Heather follows the Pat Parelli method of Natural Horsemanship, aiming to encourage the horse to obey because it wants to, not through fear or pain. She’s fascinating to talk to about the philosophies behind her horse-handling.
The horses are steady without being broken-down dude ranch nags, and they are very much individual personalities.
You'll be introduced to your horse by name and told its habits and characteristics. They are known in New Zealand as farm hacks -- specially bred for surefootedness and endurance. These are the type of horses used by high country shepherds for mustering in sheep from steep mountainsides and wide open tussocklands. Likewise, the saddles are a cross between English and Western, developed with a small pommel, knee-holds and a deep seat, to keep the rider comfortably in the saddle going up and down hills or river banks.
As for riders, you will be required to wear a helmet, in line with adventure tourism recommendations by the New Zealand Occupational Safety and Health service. Your saddlebag has room for a camera, because the photo-stops are worth it.
Gym shoes or walking shoes are sufficient footwear, and it's sometimes a good idea to take a light jacket because it can be a little windier on the hill.
The most popular trek at Grasmere Lodge suits riders of all abilities and lasts for about 90 minutes, through the farm paddocks and up through native matagouri scrub to one of the most spectacular view points on the property.
Longer rides of several hours are available by prior arrangement, as well as short walks with Heather leading the horse, to give younger or inexperienced riders at least a taste of being on horseback.
Riding at Grasmere Lodge is a great opportunity to enjoy the fresh air and quietness of the high country, following in the hoof prints of the shepherds who have preceded us.