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Horse Trails & animal rides

©Safari par Excellence©Safari par ExcellenceThere are many and varied horse trails and horseback game-viewing safaris throughout southern Africa, ranging from short excursions and day rides to long wilderness expeditions or multi-day trails. Riding environments include beaches, forests, mountains, desert or semi-desert and the wine-growing areas for tasting trips between cellars. For a cultural and adventure experience combined, it’s hard to beat a community-run horse trail. There are trails through historical areas, such as battlefields, and others that take in a range of rock art.

While many horse trails are only suitable for experienced riders, some can be done by total beginners, but you will be much more comfortable if you learn to ride before tackling a long trail. You’ll find that one or two lessons a week for a month or two will make a world of difference to your enjoyment of a trail. There are riding schools in all the major cities and even in the smallest centres.

If you’re into polo, you’ll find that there are fantastic facilities in South Africa. Another really fun equestrian holiday option is to play cowboy and learn to herd cattle on horseback, and generally do the dude ranch thing. Still on an equestrian note, there is an active hunting community in South Africa with drag hunts in the Western Cape in winter and in and around Gauteng in summer. Note – these are drag hunts, which means that there is no real hunt – the hounds merely follow an artificial scent trail that is laid out before the start of the hunt. Everything else, though, is absolutely traditional, and dress codes, etc are strictly adhered to. It’s a bit of an anachronism, but it’s loads of fun and most definitely not for beginner riders.

But horses are not the only animals that can be ridden. There are a few organised camel rides and an ever-increasing number of elephant riding operations. For something truly a bit off the wall, many ostrich farms offer ostrich riding but some do not, as they consider it cruel. Although ostriches are very strong, their legs are quite delicate, and they may be seriously injured by being ridden. Use your own discretion.

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