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
The spirit of the horse, is a magnificent teacher to humanity. In both their physical, as well as their archetypal form, horses help to bring us back to something wild and unrestrained, reminding us of a sense of freedom that many of us have forgotten. They teach us about honesty and authenticity, because they know no other way of being. They teach us about collaboration over dominance. And they teach us to respect and honor the unknown, rather than fear it and try to destroy it. ~ Tony Stromberg
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.
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?"
John and I have been working with a variety of horses for a lifetime and yet every day we experience or learn something new with our horses, they challenge us, teach us and frequently humble us by their willingness to take on new challenges. They also make us laugh and in this case make us wonder...
Our horses receive regular schooling to keep them fit and responsive on our trail rides. We avoid having brain washed horses that simply plod along nose to tail on the trail by keeping the schooling fun and varied.
On this particular afternoon my son took 3 of the horses - Commander, Sky and Thunder to the games field for some gymkhana work (great way to teach agility, suppleness and responsiveness). His plan was to ride one and leave the other 2 free to graze on the field. Which they usually do, they are completely familiar with the field. This worked fine when he rode Commander, but when he saddled up Sky and set off to warm her up first at a walk and then a trot, the geldings, Commander and Thunder, decided they wanted to take part too.
Being a warm day, I was pretty sure they would soon give up and return to grazing, but not a chance, they walked and trotted around behind Sky, doing whatever she was doing, change direction, circles... So Spike and Sky upped the ante a little and pushed in a canter, which started the games. Commander (now remember he had already been worked and the weather was hot) was not having little Sky beat him in a canter - while Thunder did extended trots, bucks and other antics not far behind. Even if they overtook for awhile - they would circle back to join Sky and Spike.. Commander in particular liked to be behind Sky or right next to her, Spike was able to lean over and pet him on his neck and back ..
Needless to say this turned into a fun play session, with all three horses and a human having fun alot of fun and learning.
For me it was a very special moment as it is such an incredible thing to see horses enjoying being with "their" human and enjoy some good old horse play!
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.”