Can I let you in on a little secret? I’m a Texan who is afraid of horses. I know… I know… You didn’t think that was possible, did you? I’ve ridden plenty of horses in my lifetime and even took some lessons when I was younger. But add one runaway horse and subtract any semblance of control, and I decided that horses weren’t really my thing.
When I moved to Possum Kingdom, Texas (yes, that’s a real place), I made friends with an awesome cowboy. He helped me begin to conquer my fear, but every time I rode, there was still a niggling uneasiness.
Fast forward to today. A sweet friend from home whose sheer Texan-ness makes me look like a Yankee came to visit and requested that we go horseback riding. In the spirit of being brave, I walked myself into Happy Travels and they set us up to go horseback riding with High Country Horses.
Our ride picked us up and we set off on the 45 minute drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy, one of the most beautiful drives in the world. Appealing to our tourist side, the driver stopped along the way so we could take photos. Call me cheesy, but I can’t help but be grateful that I get to live in this gorgeous place.
We arrived at the High Country Horses stables in the shadow of Mount Alfred and were greeted by dogs, cats, a pig and a deer. And then we saw the field of horses and my heart began to beat with excited anticipation and a little bit of trepidation.
Choosing High Country Horses
There are a few stables to choose from in the Queenstown area, but we went with High Country Horses because they’ve been around since 1987, are New Zealand owned and operated, and staffed by Kiwis. With over 100,000 acres of land for riding in the Glenorchy basin, there’s a ride for all levels of experience. Our guide, Ellie, was patient, vigilant and a true horse-whisperer. She calmed my nerves and encouraged me throughout the ride.
Ricky, the former racehorse
After donning a pair of bright yellow galoshes and a helmet, I met Ricky-the-former-racehorse and received instructions on how to ride English style. For those who aren’t familiar with riding terms… you either ride English or Western style. Western style riding uses a sturdy, deep saddle with a horn you hold on to, where English style’s saddle is flat with no horn (look ma, no hands!). It took some getting used to, and I was pretty sure that I’d fall off at any second. Those suspicions were furthered when Ricky decided to take me on a tour of tree branches… just to test my reflexes.
Rees River Trail
Ricky and I quickly bonded over our mutual affection for eating and doing our own thing, and set off on the Rees River Trail. This 2.5 hour tour explores the land of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Lion the Witch & the Wardrobe. Last, but certainly not least, Taylor Swift’s Out of the Woods music video was filmed in this very area.
Want more star power? One of the horses from High Country Horses in the Lord of the Rings movie. He’s jet black with a long mane and tail thanks to some movie magic. Read: extensions and hair dye.
We crossed rivers, trotted along paths, and even had the chance to canter. Ricky performed beautifully and I didn’t cry, so we’ll call that a success.
The scenery along the Rees and Dart Rivers is incredible, and crossing the glacially-fed rivers is exhilarating. Even more so if some of the water ends up in your boots!
The sun set on a beautiful adventure with High Country Horses…. and thanks to our awesome driver, we got a picture of it.