Thornview Ranch

Working Vacation programme

Come join Thornview’s Working Vacation programme

Experience life on a working livestock ranch and horse safari operation

The Thornview Ranch Working Vacation Programme has been established to cater for the large number of requests received each year from young people around the world who are eager to broaden their horizons and learn important equestrian, environmental and life skills in a fun environment. The programme offers you an opportunity to learn about horses and the responsibilities accompanying ownership, teaches life skills in a practical environment, broadens environmental knowledge and understanding in a truly natural location and gives you an opportunity to determine and improve your own abilities.

During your stay you will become a member of the team here at Thornview Ranch with specific responsibilities related to your abilities. You will care for and work with horses on a daily basis and be involved in their welfare and maintenance with responsibilities such as vaccination, dipping for ticks, hoof care, grooming, moving paddocks, feeding, watering, equine dentistry, exercising, schooling, trail riding and the like. Your skills and abilities will be honed as you work with guest groups, pitch and strike mobile tent camps on the various trails, repair infrastructure and equipment, clean saddlery, work with farriers and generally involve yourself with the myriad tasks which make a horse ranch run smoothly. Accommodation is at the farm cottage. The cottage offers bedroom/sitting room, bathroom and verandah.

The programme is open to any person that has at least an intermediate horse riding ability and who wants to learn to work with horses on a working horse-trail, safari and livestock ranch.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a typical day consist of?

A typical non-trail day starts at about 07h00 with breakfast before heading off to groom and work with the horses in the paddocks or round pen. During this time each day you would check for cuts and abrasions, soundness, parasite loads, hooves and their health generally. A work session typically lasts about 45 minutes per horse during which ground work is done (leading on a rein, standing quietly when tied, backing up etc). Riding work helps to keep the horse schooled and lessons like standing after mounting, coming onto the bit, stopping properly, transitions, turning and general obedience are generally covered during the course of the programme.

Daily, 2 different horses would be worked so that all horses would have been thoroughly covered in the course of a programme. We generally break at around 10h30 for tea or a soft drink while lunch is from 12h30 until 14h00. After lunch general maintenance on saddlery and other equipment is done during the heat of the day.

During the days preceding guests arriving for a trail you would need to check inventories at the lodge, do a pre-trail check on all camping equipment, tack, the horses, vet supplies and the like and to make the necessary purchases and repairs as needed. The day prior to arrival is spent spit and polishing the lodge, chalets, equipment, horses and all the myriad other items needed for a trail to run smoothly and professionally. Late afternoons are usually the ideal time for doing outrides with horses during which they are schooled in standing still out on the trail, maintaining their pace on the home stretch and building fitness levels.

The day ends at 17h00 by which time all equipment must be packed away, horses cared for for the night and a general winding down for the evening. You would be expected to help out with meal preparation during your stay at Thornview.

On days when trails are running the day generally starts earlier at about 06h00 – 06h30 as we ready everything for the guests’ arrival. Equipment and supplies need to be loaded onto the truck, horses are brought in, groomed and trail refreshments loaded and strapped onto the horses, tack is checked for a last time. The lodge and horse paddocks adjoining it are given the once over so that all is in readiness for the arrival of guests. You then help with tacking up the horses, helping guests set up their saddle for their own comfort and generally assist where needed. You would also be expected to help with pitching camp, the preparation of meals and refreshments for guests, general housekeeping responsibilities (yes, even in the bush) and seeing to it that guests are at all times comfortable and cared for.

Many trails are booked over weekends so you should prepare yourself for substantial weekend work. This is compensated for by off days during the week when it is sometimes quieter.

What will I learn on the programme?

The programme will allow you to better define yourself and your abilities more clearly and give you confidence in working with different horses and people. You will learn that people are part of a greater scheme of things in the world and the environment. Leisure timeYou will learn that we have a responsibility in working and living with other animals, creatures and people. You will learn about the interconnectedness of all things in life and the world and learn to respect them. You will learn that humans are not really the centre of the universe. Your knowledge of working with horses in natural circumstances will be greatly expanded. You will understand why free ranging horses are happier and healthier than stabled horses. You will discover that animals can teach us plenty about themselves and, more importantly, about ourselves too. You will learn about the African bush and its wildlife, creatures and plantlife. You will learn about the weather and what affects it and how that in turn affects us. But more than this, you will have fun, you will enjoy yourself and your new abilities and confidence. Hey, you may even learn how to cook, who knows!

What skills and abilities do I need?

As you will be working with horses on a daily basis, you need to be at least an intermediate rider who is comfortable at all three paces (walk,posting the trot and canter) for extended periods and be in control of your horse at all times. You need to be able to speak English. In addition you need to be independent, able to work unsupervised and think on your feet when the situation requires it, you should have initiative and common sense, have a pleasant disposition, be fond of animals and farm life, be prepared to work irregular and sometimes long hours, get along with a wide variety of people and be able to work in a team when required. In addition you need to be medically sound, a non-smoker and reasonably fit. We do cater for vegetarians on the programme. The ability to drive a light (1-ton) pickup truck is useful and computer literacy will also come in handy.

What should I expect at Thornview Ranch?

Thornview Ranch is a working livestock and horse trail ranch run by Johan Steyn and a small team of grooms and labourers. The ranch is situated about 25km on tar from the town of Potchefstroom. The town has all amenities like movies, restaurants, a shopping mall, library, doctors, hospital and the like. By European standards, the ranch is reasonably isolated, being surrounded by other working farms and a large game reserve. Electricity, telephone, cell phone reception, TV and limited internet access is all available on the ranch. Regular (twice weekly) trips to town are made for supplies and other requirements. Historically interesting ranchThe secure cottage where you will live for the duration of your programme is privately situated near the main homestead under huge shady trees among pleasant gardens.

What do I need to bring?

A list of what you need to bring can be viewed here. If you are applying from within Southern Africa, you are very welcome to bring your own horse along. Please raise this matter when applying for the Programme.

How do I get there?

All travel arrangements to Johannesburg International Airport, as well as your return travel arrangements need to be made by the person attending the programme. Transfers to and from the airport in Johannesburg to Thornview Ranch will be arranged by us.

Do I need a visa?

The people most qualified to answer this question would be the South African Consulate or travel office in your country.

What is included in the programme?

Included in the programme is the following:

  • all transfers to and from Johannesburg International Airport on arrival and departure,
  • regular trips to town for shopping,
  • en-suite accommodation in the fully equipped cottage,
  • all water and electricity,
  • all food although you would be responsible for your own meal preparation and the regular cleaning of your cottage.
  • although laundry is included, any ironing you may wish to do will be your own responsibility,
  • tea and coffee and fresh fruit is freely available at all times,
  • a two-way radio for use during the programme.

How long does a programme last?

The programme covers four weeks (28 days) although shorter or longer programmes may be arranged on request. Programmes run throughout the year.

What does it cost?

The cost per person participating in the programme is ZAR15000.00 which is inclusive of all items listed under What is included in the programme? above. Air fares to and from South Africa, telephone calls, limited internet time (own laptop or computer needed), personal travel and other items of a personal and individual nature are excluded. This fee is payable into our bank account upon booking and prior to arrival at Thornview Ranch.

At a glance …


What is the duration of my stay?

28 days standard. Longer or shorter visits can be arranged.

What does it cost?

ZAR15000 payable via EFT upon booking.

What is included?

All accommodation and meals are included. Personal insurance and liability cover, medical cover, clothing and items of a personal nature are excluded.

What will I learn?

A sense of responsibility and independence, how to work with horses and other livestock, how to interact with people, environmental awareness and a variety of new general and life skills.

What tasks will I be required to perform?
* Grooming of horses
* Cleaning tack
* Working of horses
* Feeding of livestock
* Animal health care
* General cleaning and maintenance
* Farm maintenance and repair
* Shopping for supplies
* Guest hosting and entertainment
* Lodge preparation for guests
* Administration
* Meal preparation and catering
* Cooking and washing up
* Safari and trail support services
* Pitching/striking of mobile camps
* Camp preparation

How do I get to Thornview?

If you are a South African, make your own way to Johannesburg from where transfers will be arranged by us. If coming from an international destination, make your way to Johannesburg International Airport from where Thornview will arrange your transfers.

You are also welcome to travel directly to Thornview Ranch.

What if I don’t like it?

If you wish to leave the programme at any time you are free to do so. Thornview will arrange your transfers to Johannesburg. No refund is payable should you choose to leave.