If you've been following my Instagram and/or Facebook accounts, you've probably seen some of the safari photos I've shared with surprisingly close up shots of giraffe, elephants, lions, hippos, and even hyena. Many have asked how do the horses handle that kind of pressure and not turn and bolt. It wouldn't be unusual for my pony, for instance, to have a melt down over a fluttering plastic grocery bag on the trail, but *these horses seem to take it all in a day's work.
I asked African Horse Safaris to share a little bit about how the horses and how they are typically trained and desensitized.
"Many of the horses at Ride Botswana are well-bred, Thoroughbred X heavier breeds, ie. Shire, Friesian, Clydesdale. The kind and quieter temperaments of the heavier horses and the agility of the Thoroughbreds make for a perfect safari horse. Other horses are 'bush horses' with no specific breeding, but bred for their hardiness and sensible nature in the bush. There tends to be a similar theme throughout many riding safaris in Africa.
Horses are schooled until they are comfortable under saddle, listening to the aids, and we are confident they are ready to be ridden out in the open. With Ride Botswana, the stables are based in a smallish reserve which is home to many different antelope, zebra, giraffe, ostrich, monkeys etc. Often these animals come right up to the stables so horses start to become accustomed to seeing them. Funnily enough it is giraffe that the horses find the hardest to get used to (we think its something to do with the fact they look like a moving tree). Horses are turned loose in the reserve so they become used to sharing space with them. They will then start to be ridden around the reserve as they can often react differently when under saddle and to start building up their fitness. Horses should be schooled a 2-3 times a week, taken on fitness rides (walk, trot and long canters) and given a day off each week.
Once they feel horses are safe and up to fitness they will start being used for safaris and day rides. Having spent time amongst the game in the reserve they will be used to seeing a lot of the smaller game. When it comes to elephant, a lot of the older horses in the string will be used to seeing them so this will help keep a calm atmosphere amongst the herd while the younger/newer horses get used to seeing and being around them. It is important that they do not panic.
The same applies to lion, although they tend to be kept at a further distance for obvious reasons!"
MORE ABOUT MY OWN PREPARATION FOR THE TRIP
This is a trip I always fantasized about but honestly didn't think I'd ever get to do. I'm so grateful for this opportunity and want to share everything I'm learning along the way. One of the first things I wanted to get out of the way—after finding and renewing my passport that I last used on when my husband and I married and traveled to France way back in 1998—was immunizations. After a quick Google search, and referencing Lonely Planet Botswana & Namibia , and the Center for Disease Control , I made an appointment with my doctor and got:
- Hepatitis A + B
- Malaria ( my doctor prescribed Doxycycline, but there are several options )
- and Azithromycin tablets for ( ahem ) travelers' diarrhea
And of course made sure I was up to date on my Tetanus. The Marlaria pills are an antibiotic and I start taking those a day or two before we leave, continue to take them while on the trip, and continue for four weeks after returning.
A heads up, many insurance companies won't cover traveller's immunizations so be prepared to pay out of pocket. I think I mine were about $250 total, plus an office visit with my doctor.
SPECIAL DISCOUNT FOR LBTE FOLLOWERS
African Horse Safaris is offering Life Between The Ears followers a special discount of $100 off this very same ride that I'm doing: Ride Botswana Okavango Delta Ride
Feel free to email Isabel Juby at African Horse Safaris, directly, if you have any questions. She is not only knowledgable, but super patient and has answered about 179 of my email questions and still seems to like me. Go figure.
Mention this code to Isabel: LBTE$100DISCOUNT to receive $100 off your booking.
And alternatively, if you voted in the Instagram contest, remember, you receive 10% OFF your booking for entering. It will be a trip of a lifetime!
Next week I'll be sharing with you, more about the Okavango Delta. Have a great week and see you soon.