I love horses. I have discovered though, that horses don’t always love me. This was made very clear while working on a Cattle Farm in Queensland when one threw me off onto my head during a cattle muster. This, I will write about another day because a. I could have died (due to a fun secret surprise hiding in my helmet) but also b. despite point ‘a’ it’s still a pretty funny story. I have decided that my life philosophy is now as follows:
I have also learned that if I have a philosophical moment I will tweet about it and that I like to use letters a. and b. a lot when trying to make a point.
PARENTS IN NEW ZEALAND
Not long after my farm experience, my parents flew over from the UK to visit me in Australia (not because I was thrown off the horse may I add, this was a planned holiday) and after a week in Sydney we then flew to South Island, NZ for a week in beautiful Wanaka. Despite the fact that the horscident (hi made up word) happened just weeks prior – my parents and I still thought it would be a fantastic idea to get on some other horses and be let loose in the New Zealand countryside. When I say loose I do of course mean allowed to ride in a safe, controlled environment with an expert leading the way at all times. We were soon to discover that the Hannah Horse Hex (which I’ve just named this second using my surname and a nifty bit of aliteration) had not been lifted, although this time it was my dad who was on the wrong end of the horsey stick.
So we are sitting in our beautiful Air BnB in Wanaka google searching horseriding companies when we came across Backcountry Saddle Expeditions Ltd. I quickly rang up and booked the three of us in for later that very day. On the phone I stressed that we were all beginner level with some horse experience. Dad rode when he was younger, my parents went trekking over the Grand Canyon for their Silver Wedding Anniversary and I had been thrown off a horse in Australia. Perfect. The lady said to arrive at 1pm for a 1.30pm start and before long we were off on our way to Cardrona which is where the horse riding would take place.
We got there a bit early so after sussing it all out we went to the famous Cardrona hotel just down the road for a quick drink. This place is awesome and you should definitely visit it if you’re in the area, just like Prince Harry decided to do in May 2015.
When we got back to the Horse place the owners were now there along with this little guy called Tiki, a fox terrier. My mum snapped this pic of me and Tiki and it quickly made its way to my Instagram
She also managed to snap the one below but for some reason this snap of me, Tiki and my chins didn’t.
After registration and helmet fitting we were then each given a horse (just for the Trek – you don’t get to keep it) and some instructions including not to mix up the order of the horses (apparently they can get cranky when they are not next to their friends) along with the adjusting of our stirrups and saddles. They also told us a bit about our horses. My horse was called Frosty and is often nicknamed ‘Losty’ as she ends up going the wrong way or doing things a bit backwards. If all the other horses go left, Frosty will go right. A horse after my own heart.
The horses are Appaloosa horses, known for their distinctive colourings and marking and better yet renowned for an even temperament which was great news to me as someone who pissed off the last horse I was on so much it decided to throw me as far away as possible from it. These particular horses at Backsaddle are barefoot and are trained using natural horesemanship techniques which seems to result in happy, healthy horses. They all seemed extremely well looked after and you could tell that the staff genuinely love them to bits. Aw. People are so cute sometimes and so are horses.
Before long we were off on our trek. It was a really hot day and the track was very steep and the surroundings were beautiful. At certain points we were encouraged to trot with our horses and I was having a lot of fun. My dad however, wasn’t.
Although Pops had been very at ease at the beginning as we got more into it I could see he wasn’t having the best time as is evident in most the selfies I was taking.
LOOK AT US – WE DO FUN THINGS!
Halfway through we stopped for a break and for photos. I mean what’s the point of going out and doing activities if you can’t prove it to your friends on social media, right? So here we are – my family seeming like we are all having a great time.
However only two of us actually were. Directly after this pic was taken, my dad started to explain that he wasn’t feeling so great and as our leader Jo was taking photos of the others in the group, he told me he thought he was going to fall off his horse. Cue me trying to get Jo’s attention and us getting dad off the horse as quickly as possible while he rapidly turns as white as the horse he was on.
Once Dad was safely off the horse he promptly sat on the ground. The harsh sun was hitting down and his horse patientally stood by him while he lay down fully flat on the grass. The horse was staring at him, probably thinking ‘why the long face?’, which is a bit rich coming from him really. Then suddenly one of the riders who was on the trek with us yelled over to my dad ‘Stick your legs in air!’. The other riders, my mum, the horses and I all looked at her confused. ‘If you feel sick you’re supposed to put your legs in the air so the blood rushes to your head’, she explains. ‘No don’t do that, just lie flat!’ called another rider from behind us, ‘So the blood is even’. Then everyone got into a weird debate about whether or not you should stick your legs in the air or not when you feel dizzy while dad lay on the ground with his legs just in a normal position. I think lying on the ground next to a horse halfway through a trek in Cardrona is embarrassing enough without also having to stick your legs up in the air. Meanwhile, while everyone continued to debate the leg thing our leader called down to her coworkers to let them know we had a ‘situation’. My mum nudged me to try get me to take a photo of dad lying down next to his horse. I thought that was pretty cruel to do that so initially refrained. However once he had sat up I couldn’t resist. So here he is with lovely Prickles the horse still by his side.
BACK ON IT
Before too long the owner had come up in a van ready to take Prickles and my dad back down the valley while the rest of us carried on. Dad got to sit in the truck with Tiki on his lap while Prickles had to be ridden down by one of the other staff members which he wasn’t too happy about. Of the whole situation Dad says he still feels bad about cutting short Prickes day out with his mates.
The rest of us carried on up steep terrain and over rivers until we got to one of the steepest parts where we could see Prickles and the van with my dad carting off in the distance. Then suddenly all of our horses stopped where they were and one by one started whinnying down to the horse my dad had been on. Each would neigh loudly and then even all the way down the track (half a KM away) Prickles would whinny back. It was like they were all saying ‘Bye Mate!’ or ‘Oi Prickes! Where you going fella? Come back!’
Soon we were back down to the starting point where we were reunited with Dad and his horse who were enjoying a lovely cup of tea and a big bag of horse food (I’ll let you work out who was having which). Dad was feeling a lot better (was just ever so slightly embawwassed) but had been very well looked after by the wonderful staff at Backcountry Saddle and by Tiki who had even refrained from biting for a while.
Ultimately it was amazing day with my family and I would highly recommend Backcountry Saddle Expeditions to anyone if you are keen to do horse riding in New Zealand. Even Dad loved it and despite being taken ill, still had an amazingly positive experience thanks to the level of care the staff provided, the beautiful surroundings and of course wonderful animals. Whereas I was just happy that it wasn’t me getting myself into a ridiculous travel situation. For once!