We’re delighted to be working with Christian and Laura Hayes. This husband and wife dynamo-duo are renowned for bringing first-class riding holidays in two of Australia’s most iconic landscapes – the Kimberley and the High Country.
How long have you been running your horse riding holidays?
We have been operating Hidden Trails by Horseback since 2010 and in the Kimberley since 2013. Before that we worked for other operators and also did our own horse starting and training.
And what was the background, history or reason for starting?
The idea of Hidden Trails by Horseback came from years of working in different fields that lead us to deciding to start our own business. Christian started his chef apprenticeship when he was 16 years old and included a stint with Guy Grossi. Whilst he worked at the remote Dargo Hotel in East Gippsland he was given the opportunity to travel to California to ride horses in the High Sierra’s doing remote pack horse trips and hunting trips.
This is where he also learnt to shoe horses. Laura grew up in rural NSW and spent her life riding on the family farm in the Hunter Valley. Before meeting Christian she organised corporate incentive trips and it was here she met Christian whilst organising horse riding adventures for corporate groups. Combining all of this and our appreciation of good horsemanship led us to starting Hidden Trails by Horseback in the Victorian High Country.
We started our horse treks in the Kimberley at El Questro Station after a couple of years traveling the area with bus tour groups during the winter months. We spent time on the neighbouring station horse starting and retraining and it was here where we were approached to run rides at El Questro. We have spent 3 years at El Questro and have recently taken over the rides at Home Valley Station last year.
How many guest horses do you have?
We run about 40 horses in the Victorian High Country and this year we will have around 30 horses in the Kimberley
Describe your herd of horses in four words.
Sturdy, fit, responsive and sociable
What is the philosophy or ethos behind Hidden Trails?
We have worked hard to develop Hidden Trails by Horseback through good horsemanship, friendly and knowledgeable staff and quality horses and tack. We also pride ourselves on the quality of our camps and the meals we serve.
What do you love most about your job?
We get a lot of satisfaction out of the feedback we get from our guests. Both of us along with our staff work hard to ensure everyone has an enjoyable trip, in a lot of cases it is a trip of a lifetime for some and we may only see them once. On the other hand we have guests that we can’t get rid of! They keep coming back every year and make life long mates from our trips…this is what we love!
What is the most challenging part?
Logistics is always a challenge as we ride in so many areas. Each year when we head for the Kimberley in April we head out the gate looking like a circus! Horse truck with horses, vehicle with our caravan and another vehicle with our camp kitchen….taking off for the 4,000km journey to the other side of Australia for 5 months.
Why should globetrotters sign up for this ride?
We operate in two of the most iconic areas of Australia. In the Victorian High Country made famous by The Man from Snowy River films and in the remote East Kimberley region, known for its raw and wild landscape and the magnificent Cockburn Range.
A tip that every globetrotter must know before signing up for this ride.
In the Victorian High Country it is our unpredictable mountain weather! We can get a warm sunny day and the next it can be snowing…this is the beauty of the mountains! In the Kimberley it is the remoteness and the laid back attitude! No phones, balmy nights and you are a long way from anything! This country gets in your blood!
Finish this sentence – Don’t leave home without…
thermals, a camera and bottle of wine. Leave at home your watch and your worries!
What has been the most memorable or significant moment of your guiding career?
When we had an English family arrive at the Merrijig pub to join us on a 7 day trip, only to work out they were kids Laura taught as a gap student when she was 18 in the UK. It was amazing being able to show them the High Country on the back of a horse.
The other memory we often talk about was our first overnight trek, we woke up to the most snow we have ever seen at home, we spent the day riding through the hills in the snow, still to this day it is the most snow we have ridden in.