So near, and yet so far. That’s the dominant theme of living in Saddlebrook Estate in Kyalami – a horse jump away from Inanda Country Base, and a short drive from Fourways Mall and the N1 from Pretoria. Sandton is barely half an hour away.
‘It’s country living, and a world away from the hustle and bustle of Gauteng,’ says chairperson of the Saddlebrook Residents Association, Peter Warring, who says of this peri-urban environment:
‘We’re out of the city, but in the city.’
This optimal geographical position is just one advantage of living in a place where residents wake up to woodland birdcalls, hear the odd jackal howl in the early evenings, and have the option of keeping a horse in their back yard. Kyalami is, after all, horse country.
‘There aren’t too many housing estates where residents live on one-hectare stands,’ says Warring. ‘And where it’s completely par for the course to step out of your house to feed your horse in the back yard. You can’t compare this to any other estate, if only because of the space we have. Space is in short supply and city councils are increasingly not feeling well disposed towards new estates with such large stands’.
There are only 117 stands in the estate, of which 114 are residential units, all with ample space for paddocks and stabling. Approximately 60 horses are stabled within the estate.
Horse-lover Christelle van de Merwe, also on the Saddlebrook board, says that irrespective of whether you’re an elite competitive equestrian or a happy hacker, there isn’t anything comparable.
‘A horse on the property as opposed to at a central location means you form a much deeper bond with the animal, important for those who don’t want a limited relationship. It also gives owners peace of mind and the convenience of constant access, while it’s easier to manage costs when compared to horses being stabled at a central facility.’
And then, she says, there are the advantages of amenities like tennis courts, two parks, mountain-bike tracks, a seven-kilometre bridle path ideal for cycling, jogging or walking, plus a clubhouse and swimming pool – although, she adds, ‘this is relatively quiet as most residents here have their own pools’. And all the while you know that your family is safe and secure. ‘Kids ride freely around on their bikes,’ says Van de Merwe. She also says the area is teeming with birdlife, from the more common Grey Herons, Blacksmith Plovers and Grey Go-away Birds (Grey Louries) to rarer species such as African Spoonbills, Thick-Billed Weavers and Crimsonbreasted Shrikes.
Founded in 1998, the estate still retains its sense of space. Solid, high walls between homes are still a firm no-no, with post and rail or palisade fencing demarcating the stands. As Warring says, ‘the developers of the estate sought to retain a sense of the country and wide-open spaces, which is why boundary walls are not permitted, thereby preventing the “canyon” effect.’
Architectural guidelines are still very much in force to maintain the look of the estate, while still giving home owners stylistic freedom. ‘We’re having the guidelines overhauled right now,’ says Warring. ‘They need to be updated to make them more green-friendly and move with the times.’ He says, for example, that guidelines in the past didn’t allow guttering, which prohibited rainwater harvesting. ‘Rules have to evolve,’ he says.
Security within Saddlebrook has recently been improved. Residents voted to spend a good percentage of their budget on a new, state-of-the-art R2 million electric fence to replace the existing structure – a ‘top-class 36-strand fence with multiple zones,’ says Van de Merwe. ‘If something were to go wrong, we would know exactly where it’s gone wrong.’ The estate has CCTV and armed guards on duty 24 hours a day. Access to the estate is controlled through a biometric system using fingerprint recognition technology. Even so, a recently commissioned risk assessment survey identified ways to further improve security.
‘The estate is “security-focused” with 70% of budget dedicated to security upgrades, and technology plays an important role in the advancement of the current security standards. We are presently reviewing various options like thermal cameras and AI-based monitoring software.’ Saddlebrook is also moving with the times in attracting a new buyer profile, which includes young families attracted to the ‘exclusivity and privacy’.
‘Many young families are looking to raise their kids in the country. Even if they are not horsey folk, they’re looking for this quality of life,’ says Van de Merwe. ‘So, we seek to communicate and educate them about horses, and we encourage kids to engage with the horses, because they will probably be living next door to one.’
There is no discrimination between riders and non-riders. ‘We all pay the same levies,’ says Warring. And, anyway, non-riders living in Saddlebrook often evolve to become riders – or at least their children do.
‘Because many new buyers are millennials who are proactive around recycling, we are committed to ensuring a low carbon footprint by facilitating this practice,’ says Van de Merwe.
The estate has also invested in an extensive fibre network, she says. ‘Millennials don’t believe in working nine to five. They want to be mobile, and connected around the clock. Our connectivity is top notch.’
Tweens and teenagers between the ages of 10 and 18 make up the bulk of the demographics for residents’ kids, so the board is considering building an Astroturf basketball court, and converting one of the existing tennis courts into a skate park in an effort, says Van de Merwe, to ‘get the youth out of the houses and interacting in common areas.’ Nearby schools include the American International School of Johannesburg, Beaulieu College and St Peter’s.
The estate is committed to preserving the open spaces, rural nature and unique flora and fauna of the area, and works with local environmental groups in this regard. ‘When plovers are nesting, we put up signs around the estate to warn people to drive carefully, also when the summer rains bring the bullfrogs out of hibernation and they cross our roads.’
The estate clubhouse offers private boardroom facilities, lounge, bar and entertainment areas. From here residents and their guests can sip a Chardonnay whilst enjoying spectacular sunsets and beautiful views of Highveld grassland, gently illuminated by the setting sun.
Saddlebrook Estate offers the rare and exclusive opportunity of living in a little slice of heaven, whilst just a stone’s throw from the bustle of the city.