If you love equines- horses, ponies and donkeys- then the Horse Rescue and Rehabilitation project is the perfect project for you! Assist a dedicated team of horse rescuers with their daily work on an equine sanctuary in South Africa. From the daily horse care, socialisation, treatment to the occasional horse rescues and education which take place across the country. Although horse riding and care experience is a huge plus, it is not a necessity, and you will learn a lot about basic horse care while helping out on this project.

Starting daysAll year around with Saturday arrivals and departures from Cape Town International Airport
Minimum Requirements2 weeks and longer subject to visa requirements. A minimum age of 16 years old if unaccompanied by an adult.
Cost£680 for 2 weeks and £250 for each additional week
What is included3 meals a day, shared volunteer accommodation, meeting you at Cape Town International airport, airport collection and drop-off, pre-departure support, in-country staff, 24- emergency help and more.
What is not includedFlights, visas, travel insurance and spending money for free time activities.
Best forHorse lovers, gappers, career breakers, friends, family, post-retirement gappers, animal lovers, nature lovers, those who want to assist with DIY, volunteers who like to get hands-on and do not mind getting dirty. Volunteers will need to be physically fit. 
  • horse volunteer
  • horse grooming
  • equine volunteer
  • pony
  • lamb
  • donkeys

Project Description

The Horse Rescue and Rehabilitation project is based at an equine sanctuary situated on a 1000-hectare farm surrounded by the typical wild scrub vegetation of the area, surrounding hills, horse camps, stables, paddocks, farm dam to cool off on a hot day and of course the main house and volunteer accommodation.

This equine rescue project was founded back in 2017 and is dedicated to the welfare, rescue, care and rehabilitation of horses and ponies- and an assortment of rescued farm animals.

The founder has a background in dealing with cases of animal abuse and the need to confiscate horses and ponies – and horse training with extensive equine knowledge from having worked on many stud farms in the past. This skill and experience, make a formidable combination when it comes to equine rescue and rehabilitation.

Volunteer duties

Your role and the types of work/activities you are given while on the Horse Rescue and Rehabilitation project, may vary and may depend on certain factors such as what is required at the time, weather, rescues etc. For Example:

Feeding

The sanctuary is home to not only horses and ponies but other rescued farm animals. You will be assisting with feeding all. Food needs to be prepared and distributed. Water and feed containers need to be cleaned and fresh water for the animals. Keep an eye out for any abnormalities with the animals when eating and drinking.

Grooming

The horses need to be groomed to keep their skin and coats healthy. You will be given instructions if no experience, on how to use a curry comb to break up dirt and mud patches to bring the dirt under the horses’ coats to the surface followed by a hard brush and then a soft brush (especially for sensitive areas like their faces and legs). A hoof pick can be used to remove dirt from the hooves and lastly brushing out the mane and tail.

You may need to wash some of the horses. This is best done hosing them down and then using a bucket and a sponge followed by hosing down again.

You will be instructed on which horses can be groomed and washed.

Cleaning tack and equipment

It is important to inspect and clean tack regularly in order to assess wear and tear and any potential safety hazards. This means examining, cleaning and treating each and every piece of leather, taking it apart, and putting it back together piece by piece while inspecting all the keepers, billets, and buckles. Maintaining blankets, boots, bits and brushes. This will prolong the life of the tack and equipment as funds are limited to buy new equipment and tack.

Walking, socialising, backing and hacking

Probably one of the most favourite areas for volunteers to assist with. Volunteers that have riding experience and weigh under 70kgs may be able to ride some of the safe horses on hacks and trails.

Many of the rescued horses may have a fear of humans after the abuse they have suffered so it is important to try and gain their trust again with positive reinforcement, repetitive conditioning, socialising, patience and care.

Some of the rescues will need training as they have backgrounds where no training was ever given, and the previous horse owners were uneducated as to how to train and care for their horses- often leading to them needing to be rescued. You will be given instructions on which horses to assist with and how too.

Maintenance

Fencing and enclosures need regular maintenance and inspection. You may be asked to assist in the cleaning and construction of new horse camps, stables, paddocks, enclosures etc. The other farm animals’ enclosures also need regular maintenance and cleaning.

General farm work

Any additional work that might be needed at the sanctuary and around the farm.

The description given is of a typical day (EXAMPLE).

Time Description
06:00 Wake up, wash, get ready and feed the horses
07:30 Breakfast – Make your own with food provided
08:00 Start morning volunteer duties with the horses 
12:00 Make your own lunch and take a break from the midday sun
14:00 Afternoon volunteer duties
15:30 Bring in the horses and feed
17:30 Relax, swim in the dam, read, play board games, or contemplate on the meaning of life under an African sunset
  • horse volunteer
  • volunteer bedroom
  • kitchen
  • swimming in the dam
  • volunteer bathroom
  • volunteers
  • lounge

Accommodation

During your stay you will stay onsite in the shared volunteer accommodation which is a few meters from the main house where the manager stays.

The shared accommodation is a converted barn with bedrooms, bathrooms, a communal living area and a kitchen shared with the volunteer coordinator. Bedrooms are allocated to two volunteers of the same gender with a maximum of 10 volunteers. The volunteer coordinator has her own separate bedroom. The bathrooms are shared and have 2 showers, toilets and basins.

 Volunteers need to keep their bedrooms and the shared communal areas clean and tidy.

There is a TV in the lounge shared by the volunteers and coordinators. There is also washing machine for you to use to wash your clothes.

As there is WIFI so you can easily keep contact with friends and family via email, WhatsApp, social media and Skype. However, the internet connection can be slow so downloading movies can be an issue. We advise you to download a few movies or series before you arrive at the project.

The sanctuary has a farm dam where volunteers – or the horses- can take a dip to cool down on hot summer days.

Food

Food is provided with which volunteers prepare their own meals. On occasion there might be a South African style braai (BBQ) for the volunteers. There is cereal, fruit, toast, tea and coffee for breakfast. Lunch is normally a sandwich and fruit, and supper could be anything from pasta to meat and a salad. Tea, coffee, water and cooldrink is provided.

If you have specific dietary requirements, please let us know so we can try and accommodate you. As the project is in a rural farming area, certain specific items like vegan or gluten-free products can be hard to source and expensive.

Location

Arrival and departures days are Saturdays. Volunteers need to arrive and depart from Cape Town International Airport. It is a 2-hour drive from the sanctuary to the airport so we do suggest that volunteers’ arrival flights are no earlier than 10 am (or they will need to wait at Cape Town International Airport at a coffee shop) and no later than 3pm. For departures flights, these must be no earlier than 12pm so as to give ample time for checking in for their international departure flight.

The Horse Rescue and Rehabilitation project is situated on a sanctuary farm on the outskirts of Bonnievale, a town in the Breede River Valley of the Cape Winelands of the Western Cape province. It is approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes’ drive from Cape Town International airport.

The area is well known for fruit production, locally made cheese, tastings at wine farms, private game reserves and extensive hiking trails in the beautiful natural surroundings between two mountain ranges, the Riviersonderend and the Langeberg mountains.

A perfect setting for those who appreciate nature, wide open spaces and fresh air…… and horses, ponies and donkeys!

“I really had an amazing time at the project. This was my first solo trip and I was so nervous. Once we arrived at the project, everyone was very kind and I immediately felt at home.

The Horse Rescue and Rehabilitation Project does the most amazing work for their horses, donkeys and other farm animals. It felt great being a part of the team during my staying. You can really feel the love for the animals everywhere you go on the project. I really enjoyed my time with them and hope to come back anytime soon.

If you did this all over again, what’s one thing you would change?

I stayed at the program for two weeks and now that I look back at it, I definitely would stay longer. Also, I recommend to do a little sightseeing before or afterwards the project. The surroundings of Bonnievale and Cape Town are breathtaking!”

Maike Zweers, Dutch (January 2024)

“I met such lovely people there and their love for their animals really fascinated me. I am in love with this place. If you have riding experience go for it, if not go for it . The animals give you so much love. It‘s a peaceful place.. but there is also a lot work to do. If I could I would come back”

– Angelika Mitiszek, Austrian (December 2023)

“This place is just heaven on earth for animals. I was deeply impressed and inspired by the unconditional love and caring protection given to the horses and all the other animals living there together in harmony. Spotted in a beautiful and quiet setting, it opens up your heart watching the horses run almost free and enjoy their freedom galloping across the huge property. Early wake up with the followed providing of the animals with food and water will be rewarded by the satisfying sounds of the fed animals. The days come to an end with the same pleasant routine. Throughout the day I could work and groom and ride the horses, feed the lambs, watch the pigs, the ducks, the geese, the chicken, the goats and pet the friendly dogs! Strolling around in the area, taking fantastic pics, even could watch two ostriches and found their eggs was filling the breaks excitedly. For me, an animal welfare activist, this project is absolutely amazing and I hope the team can keep up their fantastic work and rescue and rehabilitate and rehome much more horses!”

-Susanne Everding, German (May 2022)

Your Most Memorable Moment: when we had to drive away: early in the morning, as we were driving up the road, we could see the whole farm and the animals, Shirli had tears in her eyes from saying goodbye to Kapish, her favorite horse. We knew we had made great friends, supported a great cause and that we had to come back.

You biggest Achievement: getting Pinky and Flinky, 2 newborn lambs, to accept the bottle, as their mom was not feeding them. We were afraid they would not survive if they would not start drinking. After a while, every time we’d approach, they’d coming running to us as puppies, sucking on our legs and arms, looking for where the milk was coming from, and whole drink the whole bottle in no time

Your biggest Impact: helping bring Lady and Armani, 2 rehabilitated horses, to their new home, as they had been adopted by a friendly couple near Cape Town.

Our stay at the project was an amazing experience. We loved the peace and quiet of the hills of Bonnievale, spending time with the beautiful horses that had been rescued by the organization; we really enjoyed the friendliness and sense of purpose of the team, the cuddly dogs, cats, lambs and other farm animals. Every morning we would start and end the day feeding the animals in a well-defined routine. Throughout the day we would groom the horses and take them for a ride. Even during our breaks, we would sit by the animals to cuddle and enjoy some time under a shade. We also got to attend a horse show in Swellendam, with all its beautiful acts and fun food stands. Shirli developed a very strong bond with one of the horses, Kapish, one of the largest horses of the farm, but a real cuddly teddy bear – we wish we could bring him back to Belgium with us . We were all very impressed by the team’s dedication to helping the animals, and to trying to find a new home for them. We fell in love with Africa and cannot wait to return!”

-Rachel and Shirli Karny, Belgian (February 2022)

For more information or to book, either fill in the contact form or please email info@volunteerinternationaladventures.com