River and Mountain Horse Trekking in Peel Forest
There’s something about Peel Forest, just outside of Geraldine, that keeps drawing us in. Yesterday, we found ourselves on the Peel Forest Road in search of an awesome hike, and the day before we hit the grade 5 rapids of the area’s Rangitata River! Guess what? We’re back, this time to explore the mountains, forest and rivers by horse!
After a drive down this familiar road, we arrive in Peel Forest and the HQ of Peel Forest Horse Trekking. Unsurprisingly, horses greet us from the moment we park in the car park – although, one out of the two is a tiny pony, so we prepare to pull straws in case one of us has to ride it. Thankfully, as we follow the signs to the stables, we walk through a field of about 15 horses! All eating grass and minding their own business. Our guide for the day, Hollie, aptly wearing a cowboy hat, is saddling up some horses that are parked up in a long line of parking spaces. (As you can see, our horsey lingo is non-existent).
All we need to do is put on a helmet, sign a waiver as usual, then we can get on a horse.
Meeting our rides
Instead of getting the pony, we both get the largest horses out here – two beefy brothers, Andy and Mack. Hollie explains how they’re never seen apart. N’aw!
Because us and a guy joining us on the tour today, Loki, (no, not the villain from The Avengers), are pretty much beginners, Hollie gives us a demonstration of guiding a horse to a platform, using the platform to get on the horse, then showing us how to have our feet in the stirrups and our hands on the reins. From there, we can see how to control the horse, because the most important thing is: you must be in control of your horse!
Bonding time with the horses
We give it a go ourselves, Robin making an instant bond with Andy and having control. Meanwhile, Mack is mocking Laura as he stops and refuses to get near the platform, probably sensing Laura is not confident about all this since last time she rode a horse she fell off… Of course, Hollie gets Mack to the platform no problem. So, it’s like that is it, Mack?!
Nevertheless, Laura seems to be able to walk the horse around with ease at this stage, so let’s go!
The journey to the Peel mountains
Our 4-hour horse trek begins following the gravel roads to the mountains, (yes, mountains!), that our horses are going to be climbing today. This gives us the time to get used to the feel of the horse, have a bit of a chat, and even do a bit of trotting to speed things up. It’s a mix of field-side tracks and under the cover of trees until we reach a ford. This is our first water crossing today!
Horses on the airport
From there, it’s onto private land as Hollie has to get off her horse and open a few gates. One of which leads to a long grassy field with just the middle cut in a wide straight line. At the end is an airport wind indicator flag.
“This is Peel Forest Airport,” Hollie confirms our suspicions. Holy cr*p!
We cross the runway that is currently experiencing a weed problem with daisies, buttercups and other summer flowers. However, it is surrounded by stunning views of green rolling mountains. One of which, Mt Peel, we are about to trek up!
Getting intimate with the fir trees
The uphill climb powered by gassy horses
We find ourselves on a single (for a horse) track a little but rougher, edgier and more adventurous than the gravel roads that brought us here. Hollie prompts us to lean forwards so the uphill climb is easier for our horses. With each step they climb, all our horses let out massive farts, perhaps as an extra boost up the hill. (Or perhaps because they have been cheeky enough to snag some long grass to eat at every opportunity they get).
Although most of the climb up is within the shelter of a fir tree forest, we are wowed every time there is an opening in the trees to reveal vistas of the countryside and more of the mountainside.
Horses, epic views and beer
Eventually, we come out on an open ridge with views overlooking the Peel Forest town and pastoral lands, as well as lush green mountains undoubtedly making their way to the Southern Alps. This is the perfect place to get off our horses, have some beer, and take in the sensational views. We’re also delighted to see that Hollie has packed some shortcake, chocolate and an apple so that we can feed the core to our horse and make them love us.
Fir trees to the face
On the way back down Mt Peel, however, we don’t think the apple core treats worked on our horses, as they are determined to walk us into every tree branch on the way down. (Until we remember that we are meant to be in control – it’s always just easier to blame an animal that can’t speak for itself).
A sneaky river horse trek
We arrive back at the stables just before a 1-hour trip is about to depart, so we decide – to hell with it, we’ll go on that trip too! Although Laura’s ass is a little sore and we won’t go into too much detail about Robin’s balls, we are having a blast exploring the Peel Forest area by horse! We don’t want it to end!
Our entourage of 12 horses, (yes, 12 horses!), takes a short and steep track down alongside the Rangitata River. If we thought the terrain up Mt Peel was adventurous, then this is completely something else! The riverside is thick with mud, puddles, streams… All the stuff that makes you grateful that you’re on a horse. It’s a new adventure, splashing through the water, slopping around in the mud, and wandering through the dark forest. One of the guides on this trip, Bret, gives people the option to go with him to do some cantering. However, we are quite happy in our comfort zone right here in the mud.
The trek loops back round to the stables, where we finally get off our horse, give them a “thank-you” pat, say bye to our guides and walk with cowboy legs back to our van.
Back to Geraldine
Back at Rawhiti House in Geraldine, our hosts, Craig and Paulette, have some extra pork so invite us for a roast dinner! We are completely ready for it after such a big day!
Although canyoning plans have been cancelled tomorrow, we hope to find something just as exceptional hidden in the Geraldine area tomorrow. Join us then!
Trekking through the Peel forest wilderness
Trekking through the Peel forest wilderness
Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
Trekking through the Peel forest wilderness Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
Hell yeah! Have a read of these articles:
- 11 Awesome Horse Treks in New Zealand
- 8 Wildlife Activities in New Zealand
- Canterbury – Guide for Backpackers
See you tomorrow!