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Frequently Asked Questions

How experienced do I need to be?

The outrides usually require some degree of competency on a horse to be enjoyable and safe for both horse and rider, however some of the outride businesses cater for the novice rider and it would be advisable to be upfront to the guide as to your capabilities. Rick from Drakensberg Excursions has a policy that the ride will go at the pace of the least experienced rider. They also have enough guides that the beginners have someone to ride alongside them. Kleinberg Estate also accommodates beginners.

At Cranford Country Lodge lessons can held in an arena and therefore less experienced riders can be accommodated, but their outrides are for more experienced riders, as is at Inversanda.

For the HorsePlay clinics there is no need for any experience with horses as no riding takes place, all that is required is an open attitude and a willingness to learn.

What is the minimum age before I can ride in the Midlands?

Most of the establishments have a minimum age of 10, but if you have an experienced child rider, you can ask for an exception to be made.

Do I need insurance to ride horses?

All of the Meander businesses will ask you to sign an indemnity form. If you are injured, they will not be liable for any healthcare costs you incur. Horses are unpredictable and even the most competent horse and rider combination can have an accident. We cannot stress how important it is to be honest about your riding ability so that the most suitable horse can be chosen for you.

How long are the excursions?

Most outrides last between 1 and 4 hours, depending on which establishment and which option you have chosen. An arena lesson would typically last 45 minutes, a pony ride 10 minutes, and a HorsePlay session 3 hours. Outrides generally are 2 hours, including tacking up and having an introduction to the horses.

How far in advance do I need to book?

It is advisable to book when you are booking your accommodation! The horse experiences are very popular on the weekends and if you leave it to the last minute, you might not be accommodated! Most of the options take place in the morning as the afternoon weather can be unreliable, so book the day before to avoid disappointment!

Do I need to have my own riding gear?

All the establishments will give you appropriate headgear (and it is advisable to wear a hat ...bad hat hair is better than brain damage!). You can ride in jeans and shoes with a heel is safer than takkies. Drakensberg Excursions even offers chaps and cowboy hats!

Do I have to be part of a group?

No. If you are happy to meet a whole new bunch of people, you will be welcome to join in with other horse enthusiasts!

What is the maximum number of people in a group?

Once again, it depends on the establishment. Most offer a maximum of 6 riders with at least one guide, and Drakensberg Excursions can accommodate 20 riders, with a guide for every 5 riders. HorsePlay clinics can take up to 30 people.

Can I get married on a horse?

Before you decide to ride a horse on your special day, think about the preparation you have put into making the perfect day, and ask yourself if the horse you are considering riding is as well prepared. Falling off or having a horse run away with you is guaranteed to make the day memorable for all the wrong reasons.

The best horse on the Meander to have at your wedding is Molly, Helens Crab Apple pony and carriage. She is well trained, knows when to stand still, when to move nobly towards your cheering guests and loves to pose with people wearing rustling floating acres of satin and lace (not all horses will think your dress is safe!!!)

Equestrian Sports

The Midlands Meander region is Gods bountiful gift to the equestrian sport enthusiast! We have good facilities set in the most beautiful surroundings, studs that breed superb sport horses, and a thriving hospitality industry to host the competitors and spectators alike.

Polo in the Midlands
"The skills required by a top polo player are a combination of the hand-eye co-ordination of a cricketer, the agility of a gymnast, the fitness of a footballer and the strength and courage of a rugby player - and on top of this excellent horseman."

Brought to South Africa by British cavalry regiments in the late 19th Century, it has been a favourite pastime of many a Midlands farmer and his family. From autumn to spring, Mooi River to Lions River and over to the Karkloof, thundering hooves can be heard as teams of 4 charge to score goals and defend their own half of a 300 yard field at the local clubs. Locals and visitors are always welcome to sit along the sidelines and shout encouragement to these talented and brave riders.

Lions River Polo Club is one of the oldest clubs in South Africa and boasts fantastic playing surfaces and facilities. Polo is played in the winter. Lions River hosts two annual tournaments and last year hosted the prestigious Presidents Cup which are the final national trials. Visitors are always welcome, and Lions River polo caters for beginner and young horses, as well as the more advanced players. Lions River member Sbu Duma, who started from humble beginnings as a groom, has recently been trained abroad by some of the worlds best players, and represented his country in the December Kurland Test match.

Go to http://www.sapolo.org.za/clubs.asp for all the club details

 
Polocross in the Midlands
As the name of the game implies, Polocross is a combination of elements of the ancient game of polo, which is believed to have originated in Persia, and the American Indian game of lacrosse. The game was first played in England in an indoor arena and was then designed to improve students riding skills. The game was first played in South Africa in 1948.

The Meanders polocross home is the Lions River Club, well supported by the local community. Sundays find Midlands friends and families saddling up their thoroughbred horses and getting ready to do a few chukkas before Sunday lunch! Because each player only requires one horse, it is a common sight to see parents and kids all participating. 7 year olds hurtle around on their little welsh ponies while the adults take the game more seriously on their larger steeds!

Go to http://www.polocrosse.co.za for more details on the sport.

 
Eventing in the Midlands
Eventing is the equestrian sport comprising the three disciplines of dressage, cross country and show jumping and the Midlands Meander area has a few top facilities for this exciting sport: Oaksprings Farm, Springvale Farm and the Karkloof Polo Grounds.

Spurwing International Horse Trials, held at the picturesque Karkloof Polo Grounds in the Natal Midlands, has become one of the premier events on the South African Eventing Calendar. In fact, with the new format of the cross country course used for the 2009 Spurwing Horse Trials event, this was the Highest Graded event of its kind that Africa has ever seen.

Go to www.eventingsa.co.za for the scheduled events for 2010

 
Trec in the Midlands
In August 2008, Old Kilgobbin farm on the Midlands Meander hosted the biggest trec event ever held in the Southern hemisphere!

TREC is a relatively new sport in equestrian circles ...its like adventure racing except that it is done on horseback! TREC is an acronym for Technique de Randonnee Equestre de Competition. Developed in France some 30 years ago, it is neither endurance riding, nor trekking, nor hunter trials nor eventing, yet incorporates small aspects of all of these disciplines. It is designed to test a horse/rider combination through a whole range of activities rather than focussing on any one discipline.

The Competition is made up of three phases:
  • Orienteering on horseback, following a route on a map, at speeds predetermined by the organisers
  • Control of paces - to demonstrate that a rider can exercise a degree of influence over the horse first in canter, then in walk following a straight line course
  • Cross country, including some elements where the rider leads the horse rather than rides.

Composed of challenges you would commonly meet out riding in the countryside, TREC is designed to be manageable to every rider, no matter what level of ability. The emphasis is on fun. Taking part in the sport will broaden both you and your horses horizons - by exploring parts of our countryside, and by encouraging you to raise your expectations for the partnership between horse and rider.

For more info go to www.trec-sa.co.za or contact Carl at info@horseplay.co.za

 
Natural Horsemanship in the Midlands
Horses on the Meander come in all shapes and sizes, from adorable miniature horses to gentle giant friesians and wonderfully coloured appaloosa sport horses. And just as varied are the training techniques. The Meander is most fortunate to have people using the natural horsemanship techniques and philosophies to train their horses.

Natural horsemanship (NH) simply means that we know and understand the horses instinctive and herd behaviours and that we use that information to develop a willing partnership and communicate with the horse and in a way that he understands. Although the term natural horsemanship is very new, the concepts have been around for centuries. NH is an understanding of the horses natural behaviour and the purpose of helping the horse lead a comfortable, willing and cooperative existence with humans. It begins with a fundamental understanding of what motivates horses and how horses communicate and takes into account the horses natural way of dealing with new situations and places and works on the supposition that he is always trying his best to deal with what is being presented to him. It is also the awareness that some things appear to the horse to be of a life threatening nature although this is not always apparent to us. In fact the hardest thing for us as humans to do is to be able to see things from our horses perspective. If we are unable to do this we will never truly get to the point where we can work together with the unity that comes from being totally tuned into each other.

The polo ponies at Inversanda, the trail horses at Drakensberg Excursions and the Friesians at HorsePlay are all living proof that this indepth understanding of horses leads us to experience the best that a horse has to offer us when he works with a willing spirit.

Where To Ride Horses

 
Riding lessons and outrides with Richard, once an officer (and a gentleman!) in the Royal Horse Artillery at Cranford Country Lodge
 
Fast paced polo ponies for the experienced rider help you explore Inversanda farm in the Dargle
Refresh yourself with some home grown wine after a lovely outride following an old Voortrekker road at Kleinberg Estate
Join a herd of Eland in the shadow of Inhluzane Mountain at Tillietudlum
 
Make your way to lunch at Hartford, past the stallions belonging to the rulers of Dubai, who reside in splendour at Summerhill Stud