Tessa’s South African Riding Experience

Here is a great story about how becoming fit to ride opened up an opportunity of a lifetime. Not only did it open it up but it also made the whole experience a great one.
I asked Tessa to email him some photo’s and do a short write up about her recent trip to South Africa,
In Tessa’s words…….so hear it goes!!
It all started when I received a random email about 5 months ago from a lady called Louise Carlsen claiming to be the owner of a company called Limpopo Valley Horse Safari’s in Botswana, South Africa. She was asking if I would be interested in coming out to Botswana to coach herself, her husband Cor and some of their staff (safari guides) in return for a free horse riding safari. I nearly deleted the email (so glad I didn’t :) ) for many reason’s.
  • I wasn’t sure if the email was real (I could be picked up by anyone in Johannesburg airport and not be seen again!?!)
  • Could I go off on holiday without my husband and 2 children? (guilt factor)
  • Haven’t travelled on my own for 18 yrs and certainly not that far!!
  • Who would look after my horses while I was away?
  • And numerous other small things that I randomly worried about!!!!
It was actually my husband Phil that persuaded me to go and even paid my air fare ( maybe be he was trying to get rid of me??!!!) He felt it was a great opportunity and if I didn’t go I would regret it (how right was he ,only we won’t tell him that bit!!!)
So I caught a bus from Exeter to Heathrow, plane to Johannesburg, mini bus then 4×4 open top jeep to Botswana. Approx 28 hrs door to door!
I then spent the next 9 days having the most amazing time with some lovely people. We rode for 6/8 hrs  a day starting at 5.30am most days as the weather was hot 28’c ( much needed sunshine after the summer we’ve had!) Riding through the beautiful Africa bush in the middle of nowhere, on lovely horses seeing the most incredible wildlife exactly as they should be seen ‘in the wild!’ Cantering the horses with a herd of giraffe was one incredible moment I will never forget (still can’t believe I did that :) ) spotting a leopard about 30m from us whilst riding up a dry river bed (slightly scary) watching two male elephants from about 40m at a watering hole.
Being woken up by lions roaring 200m outside camp ( definitely gave me goose bumps!) Spending 2 nights sleeping outside under the stars (can’t do that in this country without waking up feeling very damp or soaked to the skin!!!) Drinking a very large G&T after being made to climb up some large rocks and along a very narrow ledge to see the most incredible view and sunset (it was worth the climb but I don’t do heights, not even step ladders, so it was a BIG thing for me to free climb!!). We also went on some fantastic game drives, this enabled us to get closer still, as on a horse you do resemble lunch! (sometimes as close as 3m)  to elephants, lions, leopards, jackal, hyena, giraffe.
At the end of the week when I had to work and do some teaching/coaching, I was still treated like a guest and had great fun helping some really lovely people improve their riding ability and confidence particularly show jumping.It really didn’t feel like work and each evening I was taken back to camp to enjoy another stunning 3 course meal ( I don’t know how she could cook such lovely food on a camp fire) with the other guest’s. So if I had ignored that email or wimped out I really would have missed out on an amazing time. Louise and Cor also want me to go back to do some more teaching, so I’ll get to do it all again!!
Even though I ride horses every day and am therefore fairly riding fit I don’t think I would have been fit enough to cope with 6/8 hrs in the saddle without any stiffness at all without Matt’s help in improving my riding fitness and core strength over the past 15 months, so thanks Matt!
And to everyone else if you get the chance to do something you wouldn’t normally do or think you shouldn’t do because of all the crap that ties us down, GO FOR IT!, you won’t regret it and life’s too short!
All the best, 
Tessa Henwood BHSI(regd)
What a fantastic story and hopefully this will inspire some people to go for it and take the opportunities that are presented to them.
Have a great day,
Matt
Voted The UK’s Most Innovative Fitness Entrepreneur 2012

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