The River Valley Ride, New Zealand

7 NightsIntermediate to AdvancedFrom $3,795 NZD?Tour costs $3,795 NZD which is approximately $3,699 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 to our NEWEST ride in the North Island of New Zealand known as The River Valley Ride. As a point-to-point ride, you’ll start 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. And you’ll end the ride at Māori Elder, Tommy Waara’s ancestral land, known as the Valley of a Thousand Hills. 

Thanks to 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, losing yourself in pristine native bush where the silver ferns tickle your horse’s belly, loping across wispy pampas and swimming bareback in crystal-clear rivers.

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 your host, long-time local Nicola, who will personally guide you through generational farming properties that aren’t accessible to the general public. You’ll share a drink with local farmers in a pop-up bar in the middle of a paddock (you can’t get any more Kiwi-centric than that!) and you’ll spend another night at a local Marae, which is the focal point of Māori communities.

If you yearn for the rhythm and sense of accomplishment that comes with eight glorious days in the saddle, and hold a deep desire to return to mother nature, be swathed in Māori culture and to lift the veil on this enchanting part of New Zealand, THEN – The River Valley Ride is for YOU. It’s a firecracker of an itinerary with a strong feeling of freedom and adventure at its very core.

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:February
  • 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.
  • Accommodation:The accommodation varies throughout the ride. While staying at River Valley Lodge (2 nights), you’ll enjoy comfortable twin share rooms with ensuites. For the rest of the itinerary you’ll be camping (tents and bedding provided) and will have access to basic shower and toilet facilities. You will be required to assist with camp set up and pack up each day, and your guides will be on hand to help out where necessary.
    **There is no single accommodation available. For our solo globetrotters, you’ll share with another solo traveller of the same gender.
  • Ride Length:8 days, 7 nights (with 8 riding days)
  • Inclusions:

    Twin share accommodation, riding, meals (from dinner 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, alcohol (BYO is welcome) and lunch on day 1.

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.

This itinerary can also be run in either direction i.e. River Valley to Tommy’s as per below, or Tommy’s to River Valley. The direction you are to ride will be determined by the departure date you choose.

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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, alcohol if you’d like and a tasty lunch for the day ahead (lunch today is not included in the ride price).

    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 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 together. 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 if you’re unsure of how to do anything). Mounting up, you will explore the beautiful countryside around River Valley for a full day, with a break for lunch in a beautiful spot along the trail.

    Tonight is your last night at River Valley Lodge, so be sure to savour the family-style, locally grown and home cooked fare! Before bed this evening, you’ll pack what you need for camping, leaving anything you don’t need at the lodge – it will be transported to Tommy’s farm, ready for your arrival in a few days.

  • 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 eight 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 above}, 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 welcomed onto the marae and experience the warm hospitality of the Maori people as you’re treated to a traditional 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 never get to set foot on, 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 your horse up at Mark’s Woolshed and enjoy a seasonal summer barbecue beneath the magnificent volcano, Mount Ruapehu. Basic shower facilities will be available at the campsite should you wish to freshen up. As the stars twinkle in the night sky, you’ll snuggle down inside your tent and rest up for another epic day in the saddle.

  • Day 5

    After breakfast at Mark’s Woolshed, you’ll saddle up and spend the day riding through native bushland, swampland, manuka, tussock-covered hills and picture-perfect farmland, each mile laden with tales of early pioneering history. You’ll enjoy another picnic lunch along the way, and reach Lloyd’s Country Bar in the late afternoon.

    This one-of-a-kind bar is situated on Lloyd’s farm – literally in the middle of a field where he grazes his sheep and cows. Tonight is ‘locals night’ and you’ll order dinner from the bar menu before sitting down with the locals (dinner is included in the ride price, but you’ll need to purchase your drinks). The people who live near Lloyd either own or work on nearby farms. This evening promises you a snapshot of genuine country culture as you share stories and laughs with Lloyd and his many friends! When you’ve had your fill at the bar, you’ll retire to your tent, washing off the day’s dust in the basic on-site shower if you so please.

  • 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 through Lloyd’s farm, with spectacular views galore and ample opportunity to give your horse its head and canter across the farmland before stopping for a break at Toddy’s farm, another local farmer. From here, you and your horse will be transported by vehicle to the start of your ride through Atihau land. This is Tommy’s ancestral land, with over 50,000 hectares of land divided up into 10 farms. Tommy grew up in this country and has worked here all his life. He will guide you through this impressive, hilly country to bring you to your campsite at his home this evening. Dinner will be cooked over the campfire tonight, and you’ll share stories around the fire before once again bedding down in your tent.

    *Due to the long hours in the saddle today and the kilometres needing to be covered to reach your campsite, your horses will be trucked a short distance so you don’t have to ride along the road. This will no doubt be a much welcome break for both horse and rider.

  • Day 7

    Today gets off to a leisurely start, with time to sit and watch the world go by, spend some quality time with your horse, or get involved in putting the hangi down (a traditional Maori feast steamed in the ground using hot rocks). Tommy’s campsite is the perfect place to enjoy outdoor living, especially as you get to stay here again tonight. There are outdoor toilet and shower facilities available on site. Later in the day, you will experience another side of Atihau land as you discover your surrounds on horseback, and in the evening you get to feast on the freshly steamed hangi! This is your last night, and you’ll no doubt share plenty of laughs, stories and memories with your fellow riders around the campfire!

  • Day 8

    Today will be a day to explore the bond you’ve made with your horse. Tommy’s place boasts plenty of natural and man-made obstacles around to play with from your horse’s back. This is a great opportunity to hone your horsemanship skills with the help of your knowledgeable guides, or just spend time exploring the beautiful bush below Tommy’s house.

    Your day concludes with a picnic to celebrate the journey you’ve undertaken, and at 4:00pm you’ll 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 fly home 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

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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