Please DO NOT go to Heavenly Stables as a tourist! There is no concern for safety and they do not know how to respond to emergencies. When we arrived—myself and my two children—we were given ill fitted helmets, we were not questioned as to our riding skills, and there was no briefing on the basics of riding. From what I could tell, of the 8 of us, there were two that had almost no experience, myself and my children with a little, and then the other three with a little more, but clearly no one that was “experienced.”
On the way to the beach the horses mainly walked with some intermittent trotting. But, we were late coming back, so the guide kept trying to get the horses to canter—everyone was just trying to hold on as best they could, riders were telling the guide they were tired, and my helmet was over my eyes!
But this is not the worst, as we were nearing the stables, we were walking through one of their grazing fields with numerous horses wandering around. One of the wandering horse ran at the trail riding group—spooked the last horse sending a chain reaction through the group. All of the horses took off at full speed, three of the riders were thrown off their horses, and my son was trampled by one of the horses (he has a hoof print on his shoulder/chest area to prove it!). My son was screaming out of fear and pain and the guide did NOTHING!!! One of the other riders that was thrown off was also on the ground and I sprained my ankle in the commotion. The guide simply asked if we were OK and then took the horses back to the stable.
All of the riders, even the fallen riders, were left on their own to get back to the stables. I was limping badly, my son was in shock and the other rider was definitely not steady on her feet. Once we made it back to the stable, no one checked us or our injuries! No medical kit was brought out, no one looked us over, no one asked the routine questions to determine how bad our injuries were. My son was shaking all over and yet, no one checked him for shock!!!! All of the staff just went and tended the horses. Then when someone finally did approach me, she said “you haven’t paid yet.”
I know horses are living creatures that can get spooked, but the staff should respond to incidences with concern, proper attention, and the professionalism needed to ensure everyone is safe. All and all, it was truly a nightmare—one that I am struggling with still. Please, please, do not go to heavenly stables with young children or inexperienced riders.
Reply by Jackie de Lange on 15 April, 2016
With regards to the above review, Heavenly Stables has responded directly to the concerned parent, however we would like to put everyones mind at ease as to how we experienced the unforseen incident.
It is common practice that our rides leave early enough to return in daylight,
the reason this ride returned so late was because it left almost an hour behind schedule, having waited for the reviewer that had arrived late and asked if they could still join the ride.
The other riders were already on their horses and about to depart.
They however had said it will be fine to wait a little longer to have them join.
They were than further delayed as the reviewer than wished to pay with dollars, the guide had to make a call to confirm if this was accepted or not.
Having arrived late she had missed the official rider breifing, but each one was given a one on one as they were put on their horses.
The reviewer did say that they ride in Malawi and the US and chose their own helmets where all sizes are provided.
This incident could have been avoided if the reviewer arrived on time and the ride was not rushed and chasing daylight.
However in saying that it was an unforeseen freak accident.
The whole ride had gone well up to this point, with no incidents, this happened inside our grounds and just 20 metres from where everyone would dismount.
This incident occurred when other riders from the stables had just returned from a show and were releasing their horses at the same time as the ride was returning, some of the horses felt the excitement and got spooked and riders fell off, there were about 10 personel, staff members and family who came to the aid of the guide, the fallen riders and to attend to the free roaming horses, to prevent any further incidents.
Our guide was instructed to take the horses back whilst one of our St Johns first aiders attended to the fallen riders to assess the situation and injuries.
By this time it was dark so the riders were brought back to the stable block where there was better light to assess injuries closer.
The little boy was obviously shaken up, but was very coherent and able to move his limbs perfectly, by this time there were about 6 people looking over him and Mom.
The reviewer fails to say that she never once asked for us to call an ambulance or anybody else for her.
We are very sorry that this incident happened and that your son got injured, he is a brave little boy, even when asking him how he was and where was it sore, he put on a brave face, no tears and proudly showed his arm and how he could still move it freely. We honestly never at anytime thought his injuries to be serious or life threatening, we too are parents and when a child falls off, it often is worse for the parent than the child, they walk away with a couple of scratches and bruises and we are left with the thought of what if it was worse.
Childrens safety in riding is important to us, having been in the industry for so long and having dealt with countless similar injuries you learn what to look for. Our speciality is taking first time riders down to the beach and back safely and have been doing so for the past 20 years.
We have been in contact with the other couple that were on the ride, besides from being disappointed about not being able to do the beach, as the guide felt it safer to turn back as they were losing light from having been delayed in their departure time, they otherwise enjoyed the ride and explained the incident as not to be as bad as reviewed here.
The other rider was at the Mom and boy's side immediately after he fell and Mom said to him that it was OK.
The rider confirmed that this was unforeseen and was not the guides fault, he felt that everything was handled correctly.
In closing, we wish to thank the reviewer for her letter, she has highlighted areas of concern and from this we will be implementing a cut off time to the rides and all late comers will unfortunately have to rebook.
We will provide our guides with a backpack first aid kit.
We will also reiterate, that payments are to be made in South African rands only.