InstaScram is a travel series bringing you an original perspective of Singapore from the eyes of a biker. And where we usually feature real bikers, our guests this episode have four legs and are particularly hairy. A real horse meets an iron horse, when we explore the Wild Wild West of Singapore.
In a land of skyscrapers of glass and steel, urban living, and mechanical transport systems, it seems from the outsider's context that we have little space for the cowboy lifestyle. The days where horse riding is exclusive to a small group of members are almost over, with many more horse-centric activities that are currently open to the public.
Gallop Stable at Punggol Ranch is the brainchild of Mr Shanker Jackuda, who was a professional horse rider and trainer based in Dubai, before deciding to open horse riding facilities in Pasir Ris, Bukit Timah, and Punggol, to cater to Singaporeans lamenting the lack of equestrian activity. It aims to introduce the stereotypically elite sport to the masses, making it affordable and accessible.
The area along Punggol Track 24 used to be densely forested and relatively inaccessible. In December 2012, Punggol Ranch turned it into Singapore's very own cowboy town, complete with wagon chalets where you can spend the night, activities for the whole family, and even their own dining establishment called Makan-Makan. Since opening its doors, thousands of riders have enrolled in their horse-riding classes, with 2,500 active members across all ages. Physically fit senior citizens and children above the age of three are also welcome to ride, as long as they adhere to the weight limit set to safeguard the welfare of the horses.
And the highlight of this show is definitely the magnificent horses. Most of them in Punggol Ranch are ex-race horses that have been adopted and rehabilitated to adapt to a different lifestyle. And Ben, the main horse featured in the episode, is certainly no stranger to being in the spotlight, having had lots of experience in front of the camera, including local VJ Kyla Moniq's pre-wedding photoshoot!
There are plenty of other activities to partake in, should you not wish to ride. You could do a bit of archery, feed the bunnies or even spend some time singing karaoke in an actual refurbished life-raft! In time, this novelty place might just become a permanent fixture on the Singapore landscape.
Our next 'mane' event is an area that is quite prominent in the equestrian arena since the 1840s, when Bukit Timah was developed to accommodate horse racing. We rode to Fairways Drive, home to the Bukit Timah Saddle Club since 1951, retraining retired race horses to develop skills suitable for show jumping, dressage or leisure riding. The Club also provides photoshoot packages for couples looking to live out their fairytale dreams.
The meandering road and the expansive fields of green that frame it, make up a scene that truly feels like something out of an old Western. The quiet stretch is perfect for a nice drive, or even a slow walk, to take beautiful pictures set against a backdrop that you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in Singapore.
And because this is Singapore, there are plenty of eateries to choose from, when you are done soaking up the sights. Our pick is Picotin Express, a bistro famed for their pizzas and classic European dishes, established in 2007 by Swiss expat Jacky Stevens. With covered outdoor seating that accommodates a capacity of 150, it is a superb venue for events, weddings, a romantic dinner, and even children's parties. There is even a mini-golf course right next to the restaurant where the little ones can occupy themselves, while the parents get some much needed downtime.
However, the winning feature of this establishment is definitely the view. Set beside the Champions Golf Course, Picotin Express lets you dine right in front of it, where you will able to take in the sights and sounds of the golf course, all from the comfort of their restaurant. Truly an ideal way to end a day out at Fairways Drive.