Harriet Walker is swapping hunting and horses in Leicestershire for three months as a working pupil at Limpopo Valley Horse Safaris in Botswana. Follow her journey on www.horseandhound.co.uk as she jets off on her very own African adventure…
Although I left Heathrow to both parents in tears, my flight was surprisingly good and I even managed to get some sleep! I was met by a car, and along with some of the guests who were travelling through In The Saddle, we began the 7 hour transfer from Johannesburg to Limpopo Valley Safaris. It was an amazing drive despite the length, with spectacular views. Everywhere is very dry – certainly different to what I left behind in the UK – and there is so much space and open land!
I arrived at 2.30pm and the first thing I noticed was the heat! At around 37 degrees I can safely say that packing three jumpers was three too many! I was made to feel so welcome, there are 18 members of staff and they were all there when I arrived, as it was the first day of the safari. At first I felt like a very small fish in a big pond but within minutes they had all welcomed me and we were talking like old friends.
Over the first couple of days I spent time schooling and lungeing some of the horses, went on a couple of hacks and then got to go on my first safari ride! It was awesome – I saw elephants, giraffes and all sorts of wildlife, including a young hyena, which thought it was very funny to pretend to stalk us! Every time I turned round it was frozen to the spot but a few yards ahead of where it had been before – it was very entertaining!
At the end of the week we had lessons with an English event rider, Jonathan Chapman who was over to go on safari and teach some of the staff. He picked up on the same bad habits that my instructor at home picks up on so in some ways it was very familiar, however instead of having 30 coloured poles with different wings to jump we had three painted tree trunks and a selection of barrels to choose from!
The horses are all lovely – I was really shocked at how beautifully schooled they all are. I have already fallen in love with a young horse called Foxy, he is only four years old and I am hoping they won’t notice if I sneak him back in my suitcase at the end of my time here!
I am enjoying everything and having so much fun! I can’t really believe that I have only been here a little over a week –it feels like so much longer!