. He’s one very special horse, and I love him with all my heart.