Do you have a favorite horse breed?
How many horses do you currently stable?
Describe the perfect horse...
Another difficult one to answer! In truth there really isn’t such a thing as a perfect horse – much as there isn’t a perfect person or car!!! However, a horse that appeals to me is one which has some character, is keen to learn and enjoys his/her work. Conformation, looks, and breeding are quite low on the list for me!
How do you pick riding trails/destinations?
The most important factor is professionalism, I believe, and whilst there are many options available - fortunately, most of them very good, there are, unfortunately, some that really should not be in operation. Priority is that the horses are well cared for and are well mannered and that clients are looked after. Matching the right rider to a ride is as important as matching a rider to a horse and impartiality is important when recommending a ride to a client. Every ride will tell you that they are “the best” but that is subjective, of course! The personalities that run, look after, and guide the rides will make or break a safari experience or riding adventure. As such, I spend a lot of time visiting rides and getting testimonials from clients to ensure that they operate within reasonable constraints and to ensure that we exceed our clients’ expectations.
It depends a little on the time of year, but most important to remember are: khaki/neutral colors (you don’t want to “stand out” when you’re on safari), a little camera, binoculars, your favorite riding kit and a hat with shade. If it’s a cooler time of year then thermals are a great way to keep warm as dressing in layers is recommended and if it’s during rainy season, a good light-weight waterproof!
Do you have a favorite riding anecdote to share?
There are many! The safaris are always great fun as well as interesting, with the potential of an “up-close” encounter with wild game. I was camp manager at the time we had a lovely wedding in camp and for the days before the ceremony (yes, the bride and groom got married on horseback!). We had been searching everywhere for the elusive pack of wild dogs that we knew were in the area. We had tracked and tracked on horseback, then got in vehicles but had no luck and with the excitement of the wedding, the wild dog side of things became less of a priority. But not to them, it seems, as when the ceremony had finished and I was bringing (more) champagne from the kitchen area to the party by the mess tent, I was almost knocked down by an impala being chased down by 3 wild dogs. Needless to say, we all forgot about the champagne and in our fancy non-safari gear, jumped into the vehicle to follow them! We found them and that sighting was the highlight of the safari!
Do you have advice for novice riders?
Yes, absolutely! Being a novice rider is only a stage and we all start off as novices. There are many riders who have taken training to specifically meet the standards required to ride on safari. We are not looking for technical finesse but riders who are competent and confident enough to ride a well-mannered horse at all paces. By this we mean: balanced enough not to fall off easily and understanding enough of a sensible horse to allow him to do his job in partnership with you. Recommended are lessons in an arena, combined with out-rides including canters, perhaps some jumping/games to really ensure that you are used to the feel of a horse moving beneath you and maintaining your own balance in harmony. As much time in the saddle will only benefit. This also applies to competent or experienced riders – do take time to get riding fit before your adventure. It will be so much more fun.