At the head of Lake Whakatipu lies Glenorchy, the gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park and Te Wahipounamu, a UNESCO World Heritage area recognised for its landscapes of untouched beauty.
Movies like Mission Impossible 6, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (horses galloping through river) and The Hobbit were some of the movies that were filmed here. Some shocking statistics I gathered was how they can spend over $32 million for just 5 minute of filming here!
It is on the Dart River Stables horse riding tour that I finally got to visit Glenorchy.
Dart River Stables has over 60 horses that come from all around the world. They offer either a 1-hour or a 2-hour horse trek that caters to both new riders and experienced ones. They’d assign horses that prefer walking to new riders, and horses who like galloping for the experienced ones who can go faster.
I went on a beautiful 2-hour trek alongside braided glacial-fed rivers, interspersed with bouts of shaded bush walks. If you’re looking for things to do in Glenorchy, you surely must try horse riding!
Horse riding in Glenorchy, New Zealand – What to expect?
Sure I’d ridden a horse before (in the zoo?). You’re asking me to lead the horse on my own now?! All sorts of thoughts crept into my mind – what if the horse decides to disobey my commands and trots off? Worse, what if it takes me along and gallop at high speeds?
I was half aware I was just scaring myself.
Upon arriving at the stables, we were given a riding helmet, calf-length boots with a formed heel, and offered plenty of sunscreen. If you’re here in winter, glove and riding jackets are also provided.
Next, we were taught how to start, stop and turn to the side while riding a horse. There was a range of horse riding abilities in my group, from novice (me) to intermediate.
Soon we were well on our way, in a single file. I was on cloud nine, for there were lupins everywhere along our trek when we went this time of the year (mid November)! This was the first time I’d seen lupins in such abundance, apart from the sparse ones along the roadside of Queenstown.
As anxious as I was about making sure I didn’t give my Danny boy a bad time sitting on top of him, I liked to think I’d gotten a hold after riding him for a while. Clutching my phone tight from my pocket, I began to snap some videos of the horses in action. The horses may look a little taller than your height, but when you’re on their back, it’s not a height you want to risk dropping your phone, do you?
It was entertaining to watch them embracing the cold river water and galloping through the fairly deep end of the river. Some would stop and take a sip on the refreshing water, while others neighed away. They would love it, of course, considering how it was a hot midday in summer that end November. This trip surpassed my expectations of horse riding and it was a nice change to see them striding through the river streams and crossing rivers!
The horse trek varies according to the weather and how the horses are feeling. It was scorching hot when I went riding, so we walked in the shade a lot and did river crossings to cool the horses down.
There were several things I’d learned from this ride.
1. Horses have hierarchy, and you’re better off not overtaking the alpha males.
Based on this hierarchy, the horses will trot in one line, with the tamer ones right at the back. Lucky for me, I was the last of my pack with a smaller-built Arab horse, so i could get the whole view of horses and riders in one line. I really enjoyed seeing the whole row of horses trot through various terrains – forestry, out in a dry river, through knee-high rivers.
2, Your horse may decide to poop and pee as and when they want to, regardless of whether you’re riding on top of them.
When that comes, you’d better best be patient and let them do their thing. Ease them up by shifting your weight. Like a contagious yawn, one horse doing his business will snowball to the next, and the next. Soon enough, the whole place will reek of the smell of nutritious fertiliser. Yum.
3. Only male horses are used for riding.
Why? I found out that’s because males are more tame and easier to train. Too bad for the female horses who suffer from PMS!
4. As cute as these horses look when they munch on flowers (okay I didn’t know they were into eating flowers), we shouldn’t encourage them to “snack” on them while they are “working” (riding with us).
Danny, my Arab horse, keeps trying to be cheeky and munching on the lupins along the side while doing the trek. When he wouldn’t obey my commands (what if I pulled him too hard – will he rebel?!), the leader of our pack whipped him to get him moving.
We need to be firm and show them who’s in charge, or they may get complacent and get into the habit of being disobedient.
5. Horses get a nutritious meal plan if they have to ride customers.
Horses get fed three times a day nutritious meals full of vitamins and barley when they have a long day of riding to provide them with the energy that they need to ride.
The 2-hour horse treks operate all year round, with a tour time of either 9am or 1pm (May – Sep)/ 1:30pm (Oct – Apr).
The 1-hour horse treks have more tour timings – 9am, 10:15am, 1pm (May – Sep)/ 1:30pm (Oct – Apr), 2:15pm (May – Sep)/ 2:45pm (Oct – Apr).
The journey from Queenstown to Glenorchy takes 1.5 hours.
Booking the bus transport from Queenstown to Glenorchy is at NZD 20 per person with Dart River Stables.
Allow up to 5.5 hours return when using the bus.
What to bring for horse riding in Glenorchy, New Zealand:
- Compact camera or phone WITH STRAP (no large DSLRs are allowed as your hands are busy manoeuvring the horse)
- Insect repellent
Thanks to the horses, I’d gotten up close with Glenorchy and the surrounding Remarkables range, and really love the landscape that makes it. It’s no wonder why LOTR took this place as one of their filming locations.
I finally got the chance to feel what it’s like to ride my own horse – lots of bouncing boobs and tightening of your butt and back. Don’t be surprised if you come down with an aching butt. 😉
Special thanks to Dart River Stables for making this experience possible! All opinions remain my own.