It's Better to Travel than Arrive?

"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive"

Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque, 1881.

"Robert Louis Stevenson speaks utter tosh and has

obviously never flown long haul economy class"

Kristy, first ever blog post, 2011.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Macatoo Camp - The Horses

There are now 48 horses in the Macatoo barn and there's not a duff one amongst them.  There is a horse for everyone, ranging from 14hh to over 18hh.  These horses are incredibly well cared for and in top notch condition.  They are forward going and well schooled.  I was honest about my riding level and I was matched to horses who were forward, but also had really good brakes (which was what I was most worried about).

You have to remember that you're riding in Africa - there are lions, leopards and other things that would take great pleasure in killing and eating you and your horse.  You listen to your guide and stay behind him.  He is armed with a rifle, you aren't.  He knows where he's going, you don't.  He knows what'll eat you and use your bones to pick its teeth, or eat part of you and then use your entrails as Christmas decorations, you don't.  Basically, trust your guide and do what he says.

During the horse briefing, your amazing guide will give you all the information you need to stay safe.  My briefing essentially was:-

  • Stay behind him unless he says otherwise.
  • Watch him for hand signals.
  • If you happen to fall off your horse while you're moving along, stay still.  The rear guide is watching you and they won't leave you behind.  Promise.
  • If there’s an emergency and you fall off your horse, also stay still.  Even if you are looking at something that will eat you or smoosh you into the dirt.  Really.
  • If there’s an emergency and you stay on your horse, ride away with the rear guide and leave your guide to deal with the problem.
  • He’s armed with a rifle, radio, first aid kit, etc.  

There are two rides a day, the first leaving at 7am for around 4 hours with a stop about halfway for a drink from your water bottle (in a saddle bag attached to your horse) and a lovely snack.  The morning ride is mainly walk and canter, sometimes gallop.  The terrain appears flat, but there are holes, logs and high grass.  You are not cantering in a straight line on a flat clear surface, you’re weaving around, following your guide, over very uneven ground. 

The afternoon ride leaves at 5pm and goes for about 1.5 hours.  It’s a walk/trot ride to get you used to your horse in the cooler part of the day.  If you're going to try a new horse, you try it on the afternoon ride, and then ride it again on the next days morning ride before it has some time off.
When you're riding, try and stay on the movement, and don’t look down, keep looking forward and focussing on your guide and the surrounding countryside.  These horses will do their best to keep you on top, but it’s really down to you to look after yourself and the welfare of your horse.  The guide also uses hand signals to indicate which animals are where and what speed you're going to be going at - keep an eye on him.

I rode five horses over the week - Champion, Khwai, Foster, Moko & Abu.  They were all fantastic, and I'll blog about each of them separately.

Stay tuned for Champion ...

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