We regularly take novice guests on our rides, many have never ridden a horse, while others are simply terrified of these large creatures. So many people have been told that "horses sense your fear " - this only serves to increase anxiety levels for most people.
Yes horses are very perceptive animals and do sense fear and anxiety, but most horses are kind animals and are not going to react adversely to your nervousness, particularly if the horses are with a leader they trust, be in human or equine.
our guests often giggle or look at us oddly when we remind them to BREATHE! Usually as soon as we say this they exhale deeply and normal colour starts returning..
Why do we say this? Well it is best explained in a few words from the wise man, Monty Roberts - "Breathing is critically important to successfully maintaining low adrenaline levels"
It is very difficult to remain tense if you focus on your breathing for just a short while - and when you are relaxed you will enjoy yourself more.
Horses don't "smell fear" they react to your fearful reactions - your body gets tense, you hold the reins too tightly and most likely you cant focus on what the coach or horse are trying to tell you. So if you find yourself getting tense in any "scary" situation, focus on your breathing - and you'll be surprised how quickly everything changes!
Happy and Safe Riding!
from the Horse About team
Our first volunteer program in conjunction with the Steinthal Children's Home in Tulbagh, has not only been a learning experience for the children, but it has also been an interesting learning curve for us and the horses too! Just goes to show you are never too old to learn!
Whilst the children's excitement at learning to ride a horse and the benefits of equine interaction was something we expected through our previous experience with equine therapy, there were other aspects we didn't expect to have our eyes opened to!
Some of the horses reactions to children learning to ride on them has astounded us - initially we only did ground work and basics of horse care with the children, but when it came to ride we decided it would be safer to change to some of the calmer school masters, but one boy, Jason, had other thoughts - he and "Bob" have developed a bond and he was determined to stay with Bob despite all our warnings that Bob is a little too feisty for a beginner.
Keep in mind that Bob was a top polo pony and his 0 to 100 km p hr touch is very light.. imagine teaching someone to drive in a sports car... But at Jason's persistence, we decided to give it a try.. Bob's expression when Jason started bouncing around on his back while learning the trot was a picture, ears swivelling and twirling he was asking lots of questions, but he soon decided that actually it was ok and that this guy would get it right eventually - which he did.. so we were proven wrong again.. Jason's smile when he said "I learnt to trot on Bob", said it all.
Obviously we will keep a beady eye on those two as confidence increases!
The children all love going on out rides, they say they love the space and freedom of being out and "up the mountain" on horseback! Whilst on the outrides, we picked up that they are not familiar with many things like the names of the mountain ranges surrounding our valley, or what "renosterveld" and "fynbos" are - the first time I asked one of them to ride around a "renosterbos" I was asked if there was a rhino somewhere! They do however know that the Proteas are our Cricket team!! So now our rides have another feature, we teach the names of the plants (those that we know) and why they are important, the children get to experience first hand the effects of erosion and fires, learn about alien vegetation and with spring around the corner, we are now discovering the early flowers starting to bloom. We pick up litter, close gates and generally learn about nature. Through the children's growing awareness and questions, we have become more conscious of many things we take for granted on a daily basis!
We are very proud to be working with the Steinthal Children's Home on our first volunteer project and hope to soon be able to accommodate more children in our program. We would also like to thank all the very generous people who have given our horses grazing, donated equipment and generally offered support, your kindness and generosity makes this all possible.
The therapeutic benefits of interacting with horses have been known for years and horses are widely used for a variety of therapeutic programs world wide. Being with horses allows all participants to learn about themselves, other people and interacting with the world. It's not just about teaching riding or horse care skills, while working with horses participants learn the importance of respect and leadership too.
Befriending such a big and gentle animal such as a horse can also be a huge confidence booster.
Firmly believing in the quote "the outside of a horse is good for the inside of man" we started a volunteer program that will enable a group of less advantaged children from the local Steinthal Children's Home to learn about and interact with our horses. Education is also a vital part in creating awareness about animal care and lessening cruelty to animals.
The 10 children are split into two groups of boys and girls and each group spends 2 hours every week with the horses, grooming, undertaking challenges and also learning to ride. It is touching to see the bonds they have already formed with their favourite horse and how many of them enjoy simply "hanging out" with the horses. The photographs tell their own story.
The benefit of these sessions are obvious when each week these children ask " Can we come again next week?"
As many of you know, John is not only fantastic with “problem” horses but is also a very experienced speed event coach. John travels the country giving clinics for both riders and horses.
He recently travelled to Darling to coach a very keen group of students some of the necessary skills needed for competing successfully in speed events. Speed events such as Gymkhana and Western Mounted Games are great fun for the whole family and are seeing a huge growth in interest. As these events involve negotiating obstacles and completing patterns against the clock, good horsemanship is vital to attain accuracy at speed. Horses need to be properly trained and prepared for these agility games whilst the riders need to learn how to ride in an independent seat and coached on how to apply aids correctly and accurately. The success of Johns experience and fun training methods was obvious in the advancements made in one day, and it wasn’t just ponies at work, there was even a 17 hh thoroughbred learning new things!
Thank you once again for the wonderful wealth of information and experience you shared with all of us at the western mounted games clinic I held on Monday the 9th of April.
The clinic was held at the farm Suurfontein on the west coast road near Yzerfontein and Darling as an introduction to western mounted games and with the view to forming a club in our district. I invited John up to assist the riders with general skills related to riding and training their horses specifically geared at skills needed for mounted Games. And I concentrated on an introduction to the various events ie; the keyhole race , speed barrels , poles and the hurry scurry etc.
Well it is needless to say, we had a ball of a time, and could not have asked for a better instructor, even my 12 year old was amazed at the connection between dressage and the classical training with games and agility sports on horse back. It is so necessary to get the foundation right and the fun just follows naturally!
It was a wonderful experience and opportunity for me to work beside john and I really appreciate his input. You will be back John!
Regards Tanya Menhinick
“We all had a ball of a time! And everyone would love John to come back soon to help with a schooling clinic” Tanya
John & Jo
We are the owners of horseAbout Trails & Adventures in the Western Cape.
“We left the premises with heart full of joy, love for these amazing horses and admiration for the lifestyle of John and his family.”