Capturing the magic of moonlight!
I wonder if the magic of riding by moonlight would wane if there were more regular dates to enjoy our trails by moonlight!
Young and old are always blown away by the excitement of heading out into a darkening sky and searching in anticipation for the moment when the bright moon pops over the Witzenberg range.
Situated high up in the shadow of the imposing mountain range., the moon is late in showing her face, but riding under an ever darkening sky, you can see the valley below lighting up until the rays brighten up the gulley and suddenly the moon crests the high peaks.
Riding home on paths lit by moonlight, guests always exclaim in surprise at the long moonshadows of horse and rider.
This past weekend we enjoyed 2 beautiful moonlight rides, on the one ride there were children who had never seen a full moon rise and certainly no one had experienced moonrise on horseback before!
Back home at the hitching post, once the horses were unsaddled and grazing for the night, we sat back on the lawn enjoying the magic and great company of guests from around the world!
Thank you Søren Schaller for capturing some of the stunning moments and sharing with us! We hope to see you back in the saddle soon!
Romantic Horse Trails - be a knight in shining armour!
Our Romantic Horse Trails are very popular as an ideal and unique way to propose to your special one. Let us arrange special touches or surprise stop overs to make your day truly memorable! Here are a few images from some of our special request Horse Trails.
Asking "Will you?" is a very special day and important that all the little details are covered to celebrate this special event.
Buchu Plant along a Horse About Trail
The magical and aromatic Buchu was officially listed as a medicine in the British Pharmacopoeia in 1821! The medicinal benefits of the shrub were known for years by the Khoi pastoralists.
This evergreen aromatic shrub can grow up to 2m high, with oval leaves 10 – 20 mm long, and white to pink flowers. Fruits are five-segmented capsules which split open when dry to release the small black seeds.
Buchu is a highly valued commodity and a license is required to harvest the bushes, but sadly in many areas over harvesting has lead to a reduction in naturally occurring Buchu.
Buchu grows along of our fynbos routes, on the higher slopes, it's strong scent is released when brushed by the horses leaves. In fact the genus name "Agathosma" means "good fragrance".
For more information on the wonderful properties of this plant, read more
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
Evaluating your riding skill and comfort correctly, before joining us on a ride, are essential for your safety and enjoyment. Unfortunately for many infrequent riders they have little to compare to so please always ask if you are unsure.
Many establishments are happy to "pack 'em in and pack 'em out" but Safety is our first priority and we do prefer that our guests enjoy their experience with us.
Our horses are well schooled, accustomed to the trails and do a great job of adjusting to different riders, regardless if they are novice or advanced. We have trails and horses to suit all levels, literally from novice and never ridden to experienced and competitive riders.
However we are dependent on your evaluation of your riding skill when you book.
Unless you are traveling as part of a group, you will usually be riding with other guests. Advanced riders are (understandably) likely to get frustrated if they are forced to walk on the Witzenberg Trail. This happens when inexperienced riders overestimate their riding ability.
Horse riding uses a very different set of muscles to your normal fitness, so if you are unfit we recommend that you book the shorter trail ride to avoid being too stiff. We don't recommend more than an hour and a half for beginners or anyone who has not ridden before. We don't recommend more than 2 hours in the saddle for novices and unfit riders.
Rather underestimate your riding skills unless you are an experienced horse rider.
Riding out in the open and riding foreign horses can "upset" guests who have only ever ridden in an enclosed area or only ride one horse.
There is nothing quite so rewarding as seeing a nervous or novice rider relax and start enjoying their horses, or advanced riders enjoying the freedom of a good canter.
We really enjoy having time to relax riders and teach some basic skills out on the trail, but we can only really allow time for this if you have booked a trail with riders of a similar level.
Are you truly comfortable at a canter?
Many see themselves as romantically galloping across the plains either as Clint Eastwood or Julia Roberts.. but without the practice it can turn into something closer to a nightmare on a runaway train.. or at the very least some extreme discomfort to certain body parts.
If you have never had any formal instruction or if you still need to hold onto the saddle at any speed, are not sure of how to use your lower leg or what it means to keep contact with your horses mouth - we highly recommend rating yourself as a novice rider.
Many of our guests book a short course in riding when they suddenly realise how much more they enjoy horse riding when they actually know what they are doing and start to feel in control of their horse. Once you have the basics it is like riding a bicycle, even if you don't ride regularly, you will be much safer when you do!
When in doubt ask and we will gladly assist you in choosing the best trail ride!
Some guests are somewhat taken aback when we ask about their height and weight when booking a horse ride, one gentleman even said that he "didn't discuss his weight.." and occasionally we have had guests who have clearly underestimated their weights!
Whilst it can be a touchy subject for some and can become awkward - it is even more so for the horse who will be carrying you!
Horses can comfortably carry about 15 to 20% of their weight - over that it not only causes the horse pain and discomfort, but it also becomes unsafe for both horse and rider.
Imagine how unstable you are when carrying a weight on your back, if you trip or slide, the weight unbalances you and you are more likely to fall - the same applies for the horse.
Experienced riders generally ride in better balance with the horse, whereas novice riders tend to "sit heavy".
Another important factor is physical fitness and mobility, in order to get into and out of the saddle, you will need some physical condition in order to support your body weight while you swing your leg over the horses back.
If you have a knee or ankle injury, do discuss with us so we can arrange the ideal activity for you.
When in doubt ask, please don't try to take a chance, we cannot endanger our horses or your safety.
Currently our maximum weight restriction is 95kgs - if you are tall and a few kilo's over, please just discuss with us.
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.
So you have never been on a horse before and the idea of four legs carrying you over the trails seemed to be a great idea, until you are faced with the prospect of a few hundred kg’s of muscled horseflesh and the realisation that “it doesn’t drive like a car”.
The good news is that whilst it is might not be as easy as hopping on and sitting back to enjoy the ride, novices and first time riders can enjoy horse back trails safely and experience the freedom of riding a horse, by following a few simple steps.
Firstly and most importantly, confirm that the riding establishment caters for novices, don't be tempted by experienced riding "friends" that you "will be fine" joining them for a gallop across the hills. This might appeal to your dreams of being a range cowboy, as romantic as the idea sounds, in the best case, your body will want to disown you for several days, worst case – well let’s say we get a fair number of guests every year who have been terrified by those experiences and never want to see a horse again.
Steady horses, easy trails and experienced guides are essential to ensure an enjoyable horseback trail.
For your first trip, we always recommend a maximum of one hour in the saddle, don’t overdo it, you can always come for more!
When booking always be honest about your horse riding ability, rather underestimate than over do it!
Wear comfortable clothing - long pants with no zips, buttons or decorations down the inner leg. (Leave the bling for the celebratory drinks afterwards!) Shorts might seem like the "cool" choice, but your bare legs will be far from cool after a short while in the saddle. Choose comfort before style - make sure you can sit comfortably; you don't want the circulation to your legs ended prematurely by those super skinny designer jeans!
Closed shoes, preferably with a low, flat heel. No bare feet, sandals or high heels (you laugh - it happens..)
Head protection - we always recommend that you wear a riding hat. Most trail riding companies have hats or helmets, if they don’t; we suggest you borrow one.
Your guide will give you a short introduction on the basics of guiding and controlling your horse, it is essential to listen and ask questions if you are not sure.
Always approach the horses from the front, regardless of how quiet they might seem. Talk to them…okay yes if you must.. “Hello horsey horsey” is better than quietly sneaking up on them! Being a flight animal, a startled horses’ reaction could send you flying. We recommend that you let the guide bring your horse to you at the mounting area.
Young children in particular tend to get over excited at the sight of horses and want to rush up and hug them, please don’t let them “go wild”, let the guides do the introductions, remind kids to speak quietly and calmly!
Take a moment to acquaint yourself with your horse, let him sniff you and give him a stroke, ask his name! Horses are not motorbikes that you hop on and turn a key!
Mounting blocks are frequently a battle of egos; men particularly like to believe they can swing into the saddle like John Wayne, well actually, whilst the mounting block will save you from some undignified positions, they are there to save the horse and saddle, so use them!
BEFORE putting your foot in the stirrup, HOLD the reins – do not let them go at any stage while you are on the horse, even if your horse seems to be sound asleep! That doesn’t mean you have to clutch them in a deathgrip – most trail horses are accustomed to riding on a loose rein, but again let your guide help you.
Your guide will help you with directing and managing your horse. Horses sense your feelings and can see through “cover-ups” of bravado, so just relax – BREATHE if you find that are particularly tense. If you are tense you will not move in rhythm with the horse, making for an uneasy ride for both of you.
Don't expect to learn how to ride in one session, if you feel like you would like to take it to the next level, book some riding lessons as it will take practice and focus to get the hang of the basics. And don't be tempted to show off, 90% of the time this ends in tears and pain..
If you feel unsafe – GET OFF! As a novice, you should be on a reliable and well trained horse, not something that could turn into a runaway train at the drop of a hat! At horseAbout trails we often lead our first timers, allowing them the chance to settle into the rhythm of horseback riding before getting to grips with the “steering”.
When you get back to the stables, wait for direction from the guides and/or staff. Just because your horse is standing still, don’t let go of the reins!!!
Also don’t crowd other horses and people, wait your turn. Once you are off – don’t just walk away, take a moment to give your horse a little appreciation – a pat or a rub is a good way to say thank you. We don’t recommend giving out treats unless under the guidance of the staff, check with them first!
Horse riding is really something for the whole family so next time you are looking for something fun and outdoors to do with your family, why not “saddle up”?
Safe riding everyone!
From the horseAbout Team.
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.”