Today marks the Chinese New Year, dedicating 2014 to our four-legged equine friends.
Even if you can’t tell the difference between the front and back of a horse, there’s plenty of experiences to suit everyone from a first-time novice to a seasoned rider. So stop horsing around, pack your (saddle) bags and celebrate the year of the horse in true Queensland style.
Kinnon & Co
Step back in time at Kinnon & Co. and hop aboard the last operating Cobb & Co Stage Coach. You’ll never look at your postie the same way again as you trace the original mail route between Longreach and Windorah along dirt tracks. You can also experience the four-hour “Gallop Thru the Scrub” tour, which includes a traditional smoko, an Australian classic movie and the Harry Redford Old Time Tent Show. Or take the “Royal Mail Gallop” – a 45-minute stage coach ride.
Spicers Hidden Vale
More country esquire than cowboy? Less then an hour’s drive west of Brisbane, stands a five-star experience against 12,000 acres of lush, rolling hills at Spicers Hidden Vale. Stay the night in elegantly restored colonial cottages, dine on true Australian tastes in the homestead restaurant and then ride to your heart’s content.
Pony Lounge & Dining
If anyone asks, you could always tell them you’ve been to Pony Club. Saddle up and savour the menu at one of Brisbane’s leading culinary fillies – Pony Lounge & Dining. Cantering in off the back of its Sydney flagship restaurant, the Brisbane establishment is based at Eagle Street Pier. Chefs cook shared plates and wood-fired dishes around an open coal pit. While it is prestigious, pretentious it is not. Brisbane-born head chef Damian Heads ensures his meat and seafood dishes are honest, simple, but savoury, much like the city, in which this Pony has opted to rest its reins.
Slickers Horse Riding
Sure, we’ve all heard of a pub crawl, but a pub ride? Unleash your inner city slicker and head north of Brisbane to Slickers Horse Riding at Ocean View where a horseback journey to Dayboro’s Crown Hotel is just one of the many options on offer. Not a beer fan? The all-day Winery Ride includes a visit to Oceanview Estates Winery. If you’re looking for something a bit more mainstream there’s also riding lessons, trail rides, campouts, cross-country rides, farm stays and pony parties.
Harry Redford Cattle Drive
A rogue and thief or an entrepreneur? You’ll have 19 days and 200 kilometres to ponder whether cattle duffer Harry Redford was guilty or not when you follow his trail through the outback on the Harry Redford Cattle Drive. Droving some 600 head of cattle, you’ll glean a real sense of Redford who, back in 1870, stole between 600 and 1000 cattle – on the premise that properties were so large no one would miss them – into South Australia, through some of the most harshly beautiful countryside. In 1873 he was found not guilty of the crime, but wrote himself into the history books as one of Queensland’s romantic rustlers.
Okay, so it’s not as well-known as the Melbourne Cup, but in terms of style, variety and prestige, Brisbane’s racing scene gives the rest of the country a run for its money. Pivotal to this are its two main racecourses: Doomben and Eagle Farm, within a stone’s throw of one another on the city’s north side. Betting and horse racing go hand-in-hand with a drink, and Eagle Farm boasts 17 bars. Even more interesting on this site is the Tote, home to Australia’s oldest computer which was once used to instantly calculate dividends.
You haven’t really been to an Australian horse racing event until you’ve made the trek to the Birdsville Races. Turn the pages of the history books back to 1882 when the races first launched in this remote corner, near the South Australia border. Now flick forward to today, where this tiny town of just 100 swells to some 6000 as race goers flock to see the 13-race program which commands up to $140,000 in prize money. Curiously, the Birdsville track is only one of four in Queensland that runs anti-clockwise. But then again, they do everything a little differently out here.
From St George to Roma and Cambooya to the Conadmine, Queensland has etched itself firmly on the Australian campdrafting calendar with a host of events being staged in the outback and country this year. For those not in the know, campdrafting is considered an Australian sport, similar to that in America, in which horses are used to “work” or control cattle using a range of techniques. The horse and rider can earn up to a total of 100 points in what is considered a prestigious display of skillmanship.
Mackay Beach Horse Racing Festival
Swap your stilettos for flip flops at this new event. Touted as Australia’s only non-official beach horse racing event, the Mackay Beach Horse Racing Festival will feature up to 12 races over a sand course along the beautiful Mackay Harbour Beach during August.
Capturing all the romance of a bygone era, the Cobb+Co Museum in Queensland’s Darling Downs is a must-see for transport and history enthusiasts. Visit the National Carriage Collection to see how horse and machine forged Australia’s early history. There’s also an array of workshops including blacksmithing, silversmithing, stonemasonry, millinery and leather crafting. Children are catered for in the Little Cobblers interactive learning area. The annual Have A Go Festival encourages visitors to channel the pioneering spirit which drove the Cobb & Co coaches through this great land.
Mt Mulligan Station
For the horse mad traveler, there’s a stable of experiences from cattle mustering to trail riding to keep your holiday trotting along. Mt Mulligan Station in Tropical North Queensland is a 28,000 hectare working cattle property and home to 2300 Brahman cattle. Said to be the birthplace of the Rainbow Serpent, the property has trail riding options to suit the cowboy in all of us.
Australian Outback Spectacular, Spirit of the Horse
Under a quintessentially Queensland corrugated iron roof, you’ll be transported to the outback where the country’s finest stunt men and women and a menagerie of animals, including sturdy Australian stock horses, will reveal the story of the Spirit of the Horse. Glean a real sense of the heart of the nation while enjoying a three-course Australian barbecue dinner at the Australian Outback Spectacular. With live music composed by one of country music’s favourite sons, Lee Kernaghan, it won’t be long till you feel like a member of the outback club without even leaving the Gold Coast.
Susan River Homestead Adventure Resort
For a family friendly option, check out Susan River Homestead Adventure Resort just outside Hervey Bay. With more than 600ha and 50 horses to choose from, your only dilemma will be which track to take.