Ride ‘Em Cowboy
In my mind, I am Russell Crowe in the movie Gladiator; charging into battle, meting out death and destruction with all manner of things sharp and pointy from the saddle of an expertly ridden horse. Or, I’m Wyatt Earp, dealing justice in the wild west on horseback… in my mind.
The reality of me on a horse is, I’m afraid, much less exciting. Far from charging across the plains, I mostly just sit on the horse, moving, at a walk… sort of. I don’t have the kit or the lingo or the look. In fact, the word that best describes the way I look in the saddle rhymes with tanker.
Fortunately, while at Ol Donyo Wuas in the Chyulu Hills in southern Kenya, I met some people who could give old Russell a run for his money. Nicola and Patrick run Ride Kenya from the lodge and if you’re into horses and know your stuff, you need to meet these two and their stable of four legged friends and guides.
They run multi-day mobile safaris from the lodge, so rather than driving everywhere in a Land Cruiser, you can explore the Kenyan Wilderness around Chyulu Hills and Amboseli National Park on horseback.
At first blush, my impression of their operation is that it’s professional, well run and well, just damn exciting. Admittedly this was my uninformed opinion, but I was soon backed up by the opinions of those who were practically born on a horse. Two amazing ladies from the UK who had been riding at Ol Donyo Wuas for a week—the self dubbed “galloping grannies”—told me that of all the operations they had seen, this one was particularly impressive. Everything from the gear to the condition of the horses keeps them coming back year after year, to ride in this area and with this operation specifically.
You can’t fake it either—if you say you can ride well, Nicola will make you put your money where your mouth is with a test down at the stables to make sure you’re safe and can keep up. Although the horse safaris are best for people who are comfortable on a horse, even if you’re someone who can’t ride (like me) you can go on short excursions as an activity from the lodge and learn to tell your Irish Draughts from your Somali Ponies.
Even for a short time, being out in the bush on a horse is an amazing way to connect with the wilderness. I may never get to be an authentic horseback hero, but pretending was almost as good as the real thing.
Dan Achber has just returned from three weeks of fresh safari research in Kenya and Tanzania—stay tuned for more posts from him, and get in touch to find out more about planning a trip to Africa (or anywhere else we go).