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Posted on January 28, 2021
As we turn the page of our In The Saddle calendar to February, we’re transported to South Africa’s Waterberg Plateau. Read on to find out more about February’s feathered friends.
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February’s image takes us to Horizon in South Africa, where a group of riders are encountering ostriches at dawn. This family of four ostrich live close to the lodge and are a familiar sight out on the plains.
We asked the knowledgeable team at Horizon to share some ostrich facts with us. Here are some of our favourites:
– Ostriches have been known to reach the age of 75, but most live well into their 50’s.
– When ready to mate, the beak and shins of the male ostrich go deep red to impress the females and to let other males know they should stay away.
– Female ostriches sit on their eggs during the day and the males do the night shift. The plumage of male ostriches is much darker in colour, so they have better camouflage for the twilight hours.
– Very fast runners, ostriches can reach speeds of 70km per hour, and cover 5 metres in a single stride.
– One ostrich egg is equivalent to 24 hen’s eggs and it can take up to an hour and a half to boil.
– The ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain.
– It is very, very difficult to muster ostriches. You’ll have to ask Kirsty about her attempt at this when you visit Horizon!
Horizon’s ostriches are often found out on open ground. Because of their height (2-2.8m) and good eyesight, they are able to spot potential predators from quite a distance.
Horizon’s wide plains are the perfect place for wildlife viewing – it is super just to stop and watch the action unfold in front of you. As well as ostriches, you might see species like giraffe, jackal, hartebeest, impala, kudu and zebra from horseback.
Next in our ostrich extravaganza, Shane from Horizon tells us a little bit about getting the horses used to seeing wildlife.
“Of all the animals that the horses have to get used to, ostriches are amongst the most feared. It can be very interesting the first time the horses see an ostrich. Sometimes they find it very diffcult to understand what they are! Like elephant and giraffe, the ostrich falls into Jurassic territory and often need more habituation than other species. We make sure that new or green horses experience a couple of steady interactions alongside veteran horses – this is very successful at easing any concerns that the horse might have.
Introducing horses to wildlife is one of the most enjoyable parts of the job. Each horse is different and we have noticed that cultural background definitely plays a part. For example, Thoroughbreds coming from big stables in Johannesburg almost certainly have some questions relating to their new job description! Whereas bush-bred Boerperds are far more likely to move on past unfamiliar wildlife as if there’s no issue at all. The very best are horses that are really bold – the ones happy to lead with you in any situation, big or small. Those are the kinds of horses that have to have their reins prised away from guides who are unwilling to share them!!”
You can see the results of Shane’s training methods in this lovely video clip, which shows just how calm and relaxed Horizon’s horses are when encountering wildlife:
We thought we’d take this opportunity to tell you about a recent development at Horizon…
At the moment there are five guests staying at Horizon who have decided to make the lodge their ‘working from home’ location. These guests each have a dedicated office space so that they can continue with their jobs – making working from home work for them!
Most days start with a (voluntary!) training session or run before breakfast, then it is time to log on and work until lunchtime. After lunch there is often a game of volleyball in the garden, before heading back to work. By the late afternoon most of the longstay guests are winding down their work for the day, so are able to saddle up and head off riding for a couple of hours. All this extra exercise is being balanced out nicely by Horizon’s delicious afternoon teas and sundowners!
Can you imagine an extended stay at Horizon? Now that’s one way to get through lockdown – we like their style!
Would you like to share your stories from your stay at Horizon? Or perhaps you have a funny ostrich encounter to tell us about? Then do comment below – we’d love to hear from you.