XpBonaire IslandLife Feature Story
Rancho Washikemba, the horse ranch, was acquired in May, 2018, by new owners Irene Swier, Barend Klarenbeek and their daughter, Ella.
The new owners
Irene was given the gift of a new chapter in her life when they moved to Bonaire on her birthday. Barend was the former co-owner of an architecture office and an architect himself and Irene studied construction engineering. Both enjoy renovating old buildings. A 6 year project on a mid-1700s building in the Netherlands made them appreciate working together and they enjoyed the process of completing the project. While working on the final completion, they had already started to think about a new project they could work on together. While living in the Netherlands, Barend was directed towards a job opportunity overlooking a construction project on Bonaire. Since the two were looking for a new enterprise, they thought of taking on the challenge and moving to an island in the Caribbean where they had never been before. This was in 2015. The job didn’t work out, but Irene and Barend kept on thinking about Bonaire and decided to visit the island and see if there were other opportunities for them.
During their visit, it became clear that Bonaire was a great place for them. The atmosphere, the opportunities, the personal freedom and, of course, the climate made it a place where they wanted to start a new life. The two were very interested in the mansion, Karpata, but the project was more complicated than expected. While looking around, they also visited Rancho Washikemba, the horse ranch.
Irene, who has been horseback riding since she was 6 years old, had become a horseback riding instructor, specializing in natural horsemanship, training both horse and human on behavior and communication techniques. The two liked the ranch and thought it would be a good foundation on which to build their new life.
But Irene was pregnant and the threat of the Zika virus made them delay their move to the island until their daughter, Ella, was born and the three moved to their new home in May, 2018, on Irene’s birthday.
Rancho Washikemba has been known for their horseback riding tours where riders swim with the horses. The new owners took over these activities as they were, but wanted to expand their activities, especially offering activities for island residents.
As of now they have riding lessons on Saturdays and enjoy the noise and activity of children and grown-ups on the ranch.
Irene and Barend are planning to start additional group lessons on Tuesdays and offer private lessons. Besides the riding lessons, they will also offer natural horsemanship lessons for beginners and experienced riders to improve their techniques for handling horses and themselves.
The couple has plans to improve the ranch and the horse stalls, to make their daily work easier and more efficient and bring more comfort to their visitors and fellow riders.
Irene and Barend are excited to develop their many plans and have their daughter grow up on the island and have a rich and fullfilling life. Plans include having the 15 horses on the ranch spend more time outside the stalls and Irene will be training the younger horses to make them stronger and good horses for tours and lessons.
You can visit the horse ranch, take a look and talk to Irene and Barend about the possibilities for you or your children.
Address: Washikemba #54 (head in the direction of Lagoen and follow the Rancho Washikemba signs)
Phone: +599 788 8668 or +599 786 7321
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 8:00–12:00 and 14:00–18:00
Sunday on request.
Reservations are necessary.