Smiling happily after an hour in the saddle! What a Champ!
Parents often ask "What age do you take children on your trails" and it is such a difficult question as it depends entirely on the child.
We have taken many 4 year olds out on the trail - they usually have no problem managing the 1,5 hour trail and we have had 8 year old refuse to go anywhere near the horses.
So it depends alot on each individual, if they are confident and comfortable around animals, they will generally be absolutely fine on an outride.
This darling little girl, Angelique, is our youngest rider to date though - 2 years and 2 months. We had agreed on a quiet meander through the forest thinking that a short ride would be enough, but there was no turning back and she rode the whole way, forest trail and all!
Well done Angelique - we look forward to seeing you back soon!
We have a very exciting new project as part of our volunteer program this year. Some of the residents from the Institute for the Blind of Worcester will be joining us on a regular basis for Equine Therapy. What an incredible experience to introduce this friendly and interested group to our horses. It is a wonderful learning curve for us as well as the residents and as usual Bob and Thunder stole the show as being the most interactive with the new visitors. Although some of the participants had taken part in riding activities previously, this was the first time they learnt about horses, catching, grooming and even leading them! We hope to have them riding soon, but we still need to build a suitable ramp to allow the residents to safely mount and dismount and we are also currently looking for more volunteers to assist during the sessions. For more information on the benefits of riding therapy for the visually impaired or if you would like to assist in any way, please contact Stephne Botha at the Worcester Blind Institute
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.
We have been surprised that a few guests appear to be taken aback that horse riding is by appointment only and that we also ask guests to arrive punctually - there are a few reasons for this.
Firstly the horses comfort, they cannot stand around all day with saddles and bridles on - not only is it boring, but they are unable to graze, eat or drink while saddled up.
Once we are finished a ride, the horses are unsaddled and put into their paddocks, it is not possible to keep horses saddled all day waiting for unexpected guests. Our horses lead as natural a life as possible and are therefore not kept in stables or small pens, they roam large paddocks around the farm.
There is a limit to the amount of exercise a horse can do in a day, so we manage the number of trail rides a horse does in a day and even over a week.
If you arrive late you stand a good chance of your riding time being shortened to avoid delaying the next scheduled group for the day or intruding on the horses bre
As we are often out on trails or working on the farm so if you arrive without an appointment you stand a good chance of wasting your time and effort to drive all the way out, only to find us out on a trail somewhere!
We like to spend time with all our guests and give them a chance to learn more about horses, enjoy the breathtaking scenery and relaxed atmosphere - so please do make an appointment!
We look forward to welcoming you at Horse About soon!
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.”