Food & Drinks

Galloping to success on horse business

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Learners with a horse at Xina Horse Riding School and Stables at Ridgeways Estate in Kiambu County. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NMG

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Summary

  • Gideon Macharia, Wairimu Githuka and a third partner with a common love for animals, ventured into the horse business to teach children and adults how to handle horses.

Children atop horses trot gleefully around Xina Horse Riding School and Stables at Ridgeways Estate in Kiambu County under the watchful eye of a trainer.

The three-quarter-acre parcel of land holds four stables, which house the nine horses including three thoroughbreds.

Gideon Macharia, one of the partners at the stables, says they chose the location because it was serene and accessible for families. “This area was good because of the serenity and the fact that it is a residential area. People are just happy to walk. Actually, a lot of people are coming on foot,” he says.

He, Wairimu Githuka and a third partner with a common love for animals, ventured into the horse business to teach children and adults how to handle horses.

“We wanted something that will help people bond with animals as well as embrace the outdoors more as well as being active,” said Githuka.

This was especially the case for Macharia, who had been a horse trainer for a while. According to Githuka, because it is a unique sport and different, it is a good investment to make for their children.

“We teach children and adults how to handle horses. It is wholesome in the sense that taking care of horses, communicating with the horses, riding (when I say riding, I mean it can be for fun or professional riding as a sport,” Githuka says.

The school offers training in horse racing, polo playing, dressage as well as show jumping.

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Learners ride horses at Xina Horse Riding School and Stables at Ridgeways Estate in Kiambu County. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NMG

“When people are picking sports sometimes, they look at what are the chances of my child getting a good scholarship and that this is a sport that is not crowded,” she adds.

They charge Sh1,000 for 15 minutes, Sh1,200 a half an hour. Adults pay Sh1,500 for 15 minutes.

The trio says acquiring the horses cost them a tidy sum and time to research the best breeds to bring on board given the space and use for the animals.

They invested Sh50,000 (wild ponies) as well as bigger horses that ranged from Sh200,000 upwards. “You will not spend less than Sh1.5 million on the investments to get about 10 horses,” says Macharia.

“You need to investigate which breed you want and start looking for the lineage,” he stresses.

One has to consider the type of horse training they will be running before choosing the right training ground.

“It depends on your land; how big it is. If you have a big land, then you can actually make an arena where you will be doing things like lunging horses (when you are exercising them),” he says.

Horses have to be trained to be docile to prevent aggressiveness, the investors say.

“Through the training that they undergo it is something that you have to make sure that you are not training the horse for you to sit on but you are training the horse that will be ridden by so many people, including kids, adults and the elderly.”

“When I am training them, they come with all sorts of character with some learning fast while others are slow. For those who are taking time, you must go at their pace. Secondly, we look for behaviour, how is it responding whenever you sit on it and what scares it,” he adds.

They invested in breeds including Gala and Pony at the stables.

“For Gala, you can just get them from places like Nanyuki, race courses (for the case of retiring horses). On the other hand, ponies can be bought from breeders.”

Ponies normally go for Sh250, 000 (younger ones). For bigger horses, it ranges between 650,000 to beyond Sh1 million, depending on breeds.

Horses require care, including proper feeding to regular health check-ups, steps that Macharia says determine how long the animal would live, sometimes up to 30-years.

He adds that when a horse retires they are bred or left to enjoy their sunset years.

“Things like vet check, grooming, not being overworked, feeling warmth (they are prone to pneumonia) also prolong their lives,” he says.

Vets charge not less than Sh5,000 consultation fees. “If you go to a private vet, it is quite steep. Some will charge you even before they arrive at the farm, depending on where they are coming from.”

Daily, one horse requires Sh200 to Sh400 for feeds while every four weeks they get farrier filing to fit into their shoes.