Day 2 started warm with clear blue skies. Breakfast at 8:30 and then we grabbed our bags and dropped them at
the truck and assembled for the bus. It was indeed very relaxed, and we didn't leave until after 11. It seems
the horses are kept on the property, but the ride starts some 30kms away at Providence Flat, so step 1 is to
get the horses to Providence flat then step two is to get the riders there.By 12 we were at Providence and so
were half the horses. The rest arrived by 12:30.
All the horses were located in a fenced paddock and were saddled up by Brendan, Conrad and Grace (with a bit of Help
from Monique and one of the guests Sam). Then Brendan started to allocate riders to horses. I was allocated a Chesnutt
Gelding named "Campfire". Monique was allocated a bay Mare whose name we can't remember .Campfire was a
recent addition to the mob, and as I later discovered, a bit of a "Nigel no mates". Monique's mare was
part brumby and it turns out - a bit prone to colic.
By about 1pm we were all saddled up and sitting on our horses, with our Drizabones and a jumper rolled
tightly and strapped to the front of our saddles.
We had 5 spares. Three horses with saddles on but no riders, and two pack horses :- one carrying lunch
in a pair of large saddle bags and the other carrying half a dozen Drizabone oilskins coats. It seems
part of the training for all of the Reynella horses to attend a few rides as a pack horse or spare
and "learn the ropes". These horses were never led- they simply followed the mob everywhere we went.
The "mob mentality" is clearly quite strong with horses.
A few Observations:
The horses were very, very quiet and simply stood where you left them. Brendon did question people
about their horse riding ability - but I got the impression that most of the horses were appropriate
for nearly any level of rider.
After 5 minutes of sitting stationary in the saddle Brendan asked if everyone was OK, and then we
headed out the gate and up a track towards Kosciusko National Park proper.
The first obstacle was to cross the Snowy Mountains highway. It was an interesting process.
Grace stopped at the front of the mob and Brendan and Conrad trotted 100m down the highway in
each direction and casually walked out into the middle of the highway and used their horses as a
road block to stop the traffic. Then we all slowly walked across. Then we began the climb up the first ridge.
At the top, the lead rider (Conrad) waited and once we were all there, Grace hopped off, checked Girths on all
the horses, Brendan asked if everyone was OK, and then we moved off. This was to become a common daily theme :
- Mount up
- Wait for 5
- Check everyone was ok
- Head off
- At the top of the first climb - stop and check girths and check everyone was OK (anyone need stirrup adjustments etc)
I didn't realise it on Day 2, but it's now clear this was part of the process of training the guests (us)
and ensuring a safe ride for the day.
So we climbed and climbed then reached our first summit and view of the Kosciusko National Park.......
It's hard to put into words and I've sincediscovered that photos just don't do it justice, but the high country is special.
It's big and beautiful in a way that is different to other parts of the world I've seen, and it's dotted with these huge
high country plains, every one of which has a river or a creek running down the centre of it. It's simply spectacular.
In the USA they call Montana "Big Sky Country". I've been to Montana and experienced it and I can say the Snowies
are equally spectacular and could easily be called our own version of "Big Sky Country".
We descended a ridge line and crossed our first "Bog" of the trip. This seemed like a dangerous and tricky process on day 2.
To explain - due to the loamy soil in the high country, any stream tends to have a rich mushy black mud on either side,
and to get across the creek - you often have to cross some "bog". The horses are familiar with the bogs, and you
quickly learn to grab a handful (or two) of your horse's mane, loosen the reins and urge them forward. The
horses themselves will get through the bog without trouble and the holding of the mane simply makes sure you
don't fall off in the process !
After the bog we all stopped under a series of snow gums at the edge of "Wild Horse Plain" and dismounted for
lunch. At this point I was thinking :- "where do we tie up the horses ?" To my surprise Brendan announced
that we should simply untie the reins, drop them to the ground and leave our horses where they are. We did
so and they all quietly moved away in search of water, then proceeded to graze within 100 meters of us.
Yet again - the training of these horses and their behavior surprised me. It seems the reins on the ground
are a sort of "speed limiter" if the horses try to trot away - they step on the reins….
So…Lunch. The pack horse was relieved of her saddle bags and a fire was lit. A table cloth was placed on
the ground under one of the trees and fresh pineapple was cut up for an entrée. Then corned beef and salad
sandwiches, homemade fruit cake for desert and Billy tea (or coffee) . Those that wanted water - head down
to the creek and help yourself. After lunch we lazed about chatting and got to know one another a bit better.
Very relaxed. We spent about an hour at lunch.
Finally, we packed up the picnic and reloaded the saddle bags onto the pack horse, then very thoroughly put
out the fire (water from the creek). We walked over to collect our horses who were grazing nearby (and made
no attempt to escape) . Checked our girths, and mounted up. Again the familiar 5 minute wait, and "is
everyone OK" and we were off.
Then we spent the afternoon getting to know our horses, enjoying the scenery and working our way towards camp.
"Riding "off the trail"
While we were riding along wild horse plain, Brendan and Conrad introduced the idea of riding "off the trail".
The horses like to follow one another and the lead horse typically follows a "horse trail". The team was
encouraging us to stay in touch with the group, but to experiment with our horses and ride off the trail
to either side. They also introduced a new rule on day 2 - if you want to trot or canter - always get
off the trail and move away from the group before speeding up. This ensures the less experienced riders
aren't suddenly propelled into a trot just because the horse in front is doing so.
Getting the horses to step of the path is initially difficult. They resist. But once you get them
off the trail and start to have to think about where you are going and what to navigate around - it
becomes a lot of fun. It also improves your riding skills and confidence, and builds a relationship
with your horse.
So in the afternoon of Day 2, a few of us were moving off the trail and navigating around trees,
over small logs and through undergrowth. Of course - Monique was doing this from the beginning and
trotting and cantering all over the place !
After Wild Horse Plain we climbed back onto the ridge and curved around and back down into the next valley.
At the bottom of the decent was a fast slowing creek, where the horses took a drink and then we enter
"Wares Yards" camp ground.
Iva the cook was already there and had setup the kitchen caravan and unloaded our gear out of the truck.
A couple of the staff from Reynella were setting up a large yard for the horses using electric fence gear.
On arrival we all dismounted and removed saddles, saddle blankets, and breast plates. Each horse got a
cup of soapy water rubbed into her wither and then we simply untied the reigns and released the horses.
Again they wandered up the valley eating grass and helped themselves to a drink……..With the exception of one.
It seems that my horse Campfire was new to the mob and didn't feel loved. No sooner had we let them go
than he cantered off up the valley to make friends with some of the other horses in the other campsites
(we weren't the only people at Ware's yards). He didn't get far - he was retrieved by Brendon (grabbed
the nearest horse, vaulted on bareback and cantered off up the valley) and brought back to the mob.
We let him go and he took off again, so he was then (once caught by Brendon again) sent into the
"naughty paddock" for the night and hobbled to boot.
At the same time the riders grabbed a camp chair and a beer and sat down to relax around the fire and discuss the day.
Night one we were allocated a tent (either each or per couple) and set them up not far from the fire and
caravan and set up our bedding. We ended up being in the same camp every night. It seems that normally
Reynella move the camp every second day but the other camp grounds were too full this trip so we stayed
put at Wares Yard for the 5 nights.
Evenings in Camp were a relaxed affair and involved a few beers then dinner.
At the same time we would help with the horses. At dusk the feed bags were prepared -
a couple of cups of oats soaked in water and placed in an old feed bag with one end cut
open and a piece of bailing twine strung through it. Monique could always be found helping out.
Whether it was preparing feeds or washing down horses - if there was horse related work to
do - Monique was there.
Again the training of the horses shone through as brilliant (to me). When the feed bags were prepared, a
number of us would simply stand at the top the camp in view of the horses holding the feed bags and
call out "C'moooon, c'moooon". One or two horses would hear the familiar call from 300m down the
valley - turn, see the feed bags and trot back to us. The rest of the mob would follow. The team
with the bags would walk into the electric fenced yard and as the horses came in they'd be relieved
of their bridles bits' and reins in exchange for a feed bag which simply slips over their ears.
With a feedback on his head the horse has to put his head down and touch the bag to the ground to reach
the oats. They learn pretty quickly by watching the other horses. Once all horses were eating, we
simply close the gate and head back to the camp chairs and more cold beer. Sometime later we'd
notice all the horses were standing upright and looking at us ("hey - I've finished my oats -
can you get this bag off me ?" ) - so we'd hop the fence and remove the bags and turn on the
electric fence. The horses would then simply graze on the mountain grasses all night.
Evenings around the campfire were relaxed and the food superb. Iva is an excellent cook.
At dinner breakfast was announced as "between 8 and 9".
Most of us were in bed early Day 2 .