© NZPocketGuide.com
© NZPocketGuide.com

Horse Riding in the Rivers of Makoura

© NZPocketGuide.com

69 Days on the Road

“Do you want to go for a horse trek?” Kimberley from Makoura Lodge asks us as we’re working in the fancy conference room of the lodge this morning. Hell yeah, we do! This is the kind of organisation we like: let’s go do something now!

So we got a peak of Makoura in the Ruahine Ranges yesterday in 4WD thrill ride, now we’re about to explore more of this remote and stunning landscape by horse, just like the good ol’ days (or like a couple of Hobbits in the The Lord of the Rings).

Brushing up on our horse etiquette

At the stables, we join the 10 horses and Kimberley introduces us to our horses which oddly enough reflect our own personalities: Laura rides Maddy, a white horse who’s pretty mellow but can have a bit of kick if she wants, while Robin rides Possum, an independent individual who would prefer to do whatever the hell he wants. Great match! And now, we need to brush them.

It’s stupid, but it’s like a childhood dream-come-true for Laura who always wanted her own horse to brush… Not ride, but just brush all day long. These horses are pretty Goddamn filthy because they roll in the mud to add an extra layer of warmth during the winter months. Meanwhile, Robin is trying desperately to make a connection to Possum by calling him: “My friend,” after every sentence. Although we are not sure it is working, Robin has made a much better job of brushing Possum than Laura. He must have been inspired by his snazzy Jetcharm haircut.

Kimberley gives us a quick recap on how to ride a horse (we have a bit of experience), and stresses that when we go through a gate we need to wait for her to ride back in front of the group again. This will become significant later…

The horsey pirouette

Up, over and behind the hills where we did our 4WD Safari yesterday, this gives us some time to get used to horse before we pass the 4WD training tracks and go into unexplored territory. This first area is filled with small hills covered in lush green grass. Nestled in the middle is a quiet pond reflecting the surrounding trees. Did we just horse trek into Hobbiton here?

Our first river crossing is a short one but a taste of things to come! On the way down the hill, it’s pretty impressive how the horses keep well in control of their feet on the slippery mud. When we get to any open area, Possum decides its his opportunity to turn around and start walking back home. This then becomes a horsey pirouette as Robin fights to keep Possum going the right direction. Possum must get a bit grumpy with Robin because he takes every opportunity to drag Robin’s face through the trees.

Meanwhile, Laura and Maddy are just strolling along pleasantly behind enjoying the whole show and the unbelievable views of a green river in a valley below. Behind that are high mountains, and usually on a sunny day we would see higher mountain ranges, but the clouds are low today giving us quick bursts of light rain.

River crossing after river crossing!

From a hill terrace overlooking majestic beauty, down to the river below, we are seriously enjoying the variety of terrain we are taking on on this horse trek. It’s only about to get wilder as we ride our horse upstream through the river! This is so cool! We can’t even count the amount of river crossing we do. Most of them are shallow, with the water only coming up to the horses knees (that’s probably not the right word for a horse but we’ll roll with it), but one or two crossing do require us to lift our own legs up to not be dragging through the water. It’s pretty awesome to feel the horse underneath you obstruct the force of the flowing river.

Laura loses it…

Exploring Makoura by horse has been amazing, but we just have one last stint to do before reaching the end of our loop trek back to the stables.

Kimberley opens the last gate, saying: “Do you guys want to do some cantering?” We have already done some trotting and a quick unexpected burst of cantering on this trip so far, so we are stoked to do some more. As Kimberley is closing the gate, Maddy, that’s right, mellow Maddy, bursts into a canter off into the grassy field leaving everyone else for dead and Laura too stunned to realise: “Aw hell, I can’t control this thing!” As Maddy swiftly turns a corner, Laura falls off in the soft grass. See ya later, Maddy.

Kimberley retrieves Maddy from the top of a hill and Laura does a walk of shame up the hill. After all, Laura is a hiker, not a horse rider. And now she is a hiker with a sore bum.

What’s that saying when you fall off a horse? Laura gets back on the horse, helped by Kimberley who is making sure she is alright, and continue to the end of our trek. We have one last canter up the hill. (Well, Robin and Kimberley do. Laura is slowing Maddy down and ruining all the horse’s fun now).

Epic meal time!

Back at the stables, we give our horses one last brush to ease their muscles and for Laura to show Maddy there is no hard feelings. It’s been an awesome day in Makoura just made that little more awesome by being invited for dinner at Kimberley and Chris’ house this evening. Sorry Robin, but they may have upped your venison burgers of last night with their wild venison, crayfish with a secret aioli sauce invented by Kimberley’s father Hugh, a cheesy kumara and beetroot salad, and potatoes. Absolutely delicious!

Horses, backpackers and rivers: see it all in 360 degrees!

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Want more?

Until tomorrow’s blog post, where we do some claybird shooting before leaving Makoura Lodge and heading to the Kapiti Coast, check out some of these articles:

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See you tomorrow!


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