Riding near Sydney

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In the spotlight

Hey Globetrotters, I wanted to introduce you to the wonderful Jess Chapman who runs Chapman Valley Horse Riding just north of Sydney in the Hunter Valley. We met Jess at Equitana Auckland late last year and were blown away with her enthusiasm and excitement about her horse riding business. I will let you in on a little secret…this was not the first time we had heard about Jess. In fact, a number of our Sydney-based globetrotters had mentioned her to us before as they ride with her regularly, so I guess you could say she came HIGHLY recommended. Anyway, what better way to get to know her a little better than in a Q&A blog post? If you’re based in the Sydney area and looking to clock up some hours in the saddle before you head off on your globetrotting adventure, why not give Jess a call and tee up a ride? She’s got many different options to choose from and you’ll be well looked after. You might even bump into some globetrotting alumni while you’re there (keep an eye out for the wonderful Stacey West, Ashley Marr and Max Goldsmith)!

So let’s get to know Jess and Chapman Valley Horse Riding a little more shall we?

What is your earliest memory of horses?

My dad had a 14.2hh Stock horse mare named Maggie who taught me how to ride (the good, and the bad habits!). When I was about 4 years of age, I was sitting on Maggie inside the cattle yards after a long day of cattle mustering (I was too young to ride in the muster, but would beg to have just a few minutes sitting on her before she was unsaddled for the day). My dad, Peter, left the yards to wash his hands and Maggie, spying the open gate EXPLODED! BOLTED and BUCKED her way out the gate, across a rickety wooden bridge and away into the open paddock! It wasn’t until 10 years later when I recounted my earliest memory to my dad, that he enlightened me that my ‘8 seconds of rodeo terror’ on this wild bronc was actually about two steps of trot, before she stopped to stuff her face with grass! But to my 4-year-old mind, she had let loose in a torrent of rodeo worthy moves – and I’m stickin’ to it!

How long have you been running Chapman Valley Horse Riding? And what was the background/history/reason for starting?

This month (Feb 2018) marks five years since our first ride. I was working full time (in a “real” job) and on weekends I would travel to and photograph Campdrafts and Rodeos across NSW. In 2012 my boyfriend at the time (now husband) took me for a trail ride while we were on holidays and I couldn’t help but think what a great gig the guides had; working with horses all day long and meeting people from all over the world. So I decided to give up the photography business and purchased two more horses (giving a grand total of four horses!) and began taking couples out on trail rides on the weekends. I loved it so much, I began doing them in the afternoons after work. Before I knew it, it’s 2018 and we have 20 horses and 4 extra guides open to taking rides 7 days a week!

Can you tell us a bit about the rides you offer at Chapman Valley? Do you cater for beginners through to experienced riders?

Our motto has always been “Catering for ALL levels of riding experience”. We have shorter rides, which include 1-hour family rides and 2hr beginner rides, and also Half and Full day rides for those with a little more experience. We are also increasingly moving toward longer, multi-day rides such as our unique 2 and 3 day Cattle Musters, for those looking for a longer bonding experience with their horse.

What is your most popular ride?

Certainly our Cattle Muster, which tends to book out in a matter of days once the dates are released. The cattle muster provides the opportunity to help us round up and bring in the cattle in preparation for vaccinations, check-ups and prepping for sale.

What ride would you say is your favourite to run?

Definitely the 3 Day Cattle Muster. There is an amazing camaraderie that forms between the riders on the muster that is almost beyond explanation. Each rider gets to know their horse, how to care for them and is involved in the whole process, from feeding the horses, to saddling, riding and hosing off at the end of the day. Then, sitting around the campfire at night with a cold beer you really get to bond with your fellow riders and get to know everyone as true friends (as corny as that sounds!)

Describe your herd of horses in four words:

Reliable. Fun. Responsive. Personable

Describe a typical day for you at the farm:

On days we have rides booked it begins with feeding the horses, having a scrum with the guides on what rides we have booked and the horses that are working that day, any updates on trails, horse injuries or anything else that’s happening in the industry that we think could improve our rides. Then it’s a matter of prepping horses and greeting riders.

On non-riding days (generally during the week), after breakfast the horses are given bodywork, chiropractic work or acupuncture (depending on where they are in their schedule), or maybe seen by the farrier and then let loose into their 1,000 acre paddock to go and be horses for the day.

What is the philosophy or ethos behind your horse riding experiences?

I strongly believe if we look after our horses, the horses will look after our customers, who will, in turn, look after the business. Horse welfare should always come first. Trail riding should be exciting, on happy energetic horses who love what they do.

What do you love most about your job?

It’s the perfect excuse to cuddle, play with and ride horses all day! I’ve also met a lot of deeply inspirational people, and made very strong friendships through our rides.

What is the most challenging part?

Explaining to people how we’re different, and why we do things differently. An example is we don’t accept walk-ins. We only catch and saddle our horses if we have a booking for them, so they aren’t left tied and saddled all day for a “just incase” booking.

What has been the most memorable or significant moment of your time running Chapman Valley Horse Riding?

Only one?? I’m not sure that’s possible! Possibly my overall favourite thing to see is when someone masters a RISING trot for the first time! The expression on their face when they realise it doesn’t have to be so darn uncomfortable is priceless!

And finally, what is your bucket list globetrotting destination?

Mongolia and Iceland!

So if you’re keen to jump in the saddle and get a few shorter rides in so you’re fit and ready when it come times for your globetrotting holiday, you should definitely head to Chapman Valley Horse Riding. I know you’ll have an absolute blast with Jess and her team!

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