Tuesday, 7 January 2014 9:45 AM
Cherina Hadley explores Australia’s ‘Man From Snowy River’ country on horseback.
There’s a chill in the air and the Alpine forest on the fringes of Kosciuszko National Park – where I’ve been hiking for the past week, through snowstorms and hellacious winds – is swathed in a wispy layer of fog. However today, my last day in the Snowy Mountains, the sun is finally beginning to break through the clouds.
It's good timing too, as I’ve not travelled to the Snowy Mountains solely to hike. I'm in ‘Man From Snowy River’ horse country – a classic Australian film inspired by Banjo Patterson’s poem of the same name. This tale of one fearless horseman, who pursues a mob of brumbies (wild horses) to retrieve an award-winning colt, has made the Snowy Mountains an adventure hotspot for travellers worldwide.
Even 30 years after The Man From Snowy River movie was released, travellers visit with romantic notions of exploring the Australian High Country on horseback; of creating their very own Man From Snowy River experience.…and I am one of them.
My first port of call is Thredbo Valley Horse Riding, where I meet Nev Barass, the owner – a no nonsense high-country horseman with a warm heart and a free-flowing sense of humour.
I immediately know that he would be a great person to have spinning yarns around a campfire in the mountains. And his knowledge of and respect for horses is palpable.
With around 2,800 acres of mountain country to explore, Nev offers a range of horse riding experiences from beginner to advanced level riders. My companions and I fall somewhere in between.
After a brief initiation to the ‘Thredbo Valley Horse Riding’ philosophy – bridle-less riding so that there is no head restraint on the horse, just your bodyweight and legs to control direction and movement – we are saddled up and ready to go.
“Let’s go for a trek, cowgirls!”
And so we ride.
Our journey takes us through lush sub-alpine forest just below the Crackenback Ridge in the Thredbo Valley. This relaxed Aussie-stockman-style of riding is much easier than I expected. My robust mountain horse, Zac, takes the lead as we clamber up and down hills, dodging tree branches (me) and negotiating mountain streams (Zac).
As much as Zac is enjoying being the leader of the mob on this trek, he would be no match for the wild brumbies of the Snowy Mountains. No domestic horse would.
Nev’s eyes light up when he talks about what it’s like to go “buck-running”, the term horsemen give to taking chase on a mob of wild brumbies.
“It is the most amazing feeling to be running with a mob of brumbies…It’s the best fun you can have with your clothes on,” he laughs.
“I don’t profess to being a buck-runner…but it’s an adrenaline pump that you won’t believe! You are absolutely flat gallop through the timber – ducking and weaving, jumping logs – and not even coming close to keeping up with the mob. They are just so fast; so agile,” he adds.
I long for that feeling. The thrill of buck-running a mob of brumbies through these mountains seems like an excellent adrenaline rush to aspire to. A few more quiet rides with Nev and you never know; it could happen.
Like Nev, most of the ‘locals’ we met on this trip weren’t Snowy Mountain born and bred locals at all. They were folk who came here from somewhere else, drawn by the gentle lure of the mountains and the laidback High Country lifestyle.
The story was always the same: These people, quite simply, never wanted to leave.
And I might just be one of them. I find it impossible to imagine not waking up here again tomorrow.
By Cherina Hadley
To live out your own Man From Snowy River horse riding experience, call Nev at Thredbo Valley Horse Riding on +61 421 332 126 or click here.
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