The River Valley Ride, New Zealand

7 NightsIntermediate to AdvancedFrom $4,075 NZD?Tour costs $4,075 NZD which is approximately $3,765 AUD

The River Valley Ride is a firecracker of an itinerary that’s swathed in Māori culture, with an intense sense of freedom and adventure at its very core.

There is SO much goodness in our ride in the North Island of New Zealand known as The River Valley Ride. A circular point-to-point ride, it starts and ends at your guide Nicola Megaw’s family home, River Valley Lodge: a fifth generation family-owned lodge that sits poised on the wild Rangitikei River. With the on-the-move nature of this ride, you’ll traverse jaw-dropping, ever-changing scenery. Just imagine: dreamy canters across bowling green pastures dotted with flocks of happy sheep, getting lost in pristine native bush where the silver ferns tickle your horse’s belly, loping across wispy pampas and swimming bareback in the river.

The absolute gift of an eight day ride is the flow that comes with consistent time in the saddle. You’ll fall into a gentle rhythm with your horse, your fellow globetrotters and your guides, giving yourself the time to disconnect so that you can reconnect. Not only that, you’ll get a lovely sense of the Kiwi farming way of life, with long-time local and host Nicola personally guiding you through generational farming properties that aren’t accessible to the general public. You’ll also be privileged to spend a night at a local Marae, which is the focal point of Māori communities.

For those Globetrotters who yearn for the rhythm and sense of accomplishment that comes with eight glorious days in the saddle – for those who hold a deep desire to return to mother nature, lift the veil on this enchanting part of New Zealand and be swathed in Māori culture – The River Valley Ride is for YOU.

Fast Facts

  • Horse Breed:A mix of Kaimanawa (NZ wild horse) and NZ Station Bred, which is a cross of Clydesdale, Standardbred, Quarter Horse, Thoroughbred and Arabian. There are also a few Tennessee Walking Horses and American Saddlebreds in the herd.
  • Pace:The pace varies from a walk right through to a canter when the terrain allows.
  • Weight Limit:Maximum of 95kg / 210lbs *please contact us for a further assessment if you’re above this weight.
  • Type of tack:Both Australian Stock saddles and Western tack are used. *All horses are ridden barefoot and bitless.
  • Seasons:December through to March.
  • Group size:A minimum of 6 and a maximum of 8 guests.
  • Time in Saddle:On average from 4 to 6 hours daily. Please note, this is dependent on the pace of your group, so on some days it could take a little longer to reach your campsite.
  • Riding Ability:Suitable for intermediate to experienced riders. All riders MUST be confident riding outside an arena at all paces over uneven ground.
    *Please keep in mind that this ride involves 8 days in the saddle, so suitable saddle fitness is a MUST.
     Not sure what your riding experience is? Watch THIS video to find out.
  • Accommodation:The accommodation varies throughout the ride. While staying at River Valley Lodge (first two nights then last night), you’ll enjoy comfortable twin share rooms with ensuites. You’ll spend two nights ‘glamping’ (bell dome tents, camp stretcher and all bedding provided) and will have access to basic shower and toilet facilities. You’ll also spend one night at a traditional Maori Marae (communal space, no single room available) and one night at Tarata Lodge with comfortable twin share rooms.
  • Ride Length:8 days, 7 nights (with 8 riding days)
  • Inclusions:

    Twin share accommodation, riding, meals (from lunch on day 1 through to lunch on day 8), and transfers to and from Taupo on days 1 and 8.

  • Exclusions:

    International and regional flights, travel insurance (compulsory), accommodation in Taupo the day before and after the ride and alcohol (BYO is welcome).

 

DEPARTURE DATES & RATES

NEW! Secure your saddle seat NOW with a 10% deposit - as part of our 10x 10% payment plan!

WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE PRICE?

The price includes twin share accommodation, riding, meals (from lunch on day 1 through to lunch on day 8), and transfers to and from Taupo on days 1 and 8.

WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED IN THE PRICE?


The price does not include international and regional flights, travel insurance (compulsory), accommodation in Taupo the day before & after the ride and alcohol (BYO is welcome).

Accepted payment is by credit or debit card only. There is a 2% surcharge on all card payments. Click HERE to read our recommendations on which cards are best to use to avoid international transaction fees.

WHY IS THE PRICE QUOTED IN NZD?
With our riding destinations, the currency is dictated by our ride partner in that country. Therefore due to fluctuating exchange rates we have to quote in the same currency.

Itinerary

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*Please note, this is a suggested itinerary only and subject to change at the discretion of your guides due to weather and other influencing factors.

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  • Day 1

    Hooray! Your adventure in New Zealand is about to begin! This morning you’ll be picked up from your accommodation in Taupo at 9.30am and driven to River Valley Lodge. Your host, Nicola, has lived in River Valley her whole life, and her family has been running the business for five generations. Along the way you’ll have the chance to purchase any last minute supplies, and alcohol if you’d like.

    Once you reach the stables, you’ll meet your guides, be introduced to the horse that will be your partner for the next week, and get a briefing on the trip ahead. Today is about getting to know your horse, building a connection, feeling comfortable with one another and understanding the principles of riding your horse in a rope halter. To begin with, you’ll spend some time working together on the ground, then you’ll ride out over River Valley. After a beautiful day’s riding, you’ll feel connected and confident in the saddle.

    Over a sumptuous dinner of home-grown meat and vegetables, you’ll enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of River Valley Lodge and get to know your guides and fellow guests. By now your comfortable, cosy bed will be calling – make sure you get plenty of beauty sleep tonight, globetrotters!

  • Day 2

    After packing your lunch and filling up on a hearty breakfast at the lodge, everyone will head out to catch, groom, saddle and feed the horses. This hands-on time strengthens your relationship with your horse and will form part of your trip each day (don’t worry, there’s always help on hand should you need it). Mounting up, you will explore the beautiful countryside around River Valley for a full day, with a lunch break in a beautiful spot along the trail. Crossing Pukerimu Station, you’ll ride some big hills and patches of native bush.

    Tonight you’ll savour more family-style, locally grown and home cooked fare, al fresco if the weather permits. Before bed this evening, you’ll pack what you need for camping for the next 4 days, leaving anything you don’t need at the lodge – it will be there when you return on day 7.

  • Day 3

    Getting into the morning rhythm, you’ll pack your lunch and enjoy a filling breakfast, then prepare your horse for the day ahead. Today’s ride is a picturesque journey through the local farmlands, crossing seven private properties before reaching Moawhango. Moawhango is a small country settlement with a rich history. Here you will get to meet some of the locals from both European and Maori cultures, who will share their love of the land and their ancestral stories with you.

    Tonight you will be staying on the community’s marae {pictured}, or meeting ground. The marae is the focal point of Māori communities throughout New Zealand, who see it as tūrangawaewae – their place to stand and belong. As a group, you will be officially welcomed onto the marae and experience the warm hospitality of the Maori people as you’re treated to a hearty Maori meal.

  • Day 4

    This morning you will wave goodbye to Moawhango and journey on for an adventurous day’s ride through the high country. You’ll cross Maunganui Station, as well as two more farms. This is private land where few tourists ever get to set foot, so lap it up, globetrotters! On top of that, you’re riding right on the edge of wild horse county, where the wild Kaimanawa horses roam. Finally, you’ll pull up at your first campsite and untack and turn out your horse. Then you’ll settle in beneath the magnificent volcano, Mount Ruapehu, for another feast courtesy of one of River Valley’s legendary cooks. As the stars twinkle high above, you’ll snuggle down inside your tent and rest up for another epic day in the saddle.

  • Day 5

    After breakfast, you will saddle up and ride out for the day to the Shangri La, a private piece of land on Makokomiko Station. This land is owned and farmed by Maori people and it is a huge honour to be permitted to ride here. Your journey takes you through picture-perfect farmland with views out to the Kaimanawa and Ruahine Ranges, and swathes of young Manuka bushes planted by the Maori people, who have invested in their property for future generations to produce the unique honey that comes from the bees that pollinate these native plants. And if you’re tempted, here is your chance to swim your horse in the beautiful Rangitikei River! Relaxing on the banks, you’ll eat lunch and (hopefully!) laze in the sunshine.

    On your return to camp, you’ll find that the locals have been preparing a feast: a traditional Hangi. You’ll get to see what’s involved in ‘putting down’ the Hangi, watch it being lifted out of the ground, and then relish the incomparable flavours.

  • Day 6

    As usual, the day will begin with a delicious breakfast and time spent bonding with your trusty trail horse as you prepare for the ride ahead. The journey continues for the first part of the day over high country farmland, where there will be ample opportunities to give your horse its head and feel the wind in your hair. Then, after a picnic lunch, you’ll descend into the beautiful Rangitike River Gorge. Nimbly crossing the river, your horse will find a trail through the long grass on the opposite bank. This is a very special area for your guides, who grew up here and will no doubt have more than a few tales to tell.

    Your destination tonight is Tarata Lodge, a spectacular property owned by Steve and Trudi Maddock. Based high on the cliffs of the Rangitkei River, it boasts stunning views over the water. Dinner will be prepared by one of your amazing crew members, and enjoyed out on the deck as the light fades softly over the gorge.

  • Day 7

    Today gets off to an easy start as you enjoy the delights of Tarata Lodge, before saddling up and riding back down into the spectacular river gorge. Heading upstream, you’ll ride through the river and up over two magnificent hills, Pukekaka and Pukeokahu. Pukeokahu translates to ‘hill of the hawk’, and you’re more than likely to spot one or two as you clamber up its exhilarating slopes. This sacred place is believed to have been a play area for local Maori for at least 400 years. On a clear day, the hilltop offers views of all of the North Island’s volcanos! Finally, you’ll arrive back at River Valley for one last night together with your fellow riders and crew. Plenty of laughs, stories and memories will no doubt be shared!

  • Day 8

    Today will be a day to explore the bond you’ve made with your horse, or if you would prefer, take a trip on the river with the rafting guides! Your day concludes with a picnic to celebrate the journey you’ve undertaken, and at 2:00pm you’ll say farewell to the River Valley team and take a shuttle back to your accommodation in Taupo. The trip takes roughly two hours, so you’ll need to book a night’s accommodation in Taupo this evening so the group isn’t rushed getting back into town. You can depart for your onward travels anytime the following day.

  • Transfer Information

    Transfers to and from Taupo are included in the ride price. To avoid travel delays, we ask that all guests arrive and stay in Taupo (at your own expense) the day before the ride begins, so you’re ready to be collected from your accommodation at approximately 9.30am on day one. And please also book another night’s accommodation in Taupo on the final day of your ride, so the group isn’t rushed getting back into town. You can fly home the following day.

    **Please note that if you’re flying into Auckland International Airport, give yourself a three hour buffer to clear customs {especially with horse riding equipment – helmets, chaps} before your regional flight directly into Taupo. Our travel agent can assist in booking your international and regional flights as she’s familiar with this ride itinerary.

What our valued Globetrotters say about The River Valley Ride

The River Valley Ride, North Island, New Zealand - Globetrotting horse riding holidays

Wendy Bayley

‘The accommodation on this trip was outstanding, especially the glamping. The marae was just wonderful. The highlight was the input from the local community, which provided a special flavour to the experience and set this trek apart. The picnic in the glade with wine and cheese and the newly-erected timber pop-up bar was unparalleled! And, of course, the lodge itself was just wonderful. Fabulous staff, and the environment was perfect.
I rode Calibre and we got on just fine. Our guides did a wonderful job matching riders to horses. My favourite experience was swimming the horses. The community input of the locals was also a highlight. The whole experience was outstanding and set the scene for many more very successful treks to follow.’

The River Valley Ride, North Island, New Zealand - Globetrotting horse riding holidays

Helen Down

‘I have to say, I am finding writing anything about this adventure very difficult. In some way, I feel like I am still there. It was the best horse related experience I have ever had, even though I have ridden for 30+ years.
While I had been waiting for the ride for almost a year and had huge expectations, it was beyond anything that I could have imagined. Calling it a holiday goes nowhere near to describing those eight days. It was a real adventure – exhilarating, calming, peaceful, exciting, challenging, beautiful and an experience I will always treasure. The horses were fit, happy, independent and so confident in themselves. Mine – Dakota – was the best horse partner you could ever want on such an adventure. He was fit, energetic, honest, confident and so much fun, with impeccable manners, and he listened to me every step of the way. If I could have taken him home, I would have. And as for our two fabulous guides – I cannot imagine any other horse people who I would rather ride with. I learnt so much from Nicola and Tommy and would ride with them again anywhere, anytime.
The marae visit was out of this world and all the locals went completely out of their way to make sure we felt more than welcome and had everything we wanted. I loved the mountains we rode up, and the valleys we rode down into, the gallops across long rolling hills, the stops on the mountain tops to admire the views and the huge country that we had ridden or were about to ride that day. On one such hilltop, we stopped and were lucky enough to watch a band of wild Kaimanawa horses beneath us. They were so curious and beautiful. A sight I have never seen.
As a fellow kiwi, one thing that really stood out for me is that this ride is an opportunity to experience the real New Zealand High Country. This is not a touristy, commercial riding holiday option – this is the real deal, experiencing a slice of true kiwi life on the best horses.’

Meet a Globetrotter: Anthony Tietze - The River Valley Ride, New Zealand - Globetrotting horse riding holidays

Anthony Tietze

‘This was a special holiday where our hosts, Nicola and Tommy, went above and beyond to make the ride a success. Beautiful countryside with ample opportunity to go far a canter if you chose to. Riding through the rolling hills each day was something to remember and the eight nights gave us a little extra time to relax and maximise our enjoyment. The night at the marae was special, and swimming with the horses was great. We had a great group and, importantly, there was the opportunity to mix, talk and party with the locals every evening.’

The River Valley Ride, North Island, New Zealand - Globetrotting horse riding holidays

Heidi Cooper

‘Wow, what a fantastic eight days we all had. Nicola and Janie are a fantastic team and the other two lovely guides who helped out every day were pretty special too. I felt so proud to be a New Zealander while on this trip. The land we rode over was spectacular, picturesque and at times very exciting, with some small challenges along the way. I always felt very welcome and cared for. I would recommend this trip to anyone – in fact, I would definitely do it again. The food was amazing, healthy and very tasty. After each ride we celebrated together and talked about our amazing day with drinks and snacks before dinner. I rode Dakota; he was a great choice for me, exactly what I asked for in the description I gave of my dream horse. Very safe and steady on the steep hills, he had energy but could be controlled easily. The support and care our guides gave us was so heartwarming; it felt like we had become family over eight days. I wish them all the best on all their rides to come.’

The River Valley Ride, North Island, New Zealand - Globetrotting horse riding holidays

Michelle Lampe

‘The River Valley Ride was truly one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Amazing horses, people and scenery – what more could you ask for? I rode Miss T… I loved her and it was sad to say goodbye. She was comfortable and easy. She also had a very forward-moving walk and was easy to push into a trot or canter. The accommodation was varied, but we always had a comfy warm bed, and sleeping at the marae was quite a special experience. Nicola and Tommy were the best. Always accommodating, they had fantastic knowledge of the environment and the land owners. We couldn’t have asked for two better guides. I loved every day and every minute. The whole experience was unforgettable.’

The River Valley Ride, North Island, New Zealand - Globetrotting horse riding holidays

Mieke Abels

‘For me, this was a ride that exceeded my expectations, and I would love to be able to do it again. Every day was varied and surprising, whether we were riding through bushland, over hills and mountains, or crossing rivers. The meals were carefully prepared and very tasty, and the accommodations were better than I expected: good locations, and really nice places to spend the night. Everything was so well organised! Both guides were very familiar with the environment, and were able to give us a lot of information about the area, flora and fauna, culture, etc. I rode Rio, a palomino who was not very tall, which I preferred. In the beginning he was a little unsure, but we came along together very quickly. He was very surefooted when climbing or descending, which was awesome!’

The River Valley Ride, North Island, New Zealand - Globetrotting horse riding holidays

Patricia Harkness

‘This experience was so warm with emotions. Having the guides and their friends share their land, their homes and their farms with us was the highlight of the trip. The horses were top of the line and very well cared for. I rode Shamrock. He took care of me, and he let me enjoy the ride because I trusted him. I was able to see the beauty of the country we were riding in.
The hospitality was also outstanding. The people who helped transport, feed and entertain us were the best. The guides’ level of knowledge of the environment was incredible. There were many hours of riding when I didn’t understand how the heck they knew where we were going, but I trusted them. I was in their home, their backyard.
Every day was wonderful. I loved seeing the wild horses in the distance and cantering across the wide, open, green fields. Another favourite moment was spending time with Richard and the other Maori locals in the small village where they lived. Learning their history was so beautiful. They are such a proud and generous people.’

STORIES FROM THE SADDLE

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