In French Guiana, some cattle farmers find that the best way to look keep up with their herds is not in fact in a 4×4. This is why you can still see “vaqueros” the savannahs of French Guiana, rounding up their cattle on horseback.

Such is the case at the Césarée horse farm in Macouria.

The owners, Jean and Marit Mornand, arrived in French Guiana in the 1970s on a cooperation development scheme. They decided to stay and have been here for forty years now. A few years after their arrival they had nearly 243 zebus shipped in from Costa Rica, along with ten or so horses to be used to herd the cattle. This was the beginnings of the Mornand’s cattle rearing, but unfortunately it was a different story with their horse breeding.

The story of horses in French Guiana starts in the 1970s, when in 1977 thirty-five horses from Costa Rica arrived on Guyanese soil. They were small and manoeuvrable and thus perfect for working with cattle. Up until 1981 nearly 250 horses in all were introduced to French Guiana, mainly from Central America. But in the early 1980s, a serious epidemic hit the region. Infectious anaemia, which is caused by a virus transmitted by horseflies, is an illness which can affect horses. It is highly contagious and fatal as it causes the red blood cells to burst, and so in 1982 it led the authorities to have the vast majority of horses in French Guiana euthanized. Nearly 90% of the horses in the whole of French Guiana were put down.

At Césarée farm a dozen foals tested negative for infectious anaemia and so were saved. Without their mother they had to be fed powdered mare’s milk, and they survived.

But in French Guiana as a whole the number of horses is virtually nil. The State is therefore helping the main breeders to build up numbers. Ninety-six quarter horses have been imported from the United States, a breed that is ideal for working, western-style riding, and leisure rides. This gave horse breeding a new lease of life and is beginning to bear fruit, as there are nearly 1000 horses in French Guiana today.

Most of our small Creole horses are perfect companions for setting off along the trails to explore French Guiana thanks to their physical and mental endurance and their rustic build. In Kourou, Macouria, and elsewhere, various stables along the coast offer rides of a few hours or longer excursions of a day or more.

At Césarée the instructors Marie and Mathieu will take you out on a Sunday for a ride in the 400 hectares of savannah, prairie, and marshland that make up the farm in an environment that resembles the American far west. Both beginners and expert equestrians can ride Neptune, Moon, Oyak, or Natcheze amidst the unique herds of cattle beneath one of those skies that you only see in French Guiana. The herd is made up of European races of cows and bulls that are good for beef, as well as zebus which are more suited to the local heat, and this combination of origins enables the Mornands to meet 20% of the demand for meet in French Guiana. For more experienced and adventurous visitors it is also possible to go on a full day excursion to the creek not far from the Risque-tout trail where you can go into the water with your mounts if they wish.

So hit the saddle!