At Macatoo you ride mainly three different horses so that each of your adoring mounts has adequate opportunity to relax, rest and recuperate after a days work of providing such exhilarating experiences as lengthy splashy canters through the water channels of the mighty Okavango Delta. I have to admit, I was a little reticent about constantly changing horses, and I think perhaps that was why I had not visited the Okavango Delta to ride before.
When I look for a riding trip I tend to go for the longer, off the beaten track adventurous rides……the trips where you are on a journey with your horse, tackling difficult terrain, scaling majestic mountains, galloping with abandon along the golden sands, swimming through rivers, attacking each and every obstacle that crosses your path as a team, and emerging victorious at the end. I enjoy having the time to build that bond with a new horse, a deep connection of mutual companionship, trust and respect between horse and rider where you can hear each other think. I’m used to riding lots of different horses all the time, so I do appreciate the holidays where I can have that relationship with one individual horse.
The advantages of riding a variety of different horses for a shorter time is that you do become a very flexible rider and one who can figure a horse out within the first five minutes of sitting on their back which is an invaluable skill to have!! You also appreciate how unique and individual each horse is…..their personalities and quirks, their strengths and weaknesses and how each individual horse responds to your energy, it can speak volumes…….
“I call horses ‘divine mirrors’ – they reflect back the emotions you put in. If you put in love and respect and kindness and curiosity, the horse will return that.”
Apache : 11 years old 14.3hh Arab Cross.
I love the Arab breed, their strength, courage, and devotion to humans is legendary, so I was delighted that my first ride in the Okavango Delta was aboard a horse with some Arab in him. Apache is a little ball of fun and sunshine, he has incredible work ethic and amazing balance whilst zipping along the winding sandy tracks. Full of energy, he moves as if on a constant mission, his beautiful dainty head constantly alert to all that is happening around him. He is a nifty little mover, but extremely honest and genuine, very rarely putting a hoof out-of-place. He is also not too fond of getting splashed during the water canters so places himself perfectly to avoid being saturated, which is also a bonus for the rider!!! A pleasure to ride, its easy to see why he is a firm favourite within the Macatoo herd!
Cuenene: 6 years old, 15.2hh, Namibian Warmblood.
There are horses you meet in your life who you will always remember, and Cuenene is certainly one of them! A new arrival to the African Horseback safaris crew, he made the long journey from Namibia in February. Extremely handsome and very fond of scratches and cuddles, it’s hard not to fall in love with him. He is however an interesting ride and it takes a certain type of rider to understand him. One must be patient and sensitive with Cuenene, he’s very willing and courageous but he’s quite insecure and needs an experienced rider on whom he can rely and trust. The first time I rode him I was undecided about him, he is very forward going, but a little unbalanced and his insecurity causes him to panic and rush to be surrounded by the rest of the horses……sometimes getting a little too close for comfort to some of them! The second time I rode him he was much more relaxed and I believe it’s because he now knew me, had a good previous experience with me and began to trust me……..and we had a wonderful time, felt like a different horse! He certainly is a very special horse and one I would’ve loved to spend more time with, lots of patience and sensitivity with Cuenene and I think he will be a wonderful safari companion.
Caesar 19 years old, 15.2hh Thoroughbred.
Caesar is a horse you can have a lot of fun with. Amazing comfortable paces, his canter is like sitting into a rocking chair and very responsive to his rider, he prefers to be a front-runner in the group……….we played around at the back for a bit when I was first figuring him out and he’ll respect you but it takes a lot of energy and effort to keep him there!! On one of our rides we had quite a few nice lengthy canters with good ground and no holes in sight, so I started playing a little game with him, I’d hold him back to get a nice distance between us and the horse in front and then I’d just let him fly until we caught up!! He clearly enjoyed it and caught on pretty quickly because once we caught up he would slow himself down without me having to ask, create the distance and just run his little thoroughbred heart out!!!
Sesembai 4 years old, 15hh, Local Horse.
Another new addition to the family, Sesembai also arrived in February and is quickly learning how to be a fantastic safari horse. The local horses are amazing………endemic to the area they are already familiar with the terrain and wildlife which aids them greatly in learning their new roles. Very quick to learn, extremely tough and hard-working and with incredible stamina, Sesembai will be a professional in no time! My “little legs” is a little ball of laughter, although slightly vertically challenged he rides like a big horse and has no problem keeping up with the bigger boys!
Mapula 14 years old, 15.1hh, Boerperd.
The Boerperd is famous for it’s hardiness, endurance, speed, agility, sure footedness and it’s ability to work hard on minimum feed, yet still maintain condition. A stunning fiery chestnut, Mapula encapsulates all the qualities of the Boerperd in his neat little frame. A pleasure to ride with the added bonus of a quirky personality, Mapula was the perfect horse for me to end my stay in Macatoo with. He is an incredible horse that really bonds with his rider, I found it fascinating that he would always be searching for me whenever we stopped for a break, his eyes never left me until I returned to his side, a true companion this one. He is strong and very forward going, he’s very much a horse that you have to find a compromise with and work with him rather than against…….the quirky ones are always the most fun!
Author: Janine Whyte (Indiananeeners Globetrotting Cowgirl.)
African Horseback Safaris, Macatoo Camp, Okavango Delta.