Horse Racing Through the Bush

On my second day in South Africa, I woke up feeling a little sick - likely sleep-deprived. Therefore I couldn't take part in the morning ride. I had a nice lie in and casually woke up and ate breakfast and lunch. In the afternoon, I was taking part in a ride.

After assessing my riding skills the previous day, a horse had been chosen for me, based on my ability. The horse that had been chosen was a beautiful and big white gelding with black spots - like a Dalmatian. He was called Kilimanjaro (probably because of his size) or Kili for short. I sure felt like I was sitting on top of a mountain. He had previously been a dressage horse and you could tell by the way he carried himself.

Unfortunately, I had horrendous dust spots on my Gopro lens. I have the Hero 3+ which doesn't have a screen on the back so I had absolutely no idea that there was dust blurring the lens. So, sadly, my photos are pretty dire. I cry a little inside when I look at them. No amount of editing can save these pictures!

Blurry horses!

There's a giraffe in the background of this... not that you would know it!

Having a little canter

Today's ride was action-packed. We may not have seen as many animals as yesterday, but the horses were certainly in a playful mood.

Kilimanjaro was a lot more forward than yesterday's horse. The horse I had yesterday was quite hard to get into canter. Kili, on the other hand, leapt into canter as soon as the horse in front did. These horses were certainly trained to copy the horse in front. His canter was so smooth and elegant, and also a little quick. I had to constantly give half-halts down my outside rein.

The horses travel in single file, in order of which horse is more dominant. At first, I was placed just after the guide but after a while, the horse behind me had to come in front. It must have been struggling to not be near the front. There were a lot of forward horses in this group, clearly! At one point, the woman on the horse in front snapped at me for getting too close to her and urged me to control my horse more. I wasn't impressed. I didn't think I was that close to her.

In our final canter, the road curved abruptly. This curve seemed to excite all of the horses and before I knew it, the white horse who was behind me, started racing past, shortly followed by the horse who was behind him, who put on an extra burst of speed and overtook the whole group, including the guide. I really held Kili back - I could tell her wanted to race off with them, but after telling him firmly no, he was quite easy to control.

It was chaos. The white horse was starting to overtake the guide too. It really felt like we were in a horse race, with horses cantering alongside and overtaking each other.

Eventually, the guide managed to call the group to a halt. We all laughed but I could tell he looked flustered. The woman who had snapped at me earlier turned to me and said something like, "Well done! You really did a great job of holding him back. I was amazed he didn't run off as well." She looked genuinely pleased and I got the impression that Kili was quite difficult to control. I'd also been told earlier that the person who rode Kili before me, actually got thrown off. Ouch! The ground wasn't exactly soft like the arenas I was used to.

The white horse starts his dramatic overtake

The race begins!

There goes the next horse! The white one seems to have raced off

They're about to overtake the guide

Our guide looks pretty relieved that everyone's okay

A moment to get our breath back

We continued on. The horses were all pretty giddy after that and the bay horse which had overtaken everyone was positioned in front of me. We didn't canter after that... well not deliberately. Two or three times, Kili would slow down slightly and there would be quite a gap between the horse in front and me. Whenever this happened, Kili would leap into a rushed canter and race to catch up with the ride. It would take me by surprise every time and would never be in convenient places. I'd have to duck to avoid crashing into branches. The white horse behind me would break into canter too. Then the two at the back would casually trot to keep up.

At one point Kili got spooked by a log. Yep, a log. He darted quickly to the side. Lucky for me, I seem to be glued to the saddle and am not easily unseated. The rest of the ride stopped to check I was okay and complimented me for staying on. I insisted I was fine and we continued our trek.

The sun was starting to slip behind the mountains and so we quickened our pace. We had to be at the sundowners site before the sun went down. It felt like years that we were trekking up this hill to get to the summit, where the sundowners treats would be waiting. My mouth salivated at the thought. Biltong would be waiting! If you don't know what biltong is, it's a wonderful South African snack which is dried meat - one of my favourite foods in the world.

Finally, we made it! We dismounted and the horses were untacked. After the horses were untacked, they just casually wandered off into the bush and I gorged on the biltong.

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