A horse trails guide in the African bush

A horse trails guide in the African bush

Jenika Pohl is a Bushwise alumnus and horse trails guide with Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill in the Waterberg region of South Africa. The Ant Collection specialises in horseback safaris. In this blog, Jenika tells us her story of how she came to Bushwise and eventually ended up in a dream job as a horse trails guide.

My name is Jenika, I’m from a small town called Louise Trichardt. I was just two months old when my parents took me to Kruger for the first time. So you could say I’ve always had a love for the bush. 

After school I wanted to go into conservation and went to study BSc Zoology with tourism at North-West University. I finished my degree in 2020, which meant my last year of university was online. I felt bored being at home and didn’t know where I would find a job in this complicated time that we were in. 

Being a horse trails guide is both fun and challenging.

That’s when I decided to join Bushwise and get my FGASA in January 2021. I was lucky enough to be with the amazing group of people that went to Balule. It was the best six months of my life. I made lifelong friends during this time. I also learned a lot, not just theoretical things, but also about myself. 

The highlight of the whole course was the bush walking. That’s my big passion. Tracking animals is probably the best thing to do. I knew I wanted to become a trails guide after that, as Jack and Lindi were such good mentors. I couldn’t ask for more.

In June 2021 I finished the course, now my placement is coming up. There weren’t a lot of placements available because of COVID-19. Trever asked us who can ride a horse, and I raised my hand immediately. I’ve been riding since I was three and horses are another one of my passions. 

Jenika riding her horse at Ant’s Nest in the Waterberg.

Sophie, the co-founder of Bushwise, knows the owner of the Ant Collection and she organised my interview. I went to Ant’s Hill for an interview, only to get there and leave early the next day because of COVID-19. I remember that I didn’t even ride in my interview. 

Nonetheless, it seems that they liked me because they invited me to start on the 4 July. I was super happy and excited. I never thought I would be able to ride a horse every single day and be in the bush, doing what I love. My placement contract ended in December 2021, and they offered me a permanent job as a horse trails guide. 

The Ant Collection is situated in the Waterberg. It was once a cattle farm that was owned by Ant’s father and grandfather. Ant decided to rewild the farm and start a horse safari. We have rhino, buffalo, leopard and a whole bunch of other amazing wildlife on the reserve. 

There are two lodges on the 5,500Ha reserve, Ant’s Hill and Ant’s Nest. It’s not only horse riding, but also walking, game drives, mountain biking and fishing. I’ve been working at Ant’s Hill since February 2022, and I also manage the 45 horses in our stable. 

Alt text: Jenika, horse trails guide, crosses a river on her horse.

A day in the life 

Our horses come into the stables in the mornings and get fed. Everyone in the stables has a certain number of horses to manage. We check their temperature, manage ticks, look for wounds, brush them, etc. 

The horses are then allocated to each guest and guide. Then they have to be tacked up and taken down to the lodge. The horses that aren’t being ridden will go out onto the big reserve. That makes sure that the animals are used to the horses, so that we can get quite close to them. In the afternoons, we start at 14h00 and the same happens. 

We also have volunteers, which normally stay for three months at a time. They will normally be the backup riders that will ride at the back of the group of guests. They also host with the guides. 

What it’s like to be a horse trails guide

Being a horse guide is a little bit different to being a regular guide. It’s a little bit more challenging and involves more physical work. You have to be able to ride well and to be able to control your horse. It’s like being a trails guide where you manage the guests behind you, but now you also have to manage the horses as well. You also have to know each horse that is on your ride. 

You have to know a lot about horses to be comfortable as a horse trails guide.

Sometimes we get beginner guests that have never been on a horse, which can be challenging. Other times you get guests that say they are experienced but they aren’t. This makes communication very important. Ask your guest if they are still comfortable in the saddle, are they good for a canter, etc. 

But you as lead guide also need to assess the situation and stand your ground. If a guest is pushing you to a canter, but you can see he/or is going to fall off, you have to be able to say NO. Speaking loudly is important; your voice really needs to travel when you have six horses behind you. 

In the end, all I can say is that it is super fun for any guide that loves hard work, horses and being in the bush. I’m so grateful to have gotten to this point in my career and I can honestly say it wouldn’t have happened without Bushwise.

Did you know you could combine field guiding and horseback riding to become a horse trails guide? Apply to Bushwise today and start your journey!