Riding expeditions

My Magical Mongolian Adventure!

Claire Douglas from In The Saddle tells us about her recent trip to Mongolia. Here, she highlights the best bits of her trip from the tiny horses to amazing vistas.


I was so excited when I was offered the chance to visit Mongolia as it has been a lifelong dream of mine to go there!  I think this is because of its strong connection to horses and how horses are still central to the country’s culture.  I set off to my epic trip half way across the world, landing in Ulaanbaatar, the capital.  I was joining a special agent trip combining the current rides we offer, so that I could experience the two very different locations, the Orkhon valley and the Bayan Gobi desert.

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The view of the Orkhon valley

Shortly after arriving, we were whisked off to the Hustai National Park for a late lunch followed by a jeep safari to spot the wild Przewalski horses (the Mongolian word is ‘takhi’) that have been re-introduced into the park in 1992.  Due to their great camouflage they were very difficult to spot!  Eventually we had a sighting and rushed over in the jeep to see them, parking nearby.  After a short walk up hill we spied the herd and their babies.  It was a great sight to see the closest link to prehistoric horses that exists nowadays.

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Tahki horses in Hustai National Park

After this we drove a further four hours towards to the Orkhon valley arriving at night at our next ger camp.  Ger is the Mongolian word for yurt.  We also met the horses and the herdsmen to be accompanying us the next day.

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A traditional ‘ger’ tent

I was paired with a small chestnut horse (around 12hh) with a small white marking on his forehead.  He was incredibly sweet and very responsive to neck reining (which is how they have trained the horses to steer).  It does take some time to adjust to these tiny horses (I’m 5’ 8’’) with their short strides and flattish gaits.  Mongolians traditionally ride in wooden framed saddles (see below) luckily for us they have adapted more comfortable saddles for the guest riders (although less colourful).  The adapted saddles consist of a cushioned frame with metal handles to the front and back which is comfortable for long hours in the saddle.  It is a different riding style compared with traditional English riding as Mongolians stand in the stirrups during anything faster than a walk for long periods at a time.  I found the stamina of these horses to be incredible, they just keep going and going! We completed 40 km the first day and due to their size and flattish gait, the overall experience was quite smooth and not too tiring.

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A Mongolian horse with traditional saddle

Another highlight was staying with a traditional Mongolian family.  It was fascinating to see how they live without many of the modern day conveniences that we take for granted such as running water and electricity.  Family life is very busy with the men herding the animals and tending to them whilst the women milk the mares and yaks as well as cooking for the family.  We were invited to bring the yaks down from the mountains which was a magical experience during a golden sunset.

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Milking of the yaks! Always done by the women.

Then next day we rode to Orkhon Falls, a beautiful waterfall appearing out of nowhere.  As we were out of season there was no one else there and it was great to have the view to ourselves. After lunch we jumped back into the cars and headed towards our next location, the Bayan Gobi desert.

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Orkhon Falls

We were paired up with new mounts (another little chestnut for me) and I found riding in the desert was really fun, especially up and down the dunes. However it is slower paced than the riding on the steppe as the sand is hard work for the horses.

Once we reached our lunch spot we were surprised by a caravan of camels heading in our direction, what a sight to behold!  We had the opportunity of riding these majestic beasts!  What a different sensation to riding a horse, much slower and much further off the ground.  We set off around the dunes finishing off with a race (mine decided not to enter and went no faster than a walk!)

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Bactrian camels

My trip ended with a visit to Gandan monastery and a traditional Mongolian show.  It was an amazing experience to see traditional musicians, throat singers and even a contortionist.  The show was really a first class experience.

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Traditional mask to ward away enemies

This is a country unlike any other I had visited before, the big blue skies and endless scenery have really made a lasting impression on me.  Riding these little horses alongside generations of horsemen is an experience I will never forget.

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A local herdsman

In The Saddle covers a range of adventurous rides in Mongolia:

For those adventurous souls who enjoy camping we have:

Camping trail, 12 nights, staying in 2 person tent, you explore remote areas of the Orkhon valley.  On three days you ride into the Naiman Nuur Park with pack yaks. You spend one night spent with a Mongolian family and another at a semi-permanent ger camp.


The tents used on the Orkhon Valley Camping trail and Mongolia Express rides.

This is a a truly, ‘into the wild’ experience as on part of this trail your kit is carried by pack yaks as the area is inaccessible to vehicles.

The pace on these days will be dictated by the terrain and the pack yaks


The pack yaks, leading the way!

For those who like the idea of a two destination camping holiday exploring both the desert and steppe, we have:

Dunes and Steppes of Mongolia, 12 nights, this combines riding in the Orkhon valley with riding in the Bayan Gobi Desert.  You stay in 2 person tents, spend one night in a ger next to a Nomadic family and one night at a semi-permanent ger camp.

The variety of scenery is amazing, riding in the desert is a fun experience.

The desert is tends to be slower paced than riding in the steppe due to the sand being hard work for the horses.

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Bayan Gobi Desert

If you don’t wish to camp but still want to experience this great country, the following trail would be suitable as you stay in comfortable gers along the way:

Ger trail, 12 nights, you stay at semi-permanent ger camps along the Orkhon valley and spend one night close to a Nomadic family.

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Semi-permanet ger camp at Hustai National Park

Mongolia Express, 7 nights, for those short on time this camping trail offers 5 days riding through Central Mongolia. You spend one night camping close to a Mongolian family.

For more information on the Mongolian rides or to book your place please call Claire on +44 1299 272 243 or email claire@inthesaddle.com.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, in the saddle, Riding expeditions, Riding Holidays, Travel news | Tags:

Discovering Kyrgyzstan

In this edition of GG Journeys, In The Saddle’s Lucy Downes tells us about her adventure in Kyrgyzstan in August.


When I told my friends and family where I would be going, many had not heard of Kyrgyzstan and didn’t have any idea where in the world it was.

Kyrgyzstan Political Map

My journey started at Son Kul Lake – which is between the Y and Z for KYRGYZSTAN in the map above.

Kyrgyzstan is a small country in the middle of Central Asia. It is bordered by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China. The country is 90% mountains and I would be exploring the Kyrgyz Ala Too mountain range in the centre of the Chu Valley.


The mountain views just go on and on…

I flew with Aeroflot from London Heathrow to Bishkek, via Moscow. I hadn’t flown with this airline before, but I thought I would test it out because of the good connections and reasonable fare. The flight to Moscow is just over 3 hours and from there, I had a further 3.5 hours to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. I was very impressed with Aeroflot and I will be recommending this route to our future guests.


The flag of Kyrgyzstan is red with a yellow sun in the centre that contains a depiction of a yurt.

I was met at the airport by Yann Guillerm, the owner and a guide and was whisked away into the mountains to meet the group. The ‘Great Trek’ is an epic 17 night adventure on horseback but if you’re short on time you can join the first 9 nights (Secret 1) or the last 11 nights (Secret 2). I was riding Secret 2, which starts at the beautiful Son Kul Lake. The rest of my group were on the full Great Trek and it was really interesting listening to their stories of the journey so far.


Son Kul Lake.

We spent a couple of nights at Son Kul Lake as the highly nutritious grass by the lake shore is great for the horses while they rest, recuperating for the second half of the trek. Whilst at the lakes, we watched the exciting games played by the locals – using a dead goat – it was kind of like rugby on horseback!


Getting close to the action during the games.

All the horses owned by Yann, Helene (Yann’s sister and another guide) and the team are much loved, well fed and great at their jobs. The geldings used for the guests on trail live in a herd up in the mountains throughout the season so they all get on together and it is a pleasure to ride them next to each other in an open order. They are strong working horses responding to voice commands, neck reining and traditional English riding. I had full faith in my boy throughout – from clambering up rocky tracks, navigating a narrow pass or leading him down a shingle slope.


Enjoying the mountain grass.

A highlight of this trip for me was being able to interact with the local people and help in looking after the horses. The tack, especially the saddle and girthing system, was a challenge at first but was a great feeling when mastered! The traditional, handmade saddles sit on top of blankets to keep the horse comfortable. Another blanket is then folded on top of the saddle to keep the rider comfortable.


My horse ‘Melman’ waiting patiently whilst I learned how to tack-up.

Sleeping in yurts, whilst being hosted by a local nomad family next to the lakes and in the mountains, with the flock of sheep outside, was a truly special and an unforgettable experience. All the families were friendly and great hosts – feeding us up for the next day’s riding and never letting my cup run out of Chai. All the meals were social occasions and we would often share the table with the team, local families and anyone else from the area who’d ridden in to meet us. Fresh bread and jams were the starter. Main was a traditional stew or soup and of course, lots of Chai. After dinner, we would rummage through our luggage and share sweets and chocolate which was a welcome treat. A round of UNO or other card games whilst wrapped in our sleeping bags was a nice way to wind down for the night.

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Most families have two yurts – one where they sleep and another where they cook.

The scenery on this ride is stunning and ever changing. The lakes and rivers are crystal clear, although very cold when having a quick wash whilst camping! From the top of a mountain peak, we had a view that went on for miles. All the guides have great knowledge of the area and Helene (my guide for this trek) pointed out towns in the distance, where we had come from and where we would be going. Helene is also really knowledgeable about the local traditions and culture on Kyrgyzstan and shared her stories over lunch and dinner.


If the path was narrow, we would ride in single file. But most of the time we rode in an open order.

I rode up rocky mountain passes, across open flat farm land (which is great for a canter), and over green rolling hills where mare herds roam and sheep gaze. As the pace is mainly at walk due to the terrain and long hours, there were plenty of opportunities to take photos and enjoy my surroundings.


Me and Melman after having a lovely canter through some open farmland.

Stopping for a picnic lunch on the side of a mountain, often next to a stream, was just perfect. After refueling with pasta, bread and a couple of sweets there would be time for a nap or quick explore on foot of the area.


Leading the horses on foot down steep descents was great for stretching our legs.

On our last day before we all flew home, we had a full day exploring Bishkek and we visited the bazaar (like a market) which was eye opening! The bazaar is huge and Helene guided us through stopping at shops and speaking to the locals. I could have bought anything from fishing tackle to textiles and from spices to a new TV. Bishkek has a population of around 1 million and it was a massive adjustment being surrounded by people again having spent so long in the mountains.

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The market was so big – it was very reassuring to have such a knowledgeable guide like Helene to show us around.

This trek is not just about riding through great scenery – it’s about immersing yourself in the culture, trying traditional dishes freshly prepared (such as fermented mare’s milk called ‘kumiss’), learning the history of this great country and enjoying a digital detox.

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Blue skies and the open landscape made for beautiful sunsets.

The 2018 dates and prices are out and if you’d like more information about riding in Kyrgyzstan and wish to book your place, please contact Lucy on +44 1299 272 238 or via email lucy@inthesaddle.com.


Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Riding expeditions | Leave a comment

I Left my Heart in the Namib Desert

In this blog entry Abbie from In The Saddle tells us about her trip to Namibia earlier this year.


A blog is something I do when I return from a trip, to summarise and recount amazing horsey adventures in far off lands. But I’ve been putting off writing this one. Why? Because writing a blog means the trip is over, as if stamping the experience with a definitive “The End”, and if I’m honest I don’t really want to do that.

The Namib Desert Ride is more than a riding holiday, more than the sum of its parts – fast riding, camping and long days in the saddle – it is an experience like no other. I’ll tell you all about it, and although I am sad it is over, I’m sure I will enjoy reliving the most incredible adventure I’ve ever had.

When I last visited Namibia in 2012 I fell in love with the wide open spaces, a nothingness which has to be seen to be believed. The vast plains and endless horizons seem to encourage you to take time out from everyday life and just stop, and breathe, and take it all in. What stayed with me particularly was being in the desert, the feeling of freedom above the deep red soil and below the bright blue skies. I simply couldn’t wait to get back to the Namib Desert, where mile upon mile of open space seems to call you – it has to be the ultimate place for limitless canters.

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Namibia – the perfect place for limitless canters

In August I travelled to Namibia to cross the oldest desert in the world on horseback. The Namib Desert route is one of In The Saddle’s more challenging rides, encompassing a journey on horseback of some 320km from close to the desert oasis of Solitaire to Swakopmund on the fierce Atlantic coast. Ever since I joined In The Saddle back in 2006 I’ve been dying to do this ride and when the opportunity came up I literally jumped (up and down) at the chance!

Our riding group meets for the first time at River Crossing, a comfortable guesthouse on the outskirts of Windhoek. We are twelve riders in total, from France, England, South Africa and Denmark. About half the group have their own horses, but everyone has ridden for many years and all are experienced in the saddle. Our guide Andrew Gillies meets us at 17:00 for the ride briefing. After a thorough run through of ride safety and the signals Andrew will use to chance pace, we begin to relax and look forward to the adventure ahead. Over a cool gin and tonic we introduce ourselves and Andrew asks us what sort of riders we are and what we look for in a horse. Requests vary from “fast and spirited” and “fun and forward-going” to “easy to stop”. It is this information along with the details from travel companies like In The Saddle that Andrew and Telane use to allocate horses. A delicious three course evening meal and plenty of wine awaits, before early to bed after a long day of travelling.

The next day we are up early for our transfer to our first campsite at Ababis. It is a journey of about four hours and we spot oryx, springbok, baboons and secretary bird along the way. We stop at a viewpoint on the way and Andrew points out where we are going to be riding in the days to come. The incredible view heightens our excitement as we imagine the journey ahead – think of the amazing views, the adventure, the endless canters – we cannot wait! The sheer open space and lack of people will take some getting used to…whether you come from busy London or rural Shropshire.

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The viewpoint – taking in the vast desert landscape

We reach camp around midday and are met by Phoebe, Telane and Kim. The team take it in turns as back-up guide, but on this particular trip we are in the very capable hands of Kim from Germany who is on her third stint as volunteer. Kim is great fun to ride with and clearly loves her forays into the wilderness of Namibia. Phoebe is a constant beacon of fun and positivity. Cheerfully waving us off each day and then racing against the clock with the back-up crew to set up the lunch spot or the next campsite whilst at the same time preparing mouth-watering meals – she accomplishes so much that we begin to wonder whether she has an identical twin!

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“Phoebe’s Food Truck” – always a welcome sight

Telane, biologist and wild horse researcher, is in charge of the horses’ welfare. During the trip Telane is more often found with the horses than the humans, as she carefully checks them for sore spots, lameness and other ailments. I was fascinated to hear that when she meets a guest for the first time Telane will often ‘see’ a horse. For example when she met Claire on our trip, Telane ‘saw’ Lavoca. This was a great match as throughout the week Claire rode her horse with great sensitivity and I loved seeing them at a speedy canter weaving in and out between other riders, eager to get to the front, a big smile on both their faces!

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Claire and Lavoca – a perfect match (image courtesy of Joe Davies)

Next we are given a run through of what to do when we reach camp each evening. The horses are un-tacked, allowed to roll and led to water. Then they are left to dry and are brushed off later (we usually do this whilst waiting in the shower queue). Then we can take a stretcher bed, bedroll and bag to a spot of our choice, be it beside a tree, next to the horses or close to the campfire. The bedroll (each one named after animal species such as rhino, bush pig and impala so they don’t get mixed up) is ours for the duration of the ride and encompasses a sleeping mat, feather duvet and two pillows all tucked inside a waterproof and windproof canvas swag. The duvets are incredibly warm even if the pesky east wind is blowing, although there are extra blankets to use if you feel the cold.

After a lunch of oryx skewers, stuffed peppers, salad and fresh bread it is back on the road again as we travel the 150km to the famous red dunes of Sossusvlei. Andrew tells us about the different types of dunes. These dunes at Sossusvlei differ from those in the Kalahari because they are dynamic, ever-shifting in the wind and taking on a variety of shapes. We kick off our shoes and climb Dune 45, a few of us happy to go part of the way up and then sit and take in the view, whilst others climb right to the top. It is just beautiful.

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Karien taking in the view at Sossusvlei

Returning to camp we have time to de-sand ourselves with a hot shower before dinner. We are spoilt this evening as we are eased into camp life, for tonight we have hot running water and flush loos. There is much giggling over the ‘mini-Sossusvlei’ left in the shower by a fellow rider – how on earth did she manage to get that much sand into her shoes and still walk?! Making my way back to my stretcher after a shower I make the mistake of hanging my towel to dry on a nearby tree…only the following morning do I realise I’ve used a camelthorn tree and it takes a while to extract my towel from its fierce spikes!

Today’s the day – we get to meet our horses and set off on our desert adventure. There is Marnie a sweet grey Arab mare, Xerox the ‘photocopier’ horse, speedy Sundown, the chestnut ‘pocket rocket’ whose speed has to be seen to be believed, Titan a handsome dun gelding, fast and spirited Raven, front-runner Zarron, well-mannered Coco and my own diminutive ‘black Philip’. He was in many ways exactly what I’d asked for (small and straightforward), but he was also so much more than this; I cherished his professionalism, sweet temper and polite enthusiasm from start to finish.

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Philip – the perfect gentleman

After a hearty breakfast it is time for a saddling demonstration. The horses are groomed and tacked-up with an incredible level of care, which is continued throughout the ride. After the usual first-day adjusting of stirrups and saddles we set off towards the oasis town of Solitaire about 15km away. The horses are keen, but controllable except perhaps Raven and Joe’s first horse, each having their own ideas about the speed we should be going at. At one point Joe disappears off in front at a purposeful but unintentional canter, only to double back at great speed heading straight for us. A swift bridle change makes little difference, so a horse change is quickly carried out instead – much better, and well ridden Joe. At Solitaire we enjoy a delicious lunch of quiche and salad, followed by the bakery’s famous apple crumble – yum. A further c. 15km ride in the afternoon takes us to the first of our beautiful wilderness camps, Koireb, nestled in a dry riverbed.

Over the next few days we settle into the wonderful rhythm of camp life. Literally we eat, sleep, ride and repeat. It is priceless, absolute bliss, as if you are in a little bubble where it is only your fellow riders, your guides, the back-up team and your horses and it feels almost as though your normal, everyday life doesn’t even exist.  The day begins with Zarron’s high-pitched whinny and the call of the French rooster. We wake up each morning and watch dawn creep onto the horizon, getting dressed as quickly as possible in the cool of the morning. That first cup of tea and a rusk has never been so delicious as you gather your riding gear and break down your little camping spot. Breakfast is taken around the fire, and then perhaps there is time to snatch a quiet moment with your horse before the adventures of the day begin.

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A quiet moment with Philip (image courtesy of Namibia Horse Safaris)

Each day we set off to journey through amazingly diverse desert scenery, cantering across the plains with oryx on one side and zebra on the other. We enjoy a cold Savannah cider and lunch in the shade, before setting off again for more incredible canters and gallops across the open terrain. We arrive in camp, un-tack and let the horses roll and drink, before sipping a cool G&T whilst grooming the horses. Then a quick bucket shower to wash away the red-brown dust of the desert.

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Ganab camp – Phoebe grooming the horses at sunset

Each evening Andrew gathers us around the fire saying ‘Dearly Beloved’ and outlines the plan for the following day. Each day is different and yet filled with the same magical ingredients of good company, incredible riding and thrilling gallops; the only thing that seems to remain the same is that “breakfast is at seven”! After a delicious two course meal we go to bed each night feeling nicely weary and drift off to sleep playing ‘join the dots’ with constellations or counting shooting stars in the amazing inky-black African sky.

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The Namib night sky (image courtesy of Tony Marshall)

One day we are doing some LSD (Long Slow Distance – Andrew’s term for a steady canter) and Andrew stops us all, saying he can see something unusual ahead. So we approach slowly and to our disbelief, there in the middle of the day is an aardvark! He is so intent on his quest for termites that he seems oblivious to our presence and we sit and watch him for ten minutes or so. We edge closer and closer until finally he spots us and darts away in confusion.

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An unusual sighting – an aardvark out in the daytime

Another day we are not far from camp and during a canter, our guide takes us on a winding route through bushes and low trees as the sun starts to fade. Before we know it we are out in open ground again and in front of us, as if by magic are three giraffe. What a wonderful sight to end another incredible day in the desert (although Coco is not a fan and is still snorting by the time we reach camp!).

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Spotting three giraffe – the perfect end to an incredible day

One day the group splits off into pairs and has ‘wacky races’ along vehicle tracks which make for perfect going. A day or so later we canter across grassy plains so vividly green after the calcrete plains we have just crossed and then we’re invited to let loose, whoop it up and let loose our inner cowboys as we set off at a roaring gallop. My horse Philip is wonderful and tries so hard, but he’s not the fastest horse in the world. We set off feeling good, galloping well, but are soon enveloped in a huge billow of dust as those with more impressive turns of speak streak past us. Quite literally streaking in the case of Ben, whose wardrobe seems to be in a permanent state of malfunction, shirt undone and chest showing!

On our longest riding day from Ganab to Marble Mountain, we ride 40km before lunch and our 20km afternoon ride is one of my most memorable. The entire late afternoon ride takes us along sandy plains of perfect going and we ride towards the sinking sun,  literally riding off into the sunset – magical. During a long canter, Joe who has been part of the ‘rear guard’ until now suddenly storms to the front of the group, taking most of the others with him and setting off an impromptu cavalry charge – whoops!

It is incredible to be cantering along in the remote Namib Desert hearing only your horse’s breathing and the beat of his canter. At one point the evening light and the dust begins playing tricks on me, making it look as though the horse in front is in fact cantering towards me – eerie.

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Riding into the sunset (image courtesy of Izzy Crane)

On Day 6 the landscape takes a dramatic change and ahead of us lies a real challenge; crossing the Kuiseb Canyon. It was here that geologists Hermann Korn and Henno Martin went into hiding during the Second Wold War, as told in the book ‘The Sheltering Desert’. We ride into the badlands where we have an amazing sighting of a magnificent lone zebra who is really intrigued by us. Then we make a technical descent down steep terraces leading our horses on foot.

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Descending into the Kuiseb (image courtesy of Namibia Horse Safaris)

After watering the horses and a quick picnic lunch, it is time to begin our climb out of the canyon. From the base of the canyon the climb looks impossible, but the horses, guides and back-up team are incredible as they clamber across sheer rock and make light work of the steep, rocky ascent.

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Karen & Sundown climbing out of the Kuiseb (image courtesy of Izzy Crane)

We make it to Aruvlei our next camp by mid-afternoon, in plenty of time for a fabulous sun downer in celebration of surviving the Kuiseb.

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Mariette & Gill – sundowners at Aruvlei

As our adventure begins to come to a close we make our way up the Swakop River, the energy seems to change and the horses are on edge a little. Perhaps they can sense their journey is almost over? We have wonderful canters along the dry riverbed and gaze up at the rock formations on either side.

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The Swakop River – riding towards civilisation

On the way to our last stop on the trail we pause for a break under the shade of a tree and notice that the ground underfoot looks like huge fish scales, crunching underfoot.

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The Swakop riverbed looks like huge fish scales (image courtesy of Rebecca Hast)

Signs of civilisation begin to appear, a house, a fence, dogs barking; it seems so strange after having been isolated in the desert for ten days.

Our final ride is bittersweet, we’ve nearly done it, but we don’t want it to end. An idea circulates about heading north when we get to Swakopmund, riding up the coast to explore Damaraland and then on to Etosha, before turning south and heading back to Windhoek. Then having a little rest and doing some washing before riding south to see the Wild Horses and then on to explore the Fish River Canyon. What an adventure that would be…shall we start planning?!

As we ride towards Swakopmund we cross a railway and a few roads, before passing towering dunes and then we catch our first sight of the Atlantic Ocean. Our incredible Namibian adventure ends with a final thrilling gallop along the beach at Swakopmund, champagne corks popping as we reach the end of the beach.

It has been a wonderful ten days, full to the brim with adrenaline-fueled gallops, wonderful company, amazing food, ever-changing landscapes, dust, sunshine, and incredible game. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried and we’ve finally fulfilled our dream of crossing the Namib Desert. As Joe put it so eloquently in his thank you speech to Andrew and the team, “we’ve ridden like hell and eaten like horses”.

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We did it – arriving into Swakopmund

So there it is, I’ve finally faced it and written my blog. I now have to write “The End” and admit that my adventure is over. But what will keep me going is the hope that one day I’ll return to the wide open plains of Namibia, where friends are made, challenges are met and the memories last until the call of the wilderness becomes too strong to resist.

The End


As well as this adventurous ride crossing the Namib Desert, In The Saddle also features other challenging trail rides in Namibia including the Damara Elephant Safari, Desert Canyons Safari and Wolwedans to Wild Horses.

If you’d like to find out more about our Namibian rides, please contact Abbie on +44 1299 272 239 or email abigail@inthesaddle.com

Categories: Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Horses & riding, in the saddle, Riding expeditions, Riding Holidays, riding holidays africa, riding holidays namibia, Riding safaris | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Big Adventures on the Big Rivers Ride

In this blog post we hear from In The Saddle guest Sarah Grant, who was part of an intrepid group of riders who undertook the adventurous Big Rivers ride in June 2017.

This exploratory ride journeyed into the Caprivi strip, Namibia’s tropical paradise whose borders are determined by several big rivers. The charm of this area is that it is a corridor for game moving between Botswana, Zambia and Angola. This extraordinary area of biodiversity is in contrast to Namibia’s normally arid landscape. In summer the floodwaters spill out over the riverbanks onto the wide open plains of Linyanti and Liambezi, much like the Okavango does in Botswana.


“We are riding alongside a wide stretch of water somewhere in the Caprivi, North Eastern Namibia, shortly before sunset. It’s the first day of the 2017 Exploratory Ride, an annual ride that Andrew Gillies of the Namibia Horse Safari Company runs each year, to explore somewhere new in the vast nothingness that is Namibia. It’s a chance to go somewhere that no one has gone before on a horse, but be prepared for the unexpected…

Back to the first day. Setting off from our first camp on the Kwando River, we’ve had a happy day getting used to our horses (mine, Big Red, is an honest, friendly red chestnut gelding, quite powerful and a bit cheeky), getting used to each other (a group of 11 riders from 6 different countries, all of whom have ridden with Andrew at least once and in some cases many times), and getting used to two constant features of the ride – the many herds of cattle herded by the local ethnic groups, with their rather fearsome horns, and the crowds of excited children, who follow us shouting with excitement at seeing 15 riders and 19 horses suddenly appear in their village.

who is herding who

Who’s herding who?

Now, with the sun slipping close to the horizon, I am secretly thinking: shouldn’t we be at camp by now? Time for sundowners perhaps? “No problem,” says our guide, Andrew, consulting the GPS, “it’s only 5km away.” Until we find a wide water channel, inconveniently placed between the camp and us. With virtually no daylight left, and no way round, the order is issued: “Swim the horses across! Bring the old campaigners first!” I’ll be the first to admit, swimming a horse I don’t know across a channel that may or may not have crocs in virtual darkness is not my perfect idea of an end to the first day, but there was nothing to do except point Big Red at the river, and hope for the best.

Expect the Unexpected

A river crossing at dusk – on an exploratory ride you have to expect the unexpected

We did all make it across, and we made it to our camp, tired, soaking wet but high on the adventure of it. Red usually crosses the Namib Desert, but he swam across that channel like it was second nature, and earned my respect and gratitude. We spent the evening futilely trying to dry boots and blankets around the fire, and cheerfully recounting the adventure.

3 big red cropped

The handsome Big Red

This is my first Exploratory Ride with renowned guide Andrew Gillies. I went on the Namib Desert ride last October, which was an incredible, unforgettable experience. Only a few months later I’m back for more.

This is what life on safari should be all about, wonderful company, living close to the earth and time for those quiet moments alone, just you and your horse. Big River Safari, Caprivi,

What life on safari is all about…those quiet moments alone with your horse

The Exploratory Ride goes to a new area each year, although there is a recce trip some months before by vehicle. So when the ride heads off the road, it really is across open country, navigating by landmarks and GPS. You do need to be prepared for things to not go according to plan. When Andrew and Phoebe did the recce trip in November 2016, they found the Linyanti floodplains full of buffalo. When we got there on the fifth day of our trip, the floodplains were covered in three metre high reeds, towering over our and the horses’ heads. We spent hours pushing through them. Andrew had to resort to the simple navigation technique of standing on his horse’s saddle to try and see where we should be going.

CROP 4 who needs gps anyway (thanks to Clare and Jenn Lawson)

Who needs GPS anyway? (Thanks to Clare and Jenn Lawson for the image)

Andrew & co are fantastic at these rides. They have an amazing back-up team that bring food and water (for horses and humans) plus tents and bed-rolls and loos and showers and many other comforts for life in the bush. On most of the Namibian rides you sleep under the stars, but on this ride we had tents due to riding through areas populated with large predators. The horses were guarded by night, with their picket line surrounded by the rest of the camp and fires which were kept going through the night in lion areas.

This is what life on safari should be all about, wonderful company, living close to the earth and time for those quiet moments alone, just you and your horse. Big River Safari, Caprivi,

Savouring the simple routine of camp life, with great company

Camp life is refreshing in its simplicity. I wake each dawn to the sound of the horses on the picket line calling for their breakfast. My first thought is to get coffee (I’m addicted), which never tastes better than from a metal mug with a rusk as the sun rises. Breakfast is in the circle of camp chairs around the fire before grooming my horse and taking it to where the tack is stored on a long tarpaulin, secretly hoping to get some help from our guides, Andrew and Telane, as I find the saddles so heavy.

5 beautiful Namibia at daybreak

Beautiful Namibia at daybreak

We are riding about 30km a day, from the start at the Kwando River to the final camp at Mutoya on the Zambezi. The going varies, between long stretches of open bush (or ‘veldt’), small areas cultivated by the locals, scrub, floodplains and woodlands. There are many shouts of ‘holes!’ (belonging to aardvarks) and ‘thorns!’ (the ‘wait a little bit’ bush). Where we can, we make up distance by doing some of Andrew’s famous LSD – Long Slow Distance – at a steady canter along the road shoulder. There can be anything from elephants or zebras crossing, to villagers greeting you, to lorries sounding their horn right by your horse (thank you Red for only shying a bit).

6 one of many water crossings

One of the many river crossings

When we reach camp, the first thing is to see to the horses. They are un-tacked, allowed to roll and taken for water. Then they are put on their allocated place on the picket line and fed.

coming home at the end of the day 2 cropped

Walking the horses the final few hundred metres into camp at the end of the day

Later they will be groomed and fed again, and Andrew and Telane, will do the ‘ward round’ to check for any sore backs or other ailments. Once they are seen to, the bar will be open – G&Ts (with ice, even here) and Windhoek beers all round. Then find your tent, have a shower, have some delicious food that is incredible considering where we are, and chew the fat until bed.

horses enjoying a cool off

The horses enjoying a roll and a drink at the end of the day

The joy of these rides is the freedom. It’s hard to put into words the immense nothingness of Namibia. It’s beautiful. Seeing it from a horse you have time to take in the huge mackerel skies, the vivid greens and yellows of grasslands and bush, the belts of trees on the skylines, the blue of the water channels. You have time to talk and bond with your fellow riders, and time to think and let the city life of home recede.

8 mackerel skies cropped

Beautiful mackerel skies

There was also the local life to see. In the Caprivi, life is harsh on this unyielding land, with the challenges of living with elephants and lions, and the clash of old and new cultures. We had a talk from Lisse Hannsen of the Caprivi Carnivore Project about how to ensure conservation and humans can co-exist.

Horses are a rare sight here and the leader of one village begged us to stop until the whole village could see the horses (he got a ride on Andrew’s horse).

Although hard to believe in the 21st century these locals have never seen a horse

Many of these villagers had never seen a horse before

There are many other tales from this trip I could write about – galloping through water (someone got a ducking), trucking the horses home one day with the riders sitting on top because we couldn’t make the full distance before dark, the time Big Red decided a short cut through a thorn bush was a good idea – but perhaps the best thing to do is go to see for yourself the immense nothingness that is Namibia. The best way to see it? From the back of a horse, of course”.

9 wide open spaces

The wide open spaces are unforgettable.


A huge thank you to Sarah for writing this wonderful account of her adventures in Big River country. What an incredible experience and a huge well done to you and fellow In The Saddle guests Clare Anderton, Nicole Appert, Clare Lawson and Jenn Lawson for completing this challenging ride.

If you’d like to experience some more of their epic adventure, then check out Namibia Horse Safaris’ video from the ride here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbCR4xTuI7w

As well as the annual exploratory ride, In The Saddle offers a range of adventurous trail rides in Namibia guided by Andrew Gillies:

Namib Desert: A challenging 300km journey across the oldest desert in the world to Swakopmund on the coast.
Damara Elephant Safari: Fast riding through the vast and spectacular landscapes of Damaraland, tracking elephant and rhino along the way.
Desert Canyons Safari: Explore the open plains of the Southern Namib and see the famous Fish River Canyon.
Wolwedans to Wild Horses: A breath-taking journey taking you from the great dune sea of the central Namib to Klein Aus Vista near the home of the Wild Horses of the Namib.

For more information or to book your place please contact Abbie on +44 1299 272 239 or via email abigail@inthesaddle.com


Categories: Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Horses & riding, Riding expeditions, Riding Holidays, riding holidays africa, riding holidays namibia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Rides for 2017 – Costa Rica

In this mini-series of blogs we learn about some of the new In The Saddle rides for 2017. From cantering along sun-drenched beaches in Greece, to viewing big game in Swaziland, we hope one of our new adventures will be right up your street.

First up is our exciting exploratory ride in Costa Rica.


Our new Wilderness Ride takes you from the pristine rainforest of Carara National Park into the high coastal mountains of Turrubares.

Maravilla 139

Go off the beaten track to experience rural Costa Rica at its best.

You’ll journey along mountain trails and forest paths far off the beaten track. Your guide will be on hand to help you identify flora and fauna along the way. You might spot species like macaws, toucans, coatimundis, sloths, pecaries and perhaps even the elusive jaguarondi.

Killbilled Toucan_by Fabio Salas (1)

You might spot toucans along the way.

During the first part of the ride you explore Carara National Park, one of the last significant portions of primary rain forest in the Central Pacific region and a destination popular amongst wildlife enthusiasts and birdwatchers.

Foto (4)

Keep looking skywards and you could see sloths in the canopy above.

The park is a great spot for seeing scarlet macaws, boat-billed herons, fiery-billed aracari and American egrets.


Scarlet macaws are often spotted in Carara National Park.

Later on in the week you’ll be rewarded with wonderful views as you climb into the coastal mountain ranges. As you ascend you will notice the forest changing in constitution and characteristics; the lower temperatures encourage the growth of ferns, moss and bromeliads.

Finca Galan_04

There are wonderful views as you approach the coastal mountain ranges.

Your first and last nights are spent at a comfortable hotel in San Jose, but during the ride itself you stay at more authentic accommodation which reflects the style of rural Costa Rica.

You’ll spend two nights at Rio Carara Lodge, nestled in a secluded part of Carara National Park. There are no near neighbours, so you are assured a tranquil atmosphere to make the most of the rainforest.

Rio Carara Lodge (8)

Spend two nights at the peaceful Rio Carara Lodge.

For the next three nights you stay at Finca Galán, an ecological farm in the Turrubares Mountains. Here you can relax and unwind in peaceful surroundings. Be woken by birdsong as the first rays of light creep into your room. At night the sounds of the tropical forest will lull you to sleep.


Experience the delights of rural Costa Rica whilst you stay at Finca Galan.

You could be riding for up to 6 or 7 hours a day and so you’ll need to be riding fit to undertake this challenge.

This is an exploratory ride, so you will be the first intrepid guests to undertake the ride. It is sure to be a wonderful adventure. Numbers are strictly limited, with only 2 places remaining. The ride will run from Saturday 25th November to Saturday 2nd December 2017.

If you’d like to hear more about this exciting In The Saddle adventure, or book your place then please contact Sarah on +44 1299 272 997 or email Sarah@inthesaddle.com for more information.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Horses & riding, in the saddle, Riding expeditions, Riding Holidays, Travel news | Leave a comment

News from Namibia

Preparations are well under way for the month-long Epic Safari in Namibia – the very first of its kind.


The Namibia Horse Safaris team are busy preparing the 70 horses required for this incredible ride. Vehicles are already beginning to transport 45 tons of food, water and equipment in readiness. The horses will require some 28,000 litres of water during the safari – that’s a heck lot of water in a desert environment!

The Epic Safari route will run from Damaraland in the north to Lüderitz in the south.


The first leg of the journey will include mystical Twyfelfontein with its famous rock engravings, the incredible landscapes of Damaraland home to desert-adapted elephant and the forbidding Skeleton Coast.

DE Ellies and horses

Next the group will cross the oldest desert in the world, the Namib, from Swakopmund on the coast to the Namib Sand Sea of Sossusvlei.


On the final leg of the trip riders will journey from the beautiful Wolwedans reserve, over wide open landscapes and remote plains until they reach the coastal town of Lüderitz. Here the adventure comes to an end.


What an amazing sense of achievement the riders and guides will feel dismounting at the end of this Epic Safari having covered an amazing 1,000km on horseback!


Will any other trip ever compare to this unique adventure? Memories of this Epic Safari are sure to last a lifetime.

DE horses and rhino

There is just 1 place remaining on this ultimate adventure. Are you intrepid enough to take up the challenge? If so, please contact Abigail@inthesaddle.com or call us on 01299 272 997.

South Africa and Namibia pictures 530-Quote

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Riding expeditions, riding holidays africa, riding holidays namibia | Leave a comment

“Meet the Guides” at The Riding Holiday Show – Magnus Sigmundsson from Iceland

The Riding Holiday Show on 12 December will be full to the brim with talented and experienced riding guides from around the world. Here, we have an article written by Magnus Sigmundsson from Iceland.


1. How long have you been a riding guide?    

Since 1985.

2. Did you do any guiding before becoming involved with Hestasport?

No, I learned first to guide and lead horse tours from old friends, Björn Sveinsson and Ragnar Stefánsson. I grew up in the countryside of Skagafjörður, in north Iceland. Our valley is often called “The valley of the horses” because history and breeding of the Icelandic horse is very connected to this place, all the way back to the time of settlement. I studied to be a marine engineer and sailed between the harbours of the world for many years, but the countryside and horses were always on my mind.

3. How did you get into guiding? Was there someone who inspired you?

Sveinn, the father of Björn was a very good friend of my father and we can say that he started long horse riding tours in Iceland in 1974 when he rode with a group of 13 riding guests from Switzerland across Iceland from North to South. Of course people have travelled on horseback all around the world for thousands of years, but this way Sveinn was the “founder of Hestasport”.

I was fascinated with everything connected to these tours. The horses were beautiful and in great shape, the adventurous riding trails surrounded by the untouched highlands of Iceland were breath taking.  To me horse riding is like a dance between two different worlds. Therefore it was especially great to see how much horse people from other countries enjoyed exactly this feeling, when riding the unique gated horses in the Icelandic nature. The Icelandic horse is the only breed in Iceland and as far as we know, the only naturally five gaited horse breed in the world.  So for a long time Icelanders didn’t realise how unique this breed had developed on the island, since the first settlers brought it here.

IMD Horse Riding Trip 2015-2483

4. If you hadn’t become a riding guide, what was your Plan B?

I liked to be a sailor, but I have always been a nature “lover”. I was interested in the idea of sharing nature experience with other people by building up tourism in Iceland and especially in my area, the Skagafjord, where so many possibilities were not yet discovered.

5. People coming on a riding holiday often think you have the ideal job – what do you love about it? And what are the downsides?

To open possibilities for other people to experience the same exciting and fun things that I love so much. To enjoy the horses in the wild Icelandic nature and create some unforgettable memories.

Guiding and organising horse tours is a huge physical and mental effort. But of course it is also fulfilling and lots of fun and that’s also where the energy comes from that I need!

6. If your favourite horse was a human, who would he/she be and why?

After so many years of guiding horse tours it is a bit hard to make a difference between many unforgettable good horses that were my favourites. Every single one of them had it’s own unique characteristics. I adore horses that are courageous, soft, strong, willing to work and know where to put down their feet. Many of them are gone but I am happy to mention: Taktur, Búi, Gimsteinn, Jarpur and . . . and . . . what about comparing them to . . .  Rolando! 😉


7. What can you not live without (when guiding or just generally)?

I need to be alone every once in a while.

8. What has been your most memorable riding holiday week?

A lot of years ago we were riding the Kjölur route across the country on a six day tour, with 13 guests who were all men from the Faroe Islands that were all relatives and friends. This tour was memorable for a lot of reasons. I will gladly tell you the stories of this trip when we meet in Iceland.

9. How do you relax after a day in the saddle?

After a long horse trip I like to go for a walk and then relax in the hot tub.

10. What advice would you give a 21-year-old who wants to train for your job?

Use those good years and gain some more knowledge and experience from lots of places.

11. Where do you go on holiday?

I love to visit warm countries with a lot of sunshine. Last year I was in Nepal to visit good friends.

IMD Horse Riding Trip 2015-2363

Thank you Magnus for some fantastic images and another amazing article. Olwen and the team look forward to seeing you in a few weeks’ time.

You can meet Magnus from Iceland at the Riding Holiday Show in London on 12 December 2015. Space at the venue is limited so you must obtain a ticket in advance. The event takes place at the Royal Overseas League in SW1 just off Piccadilly from 10 am to 6 pm.

38 different riding destinations will be represented at the Riding Holiday Show. All part of the In The Saddle portfolio of worldwide riding holidays.


Categories: Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Horses & riding, in the saddle, in the saddle, Ride reviews, Riding expeditions, Riding Holidays, Riding in Iceland, The Riding Holiday Show, Travel advice, Travel news | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Meet the Guides” at The Riding Holiday Show – Rudi from Catalonia in Spain

Here is another popular guide Rudi Stolz from Spain. You can meet Rudi at the Riding Holiday Show on 12 December 2015.


1. How long have you been guiding in Catalonia?

It’s been 21 years now!

2. Where did you guide before this?

Before I came to Spain, I used to work as a mountain guide in the Alps.

3. How did you get into guiding? Was there someone who inspired you?

I always loved working with the horses and had the idea of doing this work in Spain. I decided to move to Spain and build up my own business with trail riding –  and that’s how I got into guiding. I came here with an inspiration and did everything to make my idea become true.


4. If you hadn’t become a riding guide, what was your Plan B?

There was no Plan B for me. I knew I wanted to offer trail riding in Spain and did all that it needed to make this plan work – and it has worked.

5. People coming on a riding holiday often think you have the ideal job – what do you love about it? And what are the downsides?

Actually, to me this job is truly perfect. Being outside, being with horses and with people is a perfect combination for me. I cannot imagine any other job that could be as satisfying as mine!
The downsides? That’s the paperwork that unfortunately also needs to be done!


6. If your favourite horse was a human, who would he/she be and why?

My favourite horse is Tornado. If he were a human, he would be a very important friend of mine. Someone to whom I have a special bond, a very trustful relationship. I know that he would do anything for me and the teamwork is simply perfect. That’s how it is with Tornado – he is as powerful, reliable friend who has my full confidence.

7. What can you not live without (when guiding or just generally)?

Horses! As a guide I cannot live without a very good lead horse. And generally, I just can’t imagine a life without these animals around me.

8. What has been your most memorable riding holiday week?

Once I had a very special guest; a blind man contacted me with the wish to come on a trail with me. I invited him to come to Mas Alba for two days to see if it worked. I took him out on rides  and we tried out the different situations that you deal with on a trail. The result was that he did the Mediterranean Trail – and it was amazing, how he managed everything! He totally fitted into the group and he did everything the others did; he brushed his horse, he put the saddle and the bridle on by himself, he always knew where his things were and where he had to go. It really was a miracle and to me the most memorable ride with guests I ever had!


9. How do you relax after a day in the saddle?

To me, the question should be how I relax after a day that I do NOT spend in the saddle…really, being in the saddle is nothing I have to relax from! The moment I get on my horse, I feel like being on a holiday!

10. What advice would you give a 21-year-old who wants to train for your job?

Of course it is important that working with horses is the thing you really want to do and the thing you’re good at. Then, you also have to be sensitive to the people whom you guide. But the art of being a really good guide is to create a unity out of these two beings. Having a sense for bringing horses and people together and make them harmonize is a challenge – and it is a great thing when you see it work! Another important thing is that you keep in mind the time you spend away from home. Being a riding guide is wonderful, but you should really think about if this part of the job is something you can – and want to – handle.

11. Where do you go on holiday?

Actually I don’t really need to go on holiday, as my job gives me the feeling of being on holiday. But when the season is over, I have time to see other places. I travelled to Europe, North and South America – wherever I go, I spend my holiday there on horseback!


Thank you Rudi for some fantastic images and another amazing article. Olwen and the team look forward to seeing you in a few weeks’ time.

You can meet Rudi from Spain at the Riding Holiday Show in London on 12 December 2015. Space at the venue is limited so you must obtain a ticket in advance. The event takes place at the Royal Overseas League in SW1 just off Piccadilly from 10 am to 6 pm.

38 different riding destinations will be represented at the Riding Holiday Show. All part of the In The Saddle portfolio of worldwide riding holidays.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Horses & riding, in the saddle, Ride reviews, Riding expeditions, Riding Holidays, Riding in Spain | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Meet the Guides” at The Riding Holiday Show – Yair Sharet from Israel

Here is another very talented guide Yair Sharet from Israel. Meet Yair at the Riding Holiday Show on 12 December 2015.


1.    How long have you been guiding in Israel?

I established Sirin Riders in 2010 and I have guided all the rides ever since then.

2.    Where did you guide before this?

I never guided rides before. I used to organize trail rides for group of friends all over Israel, but it was not until I started Sirin Riders that I began to guide in a professional way.

3.    How did you get into guiding? Was there someone who inspired you?

Horses for me are not a hobby, they are a way of life, from the day that I remember myself  I am with horses. As a boy that was born in Kibbutz at the Jordan valley, I use to spend most of my time with my horses exploring the beautiful places of the Jordan valley. At a later stage I bought purebred Arabians mares that I used for breeding and trail riding.
In 2010, I left my position as EVP global marketing & sales for multinational company. I wanted to open my own business. The combination of horses & tourism attracted me. I surfed the net and there I saw some web sites offering international riding holidays. I read some of these web pages, and then I said “Israel should be in this industry, and I will be the one that will make it happen”…and the rest is history.


4.    If you hadn’t become a riding guide, what was your Plan B?

I would have stayed in the multinational business management arena.

5.    People coming on a riding holiday often think you have the ideal job – what do you love about it? And what are the downsides?

I really love what I am doing. In some cases I find myself riding on a Saturday morning, while I know that on Sunday I am about to start Tour Israel ride of 7 riding days, then I realize that in my free day (in Israel Saturday is our free day) I do exactly what I am doing in my working day!

I like the way that group of strangers that I meet at the airport at the beginning of the ride, transform within few days to a team of riders and friends. I love to see how the landscape changes every time, although we ride on the same trails. I enjoy watching the change in the perception in my guests’ minds toward Israel when they learn how beautiful and welcoming Israel is.

On the other hand sometime I miss the economical benefits of being top manager in multinational company.

6.    If your favourite horse was a human, who would he/she be and why?

My favorite horse is my purebred stallion Velaskes. He is a retired racing horse, I imported him from Russia in 2014.


It’s a pure joy to ride on him. He is a very special combination of a top athlete and a very responsive horse. As a breeding stallion he has some “issues” with mares so I use him for our trail rides just as my lead horse and on very special occasions. He reminds me of Alex the lion, from the movie “Madagascar” – Beautiful, strong, and full of self esteem!

7.    What can you not live without (when guiding or just generally)?

A “must have” when I am on a ride is my coffee saddle bag. It gives me the option to prepare coffee wherever we stop for a break and whenever it’s needed. I carry on my saddle bag everything that I need in order to solve most of the problems that may happen during a ride.


8.    What has been your most memorable riding holiday week?

The Exploratory Ride with In The Saddle in April 2011 is a week I will never forget. So much rain, every possible problem that could happen happened, and lot of nice ideas from my side that didn’t really work. At the end of this week I was so exhausted and depressed, and I was sure that that’s the end of my relation with In The Saddle. But then I had a feedback meeting with Tracy, who explained how impressed she had been with the horses, guiding and our ability to overcome the obstacles we encountered during the week. I can say that we improved dramatically from this 2011 ride.

9.    How do you relax after a day in the saddle?

I relax during the ride, because when I come home after the ride I cannot relax – not with 5 children aged 9 to 22!

10.    What advice would you give a 21-year-old who wants to train for your job?

Go for it! It is the best thing that you can do for a living. A word of caution – don’t make any promoises that you can’t fulfill, just surprise them when you can do more.

11.    Where do you go on holiday?

Skiing with the family at Monte Genevre in France.


Thank you Yair for some fantastic images and another amazing article. We all look forward to seeing you in a few weeks’ time.

You can meet Yair from Israel at the Riding Holiday Show in London on 12 December 2015. Space at the venue is limited so you must obtain a ticket in advance. The event takes place at the Royal Overseas League in SW1 just off Piccadilly from 10 am to 6 pm.

38 different riding destinations will be represented at the Riding Holiday Show. All part of the In The Saddle portfolio of worldwide riding holidays.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Horses & riding, in the saddle, in the saddle, Ride reviews, Riding expeditions, Riding Holidays, Riding in Israel, The Riding Holiday Show, Travel news | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Meet the Guides” at The Riding Holiday Show – John Sobey from Macatoo, Botswana

Continuing with our meet the guide blogs here is another talented and popular guide, John Sobey from Macatoo –  you will be able to meet John at the Riding Holiday Show on 12 December 2015.



1.    How long have you been guiding at Macatoo?    

We started Macatoo back in 1995, so it is over 20 years now.

2.    Where did you guide before this?

Before Macatoo I was based in Maun, Botswana doing mobile safaris (1993-95), as well as guiding in Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia. I have also guided on horseback in Kenya and Tanzania.

3.    How did you get into guiding? Was there someone who inspired you?

For as long as I can remember I had always wanted to live and work in Africa, so guiding seemed to be the natural route to take.  Also I knew more about horses than cars so horseback guiding was really the only option for me! I first went to South Africa, but soon realised that Botswana was the only place offering the true wilderness that I was searching for.

4.    If you hadn’t become a riding guide, what was your Plan B?

I have no idea, there was no Plan B!

Giraffe canter 5

5.    People coming on a riding holiday often think you have the ideal job – what do you love about it? And what are the downsides?

There really is so much that makes the job amazing, not least because guiding in the Okavango is always different, it’s never the same. High water, low water or no water, the seasonal variation is never-ending. That is why I came back to the Delta out of all the other locations. The down sides are you cannot watch enough rugby (but given England’s recent performance perhaps that’s a plus….?!).

6.    If your favourite horse was a human, who would he/she be and why?

My favourite horse was ‘Ambos’, a 16.3hh Hanoverian. He was an amazing powerhouse of a  horse but was the perfect, trusting lead horse. He would lead in to any problem without question. Who would he be if he was a human…that’s too tough a question to answer, but probably somebody brave!


7.    What can you not live without (when guiding or just generally)?

I couldn’t live without the open spaces and the wilderness, it’s what I’ve become so used to now.

8.    What has been your most memorable riding holiday week?

There really are so many memories, its hard to choose. Galloping alongside a herd of giraffe and zebra with Sir  Mark Todd was not bad!


9.    How do you relax after a day in the saddle?

With a book or newspaper back at my tent overlooking the floodplains.

10.    What advice would you give a 21-year-old who wants to train for your job?

I would say don’t think that it it’s going to be easy; there are no quick routes. You will have to be prepared to start at the bottom and work your way up, but the end result will be worth it.

11.    Where do you go on holiday?

Holidays are few and far between, but where possible I try to get out to visit other camps and lodges in Botswana to learn more and get more ideas. After being out in the bush for long stints it’s also nice to just to relax and spend some time at home.


Thank you John for some fantastic images and another amazing article. Olwen and the team look forward to seeing you in a few weeks’ time.

You can meet John from Macatoo at the Riding Holiday Show in London on 12 December 2015. Space at the venue is limited so you must obtain a ticket in advance. The event takes place at the Royal Overseas League in SW1 just off Piccadilly from 10 am to 6 pm.

38 different riding destinations will be represented at the Riding Holiday Show. All part of the In The Saddle portfolio of worldwide riding holidays.

Categories: Equestrian Safety, Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Horses & riding, in the saddle, Ride reviews, riding botswana, Riding expeditions, Riding Holidays, riding holidays africa, Riding Macatoo, Riding Okavango Delta, Riding safaris, The Riding Holiday Show, Travel advice, Travel news | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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