Today’s Topic: Giddy Up! Horseback Tourism.

Hello Readers,

I sat down this morning with the intention to write about sustainable modes of transportation which can be pursued as a tourist and have a smaller impact on the environment (cycling, hiking, renting an electric car, etc.).  As some of you may know, transportation is the leading contributor to human caused climate change and for better or for worse, transportation / movement is intrinsically linked to tourism.

Tourism, by definition, involves the voluntary movement of people…
and therefore the choices tourists make in terms of their transportation can make the single biggest impact in either increasing or (hopefully) mitigating their carbon footprint.

Because of this close relationship between tourism and transportation, there is a great depth of topics to look at when it comes to sustainable options.  This particular blog will focus on trail riding – the impacts, some of my experiences around the world on horseback (which have been some of my top tourism experiences ever!), saving the other subjects for another post.  In future posts I will cover hiking, cycling, walking tours, ride sharing / group tours, electric and/or hybrid vehicle rentals, snowshoeing and anything else I uncover along the way.  Stay tuned, but for now let’s get back to the horses!

A group of beautiful trail riding horses in Glenorchy, New Zealand (2016).

Horseback riding remains one of my favourite ways to experience a landscape – it not only allows you to immerse yourself in some of the wildest natural environments, but it also fosters a bond between rider and horse.  It allows people with lower mobility levels the chance to access some hard to reach places, and it is an activity which appeals to people of all ages and riding abilities.

However, horseback tourism can still cause negative impacts on the environment – which is one reason it is important to stay on trails and speak with your host about how they are mitigating potential impacts such as soil degradation and the introduction of invasive species.

Memorable Horseback Riding Experience #1

When I was about 16, I took a multi-day horseback riding trip with my mom and grandma in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Southern Alberta.  The ranch was just outside of Pincher Creek, where I was impressed to see some of the first wind turbines I had ever laid eyes on.

Our 3 night and 4 day riding trip took us up into the mountains where the scenery was absolutely stunning.  We stayed in cabins, went riding every day, and enjoyed the famous western hospitality of our host – which included nightly campfires, comfort food, and of course good story telling.  I will never forget the memories made on this trip with my mom and grandma – three generations travelling together on the trip of a lifetime I am sure.  12 years later, I went to search for Mountain Meadow Trail Rides and was sad to see they have now closed.  Luckily, in Western Canada there is a great selection of guest ranches offering overnight riding trips, you can find out more by clicking here for BC ranches, or here for Alberta.

3 Generations Enjoying a Trail Riding Holiday in Alberta (2006).
Experiencing life as a ‘real’ cowgirl, atop my horse Smokey (2006).
Amazing vista at our first rest stop on Day 1 out of 4 days riding in Alberta (2006).

Memorable Horseback Riding Experience #2

In 2016, during my travels to New Zealand one of the optional activities during my group tour was Horseback Riding in Glenorchy (where many Lord of the Rings scenes were filmed). I am so happy I opted to treat myself to this ride – it was hands down the most scenic place I have ever experienced.  The perfect weather didn’t hurt either.

The nice part about this horseback riding outfitter was they divided a rather large group of riders up into smaller groups based on riding experience. Those with little to no riding experience were taken on a gentler ride, where as I was grouped with the Intermediate and Advanced riders.  We were fortunate enough to experience multiple river crossings, as well as cantering and trotting during our breathtaking 2 hour ride.  The company was Dart River Stables if anyone is curious – click here to visit their website.

One of many glacial river crossings during a 2 hour ride in Glenorchy, New Zealand (2016).
A sensory overload riding through fragrant Lupins listening to the clip clop of hooves, NZ (2016).
My good boy ‘Pete’, a retired racehorse who was retrained for the trails of Glenorchy NZ (2016).
I couldn’t dream up a more beautiful place to ride a horse, Glenorchy NZ (2016).

Many of the horses at Dart River are saved from the racing industry and given a second chance as trail horses.  The guide explained that one of the most difficult things is training the horses how to walk instead of run, and learning to stay in line instead of racing each other.  I was warned prior to cantering that my horse liked to overtake other horses (he was a true racer!) so I had to be careful to hold him back.  Luckily, Pete was a very well behaved horse that day and he listened to my commands.


Memorable Horseback Riding Experience #3

In 2017 I returned to one of my favourite guest ranches in BC – Big Bar Guest Ranch near Jesmond.  I had visited this ranch twice in my teenage years, once on a camping trip with my mom and again when we rented a cabin and invited my brother along.  Both trips I was taken on amazing trail rides, and I couldn’t wait to share this place with someone who had never been on a horse before!

The adventure to Big Bar Guest Ranch starts when your tires leave the pavement and you tackle the over 80kms of gravel road leading you to the ranch.  As soon as I turned into the driveway, the memories of my past visits came flooding back.  We checked in to our rustic country cabin, with beautiful views of the lake and a wood fire to keep us warm.

Settling in to ranch life at Big Bar Guest Ranch (2017)
Rustic accommodation with a stunning view from the front porch, Big Bar Guest Ranch (2017).

The next day we went on a beautiful 2 hour trail ride exploring the Caribou region – with an extensive history of ranching and homesteading it is no wonder this area is home to many successful guest ranches offering a chance for tourists to escape the city and experience life on a ranch for a day, a week or even longer.  Visit Big Bar Guest Ranch’s website to learn more:


My horse ‘Ruby’ getting ready to leave for our trail ride – Big Bar (2017)


Horseback Riding is all thanks to these amazing animals!


Beautiful British Columbia – Big Bar Guest Ranch (2017).

“I can never love the Cariboo enough for all she gave to me. Mounted on a cowpony I roamed the land, not knowing where I went — to be alive, going, that was enough.” – Emily Carr



There we have a quick, highly personalized look at Horseback Tourism – one of the many low impact transportation options we have when travelling.  As a self-prolaimed farm girl, who grew up riding horses, I take every chance I can to get back on a horse, although it happens much less frequently now than when I was a child.

I find in horseback riding I can reconnect with nature, with myself, and feel a sense of connection to the landscape as well as to an animal.  When it comes to sustainable or ecotourism options, I have found horseback tourism suits my travel personality almost perfectly.

Admittedly, I am a sucker for anything country, and horseback tourism just happens to be one of my favourite ways to connect with that part of myself. As these photos clearly show, I was introduced to the cowgirl life at a very young age!

Likely my first ever time on a horse – approx. age 3! (1993)
Throwback to that time my parents threw a Barn Dance when I was about 5! (1995).

Until next time,
Keep exploring and keep asking those tough questions!



One thought on “Today’s Topic: Giddy Up! Horseback Tourism.

  1. Caroline December 1, 2018 / 11:21 am

    Thanks Olivia, your blog brought back some fond memories for me also on our four day get away.

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