25.01.2009 - 25.01.2009 27 °C
In my first week I spent a day at the stables grooming and preparing the horses, cleaning tack, tidying the tack room and saddling up those horses earmarked for riding that day. The horses here are more like ponies, very docile but harrassed by the horse flies and eaten by the massive tick population. Most of the saddles are 'McLennan' saddles in that they have the middle bit missing are look a bit like an elongated leather polo mint...ish.
I was slightly apprehensive about my first ride so when Orbit literally introduced me to each and every horse by name and gave me a brief overview of their temperament I tried to decipher their 'look' and made a mental note of who not to ride. My first challenge would be getting my leg up high enough into the stirrup to get mounted. My next challenge would be actually staying on as I haven't ridden since cattle mustering in Australia 10 years ago! I was also a bit concerned how I would fair bouncing around in the saddle since my last back op although being semi-bionic could have it's advantages.
After half an hour in the confines of the ring proving that I could walk, trot and canter without falling off, I was ready to venture out in the bush. My horse had a very very very boney spine and with the McLennan saddle I am glad I'm female. During the ride we got up very close and personal with the game, practically becoming part of the Zebra herd and getting almost close enough to touch a Giraffe. I can't believe how easily deceived animals can be when people are on horseback!
I have been on 5 rides during my time here, a different horse each time and loved every minute of it. Not really what you'd call volunteer work but being out in the park provides an anti-poaching presence and I'm not complaining.
In my final week, as it was a full moon and a very clear night displaying the most incredible night sky, all the volunteers and horse handlers went for a Lunar horse ride in the dark under the Milky Way. I'd forgotten how amazing the sky is in the Southern Hemisphere. It was fantastic cantering in the dark through the long grass, illuminated by fireflies, listening to the roaring lions just a short distance away.
During our horse rides we get very hot and there is nothing better than cooling of in the dam. After removing a sweaty saddle I scrabbled on bareback but my horse took a lot more encouragement than I expected. Kicking with bare feet, sitting on a very boney spine and trying to grip on with no saddle proved challenging as he danced around in water up to my knees. The water finally went over his back but no actual 'swimming' took place.