Equestrian Gap Year programmes

Brush up on your stable manners with an equestrian gap year programme

Posted: May 30, 2012 |By Nicky Hoseck|

After completing school or university many people decide to 
take a year or so to explore new horizons and get a clearer 
sense of themselves and their priorities before committing 
to a career. For many, this is the opportunity to travel to 
new countries and experience different cultures and people. 
For horse- mad girls (why are they nearly always girls?),
this year is often a chance to rekindle an old passion.
Equestrian Gap Year Programmes are generally not free, but 
they are often a lot more affordable than keeping a horse or 
having regular riding lessons. The added benefit it that it 
gives those involved the opportunity to learn about so much 
more than just horses.

There are many different types of riding holidays available to
people on a gap year. Some might choose to assist with 
teaching children to ride ponies, or even to lend a hand at a 
riding for the disabled establishment. Some of the most 
popular Equestrian Gap Year Programmes are those situated
in Africa. Not only does this give participants the opportunity 
to discover a whole new world and lots of different cultures, 
many of the opportunities also involve riding with game – 
something that is not usually available outside this continent.
Many of the trail-riding companies in South Africa offer
Equestrian Gap Year Programmes and volunteer opportunities
to experienced riders. This often means that volunteers will 
ride out with a guide and their guests, usually at the back of 
the ride, to ensure the safety of the guests so a fairly 
advanced level of horsemanship is generally required.
In many cases, Equestrian Gap Year Programmes will cover a
lot of different aspects of an equine business and volunteers 
may find themselves involved with handling foals, brood mares
and stallions as well as riding horses. As with any volunteer 
placement, there is a balance between the hard work and 
the fun stuff. While you may end up cleaning tack for a 
morning, the afternoon will probably be a great ride through 
the African wilderness.
Very few Equestrian Gap Year Programmes will expect their
participants to muck out stables or do any other very heavy, 
manual work. However, there re always disreputable companies
out there who are anxious to get their share of volunteer 
labour, even if they are not really in a position to offer an 
organised programme. To avoid wasting your time, it's 
advisable to speak to previous volunteers to check out the 
details of what they were expected to do and what their 
experience was like. After all, it is a big investment in terms 
of both time and money.
Once you secure your place at a reputable stable, be sure to
brush up on your riding before you get there – otherwise your 
riding muscles might let you down over the first few days!

Learn to ride a horse when you are an adult.

The benefits of learning to ride as an adult

Published: June 12, 2012 by Nicky Hoseck
Learning to ride has many positive benefits
Learning to ride has many positive benefits

Learning to ride a horse is more than just physical

Looking for a new challenge – something that will keep you fit and provide with a new way to spend your leisure time? Why not learn to ride a horse? The relationship between human and horse has existed for centuries and the experience of riding a horse has a range of benefits for the rider – in physical, spiritual and emotional terms.
The first time on a horse’s back can be quite unnerving for some but, once in the rhythm of it, it can provide an exhilarating and empowering experience.
Obviously, for many adults, the idea of taking on a new pastime later in life is quite daunting, especially if it means joining a class full of children plodding around a ring on ponies. Fortunately, many horse-riding establishments are aware of this and offer alternatives specifically aimed at adult beginner riders. For example, some riding stables offer a two-week intensive course which caters for adults only and during which participants will learn to ride a horse as well as the basics of horse care, such as grooming and tacking up.
The benefit of packages such as this is, is not only the enjoyment factor, but also the variety of different aspects of horsemanship that are taught. Most packages will offer an arena-based lesson – often on a one-to-one basis – in the morning, followed by an out-ride or trail in the afternoon. This means that participants will be confident both in the arena and out in the countryside at the end of the course.
The physical benefits of horse-riding make it an attractive pastime for those who are seeking an outdoor pursuit that will burn calories as well as toning and strengthening muscles. Research indicates that riding a horse – even at a walk – improves balance and builds strong, flexible muscles as well as developing coordination. The work associated with horses, such as lifting bales of hay or mucking out a stable, also increases strength and fitness.
From a spiritual point of view, many adults that learn to ride a horse find it very calming, especially once they have built a bond with a particular equine companion. The experience of riding out on your beloved horse can prove a great way of relieving stress and winding down from the pressures of work.
Whether you are looking for a hobby that you can share with a close friend or family member, or whether you are seeking a more solitary pursuit, horse-riding can fulfil your needs. Some people prefer to ride in groups, while others are more content when it is just themselves and their equine friend.
Some of the benefits of going on an intensive course in order to learn to ride is that, not only will you gain a new skill and immerse yourself in all things equine, you will also meet friendly people, get to experience life in the countryside – maybe even in a foreign country – and have the opportunity to sample good, home-cooked food and farm-style hospitality.
An intensive riding course, especially one offered in an exotic location, gives you a complete break from your usual, day-to-day life and, with all your concentration focussed on developing your riding ability, it gives your mind a chance to unwind from the pressures of work and home.

Volunteering with Horses in Africa

Volunteering with horses

Published: May 7, 2012   Last updated: May 8, 2012 by Nicky Hoseck

Desensitising is a vital step in training

Learn how to train a horse the natural way
Learn how to train a horse the natural way

Gap year opportunities

For many people, one of the most cost-efficient way of travelling and experiencing new cultures is through gap year and volunteer programmes. Volunteering with horses is a wonderful way to gain new experiences and develop your equestrian skills.
All over the world, there are opportunities available for people interested in volunteering with horses – ranging from helping in rescue and rehabilitation centre to assisting professional horse-riders with the day-to-day care of their animals.
Some equine rescue and rehabilitation centres require people with previous experience and the confidence to handle previously mistreated or abused animals, while other opportunities, such as those at riding stables or other equestrian establishments, may be more suited to volunteers without any prior experience of working with horses.
Within an African context, there are opportunities for experienced riders to assist with trails and safari rides. These types of positions offer some of the most exciting opportunities for those interested in volunteering with horses. Not only do participants get to ride regularly, they also get to experience wildlife from horseback and learn about keeping horses healthy in a challenging and often remote environment.
When considering the best destination to pursue volunteering with horses, it’s advisable to speak to volunteers that have been there before. Not everyone in the horse world is legitimate and some will exploit volunteers by expecting them to do unpleasant chores with little reward at the end. On the other hand, there are some amazing experiences out there and people who have experience of volunteering with horses often discover a lot about themselves during the process as well.
For those who have a genuine love of horses and want a taste of adventure, volunteering with horses can provide a unique opportunity to discover a new country, develop equestrian skills, make new friends and experience new challenges on horseback.

Wild Coast Holidays

Wonders of the Wild Coast - a unique family destination

Published: May 30, 2012 by Nicky Hoseck
The Kobanqaba River on the Wild Coast
See all 2 photos
The Kobanqaba River on the Wild Coast

Meeting the needs of all the family

So your eldest daughter can think of nothing but horses, your husband’s dream holiday is combining a great golf experience with some deep-sea fishing, your younger daughter is at that age so simply wants to listen to tunes on her iPod while getting a tan that will make her schoolmates green with jealousy while your son wants to risk his life bungee jumping or wrestling with wild animals. And you? Well, being a mum means keeping the peace so you’ll probably turn a hand to all of the above and maybe, just maybe, squeeze in some valuable ‘you-time’ in the spa.

Activities and attractions on the Wild Coast

The problem is, where in the world can you go and ensure the perfect family holiday that meets all your family members’ needs?The Wild Coast of South Africa is a little-known area of incredible natural beauty, located in the malaria-free, self-proclaimed adventure province of the Eastern Cape. Within a 60km radius of East London, your family will discover everything their hearts’ desire – from some of the best beach riding in the world to pristine golf courses and incredible wildlife experiences.
There are a number of game reserves situated within spitting distance of East London, giving your family the opportunity to experience most of the Big Five either on horseback, by safari vehicle or by quad bike. Some reserves also offer elephant-back safaris and elephant interactions meaning your son can satisfy his desire for adventure while your daughter can experience a whole new horseback experience.
The Wild Coast of South Africa also has a number of small but beautifully appointed golf courses, some of which are located in wildlife areas, meaning your husband can practise his shots while enjoying stunning views of the coast and familiarising himself with some of Africa’s numerous antelope species.
The golden beaches of the Wild Coast are some of the most pristine in the world so, whether you wish to walk, swim, fish or simply soak up the sun, this is an ideal destination for the perfect family holiday. Situated on the eastern coast of South Africa, the seas of the Wild Coast are teeming with fish and there are a number of operators that will take you out to try your hand at deep-sea fishing and help you find the best locations for catching that dream fish.
In and around East London, the majority of game reserves and hotels are aimed specifically at providing the best family holiday. There are plenty of activities on offer, as well as in-house spa treatments at very reasonable rates. Whether it is a facial, a massage or a pedicure that makes you feel special and spoiled, you will find what you are looking for.

With so much to offer, the Wild Coast is a great destination to consider for a family holiday. Whether it is adventure, relaxation, sport or beach that appeals, the Wild Coast has something for everyone and ensures that you, as the family holiday planner, makes the right decision for every member of your family.

A sunset canter on Qolora beach
A sunset canter on Qolora beach

Trail horses - what breed?

The best breeds for horse-riding holidays

Published: May 7, 2012   Last updated: May 8, 2012 by Nicky Hoseck

The SA Boerperd - a great trail horse

SA Boerperd, Geronimo, gives another client a great horseback adventure on the Wild Coast
Horse-riding holidays are a great way to explore new horizons and soak in the culture and countryside of a new destination. The opportunity to bond with a horse and enjoy an experience hand and hoof with an equine friend is often part of the appeal so ensuring the right horses are available is crucial to a successful trip.
Most companies have a selection of different horses and ponies in order to cater for all shapes and sizes of rider, as well as riders of differing standards. Many horse-riding holidays are aimed at competent riders so companies need to have well-trained, responsive horses that are also going to give their riders an exciting ride.
Within South Africa, the most popular breeds used for horse-riding holidays include Arabians and Arab crosses; Thoroughbreds and the local breeds of the Boerperd and the Nooitgedacht. While these native breeds tend to be quite small, their conformation makes them capable of carrying comparatively heavy riders which means they are versatile mounts suitable for children and adults alike.
Arabians are bred for their endurance and stamina but often have quite a flighty temperament which makes them unsuitable for less competent riders. By comparison, the Boerperd is a lively ride but usually quite dependable.
Heavier breeds of horses, such as Percheron or Shire crosses, sometimes struggle with the fast work involved in horse-riding holidays in certain environments and terrain. For example, their heavy weight makes working in soft sand a lot harder than it is for lighter breeds. Nevertheless, their strength and their ability to carry larger loads can prove invaluable for beginner or novice riders.
While there is no definitive answer to the question of the best breed for horse-riding holidays, the Boerperd definitely stands out as a versatile, comfortable and easy breed that is reliable and hard-working and capable of giving many different standards of rider a great experience.

Horse Riding weekends for the family

Quality family time on a horse-riding weekend

Published: May 31, 2012  by Nicky Hoseck

Most reputable companies have mounts to suit all ages and abilities

Horse-riding weekends for the family

Horse-riding weekends have much to offer – not only is a great way to enjoy a rural retreat, it also gives families the opportunity to spend some quality time together while sharing a love of the outdoors and discovering the joys of horse-back riding.
In current times of financial pressures, many families struggle to find ways to enjoy time together in a relaxed and healthy environment without breaking the bank. Horse-riding weekends offer a cost-effective way to escape the pressures of a busy life and hectic home and enjoy a rural retreat.
Many companies offering riding lessons or trails will also offer short-term breaks for adults and families alike. Some companies have accommodation available on their farm, meaning you can live and breathe horses and absorb the rural life for a few days – returning home refreshed and rejuvenated.
The accommodation is usually provided as part of the horse-riding weekend package and is generally affordable and comfortable. Some will provide rooms within the farm house so guests really get to feel like a part of the family for the duration of their stay. Some meals are usually included in the package, reducing the cost of extras, and giving guests the chance to enjoy simple, home-cooked meals on the farm.
With a range of different horses and ponies available, these professional companies will ensure the safety of even the most nervous of riders. The amount of riding you do is usually up to you, giving you the scope to customise your trip to suit the needs of all your family. After a morning in the saddle, you may decide to unwind at the beach in the afternoon or take a hike into the countryside. Of course, you may get hooked and find you want to spend every available moment with your new equine companion.
The health benefits of a horse-riding weekend are self-explanatory – lots of fresh air and exercise will ensure even the most active of people will also benefit from a good night’s sleep. The experience of bonding with a horse and exploring the countryside will also help relieve stress and give your mind a break from the strains of work and home.
When choosing the perfect destination for a horse-riding weekend, make sure you opt for a professional organisation that specifically caters for riders of all ages and abilities. Be honest about your expectations and your fitness so as to ensure you don’t return home feeling exhausted rather than refreshed.
As with any holiday, location is vital. Choose a riding facility that has lots of scope in terms of where and when you can ride. A few lesson a with a qualified and experienced instructor will be useful in terms of getting you started, while the opportunity to ride with non-dangerous game or to canter along a golden beach will make your stay truly unforgettable.
South Africa has many choice destinations for families and individuals seeking a horse-riding weekend so it’s worth exploring all the options before setting off on your trip.