The idea of paradise differs from person to person, but finding that place that acts as an escape, probably fits the bill for most of us. Named the best hotel in the world by Travel + Leisure for two years in a row, NIHI Sumba prides itself on bringing guests to the “edge of wildness”. Steering clear of the more traditional idea of a luxury hotel, NIHI Sumba refers to itself as a haven where “rugged luxury meets unregulated freedom.” And what better way to exemplify that motto than through their thriving equine programme? Embracing the Sumbalese culture’s reverence for their horses, these majestic animals are the heart and soul of NIHI Sumba.
Carol Sharpe is NIHI Sumba’s resident horse whisperer. She and her husband were living in Bali specialising in villa and hotel development when he was first called on to join in the redevelopment of NIHI Sumba. After an opportunity to run an on-site equestrian programme was identified, Sharpe jumped at the chance to take part and has been part of the project ever
since. “I did fall instantly fall in love with Nihi and Sumba during my visit and very much desired a reason to stay. As fate would have it, I learned the hotel had purchased two local Sumba ponies with the hope of creating some sort of equestrian activity for the hotel guests and there I saw my opportunity!” she says. Our Lifestyle Expert Ina Yulo Stuve speaks with Sharpe about
the unique relationship between horses and humans and why NIHI Sumba provides the perfect setting to cultivate that.
When did you first start getting involved with horses?
I was lucky enough to grow up in a very horsey environment. My family moved to the country when I was about 9 years old. A year earlier I had discovered my love for horses and riding
lessons so it was a dream come true when my parents purchased a horse agistment property for our new home.
What makes the Sumbalese culture so unique?
The raw beauty and wildness of the island still reflects deeply in its people and their culture. Here, animistic traditional beliefs hold fast with the majority and horses play an important role in
their customs; with the belief their soul is connected to the horse.
You’ve worked heavily with the local community to run the stables and guest programme. Why was it important for you to forge these connections?
All the stable horsemen are straight from the local villages, raised very traditionally, which is worlds apart from where I and most of the guests come from. And yet, through the experiences
and appreciation of horses, we come together with a common connection.
What are some of the characteristics of a Sandalwood pony?
Feisty, agile, and like most small breeds, they are cunning and smart but also very giving.
Could you tell me more about the horse whisperer sessions you hold for guests?
Learning the language of the horse is intriguing to most, but the great discovery in learning this is awareness of your own energy output and where you are in the moment–this is what horses
are masters at teaching.
Is there an especially memorable experience that comes to mind when you think about how you’ve facilitated the human-horse connection?
I would say each time I see a guest touch on a moment of letting go of any resistance between themselves and the horse and come to a space of understanding and knowing, it shows on their
face with an “ah ha!” expression, big smile, or tears of joy.
What are some of the biggest life lessons working with horses has taught you?
The value of being authentically true to myself and if I can live with more awareness in the present moment as horses do, I can create what goes on in my life more deliberately rather than
What are some of your favourite things to do on the island?
Definitely exploring the many village trails on horseback, where ascending cool mountain rainforest paths lead to stunning ocean vistas and acres of rice fields lay like a patchwork quilt
at the foot of traditional villages. Where the joyful smiles and greetings from the village children melt your heart, and the most traffic you are likely to encounter is a herd of buffalo passing your way.