Posts Tagged With: in the saddle horseback holidays

Wondrous Wait a Little

Africa does tend to seep into your veins, and often once you have visited this astonishing continent for the first time, it is almost like a poison in which you feel the need to go again and again – you just need to get yet another fix of her formidable sights, sounds and experiences.

Wait a Little in South Africa certainly lived up to my expectations and provided me with my African drug, whereby horses, game and laughter were overdosed on throughout the week.

In the space of 7 nights I ticked off each and every member of Africa’s Big 5, plus countless other game and bird species – and trust me when I say that there’s not many places where you can do that easily within one week, especially whilst on horseback.

My first encounter was with the lions, and whilst riding one evening past a dam we stood to watch the crocodiles and hippos in residence. “Oh hello there” announced Philip our guide for the week. We (the guests) were so busy chattering about the ducks upon the dam and musing as to how come the crocs weren’t eating them, that we had failed to notice initially just to whom Philip was referring to. As a collective we all looked into the direction of his comment to see four lionesses watching us watching them!

“Let’s take a closer look!” said Philip and off we went, all grouped tightly behind him. We slowly made our way towards these ladies. It was such an intoxicating feeling, I was scared, nervous but also daring, the result of Philips professionalism and experience with guiding over decades. Our bravery was rewarded with 30 minutes of my life alongside these formidable felines, and if I’m honest I not sure who was the more intrigued or who was studying whom.

me with lions

After a while these ladies decided to look at us from a slightly different angle, and so we shifted our positions too and were afforded a new view. I still can’t believe how close I was to them! But my picture tells a thousand tales…

me with lion

We bid farewell and rode home before the sun dropped out of the sky – taking on the African sunset en route with a victory gin and tonic (well it had to be done surely).

My second days adventures didn’t disappoint, and within 100 metres of camp we discovered lion tracks. Did these ladies come looking for us overnight? There’s a saying about curiosity and a cat isn’t there?

But it didn’t stop there as today we met with our second of Africa’s Big 5, the elephants.

This was a mixed herd of bulls and cows, and it was hysterical to watch one of the ladies tell us in ‘ellie talk’ to “go away please”. She did this through the universal language of throwing a stick at us! I do not lie, she literally picked up a stick and threw it at us. There was no misinterpreting her meaning, and you could feel her frustration when the horses stood like rocks, ignored the sticks and didn’t move away. She then became curious as to why her bullying hadn’t worked and gradually crept closer and closer, with her trunk extended tentatively trying to touch the horses – but not quite daring herself to do it.

elli from horses

During this week you stay at Wait a Little camp for the first three nights, then at Beacon rock where you sleep beside the horses under the stars, followed by two nights at the stunning Xidulu Lodge on the Makalali reserve before returning the the homely Wait a Little Camp for your last night.

It is a wonderful blend of experiences, and after spending the night around a camp fire, sleeping next to your trusty steed and reliving a night in the life of a missionary, it is a real treat to rock up the next day to Xidulu Lodge in the neighbouring Makalai reserve. This lodge is simply stunning and overlooks a dam complete with hippos and crocodiles. In fact within 10 minutes of being there we watched Mr Crocodile take his luncheon upon a poor unsuspecting bird at the waters edge.

Having indulged in my own lunch shortly afterwards, and then taken my afternoon ‘nap’ I woke to the astonishing sight of a leopard sitting on the edge of the dam just some 50 metres away. As we were about to take afternoon tea, followed by a game drive, I hotfooted it to our guide Patson, and excitedly told him of my sighting. Off we went in search of her, and luckily just some 10 minutes later we found her (or rather Patson did) with her fresh kill.

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We were so close to this our third of Africa’s Big 5, and she wasn’t bothered by us in the slightest. After filling her belly, we watched her jump up into the tree right beside us and stash the remainder of her kill in the branches. There’s something very primative at seeing half an eaten antelope hanging from the branches, and apparently this lady had a litter of cubs to feed, so we assumed that this hoard of fresh meat was for them.

Leopard in tree

The next day we came across a first for me, the endangered black rhino on horseback.

We had seen two of them upon arrival at Makalali, but we had spooked them and they were running so fast through the bush at great speed, trampling everything in their path that I hadn’t time to get my camera out, in fact gripping my reins in terror was more the truth (just incase they changed direction and ran that fast at us)!

However today was my incredibly lucky day and I was so privileged to get so close to this staggering animal – Big 5 number four spotted. We all gazed in complete silence and with absolute respect at his colossal presence, and it is with a heavy heart that we have to accept that man is capable of such monstrous widespread acts against this giant creature. Thank the Lord for the guides, rangers and protectors of this animal, the work they do is priceless and above a figure of value. Their never-ending war and efforts against the poachers, and more importantly against the instigators of these violent crimes, is invaluable and they will win of that I am sure.

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But my experiences go on and on….

close male lion

This Majestic fellow above and below was met upon our last sundowner ride of the week!

male lion with ears

And this herd of buffalo were met upon our last morning (completing the Big 5 tick list).

buffalo

Our final canter provided us with the everlasting memory of a giraffe cantering alongside with us….

giraffe

A final word has to be given to the praise of the Wait a Little horses. Such a well schooled, perfectly behaved, brave selection is to be found at their stables. There is an equine partner to match everybody, tall and short, fast and steady, grey, black or dun. But what they all have in common is that they are all really cool during the game sightings and stand like rocks, brave and fearless. My hero of the week was a chap called Monarch (2nd in from the right), whose nickname of “Bush Ferrari” was incredibly apt. He was an adorable and competitive character that wanted to get everywhere first, and carried me steadfastly all the way, that I didn’t have to worry at any moment in time about what we would happen to come across! I adored him and that is the truth (but please don’t repeat that to my mare at home).

I’ve been rambling on so much about the game, that I haven’t even mentioned what fun riding we enjoyed. We bush-wacked around acacia trees and through Wait a Little bushes, we galloped along sandy tracks and across even terrain, we blasted down the currently dry river beds… and not one horse put a hoof-oiled toe out of place! They are an absolute delight to ride, and at sundowners in the evening you can practically see your reflection in their gleaming coats. They are the wondrously wonderful!

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Visiting Wait a Little is like home from home, everyone is so friendly, such fun to be around and my only criticism is that you will gain a few more laughter lines across your face during the course of your week.

So you would think that for the time being my hankering need for the drug of Africa has been abated, but actually thanks to this wonderful trip, it has put a greater fire in my belly which is yearning to return…. signed off for the time being (Sarah – In The Saddle.com)

 

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, in the saddle, in the saddle, Ride reviews, Riding Holidays, riding holidays africa, Riding safaris, riding south africa | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A riding adventure along the Queensland coast

Sandie Davis tells us about her adventure along the Sunshine Coast of Queensland with husband Simon in celebration of their 25th anniversary.

Such tales traditionally start with “Sunday 4th October dawned bright and clear”…..well dawn it certainly was, bright and clear I am not sure so sure, let’s just say that although we had been looking forward to our In the Saddle Bush and Beach Ride in Queensland for many months, it was not the lure of trail riding, cattle mustering and galloping along pristine shores that roused us from our bed at 05.00 but a sleepy shuffle to the television.  Not even the kookaburras and the butcher birds had roused yet. For those rugby fans out there, you know our sorry conclusion to that particular early start!

However, our disappointment at losing our World Cup pool match at Twickenham, to Australia, while in Australia, was soon forgotten as we concentrated on the real purpose of the day, meeting the rest of our ride at Noosa for the start of our long-anticipated 6 day riding holiday.  We were met at the Sunshine Coast airport by Rebecca, whose easy chat and open manner quickly put us at ease as we transferred to hers and Alex’s equestrian property at Verrierdale.  There we were introduced to Alex, our ex-Olympian host, guide and social secretary for the next few days and met the rest of our group, Vivian from Perth!

After a short introduction to our horses; Clint, a beautiful grey ex-racehorse for my husband Simon, Moose, a coloured Clydesdale/Pinto cross for me, and Scout, a chestnut stock horse with an eating habit for Vivian, we had a 45 minute ride in the arena to get comfortable with each other and then loaded onto the lorry to transfer to Kilkivan, home of the Great Horse Ride.

Kilkivan

Kilkivan

There  we had been promised pre-dinner drinks and supper hosted by Bruce and Rae in the dining room at the Left Bank B&B. Fortunately Alex had already tipped us off that for the first time in a very very long time, there were 2 Queensland teams in the NRL (National Rugby League) Final that very night. We were encouraged to choose our team, the Cowboys or the Broncos, and were joined by Mike Webb, the stockman, bush poet and raconteur for a TV supper, sweepstake and plenty of alcohol!  It was delicious and great fun, and I am pleased to report that our team’s win paid our bar bill. Who needs rugby union?! And it deflected any teasing about the losing whingeing Poms.

On Sunday morning we were up earlier than we needed to be, with the promise of a beautiful, clear Queensland day, and enjoyed tea on the veranda watching the finches, lorikeets and a rare red shouldered parrot on the bird feeder.

Hanging Rock Trail

Hanging Rock Trail

After Bruce’s delicious breakfast we collected the horses from the public corral and paddock (what a great idea!) and transferred to the start of the ride where we met Mike and his iridescent chestnut 17hh Roscoe.  Mike is a true local, having only really left the area to complete his National Service in South East Asia, what he doesn’t know about Kilkivan and the Widgee Valley is not worth knowing. And, as our ride leader for the day over the Hanging Rock Trail, he regaled us with stories of his childhood, local lore and shenanigans, as well as having an eagle eye for wildlife.

Widgee Valley

Widgee Valley

We enjoyed a stunning ride over the Blacksnake range, with Scout living up to expectation getting his head down at every point of interest and view, Clint posing at every given opportunity, Roscoe shimmering in the sun and Moose worming his way to the front given half a chance. Mike kept us very well informed, spotting goannas on the other side of trees (possibly as a result of childhood trauma, but to tell more would ruin the suspense!).

Blacksnake Range

Blacksnake Range

Having descended into the Widgee Valley we were met by Alex and his horse Mack, and escorted onto his stunningly beautiful property Edenview….can’t imagine how it was named. After hosing down the horses, we were transferred (a little adrenalin buzz!) by quad up to the property where the table was laid on the deck for a barbeque lunch provided by Bruce.

The horses relaxing at Edenview

The horses relaxing at Edenview

It was lovely to be left to relax for an hour or so at our own leisure in the shade, or to mooch around at will. We were amused to observe Alex moving 4 horses from the corral to their overnight paddock, leading them all at the same time from the quad bike. I wonder how our horses at home would cope with that?

We then transferred back to the Left Bank, had a little while to relax and have a walk around the town, and then reconvened for drinks on the veranda before dinner. Bruce treated us to champagne with wild hibiscus flowers in honour of our 25th wedding anniversary the next day, and the resident possum put in an appearance in the tree right by where we were sitting.  Over dinner Mike and Bruce regaled us with more stories, including the unforgettable quote “I felt like a long-tailed rat in a room full of rocking chairs!”

After another early start (by choice, that veranda was too good to ignore) and lively and sustaining breakfast, we made our farewells and transferred back to Edenview for a day’s riding on the property.

Edenview - not a bad spot for lunch!

Edenview – not a bad spot for lunch!

The horses were well rested after their night in the valley and we quickly brushed them down and tacked up ready for another stunning day in the saddle.  The first couple of hours were spent looking around the property and valley, with Alex proving to be a mine of information about the local flora, trees and bird life, as well as his neighbours, dead and alive!

Cooling off

Cooling off

Following a refreshing drink and splash in the creek (for the horses), we moved on to the business of the day, moving 20 odd cattle, including a bull to a new paddock. After one false start, when they decided that they preferred it on the old grazing, we really did have them all rounded up and pointing in the right direction, and with Alex and Vivian leading, and me and Simon pushing them along, we kept them moving to the new paddock without incident or mishap. Then the happy newly fledged Jackaroo and Jillaroos returned to the homestead for a cold beer and lunch, with a sense of a job well done!

Moving cattle

Moving cattle

Once again we had an hour or so leisure, which we spent poking around the old cattle pens and races, and original sheep dip which dated back over 100 years with original timbers. Fascinating. We thought we were done for the day, but before we knew it Alex was rounding us up, gave Simon a quick introduction to a second quad bike, and we were off in tandem across the bush, back to check on the cattle. Not quite Mad Max but it was great fun and very exhilarating! Sadly after that it really was the end of the day, so we loaded the horses onto the lorry, said our farewells and headed off – yes, into the sunset!

Home for the next 2 nights was Amamoor Lodge, and we were a little later than expected, so our hosts Malcolm and Christine were ready and waiting for us with coconut chicken satay cooking over the camp fire and a well-stocked fridge! Malcolm is a qualified chef and dinner was delicious, served out by the camp fire in view of his beautifully restored Cobb & Co mail coach. All in all it really was a day and anniversary to remember!

The next morning we had breakfast on the veranda, overlooking the swimming pool and a view to the hills. Unfortunately Simon’s horse Clint had grazed his leg in the creek the previous day, so it was decided to rest him and Simon had the opportunity to ride Mike’s gorgeous 17hh stock horse Roscoe for the day through the Amamoor State Forest. Alex was able to point out many different varieties of tree and also proved to have an eagle eye for a goanna! We stopped for a short break at the Skyring Lookout with stunning views to the ocean and distinctive volcanic “mountains”.
Alex had thoughtfully provided energy snacks, liquorice for the horses and jelly frogs for us!
Lunch was provided and delivered by Malcolm to the Amama Park, a delightful picnic spot next to the river, where we listened to the whip birds and tried without success to spot the elusive duck-billed platypus.

Would I make it as a Jackaroo?

Would I make it as a Jackaroo?

Returning to the lorry, Roscoe showed his true mettle as a stock horse. In spite of being totally used to dealing with “toey” Brahmann cows and bulls, he absolutely could not handle a tiny lamb that stuck its head through a fence to say g’day!

On return to the Lodge, and having settled the horses, we were served tea and cake on the veranda and then made use of the swimming pool, before we climbed back into the lorry to sample the unique experience that was the Kandanga Pub and its colourful clientele.  Alex told us the story of one particular local who had built him a dog proof fence around his property, only for the dog to promptly escape…when challenged the response came back “I didn’t expect him to go UNDER it!!” Lo and behold, said character appeared in the bar and stood us a beer!

Such was the generosity of our hosts, when we got back we were served champagne and canapes in honour of our anniversary the day before, and subsequently drifted on to a delicious dinner on the veranda and long and lively evening. Once again we slept well!

Simon was up early the next morning, making the most of the opportunity to watch the sunrise and the amazing variety of birds visiting the gardens.

Vivian and I had a more leisurely start, but never the less we were all packed and ready to go at the appointed hour. Today’s ride took us onto the Noosa Trail Network, henceforth immortalised as the NTN. Alex had chosen Trail 5 for us, starting at Cooran and heading to Pomona, taking in views of Mounts Cooran and Cooroora.

Thankfully, after a heavy shower early on which we avoided by sheltering under a tree, the rest of the day remained dry, if somewhat overcast. We were able to enjoy several lengthy canters along the forest tracks, and the day as a whole was irreverent with Alex inciting mischief and mayhem by instigating sniper attacks with the peanut-sized she oak cones plucked from branches overhanging the trail.  Lunch was also light-hearted, taken at the chintzy Taste of the Past café in Pomona, but which had an unlikely selection of very raunchy literature scattered around the tables.

Having returned to the lorry and hosed and rested the horses in another public grazing area, we loaded up for the transfer back to Noosa, and checked into the luxury RACV Noosa Resort. Our accommodation was a massive self-contained apartment with a plunge pool and a roof top patio. Alex took the horses back home to Verrierdale, and we had the evening free at our own leisure to enjoy the resort and explore Noosa. We had a bite to eat in the bar and an early night!

In the morning, Alex picked us up bright and early with the horses and we took the cable ferry over the river to Noosa North Shore for the eponymous Bush and Beach Ride!

Fantastic beach riding

Fantastic beach riding

We were not disappointed (except that it didn’t feel nearly long enough!)! Who wouldn’t enjoy splashing in the sea and a gallop along a wide, empty sandy beach with the surf rolling in?

What a view!

What a view!

Too soon it was all over, and it was time to say goodbye to Moose, Clint, Scout and Roscoe. Sadly we loaded them onto the lorry, and settled back for the transfer back to the resort…or so we thought… A grinding of gears and spinning of wheels later and we were well and truly stuck in the sand!  Luckily for Alex, Equathon had another vehicle at the beach that morning and having unloaded the slightly confused horses, with the help of Simon and a tow rope, we were eventually able to pull it free and continue on our way. Alex delivered us safely back to the resort and we were free to have lunch and explore Noosa at our leisure – which we did this time!

It must have been one of those days…on return to the apartment after a moderately steep walk up to the lookout over Noosa we decided to try out the plunge pool. Unfortunately we only discovered that the door onto the terrace only opened from the inside after it had clicked firmly shut …and due to the lay-out of the apartment blocks there was no other escape!  Vivian was dozing on the top floor, behind a balcony…we spent an interesting half hour looking for stones and finally hit on the extendable pool pole and eventually she came to explore the strange knocking noises!

That evening Alex and Rebecca collected us, not in the lorry this time(!) and we went out for a delicious meal at Rasa’s Restaurant on Gympie Terrace. I chose Moreton Bay Bugs, a local speciality that I had heard about on many previous occasions but never sampled. They were strange looking but delicious! And I think Alex has forgiven me for throwing a glass of red wine over his favourite white shirt! I suppose that there had to be a third incident to round off the day.

And that, reader, was that. Rebecca picked us up in the morning and delivered us to Eumundi for the markets, and to meet up with our friend Claire and continue our Aussie adventure. And Alex moved on to another group of jolly cavaliers – well, we are from Worcester!

For more detail on the Equathon rides visit https://www.inthesaddle.com/rides/view/9_bushbeach_sunshine-coast_australia

 

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

Win a Holiday to Estancia Los Potreros at The Riding Holiday Show

Come to the Riding Holiday Show on 12 December and enter a competition to win a riding holiday at the fabulous Estancia Los Potreros in Argentina. Sadly owners Kevin and Louisa Begg cannot join us at the event, but representing Los Potreros in their absence will be former guides Holly and Georgina.

Here, Kevin and Louisa tell us a little about life on the estancia.

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1. How long have you been at Los Potreros?

Kevin: This is my family home and so I have lived here all my life. We have been taking guests for 15 years this time round, although my grannie, Louie Begg, used to take home-stay guests between the late 1940´s and the 1960’s.

Louisa: I came here on holiday with In The Saddle 10 years ago and didn’t go home!

2. Where did you guide and/or ride before this?

Kevin: This is my first time guiding as such, but I have ridden all my life – it is an essential part of growing up on an estancia in Argentina as it is the only practical way to get around and work with cattle. As a young boy I remember my dad, Robert, who still lives on the estancia, making us get up early, go out and fetch the horses, groom them and saddle them up. In those days it felt a bit more like a chore than a pleasure!

Estancia Los Potreros Argentina by Astrid Harrison (8)

Louisa: I have ridden since I was a small girl – my parents gave me the choice of riding lessons or piano lessons which at 6 years old was a relatively easy choice. Through my teenage years I spent every spare moment mucking out stables and cleaning tack in return for riding, and this led to me working for a couple of years in the racing world. Life took me in a different direction after that (although I always kept riding), coincidentally into the hospitality industry, which has stood me in very good stead in the ten years that I have been here. Kevin always says that he checked my CV before asking me to marry him!

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

Kevin: Actually, it was my brother Robin who originally had the idea of re-starting the estancia as a riding holiday business. I had been working in Spain but was posted back to Argentina with my work and when they decided to close their offices in Buenos Aires I decided to stay – I felt I had come home. Robin asked me to come up to the estancia to help out with a few rides and 12 years on I’m still here. Now Robin has gone on to other things and Lou and I have been running the guest and cattle business for over 10 years now.

Louisa: I had always dreamed that one day I would have some form of job that would base me mainly outdoors, but really again I blame In The Saddle! I had a week off between 2 jobs, had been on an amazing riding holiday with them in Chile some years before and they suggested Los Potreros. I came here for a week and mentioned to Kevin that if he ever wanted a manager for the guest/guiding business I would be interested; it combined my service industry experience with my passion for animals and riding. I never imagined my dream would become a reality.

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4. If you hadn’t stayed at Los Potreros, what was your Plan B?

Kevin: I had always thought that one day I would come back to the family farm. Aside from the riding holiday business, we have an extremely successful cattle business, each year winning prizes at auction for highest price and best animals. I am really keen to develop the herd further, based on the amazing foundation work that my father and grandmother did.

Louisa: I had worked in the service industry all my life in one form or another, and before I came to Los Potreros I had set my sights on another 5 years of a ‘proper’ job, before looking to buy a little B&B business possibly in Devon or Wales, with the idea that I would be able to spend more time riding and being outdoors. Nowadays, if I couldn’t guide I think Kev is resigned to the fact that I would turn the estancia into a rescue home for horses/dogs/cats and probably a few other animals besides. We have already collected a few of each along the way.

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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?

Kevin: For me it is such a privilege to have found a job that allows me to live on my family estancia. One of my passions is sharing with guests the history of my family and the area, the traditions and culture of the gaucho and some of the stories of Argentina. I also love taking guests out to visit the cattle on horseback as I am very proud of the herd. Although it is wonderful having so many horses, cattle and other animals unfortunately they don’t know when it is your day off, and so sometimes the main downside is that it really is a 24/7 job.

Louisa: There is just nothing better than being able to ride out in our beautiful scenery on the back of one of our lovely horses every day. I love a good gallop as much as the next person, but I particularly enjoy helping people build their confidence on horseback, or introducing people to riding or polo who never thought they could do it. This year we had a couple in their 70’s who had never ridden in their lives, and in their first ride I had them cantering over the hills as I can put my trust completely in the horses. In terms of downsides, I am a person who wears their emotions on their sleeve, and as a riding guide you can never have a ‘bad’ day. This is really hard, especially if for example one of the animals is poorly and you have to carry on as though nothing has happened.

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6.  What is the name of your favourite horse? And if they were a human, who would he/she be and why?

Kevin: I enjoy riding all of our horses but I have a special fondness for a homebred Peruvian Paso called Negro 11. He is in his early 20’s now so there is nothing he hasn’t seen or done. He has a very noble air about him, and carries himself beautifully, so he would probably be some sort of conqueror or hero – maybe Alexander the Great?

Louisa: I can honestly say that out of our 140 horses I don’t have a favourite – they are all wonderful and brilliant in their own way. I do however often chat with the back-up guides about if ‘this horse was a human what would they be’ and we have a supermodel, everyone’s favourite uncle, an investment banker, a princess, some Barbie girls and a ‘boy at school that all the girls wanted to be with and all the boys were jealous of’ to name but a few!

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

Kevin: Malbec and beef – I am Argentine after all!

Louisa: My border collies (currently I have 6) and horses in the garden. Both are guaranteed to bring a smile to my face every day.

8. What has been your most memorable ride?

Kevin: A few years ago I took a long distance trail ride with 5 ladies of ‘a certain age’. We stopped at some beautiful pools for lunch and a swim, and the ladies decided to strip off completely and recreate a ‘calendar girls’ type photo. Not something I will forget in a hurry – nor will the gaucho!

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Louisa: So many, so very hard to pick one out, but possibly the first time I rode out on my little Peruvian Paso mare, Aurora. There is just nothing like a home-bred horse – following the foal through his or her early years, and training, and probably a few dramas and heartaches in between, until they are ‘ride ready’. She has a very exaggerated front leg action and is as pretty as a picture, so being honest I probably was enjoying the chance to show off a bit!

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

Kevin: A glass of Malbec – did I mention I am Argentine?

Louisa: My favourite de-stresser would be either spending time with the foals, or more recently we bought a pair of Nigerian pygmy goats. They are just the cutest things, incredibly cheeky, and very funny. Sometimes we take a glass of wine down and sit with them – guaranteed to make you laugh.

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

Kevin: Work hard at whatever you do – it will stand you in good stead for a guiding job. The riding itself is wonderful, but never forget there is a lot of hard work that goes in before the ride, after the ride and behind the scenes, and so developing a good work ethic is vital.

Louisa: Coming from a background in the hospitality industry I would definitely remind people that guiding is a service business, so any experience they can gain in terms of working with people will be time valuably spent. Sometimes you may have to manage people in difficult situations, handle group dynamics, be sensitive to individual guests needs or just be able to chat along happily on the ride. In terms of riding and horses, get as much experience of different horses, environments, riding styles as you can. Your dream may be to ride dressage in Portugal, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider a season as a polo groom. Never stop learning and soak up information from as many different people as possible. And definitely keep an open mind – there is never just one way of doing something and you, your horses and your guests will ultimately benefit the more open your mindset is.

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11. Where do you go on holiday?

Kevin: We have one month off a year but have no fixed destination. In recent years we have been to Brazil, Spain, Mexico and the United States. I do like to spend at least part of our holidays somewhere where we get great service – it is very nice to be looked after, when you spend 11 months of the year looking after other people.

Louisa: I always go back to the UK once a year to visit family and friends, but other than that we tend to go somewhere different every year. We do like to be active so often do some driving and of course I always like to ride, although Kevin sometimes takes some persuading. We have ridden with In The Saddle guides Shane and Laura at Horizon in South Africa, John Sobey at Macatoo in Botswana and Paulo in Brazil. This year we are hoping to visit Eddy in Peru to try out some of his fabulous Peruvian Pasos.

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Many thanks to Kevin and Louisa for sharing an insight into life at Los Potreros.

You can meet former Los Potreros guides Holly and Georgina 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, Ranch holidays, Riding Holidays, Riding in Argentina, The Riding Holiday Show, Travel advice, Travel news | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Meet the Guides” at The Riding Holiday Show – Christina from the Azores

The Riding Holiday Show on 12 December is sure to be an event to remember, with riding guides and owners from all over the world. This article is written by Christina de Laval, owner of Quinta da Terca in the Azores.

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1. How long have you been guiding at Quinta da Terca?

14 years.

2. Where did you guide before this?

In my younger years I was a guide on tourist coaches going all over Europe with Swedish tourists. As a riding guide I have also worked in Stockholm and the middle part of Sweden.

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

Many years ago I went on a riding trip to Poland and the guide for the weekend was very knowledgeable about almost everything and also lots of fun, so this episode helped to inspire me to become a guide.

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

No plan B.

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?

It is the ideal job – meeting people from all corners of the world with the same interests – horses and nature. Showing the beauty of Sao Miguel from horseback. The downside is sometimes you want to teach guests more during their stay and a week passes very fast.

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

Nikita, who if she were human would be a top model. She has a perfect body, great movements, is very feminine and has a lot of confidence.

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

A mobile phone.

8. What has been your most memorable ride?

I was riding on the south crater rim of Sete Cidades with a German princess (74 years old) enjoying the spectacular view and taking lots of pictures. When I turn around to take another photo of my guest I see a loose bull standing in the middle of the road about 50 metres from us. My heart stopped! I calmly ask my guest to stop her horse and please be so kind and hold the reins of my horse so I could get the cattle away from the road. With the help of a long bamboo stick and some heifers in pasture close by, I managed to get Mr. Bull interested in the heifers and could close him in on the field with the “girls”!! The rest of the ride went perfect without any more exciting incidents.

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

A shower and a good book.

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

You need to be a good rider who loves the outdoors, have an outgoing personality, be adaptable, flexible and reliable, have leadership skills, be energetic, cooperative and have interpersonal skills.

11.   Where do you go on holiday?

I go to Sweden to meet up with my family.

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Thank you Christina for another interesting article. Olwen and the team look forward to seeing you in a few weeks’ time.

You can meet Christina from the Azores 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, Lusitanos, Ride reviews, Riding Holidays, The Riding Holiday Show, Travel advice, Travel news | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Meet the Guides” at The Riding Holiday Show – Ingeborg from Namibia

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 by a talented and popular guide who is well know for her love of Arabian horses – Ingeborg from Okapuka in Namibia.

0821.How long have you been guiding at Okapuka?

I’ve been guiding since 2000 when my ex-partner and I set up the riding safari operation at Okapuka.

2.    Where did you guide before this?

I used to be an HR manager before I decided that Namibia would be my home. I started riding when I was a youngster. My first pony was a white Shetland mare, called Walda who was most probably not bigger 11hh; later I had a chestnut gelding, a New Forest pony called (believe it or not), Quicky! During my riding years in the Netherlands I saw one of my competitors in the dressage ring riding a white purebred Arabian and I was completely in awe. That’s how my fascination and love for the breed started and I promised myself one day that one day, one day I would be the owner of such a magnificent creature. I stopped riding when I turned 18 and only started again just before coming to Namibia on a holiday (not a riding holiday), not knowing riding would become my profession. When we started the horse safaris there was doubt that the Arabian horse would become our partner. In a way I’m still an HR manager, but now it’s Horse Resource Manager.

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

When my ex-partner and I set up the company there was no question in my mind that I would do the guiding as well. It wasn’t a person, but the country inspired me; wide open spaces, abundance of wildlife, 360 days of sunshine and the smell of the earth after the first rain (if Chanel, Dior, or whoever could put that smell in a bottle I would be the biggest user). I love horses, especially purebred Arabians, horse riding and what better way to do that than in Africa.

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

I would either have stayed an HR Manager or just mucked out stables, I guess. I have never thought about it. I don’t think there ever was a plan B!

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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?

What is it there not love about the job? Being outside, enjoying beautiful scenery, having gorgeous Arabian horses around me and seeing smiles on the faces of my guests. The downside? Well I could say there is none, but then I would be telling a lie. The most horrible thing is to have to say goodbye to a much-loved horse. That is something I cannot and do not want to get used to.

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

I have a few favourites, but the one who always makes my heart beat faster is my Monster as I affectionately call him. His official name is ‘Nabilah the Makers Masterpiece’, a straight Egyptian Arabian grey gelding who is turning 20 in December. He has a wicked sense of humour, is a drinker of the wind and I trust him with my life. If he would be human, most probably he would be my husband!

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

When guiding I couldn’t do without a good lead horse. In general it’s difficult for me to live without sunshine, white wine, my horses, dog and cats and my family – and not in this particular order.

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

My most memorable endurance ride was the competition where my guests and I all came first in our different weight categories and distances, and won some Best Conditioned Horse Awards. My most embarrassing competition was where I fell off my horse in front of my guest rider and ended up in hospital. Thank goodness, the guest rider continued and finished the ride!

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Finding my most memorable safari week or ride is very difficult; there have been so many memorable riders and rides, and situations. My most memorable rider is a Belgian lady, saying that even though she loved the place, horses and rides she would not return as there were so many more beautiful riding places that she were on her bucket list. But then she came back every single year, once or twice until the year she passed away. My most memorable ride was earlier this year when taking guest riders on their first ride and meeting 2 male leopards having a springbok breakfast, followed by a rhino sighting, followed by being enclosed by giraffe, followed by ….. I had to explain to them that this was exceptional and to please don’t expect this every single day! My most memorable situation was when we were having a good canter and suddenly 2 rhino came thundering out of the thickets deciding to join us for a short while; our tempo increased slightly and so did our adrenaline level!!

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

I sit on my stoop with a good book, a glass of Sauvignon Blanc being greeted by Doggos, my dog and being surrounded by purring cats.

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

Look, listen and learn, be aware of your surroundings, horses and guests and the interaction between those 3.

11.    Where do you go on holiday?

To Europe to visit family.

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

You can meet Ingeborg from Okapuka 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 Holidays, riding holidays namibia, Riding safaris, 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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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

Paradise in Mozambique – Africa, but not as you know it

In this feature, Kim Simkins tells us about her recent trip and why we should all be adding Mozambique to our bucket list.

Where are you going? Where is that and why on earth would you want to go there?

Those are the two questions I was most frequently asked when I merrily told everyone I had booked a riding holiday in Mozambique!

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I was desperate for sunshine and some serious relaxation before the worst of the Christmas and winter blues set in. Limited time and dates restricted my options somewhat. In The Saddle talked me through various options and I bit the bullet and booked ‘African Paradise’. I thought it unsuitable for my usual holiday partner in crime, as she had been ‘beached out’ on previous riding trips. However, she was feeling about as desperate as I was for a break and decided that she would join me anyway.

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So the two musketeers set off into the complete unknown without too many expectations, third world after all?! We tucked away the bottle of duty free gin in our bags, praying that just maybe they might have heard of tonic in such a far flung and remote place!

We laughed as the pilot announced the weather was warm but raining. We decided that it really didn’t matter and we were going to enjoy ourselves regardless! The tiny airport at Vilanculos gave us our first insight into African philosophy, i.e.  how many men and how long it takes to stamp a passport! It was great to eventually get through somewhat dishevelled and exhausted and to be met by a warm and friendly whirlwind in the form of Mandy Retzlaff!

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We were whisked away and driven to a lovely lunch at Archipelago Lodge, a wonderful setting, overlooking the beach, palm trees and azure blue sea. We felt a little guilty that we had eaten the awful airline sandwich, and didn’t feel we could do lunch justice! A lovely cool drink and a refreshing sea breeze suddenly made us feel human again. We were swiftly  taken to our wonderful lodge to freshen up before meeting the horses, the stars of the show.

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Rachel had read  Mandy’s book ‘104 Horses’, the incredible story of how Mandy and Pat Retzlaff had been forced out from their farm in Zimbabwe and had rescued their horses and set up a new life as a safari business but with countless hardships and disasters along the way. It was humbling to meet such wonderful people who had been through such awful experiences and yet maintained their boundless enthusiasm for people, horses and life in general!

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The yard was buzzing with activity, horses tied up, beautifully groomed, and saddles lined up at the ready. We were the only residential guests for the week and we were introduced to various horses who Pat thought would fit our requirements. He explained their characters and we were given the choice of who we wanted to try. ‘If you don’t like one, we can try another, and what sort of saddle and reins do you like?!’ Really, now that’s new on us, and we have done a lot of these trips!

So we climbed aboard the skylarks, I got a very cheeky and characterful little horse called Brutus who thought he would just test me out for size and then decided that as I could ride, he would agree to my demands – and proved to be an absolute gem through the week! Rachel settled on Black Magic and we tested out our steering and brakes in the school before setting off on our first ride to the beach, accompanied by Pat and Donna (one of the volunteers).

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The tide was high but there was still enough beach to follow the edge of the tide line and admire the lovely white sand, countless small fishing boats and lots of birds. We had a leisurely test ride enjoying the wonderful sound of the waves lapping on the shore, and feeling the wind in our faces as the light gently faded and we splashed along the waters edge in the dark. The long flight now seemed forever ago and we were caught completely in the moment.

After a good night’s sleep, I was woken by the dawn chorus of the kingfisher in the tree outside. I watched a fantastic sunrise and the parade of local women balancing baskets on theirs heads as they walked along the beach; the men setting off on their fishing trips out to the sand banks on their dhows. The sound of people singing drifted up as they pulled in their nets and paddled their boats past the bottom of the garden.

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After a sumptuous breakfast, we set off in high spirits under blue skies and African sun on our first adventure riding to the Red Dune. The  tide was out and a glorious beach stretched out in an endless expanse all the way to the horizon. The horses were full of enthusiasm but not at all silly and the hard sand was perfect for some fabulous extended gallops along the beach, side by side. There was such a wonderful sense of space, emptiness and freedom, more than I have experienced anywhere else (and I have ridden all round the world). Our only instructions were to stick to the hard sand for the sake of the horses legs and to avoid ropes and anchors in the areas with boats. ‘Stop when you reach the blue boat you can just see in the distance and I will catch you up’, said Pat. Fishermen were dotted at intervals along the beaches, painting and maintaining their boats which were high and dry until the next tide, they glanced up and waved as we went by.

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The bird life was amazing, especially busy at the waters edge. Flocks of sandpipers, whimbrels, egrets and cormorants took off en masse as we splashed through the puddles of water left amongst the wave rippled sand. The colour of the sky and the clouds was reflected like a mirror in the pools and the mud crabs scurried for cover into their holes as hooves thundered by.

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We were met at lunch by our ground crew and the horses were given a well earned break whilst Mandy refreshed us with re-hydrating coconut water and then force-fed us more amazing seafood than we could ever have dreamt of eating in one sitting, all washed down with the wonderful Casal Garcia, a semi-sparkling white wine. Wondering how we would ever manage to get back on a horse after such a large lunch, we were helped back into the saddle and galloped on to the amazing orange Red Dune! A steep canter up the shifting sand dune was rewarded with a stupendous view of the whole area, sea and sand banks. The colour of the water and sand spits was amazing and gave you a whole new perspective than that down at sea level. It was almost a disappointment to have to leave the viewpoint to ride back along the beach.

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Time for a swim in the pool in the afternoon and a swift gin and tonic (yes Mandy had found us tonic!) before dinner and an amazing and sociable evening dining with Mandy, Pat, their friends and volunteer. A great board game afterwards, lots of laughter and swapping of stories and talk of the rest of the weeks plans, finished off by a glass of wine on our verandah and a bar of Dairy Milk (Mandy, you really are amazing, you think of everything!) What a wonderful end to a perfect day!

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The rest of the week was a delightful series of varied beach and inland rides, visits to the local markets and fishing villages. Mandy and Pat are walking encyclopedias, so knowledgeable about the history, culture, flora and fauna of the region. We had a lovely authentic lunch cooked in the fishing village with its thatched huts and bright red flamboyant tree. Then we watched the children sing and dance for us before giving out pens, pencils and books. Their excited faces and smiles were so worth the ride out there. The horses were also very happy as they love the fresh coconut pieces and refuse to leave until they have all gone,  Brutus was in seventh heaven, his ears were so pricked, it was untrue and I was mugged until my pocket was empty!

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Visiting the other islands in the archipelago was amazing, stunning empty white sandy beaches reminiscent of Robinson Crusoe. Pink shore crabs patrolling the surf, wonderful snorkelling with multi coloured fish and beautiful sand dunes towering above a thousand shades of blue water. The view from the top of the dune on Bazaruto was a breathtaking 360 degree panorama and well worth the climb. The ride on Benguerra was quite different from the mainland, although Tequila didn’t quite manage to steal my heart like Brutus had!

The canoe trip along the river was wonderful, sitting back and being paddled amongst the purple water lilies on flat calm water, the peace broken only by the flapping of herons and other waterfowl that we disturbed! A lovely glass of chilled white wine whilst watching the setting of the sun, was amazing but the paddle home in the dark with the fireflies flitting overhead and glowing like little fairy lights actually made me cry! It was magical and emotional and a memory that will stay with me forever.

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Mandy and Pat are some of the most gracious and wonderful hosts we have ever come across, nothing was too much trouble. Their passion and enthusiasm despite the hardship is inspiring and they showed us an Africa that we never new existed, beautiful in its own way but real (warts and all). Food and accommodation could not be faulted, third world it most certainly was not. However you need to go with an open mind, a sense of humour and a willingness to let go of our obsession with time. Love it for what it is!

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The horses are the key to the whole story here, they were wonderful and gave us everything we asked for and so much more. The Retzlaff’s made us so welcome, we came home completely relaxed and rested. Mozambique was the perfect remedy and we have vowed to return! Anyone who doubts the merits of this wonderful country should think again and give it a go, I am sure Mandy and Pat would love to share it with you and I am sure you will be as captivated as we were!

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

“Meet the Guides” at The Riding Holiday Show – Jessica Morton from Castellare di Tonda, Italy

The Riding Holiday Show on 12 December 2015 is all about “Meeting the Guides” – in fact that’s what we called the event when we first ran it in 2007. It’s a chance to learn all about the wonderful riding holidays all over the world, directly from the people who will be guiding you day by day. As well as an opportunity to renew friendships and chat about past experiences.

We thought it would be interesting to run a series of profiles of some of the people who will be at the Riding Holiday Show and here is our first one – Jessica Morton from Castellare di Tonda, Italy

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1.    How long have you been guiding at Castellare di Tonda?
Four years.

2.    Where did you guide before this?
I started working with horses in NZ, and left high school to work with dressage horses in Germany. I also did an 8 month stint in Italy at a place called Il Paretaio, near Siena before returning to NZ. I came back 6 years later to do another season in Tuscany, followed by a season near Viterbo in Lazio at a center called Santa Cristina.  I then switched to western riding and opened up a business near Florence with my ex partner which we ran for four years.

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3.    How did you get into guiding? Was there someone who inspired you?
Mine was a cliché really. I met a handsome Italian when I was in Italy on a working holiday. When I met him he had 6 horses, and was trying to set up a small trail riding business of his own. He was an excellent horseman, with more than ten years guiding experience -and he knew every trail from our side of Florence through to Emilia Romagna off by heart. His problem was that he spoke no English, and had no computer skills to market his business. We decided to work together, me doing the marketing and him leading the trails. We started taking backpackers out on day rides, and quickly moved on to operating week long inn to inn adventure trails –which we ran for four years, alternating the guiding between the two of us. That experience, which was immensely tough but also rewarding taught me more about horses and guiding than any book or instructor ever has.

4.    If you hadn’t become a riding guide, what was your Plan B?
I was a flight attendant in New Zealand before moving permanently to Italy. I loved the flying lifestyle, but I could never go back to that sort of job now. It did prepare me for the customer service side of guiding, and also taught me flexibility. Flying was like riding, external factors such as weather often caused plans to change, and essentially we were there to look after clients in the case of emergency, much like a trail guide is required to do so on a riding holiday.

As a side job, I have worked freelance as a writer for equestrian magazine and as a translator for the past 6 years . In the winter I work in the marketing office here at Castellare, so I guess my plan B would have something  to do with writing, or marketing – or perhaps something language based (which is what I originally studied at university).

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?
Guiding a group of people is totally different to riding for recreation only. Don’t get me wrong, it can be immensely gratifying; but when I am working I am always thinking about something or someone on the trail. It might be whether a certain section of a ride  will be open after a bad storm, or whether the rider behind you is as experienced as they claimed, or perhaps a horse is acting strangely.. you can never switch off like when you are just responsible for yourself and your own horse.

The benefits are what everyone sees. Working outside in the sunshine while others are stuck behind a computer, meeting new people and hearing their unique stories, and of course experiencing things that other people dream about – whether its laughing with a shepherd bringing back his sheep or coming face to face with a wild boar on the trail. I also am lucky to live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, and I never forget that.

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6.    If your favorite horse was a human, who would he/she be and why?
Shamal is my favorite horse. After a rough start to life in Argentina, he almost finished up in the Italian abattoirs.  Since he hails from South America, I would say if he was human he would have been some great leader or explorer like Simon Bolivar (the South American general). He is the most fearless, steady and independent horse I have ever had the pleasure to work with.

7.    What can you not live without (when guiding or just generally)?
A good guiding horse. Without a good horse, It is difficult to be a good guide.
Second to that, it would be a cell phone. For organization, calling back up teams, and most of all – for emergencies with horses or clients.

8.    What has been your most memorable riding holiday week?
There have been so many memorable guests and weeks, it really is hard to choose.
I have had lunch with David Gilmore from Pink Floyd (he was on a riding holiday with his family) in a castle in Lazio. I’ve been present while guests proposed to their girlfriends during rides, had some incredible up close encounters with wild animals, felt the earth shake during a picnic lunch earthquake, ridden flooded rivers, survived incredible storms and shared many a glass of wine with wonderful people, who have shared some astonishing stories of their lives. That’s without a doubt the best part of the job – the exchange of ideas, stories, experiences.

9.    How do you relax after a day in the saddle?
In the summer months a cold beer and a refreshing swim.
In the winter, a warm fire and a good book.

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10.    What advice would you give a 21 year old who wants to train for your job?
There is so much more to this job than riding horses.
As a guide you will meet people from all over the world and even if they share different political or religious beliefs, you must continue to interact with them professionally. Nobody wants to ride with an antisocial guide, but there is also a fine line between banter and talking incessantly . Be aware that as a guide, you are in the hospitality business, and the customer is the most important element of that. As a guide you need to be up to the challenge that interacting with strangers on a regular basis poses.

Read up on the area. People expect their guide to be better informed than they are about an area–and of course, because they want to see scenery off the beaten track. Clients ask a lot of questions about native plants and  local history – so it pays to be informed about the area you ride through -and if you’re not a local – learn about the culture and history too.

Get your first aid certificate. I had to take this annually as a flight attendant, and think it should also be obligatory for anyone that works with horses. Like it or not, we do all work in a high risk industry – and its always better to be prepared just in case. If you have your certificate before you apply for a job as a guide, you  may have an edge over other would be applicants too.

Safety is one of the most important skills that a guide can have. You need to know how to read your clients and read your horses before an accident happens. It is rare than an accident on a ride will happen without any pre-warning, so an alert guide that practices good safe conduct is an asset to any outfitter.

Be prepared to live in some very isolated places. I think this is overlooked by many young people who want to work with horses. Horses are generally not found in cities, so be prepared to relocate to small towns or even national parks or remote farms, where there is no access to night life, restaurants or shopping. Also you should be prepared to live in some fairly cramped or crappy accommodation to start out– often without phone signal or internet connections. This can be hard for people who are used to living with family close by.

11.    Where do you go on holiday?
Usually my holidays are taken in the European off season, and usually these are spent back home with my family in either Sydney Australia or Christchurch NZ.  I tend to keep away from horses when I am on holiday!

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Thank you Jess.

Fantastic images and a wonderful article.

You can meet Jess from Castellare di Tonda 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 Picadilly 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, Horses & riding, Ranch holidays, Riding expeditions, Riding Holidays, Riding safaris, The Riding Holiday Show, Travel advice, Travel news | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lucy Higginson, former editor of Horse & Hound, at Macatoo in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

In February 2015, In The Saddle organised Lucy Higginson’s holiday to Macatoo in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. In her former position as editor of Horse & Hound, Lucy has been fortunate enough to ride in many countries (although she does rank Africa as her favourite destination) and as a guest on many hunts all over the UK.  We have picked this small selection of lovely images.

Lucy Higginson, former editor of Horse & Hound in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Lucy Higginson, former editor of Horse & Hound in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Throughout her stay she had some amazing elephant sightings.

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February in the Okavango Delta is known as the Green Season and you can see why from these next couple of images. When the flood waters come in April they flood across much of these plains creating palm tree islands.

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But there are some incredibly dry areas which haven’t seen much flood waters or rain the last few months. And then, in summer months of January to February, there is the possibility of bush fires which run through the dead and dry bush.

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After the fires it can look a bit blackened, but this will only be for a short time and after a shower of rain there will be lots of green shoots which the animals will love. So game sightings over the next couple of months are predicted to be amazing.

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Did you spot the hyaena in the picture above? Here he is a bit closer.

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This cheeky fellow (below) is a reminder of why you should always zip up your tent when you go to lunch or to ride.

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But the highlight of the week was this amazing sighting of the rare wild dog.

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If you would like more information on how to book an In The Saddle horse safari at Macatoo camp, please click here.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Riding Holidays, Riding safaris | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Abbie in the Okavango Delta – part 2 – Motswiri

In December Abbie had a two week trip to Botswana visiting Kujwana, Motswiri and Macatoo camps. Having worked in the travel industry for over 8 years, she knew plenty about the camps but are they going to live up to her high expectations. Read on as she visits Motswiri.

“As our little plane nears Motswiri camp I peek through the window and watch immense grey shapes cluster around waterholes joyfully spurting water from their trunks. A few moments later I see huge herds of buffalo seething across the plains as though one solid mass of muscle. Soon after the plane takes off again there are more elephant right in front of us crossing the airstrip…and I know my stay at Motswiri is going to be special.

Elephant on the runway at Motswiri

Elephant on the runway at Motswiri

I’m met at the airstrip by Cliffy who will be my riding guide for the duration of my stay. I am in good hands, as Cliffy has been involved in the guiding industry since 1993. Not only is he an experienced guide and passionate conservationist, but he also trains aspiring new guides and is involved in restructuring the nature guide qualification in Botswana.

As we draw close we are met by the harmonious voices of the staff as they welcome us into camp. After being shown around and hearing about the usual day-to-day route, I am shown to my tent. Wow! It really is fabulous, with a huge high bed giving a great view out over the water, a lovely bathroom with hot/cold running water and a flush loo. In my room I find everything you might need, from shampoo and soap, to insect repellent and mosquito coils. My tent is a short wander from the swimming pool, which is so refreshing after a few hours in the saddle. The central mess tent is superbly located overlooking the spillway, where elephants often come to drink. Sundowners here are often accompanied by the sound of grunting hippo making their way along the water channels.

my really comfortable bed at Motswiri!

My really comfortable bed at Motswiri!

In camp with me are a Swiss couple, who are on safari celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. Therys is a non-rider, but tells me what a wonderful stay they have had so far. Each day she has been out with two guides on fabulous game walks and exciting game drives. She tells me it has been the perfect trip, because they have each been able to take part in their favourite activities, but mealtimes, sundowners and afternoons have all been spent together.

I am given Mopani to ride, a stunning liver chestnut gelding who is fit and ready for action. The saddles are comfortable South African trail saddles, although English saddles are available if you prefer. My first afternoon ride takes us along the river. As we round a bend in front of us a disgruntled hippo has been pushed from his watery wallowing place by a large herd of elephant. Our horses graze and we watch enchanted by these amazing creature so close to us. The elephant cross the river as the young ones splash and play. I’ve never seen a hippo out of the water before and it is an amazing sight!

hippo out of water is an amazing sight

Hippo out of water is an amazing sight

We ride back to camp, where the stable staff are waiting to take the horses from us. We dismount to the sounds of popping corks, as the champagne is opened to celebrate our arrival. Sundowners are enjoyed on ‘Motswiri beach’ as we recount our adventures and look forward to what tomorrow might bring.

I am visiting in December, when the days are warm and the bush is green and lush. Cliffy tells me in October the bush is drier but there is more water around. Having said this, there was more water then I was expecting – we still waded through plenty of water and had some fabulous splashy canters.

A real thrill between May and September is the opportunity to ride to fly camp for a night and experience riding in a totally different area.

the very comfortable fly camp

The very comfortable fly camp

Next morning our ride takes us out onto the floodplains, which in the flood season are completely full of water. Right now (in December) there is still a good amount of water left – enough for some refreshing splashy canters which have us grinning from ear to ear. We ride to an ancient baobab tree, a beautiful spot for a snack break. As we make our way along the edge of a forest we hear buffalo not far away and at one point we catch sight of them. Next moment we are crossing over to the other side of the bank and as if from nowhere, we spot a long table laid out for lunch! We dismount and pat our horses, and as if on cue a big herd of elephant cross in front of us.

A spectacular sight at lunch

A spectacular sight at lunch

In the afternoon I try out a new horse called Roman, a Namibian Warmblood. He is cheeky, forward going and great fun. We spot tsessebe, impala and warthog and just catch sight of a beautiful antelope which Cliffy thinks is Oribi.

Next day we ride to King’s Island and have great fun popping over logs and fallen trees. Roman, Sambuca, Mr B and Amigo seem to love the chance for some bush cross country as much as we do! My final morning ride is a long one to Hippo Pools. We have plenty of fast riding along vehicle tracks and over the flood plains, the horses expertly hopping over the fish nest holes. After a few hours we reach our destination and pause to watch about ten hippos in their big pool of water. One female is really curious about the horses and gets closer and closer to us. Finally she plucks up the courage to leave the water and comes within about 10 metres of us, before turning and going back into the water. Not long afterwards, we are riding through a wooded area and come upon a breeding herd of elephant. Some of them are eating and others are digging the ground for minerals. As we begin to skirt around the herd, a big bull elephant begins to charge. But we stand our ground and he pauses, then turns his back to us and retreats. What a way to finish off my time at Motswiri!

Abbie at Motswiri

Abbie at Motswiri

You can read more about the fantastic In The Saddle horse safaris at Motswiri here.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Ride reviews, Riding safaris | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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