Meet a Globetrotter: Debbie McKenzie - Horse Riding Holidays and Safaris

Meet a Globetrotter: Debbie McKenzie

Horses have always played a huge role in Debbie McKenzie’s life. In fact, they have taken her all around the world, not just on globetrotting adventures but also for work! She has been fortunate enough to train horses in Spain, lead horse rides along the beach in North Devon, groom Hanoverians in Germany and exercise point-to-pointers in the stunning surrounds of the Cotswolds, England. Even I am a little bit jealous hearing that! We recently met Debbie on our globetrotting adventure with Tanaka san in Japan*, and she has kindly agreed to share her fascinating story with us. Have a read…

*Editor’s note: sadly, our holiday in Japan is no longer offered. We will be looking for a new Japanese ride as soon as the world opens up!

What is your day job?
Currently I’m settling back into Sydney life after a truly inspirational recent Globetrotting holiday and rationalising how soon I can get back in the saddle again. Perhaps I should change my status of semi-retired/retired to provide a means to that end. In the meantime, there are so many pursuits to keep me busy in the form of regular gym visits, weekly 1km swims, bicycle rides around the water to the Sydney Fish Markets, gardening to ensure it’s a nice space to enjoy a glass of something with friends, reading, painting the house yet again and volunteering.

How have horses influenced or changed your life?
Horses have had a huge impact on my life and only when I analyse what influenced being ‘there then’ does the answer ‘horses’ often come up. I was fortunate to grow up in a Sydney Harbour waterside home with 78 acres of holiday weekender bliss close to Windsor. There I had my first experience of cranky little Shetlands and this laid the ground work for competing in showjumping, dressage and eventing as a teenager. I met a number of outstanding horsewomen in those days who gave very good advice and engendered me with sufficient experience to make the most of the opportunities I was presented with: from training horses in Spain and taking pony rides along the beach in North Devon, to exercising point-to-pointers in the Cotswolds and grooming Hanoverians for one of their big bi-annual auctions in Germany.

What is your earliest memory of horses?
Probably the cranky little Shetland I first rode, who I then graduated from so others who came to stay could also benefit from her devious means of wiping you out on low lying branches, scraping you along trees or fences, taking a roll in a sandy creek for which you were unprepared and generally teaching you to beware!

What was your childhood pony called?
The abovementioned Mousy was the first, but others followed: Clara, Folly, Blackie, Elle, Maybe, Tammy, Speckles and Saladin.

What does riding or being with horses mean to you?
Freedom, partnership, friendship, trust, admiration and a passion for our connection with horses are what riding or being with horses means to me. They have given me the joys of mustering cattle & sheep in wild country, reaching levels of accomplishment I wouldn’t have thought possible, going up into the hills on my own with just my trusty horse to experience Australian country many never get to see, and forging a mutual bond that is very special.

What have horses taught you the most?
Respect and love for their dignity, power and the essential quality of trust. Horses need your help sometimes – once when I was riding alone I let my horse decide which way he would go when unexpectedly presented with a prickly thistle on a narrow path next to a big drop. He chose the tough route, I grabbed hold of the barbed wire fence to the side to take the weight off his back and he scrambled on. I still bear those scars on my arm! And my trusty steed was waiting for me on the other side with me considerably shaken.
Horses are exceptionally strong and we’re able to form a partnership with them purely through their desire to please and good training!

What was your first Globetrotting ride?
Japan at Kobuchizawa. What a real treat with a small group of two, exceptional Arab endurance horses (of Quilty and Crabbet fame) and a wonderful abundance of varied Japanese food, Onsen Hot Spring baths, plus good times and laughter with Tanaka san & Mayumi.

What made you take the plunge and sign up for a Globetrotting holiday?
I’d signed up for Kate’s Globetrotting emails, and this was one I had my eye on for a time. It’s an easy trip from Australia and offers a great cultural experience whilst being very different from other rides I’ve done. Where else can you see Mt Fuji in the background at 1500m above sea level on a horse? It exceeded my expectations in every way, particularly with being really blessed to ride four different horses on as many days… I think I got lucky!

Which Globetrotting rides have you since completed/planned/dreamed about?
I’ve done a few rides: Rajasthan, Okavango Delta, Peru, Spain. But Kate’s Globetrotting rides offer some very appealing new opportunities including more local ones in Australia – maybe I might put my toe in the water for one of those soon.

What is your most memorable Globetrotting moment?
Spending time with Tanaka San and Mayumi in Japan and riding those Aussie Arab endurance horses.

Why choose this type of travel, as in exploring a new country from the back of a horse?
It gives you a closer perspective on the country, culture and countryside with like-minded people.

Who is your favourite safari horse of all time and why?
I have to say Highland View Zaarla, aka Zaarla, who is of Crabbet Park Stud Arab strain… she’s a princess! And knows when she’s being photographed… she’s a paparazzi magnet!

A tip that every globetrotter should know before going on a ride…
Know the rules… when you’re on a slower walking horse, let the more forward-moving ones go in front; never overtake the leader unless invited to do so; don’t gallop/canter past the horses in front! Just simple consideration for other horses and riders.

Finish this sentence – Don’t leave home without….
This is a no brainer… A CAMERA!

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