Exploring New Zealand’s high country by horseback provides a magical and unforgettable experience. The landscape is visually stimulating and surreal, surrounded by mountain ranges, turquoise blue glacial-fed river crossings and millions of purple and pink lupins (in December). Be prepared for Glenorchy’s High Country Horses to take your breath away!
I first saw this scene in a stunning photo of a calendar; it had been a dream of mine to see this sight with my very own eyes. During my recent round-the-world journey, I returned to New Zealand for the third time in 8 months, arriving in the spring. It was early December, the pique of the lupin season (wild, non-indigenous “weeds”) and as a photographer, I was in my glory. The timing couldn’t have been more ideal!
Glenorchy is situated in the South Island region of Otago, New Zealand, approximately 45 minutes from Queenstown; its landscape and surrounding area has been the set for various feature films, including Lord of the Rings. Various companies offer film set tours, but I was more interested in a more intimate experience and connection with the area…and this is where High Country Horses comes in…
High Country Horses
High Country Horses offers half-day, full-day and multi-day treks, for riders of all levels. They operate 7 days a week, year round and offer transfers from Queenstown. As a fairly novice rider (I hadn’t rode for about 8 years), I chose a full day trek (recommended for intermediate to advanced riders), and rode with three other guests and our lovely guide, Casey (the owner’s daughter).
Being in a small group allowed for more flexibility, with the experienced riders having the opportunity to trot ahead, while the slow pokes (like me) could take their time. In my opinion, there’s no better way to explore “Middle Earth” than by horseback, rocking slowly side to side on your saddle, taking in the grandeur of the surroundings.
An Unforgettable Ride
With the exception of our lunch break (bagged lunch provided), we stayed on our horses for the ENTIRE seven hours. Let me tell you, that was a very welcomed break (and it was the first indication of how sore I was going to be)! When the trek ended and I dismounted the horse, I realized I was beyond exhausted! Being outside in the fresh air for an entire day will do that to you, but riding a horse for the entire time, WOW! That will sure do a number on you!
Although my body felt it for days, aching like never before (remember, I hadn’t rode a horse for several years!), I have no recollection of what that pain felt like. Instead, I recall the jaw-dropping beauty of my surroundings, the connection with nature and my horse “JD,” and I am so grateful that High Country Horses brought my dream to life; they brought me right into that picture I saw in the calendar years ago.
You don’t need to be a rider to add this to your bucket list! If you’re heading to New Zealand’s South Island, and want a more intimate experience with Middle Earth instead of sitting on a tour bus and being shuttled from place to place, be sure to consider High Country Horses for your next mind-blowing experience. It will be etched in your memory forever.
When you go…
Riding gear, including waterproof boots, are provided. Be sure to wear long pants and sunscreen, and bring an extra bottle of water. For safety reasons, you will not be allowed to wear a backpack, but your horse can be fitted with saddle bags where you can easily access and store small items (be sure they are in a waterproof bag, as some of the river crossings can get a bit wet). And remember to stretch out your unused muscles prior to and following the ride! For more information, visit High Country Horses.
Do you have an unforgettable horse riding experience to share? Where was it? What made it stand out from all the others? Please share your story in the comment section…