The best places for horse riding in New Zealand

New Zealand

Spending a year living in New Zealand, I took the opportunity to explore some of the horse riding action that was on offer. The style of horse riding in New Zealand was very different from what I was used to, with a more relaxed attitude and ‘Western style’ approach. The experiences taught me a lot about how cultures affect the way we ride and how we interact with horses. 

Thank you to Sanne for giving me the chance to talk about my recommendations for what I thought were my top 5 rides in New Zealand for Hooves Around the World readers! - Noori Husain from Ethnic Equestrian

Trail rides at Mohaka River Farm

Mohaka river farm is located about halfway between Napier and Taupo, in a place called Te Haroto along the highway. I went trail riding here every month or so and it was one of the highlights of my trip. The horses are so easy to ride, and the place is serene and tranquil, tucked away along a private track that goes deep into the forest and hills, overlooking a flowing river. The terrain is varied, with beautiful open hills and landscapes and a really fun track with good canters up a chalk hill or along by the river. I usually booked on to 2 hour trail rides which felt like they passed so quickly because of how enjoyable they were. Sometimes there would be other horse riders in the group, but often it would just be me and the guide, Fleur, who is very competent, safe, and easy to get on with – she can make anybody feel comfortable and it is an unmissable experience. Rides are suitable for beginners and above. The farm also sells homemade crafts, they have fun activity days and parts of the river are suitable for swimming, what’s not to love? Besides horse back riding, they offer other activities such as camping, fishing and staying overnight in their lodges. The team that run the place are among the nicest people that I have ever met and I spent my 27th birthday at Mohaka river farm on a horse ride which was unforgettable.

The horses are so easy to ride, and the place is serene and tranquil, tucked away along a private track that goes deep into the forest and hills, overlooking a flowing river.
Horse riding holiday in New Zealand
Photo by Noori Husain

River Valley overnight horse riding holiday

With River Valley I did my first ever overnight horse trek, and opted for the lodge-to-lodge ride, which again was one of the best things that I did in NZ. The horses were very confident and comfortable to ride and I felt safe throughout. We stopped for lovely picnic lunches along the way and the journey led through rivers, forests, fields, and through pastures filled with cattle and sheep. There were opportunities for wild swimming at River Valley itself but also at the fishing lodge where we spent the night. The food both evenings was delicious and I loved using the hot tub in the morning before the ride. One of the most interesting things about this ride was that all the horses are ridden bitless and barefoot and are trained using natural horsemanship techniques. At first I was worried when I heard this (imagining myself trying to stop a spooked galloping horse using a rope halter…) but I couldn’t have been more wrong about how responsive and polite the horses were. The connection built between horse and rider was even more profound due to this method. I would highly recommend this as an escape into true New Zealand nature. Their horse rides are suitable for intermediate riders and above and they offer overnight horse riding holidays. 

Horse riding in New Zealand
Photo by Noori Husain

Ahipara Horse Treks

I rode with Selena from Ahipara Horse Treks in April 2021. Riding along the famous 90-mile beach has to be one of my top moments from my trip up to the Northlands. We started the ride by loading the horses onto the trailer and driving over the the nearby beach. It was an inspiring place and what I liked was that many of their horses were previously part of a wild herd and had been retrained as trekking horses. On this ride I learnt that the kiwis refer to hacking out or trekking as ‘bush-bashing’! We rode along the beach which was a fantastic feeling like no other, and then headed up into the forest and rode along the sand dunes. What topped it off for me was going swimming with the horses in a little area on the beach, where the river joining the sea had created a pool when the tide was high. It was such a wholesome experience riding bareback into the water. I even got to be pulled along by Foxy’s tail as she swam ahead of me! Their horse rides are suitable for beginners and above. 

Horse riding in New Zealand
Photo by Noori Husain

Fast paced horse riding in Queenstown Cardrona

If you are looking for an adrenaline rush and a great video to go with it, head up to Wanaka to experience this amazing ride. I did ‘Top beat’ which is for ‘experienced riders only’ *gulp!* - it was just the best thing ever. There were so many great canters and gallops, and much of it up easy and clear uphill tracks. Most of this ride was at speed, which suited me perfectly! The team there are very skilled riders and are super confident, and even take amazing video footage while galloping. The scenery is lush, with green rolling hills and a gorgeous view into the valley. Even if you are not a confident rider, have a look at the different options they offer, as they have some really good opportunities including stopping off for a bite to eat if you fancy it and the team are very willing to help cater for all levels. They make sure you are comfortable by doing a little preparatory lesson in the ring prior to going out. Besides horse riding trails, they also offer quad bike tours, so if you are going with friends or family there is something for them to do while you go galloping off!

Horse riding at the Cardrona in New Zealand
Photo by Noori Husain

Boutique Horse treks, Clive

Living in Hastings, in Hawke’s bay, I spent most of my riding time either at Mohaka River Farm or with Sara Jurca learning natural horsemanship. However, I did check out this little place around the corner, called Boutique Horse treks. I’d say it was a good place for beginner horse riders to get a feel for going out on a trek, the rides offered are mostly walking rides but just being by the ocean with the horses is such a therapeutic feeling, it’s very calming. You also get the chance to go and bring in your horse from the field and help groom and tack up, which gives it a homely and friendly sort of feel. Again, the owner Dzidra uses natural horsemanship techniques with her horses, and the result is a really special connection between horse and rider. Check out their magical beach ride and river meets ocean ride on their website if you want a real escape from the day-to-day and a chance to feel relaxed. 

I hope you get a chance to enjoy some of the fantastic riding opportunities that New Zealand has to offer!

Horse riding in New Zealand
Photo by Noori Husain

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