Lesley Startin lives on a smallholding outside the Little Karoo town of Ladismith on Route 62. She bought and renovated the old post office in town and is now the owner of The Post House restaurant and B&B. Originally from Wales and later England, she moved with her family to South Africa in 1993 and lived in the Fish Hoek and Muizenberg area in Cape Town, before moving to Ladismith in 2004. She has a soft spot for horses, and on her piece of land, she has also taken up the practice of animal communication.
“I used to do show-jumping in England with my son, and when we came to South Africa I didn’t touch a horse for 16 years. Because we were breeding show-jumpers and we had some bad luck with mares foaling and having twins, and they died. So when we came here, I said we were finished with horses. And then, the white horse that’s up there on my farm, he was kept on a farm and he kept breaking out. He was a stallion and he was uncontrollable, so somebody asked me if I wanted him. Of course we went to see him, and we had him. And then the chestnut used to bite the kids, she was kept on the farm close to me so we ended up with her to keep him company. And then they had a baby! The white one is the dad, the grey one is the baby and the chestnut is the mum. The fat one is the baby. My partner Chris calls her my fat, unmarried daughter.
“When we were at the previous guest farm I owned, two ladies came to stay with us for a month at Christmas. I said to them, ‘What do you do?’ and they said to me. ‘Animal communication.’ And I thought, oh, this is really interesting. And they waffled on a bit, and you get a bit sceptical, you know? So one day, I said to them, ‘Can I see what you’re doing?’ So they said, ‘Yeah, we’ll come and fetch you.’
“I said, ‘Do we need to go in with them?’ She said, ‘No, you just stand here,’ and then she called my horse, Sonny, over. At the time he was really quite stroppy because he’d been a stallion. I’ve had him fixed, but he still had that stroppy tendency and he used to bite quite badly. She called him over and normally he was very bossy and he would come over the fences and start nipping you. He didn’t do that, he came and he stood side-on to the fence. I wish I had recorded it because I can’t remember what she was doing, this was like ten years ago. She was talking to him and she was holding my arm at the same time, and he started swaying on his feet. He dropped his head and he started dribbling, his eyes closed – he went into like a trance, I promise you. I’ve never seen anything like it. And then she did it with the other two horses as well.