Horizon Safari

As the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns began, this couple ended up getting much more than they expected out of their South African horseback Horizon safari.

Stranded on Safari, tales from a person travel diary.

Stranded on Safari

Saúl and Susannah flew to Africa on March 13, 2020, for their planned week-long vacation with Horizon Horseback. “It was precisely the week where many lockdowns were implemented across many countries,” said Saúl. “The world was entering a pandemic crisis, a time of uncertainty.”

“We were unable to return to the country where we were residents, as the airspace had been closed,” continued Susannah. “We decided to stay at Horizon because we could explore the large property on horseback. There were staff members who stayed on and became our good friends over our four-month stay. At a time when communities seemed to be closed off, it felt good to be surrounded by good people and magnificent nature.”

Horizon Horseback offers horseback safaris and varied horse-riding experiences for all levels and ages. The South African business focuses on high-quality equestrian experiences, managing their horses as a free-roaming herd within large tracts of natural pasture. Selected for their endurance, courage, and responsiveness, the horses are at ease within their environment, allowing riders to take in the terrain and wildlife. In addition to safari rides, there are opportunities to take English riding lessons, cross-country jumping, and more.

An Unexpected Stay

While Susannah had been riding for a number of years prior to their trip, including endurance riding in the Gulf region and a bit of polo for fun, Saúl was a beginning rider. “The time at Horizon allowed me to explore show jumping. It was a pleasant surprise that has evolved to presently taking lessons, training, and envisioning the possibility to compete,” said Saúl. “After my return, there has also been the opportunity to reconnect with the equestrian side of Venezuela, the country I was born in, where horses and the equestrian context have deep ties to the country’s culture.” Over their time at Horizon, Susannah and Saúl managed to ride about 75 percent of the herd of over 90 horses. “Both Saúl and I had our favorites. My top two were a little mare named GG with a big heart and a go-get-’em attitude and a nice, forward Arab named McVitie. Saúl’s favorite was Tequila, an older gelding who was GG’s pair bond.”

For their unexpectedly extended stay, the couple was able to keep a daily routine that involved a lot of riding. Susannah explained, “I would get up early in the morning to go and work in the office, then a short mid-morning ride, followed by lunch, and then back to the office. When my workday was complete, we would both go out to ride again.”

Saúl has published several feature articles in the past and developed a few interesting ideas for his writing while at Horizon. “At the same time, I was alternating between mornings and afternoons for my show-jumping lessons as well as some trail riding,” said Saúl. “It all worked smoothly.”

As for many, the pandemic and the unexpected circumstances it caused were also a source of learning and life-changing experiences. Susannah explained, “I learned that the world is not purely financial/economic. There was a strong sense of community, supporting each other, sharing, and much caring throughout the horizon safari experience. It was a time for our brains to rest from the relentlessness of city life, to be able to stop, to enjoy watching birds fly, and a flock moving as one.”

“Horses have been a passion for me from a young age; life would not be the same without them,” said Susannah.

Takeaways from Horizon Safari

Saúl drew similar conclusions. “I felt rather soon that we were entering a historical stage, for which neither countries nor organizations were fully prepared, even if there have been other pandemic situations in contemporary history. This was a new circumstance, framed in the digital era, where it was clear to me that the flow and speed of information could either unite us or separate us as humankind. At any rate, I wondered about the concept of globalization in the sense that it should be seen not merely as a connection for easy trade but rather as an opportunity for a reappraisal of human fraternity.

Fortunately, within the horizon safari, a sense of caring and fraternity was a living thing.” Since they have been home, Saúl has continued riding, taking show jumping-lessons, and competing in a few training shows, including one in Abu Dhabi and another in Dubai. “I am aiming for a few more this year, and perhaps the path to formal competition, in one way or another, will be paved!” said Saúl.

“Horses have been a passion for me from a young age; life would not be the same without them,” said Susannah. “We are planning to return to Africa when we can. Once Africa is in your blood, you need to surrender her call to return.”