Have you ever looked at our New Zealand holidays and felt totally stumped as to which one you’d choose? Well, Kiwi globetrotter Carolyn Ross did what any thoroughly addicted globetrotter would do and ticked them all off her list! Before getting back in the saddle to prepare for her first horse riding holiday, Carolyn had only ridden two horses in her life – but it wasn’t long before her confidence was back and she was ready to dive headfirst into the world of Globetrotting.
Keep reading to hear Carolyn’s story in her own words!
I got my first horse, Twinkle, when I was 12, after years of hassling my parents, covering my bedroom in posters and reading as many horse books as I could find to learn as much as I could. Twinkle was about 15 hands high, two years old and not really ridden or schooled in any way. That was okay, I put my rubber Tom Thumb bit on her and proceeded to ride bareback as often as I could. I got chucked off reasonably regularly, but after a bit of perseverance and the help of others who rode her too, we just got on with it. She would carry me and my friends and we would trek all over the place with my other girlfriends who had ponies. She lived ’til she was 29, totally spoilt and often overweight because I fed her too much. She pretty much ran the show, but I loved her dearly. I even had her tattooed on me when I was 22.
After my two horses passed away (the second, Kate, two years after Twinkle at age 31), I thought my life with horses was probably over. I was 40-ish. I did manage the odd trek and even did a weekend at River Valley with a girlfriend for her 50th. But the real beginning was reuniting with another girlfriend who used to ride with me in our early twenties. Even though we lived five hours’ drive apart and were both 55 years old, we both booked the Glenorchy Back Country Ride and told each other we’d better clock up some saddle time beforehand. In separate towns, we tracked down trekking places, saying yes to every opportunity that came our way. I was really nervous to start with, as I had only really ridden two horses in my life and I was now riding whatever horse I was allocated. I rode in Western saddles, bitless bridles, big horses, small horses, old horses, frisky horses, all sorts. What a learning curve!
I was slow to get back my confidence, but in Glenorchy, I got to ride the most amazing big grey horse called Beer. He was incredible. He loved to be in the front, was very positive, ears always pricked, absolutely fearless. He walked anywhere and everywhere: through swamps that sucked at his legs up over his knees, across swift rivers and over river boulders. He was so surefooted. By the end of that trek, my confidence had skyrocketed. I was well prepared, I wasn’t stiff or sore at all, and I was absolutely buzzing.
So obviously, me and my girlfriend immediately booked the Twin Coast Adventure. Knowing this was coming up, we continued with our regular riding and became part of the furniture at our local trekking places. All this saddle time ensured we had a wonderful time on the Twin Coast Adventure. We got to gallop across sandy beaches, canter through forestry tracks, and ride through sand dunes that looked just like the Sahara desert. All with our wonderful guide Jane and her awesome team. What a beautiful person Jane is – an absolute joy to be around. So much knowledge, such a great sense of humour and such a lovely soul. And this showed in just how wonderful her horses and her talented team were. Our group of gals got on so well. At times we laughed so much that we couldn’t talk! I don’t think I’ve laughed like that either before or since.
Then last summer, my trusty friend and I booked the final of Globetrotting’s three treks in New Zealand, and the longest in the series: the eight day River Valley Ride. We headed out feeling confident that we were well prepared. What a great surprise this trek turned out to be! I am totally convinced we did the New Zealand rides in the correct order. I felt that the previous two treks had grown my confidence for this more ‘freestyle’ ride. This trek gave me the sense of having real freedom to ride the way I wanted to. The pace was dictated by the experience of the group and after assessing us, our guides trusted their horses and our abilities and set us free, in a way. We felt watched, but not restricted. On this ride we spent the longest in the saddle – and the most days. Along with this came the most superior of the accommodation and lots of special treats. We were totally spoilt rotten – so much so that we rebooked the ride again for this year! Nicola and her family were incredible. They shared their family and friends with us and it was so exhilarating and rewarding.