While planning their trip to visit us, Brent & Kristina mentioned they would like to go horseback riding while in the South Island. Known as a top location for horseback riding, and famous Lord of the Rings filming location, Glenorchy was a perfect place for us to take in a trail ride!
When we arrived at Dart Stables they were just starting to get the horses ready. Having grown up with my Papa having horses, I’ve always had a soft spot for these beautiful animals and couldn’t wait to go pat one.

With our riding helmets secured and our gum boots on we were off on a quick bus ride to the top of the river to meet our horses!

Kristina & Brent all set to go!

Looking for a more adventurous ride, we opted for The River Wild to take in some trotting and river crossings along the Dart River trail. As we entered the stable area we were sized up and matched with a horse based on our experience and weight. Brent, being the largest in the group, was paired with Seth – the leader of the pack. The horses live in a hierarchical society so the order the horses would follow was important.

Jordan was given Harry – a beautiful large brown male with a mind of his own. Kristina was matched with Sterling – a stunning white thoroughbred and one of the oldest in the pack at 10 years old.
Jordan & Kristina on Harry & Sterling ready to blaze down the trail!
My horse was Manuel – a strong dark brown handsome guy with quite the appetite. Both he and Harry were local ‘celebrities’ as they were featured in the movie Prince Caspian of the Narnia series during the water crossing scenes. The well groomed stunt horses were too pampered to brave the cold rivers so these boys had to be brought in to show them how it’s done!
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Manuel and I enjoying the view

A beautiful crisp morning, the autumn colors were gorgeous as the yellow leaves stood out against the brown shrubby mountains. Our guides Jenny and Lizzy gave us a few tips on how to control the horse and after a few minutes of practice we were ready to go. Assembled according to rank, we set off in single file down the trail along the glacier fed Dart River for our 14km journey.

The setting around us was stunning with the surrounding mountains. This location was one of the three mountains ranges meshed together to create the Misty Mountains in the opening scenes of the Two Towers. It was no wonder Peter Jackson chose this as one of the shooting locations for the Lord of the Rings!
Our assembly line along the River Wild Journey
After making a few small water crossings, the path straightened out providing a perfect opportunity to quicken the pace and get up to a gallop with the horses. With our legs extended, a heavy lean forward and a handful of their mane, we were off down the path at a brisk pace! After nearly falling off a few times at the beginning, it was amazing how quickly I become comfortable on the horse. I hadn’t been on a horse since I was 5 years old, so this was pretty exciting to be blazing down the trail on such a beautiful creature!

With a few gallops under our belt we were all feeling pretty confident with our horses. A few hours into our journey, we started to notice our horses personalities coming out. Jordan’s horse was quite funny, seeming to go at his own pace and picking the most challenging path – well paired I reckon 😉

Jordan & Brent enjoying the morning ride

At every stop, Manuel took the opportunity to have a quick bite to eat, chomping away at the grass below or whatever neighbouring tree happened to be around. Considering I was quite hungry myself I could relate to his constant snacking  – something I’m also known for myself 😛

A bit further down the path we came up to our largest river crossing. A roughly 30ft river, the horses pushed through with seemingly little effort despite the water coming up to nearly their bellys at the deepest section! Another highlight for the ride!
Making the larger river crossing
Nearly 3 hours later we came to the end of the trail and made our final trot along the paved road towards the barn. By the end of the journey I had become quite fond of Manuel and felt we had developed a bit of a connection. His personality really shone when I tried to get one last photo opp with him – say CHEESE!