In Africa, wildlife‐watching experiences create substantial revenue from tourists that can finance wildlife conservation. Horseback safaris, where an experienced guide takes guests through the bush on horseback to observe plains game species, are a popular activity. Close encounters between ridden horses and game species are unnatural and potentially stressful situations, and horseback safaris may have adverse impacts on both the horses and the wildlife they have come to observe. This study aims to provide a preliminary insight into the behavioural responses of horses and herbivorous plains game species, including giraffe, zebra and impala, as a proxy measure of
the potential welfare implications of horseback safaris. Seventeen group safari rides were observed encompassing 72 encounters with plains game species. Game species differed in their response to encounters with the horseback safari ride. Equine response behaviour appeared to be influenced by the species of game encountered. Horses seemed more wary of giraffe than other species, with a higher percentage of horses showing stationary and retreat behaviour at the start of giraffe encounters. They were also most likely to shy at giraffe. The behavioural responses suggest that game encounters can elicit a stress response in both animal groups, although it is not usually extreme, potentially indicating that some degree of habituation has occurred. Balancing the welfare of both the horses and the plains game species along with tourist preferences may be challenging in this context.