We caught up with Ride Botswana’s sales and marketing director Kirsty Barclay to learn more about horse safaris, and how the horses are chosen and trained for life in the bush.
How and when did Ride Botswana get started?
“Ride Botswana started in 2012, however the The Feet (Kirsty’s family) have been running horse safaris since the early 90s in
How many horses do you have and how do you choose them?
“We currently have 30 horses in our herd which comprise of a variety of breeds from local Batswana bush ponies to Boerperd crosses and Appaloosas (which were brought from South Africa) and we are about to expand the herd to 40.”
Are there certain breeds or genders that you prefer to work with, or is each horse taken on their own merit?
“We mainly work with Boerperd crosses and Appaloosas, however choosing a horse for us (other than the obvious size and athleticism needed for endurance rides) is personality and the nature of the horse itself. We have select breeders in South Africa who know what we are looking for in a horse and when we source horses locally we go out to the farms and get to know them ourselves.”
What makes a good safari horse?
“A reliable, forward moving horse, who also has a bit of spunk and personality.”
How do you train the horses to be so bombproof?
“This links in to choosing the horse. We have a dedicated horse manager and trainer permanently working with us to constantly keep the horses schooled so that they listen to their rider at all times, whether it be to hang back for a slow canter or gallop forward to win the race across the pans!”
Why do you think horseback safaris appeal to so many people, and what makes them special?
“It is a completely different safari perspective and actually one of the original ways the early settlers would move through the bush. It allows you to not get close to, but rather be immersed into the herd of zebras or wildebeests and ride amongst the herds. It is adventurous and thrilling and that is probably where the appeal lies.”
Why is it that animals allow people to get so much closer to them on horseback?
“Horses are viewed as prey animals, and so are not threatening to other prey animals such as zebras, wildebeests, giraffes, buffalos and even elephants, which allows us to get closer than we could otherwise. Of course we do come across predators, however never too close!”
Ride Botswana operate in the Makgadikgadi Pans from our Uncharted Africa properties.
Horse safari images: Steve Stockhall and Dean Fitzpatrick