This week we are going back to where it all started – Kenya. Gordie’s father, Tony Church, helped pioneer the idea of the long-distance horse safari in the 1970s and with over 45 years’ experience, the Church’s offer exquisite and bespoke horseback riding safaris in Kenya.
It is clear that Felicia and Gordie love their horses; and they are part of the family (they even got married on horseback!) The stable is home to over twenty-five safari horses – a mixture of Somali-Arab crossbred and thoroughbreds. The majority of these have been bred and raised at home on their wildlife conservancy in central Kenya. Living at close quarters with wild animals, all the horses are familiar with being amongst big game, have great endurance and are evenly tempered. The Church’s break them in using natural horsemanship from Parelli to horse whispering. It is always a happy moment watching a guest enjoying a homebred horse whilst on safari.
Under the professional guidance of Felicia and her team of grooms, each safari horse is carefully schooled, exercised and loved for the sole purpose of carrying the guests safely through the African wilderness. They are ridden in the English style using very comfortable French cavalry and English general–purpose saddles. Each riding safari is personally guided by Gordie, with Felicia and her team on hand to assist with the horses.
Africa is waiting – join us for an epic horse safari in Kenya
Geronimo looks like he’s been cut out of a storybook. He is a fantastically brave safari horse with an athletic jump and looks wonderfully flashy with his four white socks. He has a colourful ancestry, but that is standard for horses in Africa and has been part of the herd since he was 3. Geronimo’s dam was purchased during the Zimbabwean Land Crisis for 80 litres of diesel! His sire, Crazy Horse, is a well-known stallion in the Kenyan Highlands. He is super intelligent and always knows when something is up or a medical check is coming – playing up even before Felicia comes near him. The grooms always start laughing as they know how he will react, even when she tries every trick in the book to distract him. He is very forward going and would be a perfect lead horse if he was big enough for Gordie. He is always last into his stable and has a unique way of jumping off the bank and straight in.
🐴 Name: Geronimo
🐴 Height: 15.1hh
🐴 Breed: Thoroughbred x Warmblood
🐴 Gender: Gelding
🐴 Age: 8
🐴 Colour: Liver Chestnut
🐴 Personality: Forward going and inquisitive chap
🐴 Quirk: Fabulous mover and jumper even though his conformation isn’t perfect
🐴 Suitable for: Intermediate to advanced rider as he is very forward going
🐴 Best trait: Kind horse and lots of fun to ride
🐴 Worst Trait: Can throw his head if you have hard hands
Caprivi came from Zambia originally. He was bred for eventing out of an advance eventing mare and a well-known stallion in South Africa. He was bought by another riding safari company in Kenya, and it was serendipity that brought Caprivi and Mshale to the Church herd in 2014. The safari company stopped doing longer trails and were selling off some horses. As it was just before their wedding, Gordie purchased them as the perfect gift for Felicia. They were bought unseen and on trust – a risky decision but one they have never regretted. Mshale is always close by and together with Marania and Nyota, form Caprivi’s mini harem; one he is very protective of.
They suspect that the other operators sold him because of his fear of men and his hate for flappy items and the noise of plastic water bottles. He was initially incredibly difficult to shoe and inject. Patience and time paid off, and he has learnt to trust again, is now barefoot and more amenable, even towards men. Luckily for them, he is led by his tummy and will do anything for food. He has become an incredible safari horse and never misses a chance to show the ladies the wonders of riding in the Kenyan wilderness.
🐴 Name: Caprivi
🐴 Height: 15.2hh
🐴 Breed: Warmblood Cross
🐴 Gender: Gelding
🐴 Age: 16
🐴 Colour: Flea bitten grey
🐴 Personality: Quirky and loving. He is extremely expressionate and tells you everything through his face and the position of his ears!
🐴 Quirk: Fabulous jumper.
🐴 Suitable for: Intermediate female riders
🐴 Best trait: A very comfy ride who loves being out on safari. Caprivi won the Safari Cup in 2015 and 2017. A cup awarded to the horse that completes the most number of safaris in a season.
🐴 Worst Trait: He doesn’t like to pass Mshale very sensible of him but can be a little frustrating!
Flashman was literally bred to be a safari horse, as were his half-siblings Ewaso, Zhale and Nyota. His dam, Two Socks, was outstanding out in the wilderness, as was his sire, Congo. Born on the farm, he is quite a miracle horse. He developed joint-ill (septicaemia) four days after he was born and the vet said it was unlikely he would recover from the infection. But he was a fighter, even challenging the vet when it was time for injections, and it took almost 3 weeks for the infection to clear. It taught Felicia as an owner to never give up, he wanted to live! All grown up now, he is a comfortable ride with a fun personality and is fast turning into a safari legend!
His name comes from the striking white flash which stands out against his rich chestnut coat, but he has also earned the name as he is lighting quick and a bit of a troublemaker. One of his favourite hobbies is eating through or untying his rope to get more grass. He also tends to take off all the other horses’ head collars off, much to the disdain of the mares who tend to find this annoying. One of his favourite tricks is joining guests at most bush breakfasts looking for treats and drinking from the handwashing bucket.
🐴 Name: Flashman
🐴 Height: 15hh
🐴 Breed: French Arab x TB
🐴 Gender: Gelding
🐴 Age: 10
🐴 Colour: Chestnut
🐴 Personality: Flashman is interested in everything and always looking for a treat or two.
🐴 Quirk: Eating through or untying his rope to get to more grass.
🐴 Suitable for: Intermediate rider
🐴 Best trait: Dependable type of chappy and very good with wildlife
🐴 Worst Trait: HHis behaviour at feed time – he is very greedy and all the horses become enemies when he is eating.
OTHER FAVOURITE SAFARI HORSES
MATCHING HORSE AND RIDER
Matching guests to horses is a delicate balance, which requires a little bit of science, a little bit of art and a dash of luck. All the horses are various sizes, temperaments, and heights, which is a little like the riders (!) so before coming on safari, we ask our guests to send in their height and weight, as well as their competency on horseback.
This might include how many years they’ve been riding. What type of horse they are used to and how skilled they consider themselves to be as a rider. The team on the ground use this information to plan which horses are going to be used on each safari with a few extra horses on hand to suit the group. They always make the final match after they have met the guest and had a chance to talk in person, with the first ride being the deciding factor. Matching the temperament of the guest to the temperament of the horse is key.
Most of the time they get it right, but sometimes after a day or two in the saddle, they make a change when they know that the rider and horse will benefit. Riding on safari is a true journey, a partnership with one’s steed. You grow to love one other and have a mutual respect at the end of the trip!
HORSE SAFARIS IN KENYA
The rides in Kenya are operated in the most game-rich wilderness locations on the continent, in some of the largest unfenced expanses in Africa. Far from civilization, the sense of space and freedom is overwhelming. These areas offer great diversity in wildlife species, birdlife and scenery. They are also home to the Masai and Samburu people, who roam the plains with their herds of livestock. This is a journey-of-a-lifetime as you traverse the Masai Mara plains, taking in the wonders of the African bush and all its wildlife, from towering giraffe and enormous elephant, to millions of wildebeest during the annual migration.
SAFARI HORSE CARE
- Saddles and equipment is checked regularly and to the highest level. Saddles are imported from England. We use Thorowgood saddles and believe in each horse having their individual saddle fitted to them (with a smart name plate on each saddle) to ensure both horse and guest are comfortable.
- Horses have several months off a year and a careful record is kept of how much work they do. They are checked twice daily to make sure they are well in. The team of grooms have been carefully selected to be quiet and caring around them. Carrots are provided after every ride and guests always have lots of fun giving their steeds these extra treats.
- When not on safari, the horses live out in a herd environment, allowing them to live as naturally as possible. Most are barefoot, a few are shod in front only and they have a farrier with them at all times. They have a dentist come out once a year and Felicia regularly checks their backs and does Bowen Therapy on the horses, ss well as having a professional therapist to help keep them in shape.
- All our horses absolutely love being out and about on safari. They thrive on the wide-open plains, and love the freedom of journeying from one camp to another, an experience that our riding guests also adore by the end of a safari.