As the Melbourne Cup Carnival (29 October – 5 November 2016) fast approaches, and as professional jockeys gear up to thunder around Flemmington Racecourse at rates unimaginable to anyone over 60 kilograms, it is nice to be reminded of other opportunities to sit in the saddle of a stunning stallion or majestic mare and take in the world from horseback. Albeit at a slower pace.
Home to Australia’s biggest recreational horse riding area and the fabled Man From Snowy River,Victoria has a myriad of trails, tracks and tours for riding enthusiasts. From windswept beaches to eucalypt forests, snow-capped mountains and rolling green hills, Victoria’s wealth of landscapes are arguably best seen from the saddle.
The heart of Australia’s horse riding country, the High Country’s Bogong High Plains are dotted with cattlemen’s huts built to shelter riders in the nineteenth century. Nestled amongst the snow gums of Mt Stirling, Craig’s Hut, the set of The Man from Snowy River, forms a centre piece for many modern day horse riding adventures in the region. Hidden Trails, High Country Horses and McCormacks Mountain Valley Trail Rides all offer extended rides that visit the hut and the surrounding area, along with shorter trips for less experienced riders.
Near the sub-alpine town of Mansfield, Australia’s original horseback riding tour operators, Lovick’s High Country Adventures offers the chance to experience the High Coutnry with genuine mountain cattlemen and women – from a weekend trail ride to a 12 day horse riding adventure. Nearby, Watsons Mountain Country Trail Rides operate seven days a week all year round and range from one hour through to a two-day luxury horse ride and a five-day Man from Snowy River and Heritage ride. Just out of Bright, Bogong Horseback Adventures offers a selection of horse riding tours ranging from three hours to nine days in duration as well as on-site accommodation for those who want to make riding the focus of a weekend away.
Forge’s Farm offers trail rides and cattle mustering experiences in the King Valley as well as an annual seven day North East Heritage Cattle Drive (20-26 November 2016). Visitors can experience the largest ‘Heritage Cattle Drive’ in North East Victoria on horseback, as they help drove over 400 head of cattle through mountains and valleys.
Independent horse riders can make the most of Australia’s longest continuous rail trail The Great Victorian Rail Trail, spanning 134 kilometres. Recommended for half day, full day or overnight rides, separate horse trails are marked alongside the main trail in many places.
Great Ocean Road
The sandy soils of the Great Ocean Road makes for easy riding conditions all year round and there are several operators in the area enabling a new way for visitors to experience the region’s rugged coastline and dewy forests. At the easterly end of the Great Ocean Road, Spring Creek Horse Rides between Torquay and Anglesea, offers one and two hour rides, as well as the opportunity to include lunch at the Anglesea Pub or a picnic in the bush. Blazing Saddles at Aireys Inlet offers Beginner Bush Rides in the Otways and and coastal rides for the more experienced rider along Fairhaven beach.
Further along the Great Ocean Road, Bimbi Park Trail Rides offers rides for all ages and levels of ability, along sandy beaches, through lush forest and atop rugged cliffs. Rides can also include a visit to the Cape Otway Lightstation, scenic lookouts and some of the pretty bays that dot the coastline. Further west, Rundells Mahogony Trail Rides in Warrnambool takes visitors along a quiet and secluded stretch of coastline, providing the perfect opportunity to explore the area.
Yarra Valley Dandenong Ranges
The Bicentennial National Trail stretches 5330 kilometres, starting in Healesville in the Yarra Valley. It is the longest trail of its kind in the world; it traverses the length of the country, ending in Cooktown, Queensland. Experienced riders can tackle the entire length, while others can take on smaller sections.
Chum Creek Horseriding offers Bicentennial National Trail Horse Expeditions in six day blocks which can be ridden consecutively or continued at a later date. Chum Creek Horseriding also offers a Yarra Valley Winery Ride which includes wine tasting and lunch at De Bortoli, along with several trail rides ranging from one hour to one day.
Billabong Ranch Trail Rides, located just outside Echuca on the Murray River, offers family accommodation, a fun park and trail rides for all skill levels. Visitors can ride through Red Gum Forests and meander along river trails on a one, two or three hour trail ride or opt for the Winery Ride.
Rich Glen Olive Estate, one of the largest family owned and operated olive groves in Australia, just seven kilometres west of Yarrawonga, offers pony rides and horse and cart rides during the school holidays. Families can also enjoy some of the region’s best produce in the Farm Gate Café and retail store, where everything available for purchase is made on the farm.
Just 12 kilometres east of Yarrawonga, The Stockyard Show in Bundalong entertains families with whip cracking, riding bareback, music and singing, working dogs and much more. A favourite of the show, is Perkins the kissing horse, who loves to give visitors a big friendly kiss. The show is available for groups of over 30 and includes a batch of fresh scones with tea and coffee.
Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges
Riders can enjoy a gallop over the hills or take a leisurely walk through the Mount Disappointment State Forest with the family owned Uncle Nev’s Trail Rides. One, two and three hour rides are available along with day rides for more experienced riders and twilight rides for those seeking a more tranquil experience.
Hepburn Lagoon Trail Rides offers the opportunity to enjoy the picturesque hills of the Mt Prospect district, ten minutes from the popular town of Daylesford. Food and drinks are available at the end of the ride, offering the chance to chat about the ride.
Geelong and the Bellarine
Saddle On Riding School, 15 minutes from Geelong, is set on 78 acres and offers lessons, horse riding excursions and day camps. In the outskirts of Ocean Grove, the Bellarine Horse Riding Centre runs lessons for locals and visitors alike.
Gunnamatta Trail Rides take visitors along the sands of the untouched back beaches and coastal bush tracks of the Mornington Peninsula. With the ability to combine a ride with a bathing session at Peninsula Hot Springs, Gunnamatta Trail Rides has everything needed for a weekend escape.
Horseback’s wine tasting tours are a popular past-time on the Peninsula. Visitors can saddle up and see the best of Red Hill, stopping in at some of the region’s most reputable wineries such as T’Gallant, Green Olive at Red Hill, Mantons Creek, Red Hill Estate, Mock Orchard and Prince Hollow Estate. Two and three hour Horseback Winery Tours are available, along with Ride and Lunch packages.
The Ironbark Horseriding Centre is a riding centre with modern self-contained cabins situated in beautiful tranquil bush surroundings only five minutes from central Bendigo. From half hour rides to weekend adventures, Ironbark Horseriding Centre takes riders through the bushland setting of the Ironstone Reserve and along the many trails of the Whipstick State National Park.
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