There’s nothing to beat watching horses getting to be horses, allowed to roam and forage in a herd environment. Which is why it’s so thrilling to witness the Abelana Horse Safaris herd turned out into the wilderness to enjoy a few hours of grazing before returning to their paddock for the evening.
The horses are turned out as much as possible and the grassy region around the reserve’s airstrip, next to the stables, is the perfect place for these gorgeous guys to stretch their legs, horse around and enjoy some downtime.
They’re watched, of course, at all times. This is wild Africa, after all. Abelana is home to the Big Five nd and the area is always checked for possible danger before they’re turned out.
Leaving the paddock is always exciting and is usually accompanied by a lot of thundering hooves, playful bucks and leaps, as you can see from the video above. This makes up for the time the horses spend carrying guests and being on their best behaviour as they explore the amazing scenery around Abelana Safari Camp – the home base for Abelana Horse Safaris.
They’re all exceptionally easy going, as time spend in the paddock with them reveals. Inquisitive, friendly and gentle are words that come to mind when describing their collective nature. And relaxed. Especially under the saddle, which is where their character is so critically important.
“Each of them is unique, with his own traits and personality,” says Tamlyn Whitebread, who heads up Abelana Horse Safaris and is the lead rider for all of the outrides into the reserve. She’s also a qualified and experienced safari guide so guests get to learn all about the African wilderness and its wildlife while riding with her. “We try to match guests up to the right horse for them based on their preferences and level of experience,” she says. “They’re all boys, and with the exception of our stallion, Fraser, are all geldings.”
The horses are all schooled in the English style and as a result, all of the saddles used are English saddles, custom fitted to each of the horses to ensure that there’s no pinching of withers and chafing. Most of the saddles in use are all-purpose Wintec saddles, making them lightweight and weatherproof and extremely comfortable. All-purpose English saddles offer a deep seat and medium positioned flaps that give comfort and security for riders no matter the terrain.
If you are used to using trails saddles, there may be a slight adjustment in your riding position required to adapt to an English saddle, as you tend to sit much deeper and generally need a shorter stirrup length for optimum comfort, but experienced riders usually have no problem with this.
“Experience is the key to a great horse safari,” says Tamlyn. “You need to be able to canter away from possible danger comfortably and confidently, should the need arise,” she adds. “A lot of people ask about the possibility of encountering predators like lion while out riding, and of course, we’re out in wild Africa, so there is always a possibility that we may come across big cats while out on safari,” she explains. “But we do not actively seek out such sightings and invariably, lions and other big cats do not identify horses with riders as prey, so the risk to both is minimal,” she adds. “All of our horses are used to the wilderness and the wildlife we may encounter, and being on horseback is the most thrilling way to experience the bush,” she says. If you are interested in a horse safari at Abelana, please get in touch for more info!