The Truth About Volunteering
at Wild Coast Horses

Nicky Hoseck

You don't have to be fresh out of university to enjoy a gap year experience. No matter how old (or young) you are, spending some time immersed in a world of horses can change your life in ways you never anticipated - as Lies Hendriks discovered when she visited Wild Coast Horses last year.

Lies is a qualified and dedicated social worker but decided she needed some time to escape from the pressures of everyday life and rediscover her love of horses. Her three-month stay at Wild Coast Horses allowed her to do just that - and changed her life dramatically, as we're about to find out.

Being a Part of a Different World can Change Your Life

The Wild Coast wasn't the first place Lies connected with horses - in 2022, she spent four weeks on a working holiday in Zimbabwe - an experience she "absolutely loved."

"When I left, I already knew that I wanted to go back to Africa, but I didn't only want to do a safari or a trail. I wanted to be part of the working life, so when I saw that Wild Coast Horses was looking for someone to volunteer for three months, I didn't think twice."

For Lies, the program proved to be perfect: "For me, the three months in Kei were just one big highlight," she explained. "I loved being part of the team and working with the horses, being outside all day, doing physical work, interacting with guests."

More than that, Lies found the more relaxed lifestyle enabled her to live in the moment, appreciating the little things we often overlook in our day-to-day lives.

For Lies, one of the highlights was joining a 4-day, 5-night mini trail, which, she says, "was absolutely amazing."

"Riding into the Transkei with beautiful views, long beach canters, and lovely company is not something I will ever forget," Lies added.

Volunteering with horses allows you to develop a deeper understanding of these complex creatures, something that Lies values. "The horses all have different temperaments and personalities, which means that there is a horse for everyone. From a quiet, easygoing, relaxed horse to a more spirited one. But all of them are really sweet and well-trained."

T-Touching Your Way to a Deeper Connection

Volunteers also get the chance to learn about innovative techniques like the Tellington TTouch Method when they join one of Klara Webb’s Riding With Touch workshops which are designed to help them develop a deeper understanding of horse behaviour and communication.

This was an eye-opener for Lies, who had never heard of T-Touch before she arrived, and she says she found the insights it gave into the horse's subtle body language fascinating: "I found it really interesting to learn about the little signs horses give, but we don't always see."

Another highlight was riding without a bridle, which requires the rider to use a combination of seat, legs, weight aids, and a light touch on the horse's neck to communicate.

Finding the Horse that Makes You Tick

Of all the horses Lies met during her stay, there was one with whom she simply clicked. Foxy is a quirky young Boerperd mare who Lies loved for her "forward-going, curious, and sassy personality... and because she often made me laugh."

The bond between Lies and Foxy was clear so the two ventured out on trail together, and according to Lies, "Foxy made me enjoy every moment of it.”

A Day in the Life of an Equestrian Volunteer

Of course, volunteering with horses isn't all about riding, and a lot of effort goes into keeping horses well-fed and fit.

Every morning, Lies would join the rest of the team at the yard to start the morning routine. According to Lies, this involves "bringing the horses in, feeding them, taking temperatures, picking out feet, and performing stretches."

Immersing Yourself in a New Community 

Although volunteers host other horse riding guests on the occasional evening, the rest of the time, they're free to enjoy life as a local, which, as Lies explains, was a welcoming experience. "When you live in Kei Mouth, you become part of the community. People are kind and welcoming, and if you want to, you can make friends for life."

When Lies booked her spot on the horse-riding volunteer program, she says she had few expectations. "When people asked me what I wanted to get out of my trip, I said I didn't really want anything except to work with horses instead of being behind a desk all day."

But when her stay ended and she was back home, Lies realized it had changed a lot of things and that she had changed a lot too. "Without knowing it, I learned so much about who I am and what I want in life."

Lies has subsequently quit her job in the Netherlands and committed to another six months of volunteering with horses in Africa.

Don't Let Life Pass You By - Book Your Spot Today

Lies’s experience just goes to show that a few months of living and breathing horses can change your life for the better. You too can get the chance to reconnect with the things that really matter and discover what you honestly want from life, regardless of what phase you’re currently in. 

If staying for four, six, or 12 weeks isn’t an option, why not sign up for our more flexible Stay and Ride program, where you can stay a few days or a week or two, depending on your availability? It'll still help you come to grips with a simpler way of living and rekindle your love of horses and the outdoors.

Don't let life pass you by without taking time to rediscover your passion and sense of purpose. Escape to the Wild Coast and let the healing power of horses and nature work its magic. Book your Wild Coast Horses stay today and prepare to return home a changed person.

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