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Tasmania by Horseback, Part I

Published: 11/25/2012
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Editor's Note: Dr. Rebecca Gimenez is president of Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue, Inc. and recently traveled to Australia to teach, tour, and present at Equitana, the major horse expo of Australia.

By Dr. Rebecca Gimenez

When was the last time you rode a horse through Jurassic Park? 
If you saw the movie, surely you remember the huge tree ferns, gigantic gum trees, and deeply-wooded areas opening to fairy-like glades where the dinosaurs roamed over pastures with looming mountains in the background? 
Welcome to Sheffield, Tasmania – where I spent the morning on a big horse exploring these exact areas while constantly expecting to see Triceratops or Tyrannosaurus around the next corner!  (And yes, parts of Jurassic Park were actually filmed in Tasmania – which is why it was so iconic.)

We were greeted at Cradle Mountain Trailride Adventures by the owners Ray and Laura Becker. They have a stable of over 30 trail horses that they use for guided rides in the Cradle Mountains, or along Baker’s Beach, as well as near Mount Roland on the Northwest side of Tasmania.  Their business location is about 45 minutes from the beaches and port at Devonport - which is where many tourists arrive on the SPIRIT OF TASMANIA (a cruise/ferry ship); and 95 km (1 hour) drive from the airport at Launceston. 

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Ray prides himself on providing horses that can be matched to the rider’s skills – so whether a beginner or occasional rider, or advanced rider – they had a horse for all of us.  He selected for me to ride a 4-year old Shire cross Thoroughbred – a stout 16 hands with big feet to match – who had a bit of trail riding experience but was lively enough to be fun for me. 
We were fortunate to have a small group of four to go out on the ride - I was invited to join Philip Turner, who lives locally and is a member of both the Tasmanian Mounted Search and Rescue, and the “Devils on Horseback” trail riding club (Tasmanian Trailriders, Inc. is the official - albeit more boring - name). 

We started out with a safety briefing for everyone, then walked down a gravel road leading down to the single track bridge. The bridge led over a rushing stream that in the last big flood had brought a log jam to the curve in the river and threatened to overtop the bridge. 

The river looked innocent now, only a foot or so deep, but when it floods it is several meters higher and angrily scrapes the trees and brush from the banks and drags them downstream. 

We turned to follow the road for a half kilometer, then went straight into the bush – with kookaburras chattering their familiar calls over our heads. As we rode,  I was amazed to see so much bird life that is quite unafraid - a family of over 20 black cockatoos was looking for breakfast in a copse of trees that we rode right under.  They are LOUD but beautiful and intelligent birds that watched our passing with some interest.  Later, I saw an echidna and wallaby, and even a black tiger snake working hard to get out of the way of the horses’ hooves.

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There were several steep connector trails that amazed me as the route looked as though it went straight up – it did!

TRAVEL NOTES:  You can't fly directly to Tasmania. You have to fly into Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, Australia for international customs check, then get to Tasmania by ship or plane. 
Get an international license for driving a car so that you can drive on the LEFT side of the road here. 
Tasmania is the smallest state in Australia –  an island directly south of Melbourne.  The weather is cool all year round since it is so close to Antarctica. (When you purchase an oilskin jacket or coat, you will know why they developed them.)  It's a highly agrarian society built on sheep, cattle, horses, mining and forestry. The largest cities are Launceston and Hobart on opposite sides of the state. The entire population is only a half million people - compare this to Sydney and environs, where over 7 million people live in the same area as big as Tasmania.

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11/25/2012 Rebecca
Thank you for including the story on NickerNews - this whole trip was wonderful and I will never forget this ride in the land of Jurassic Park! Next year I hope to get to New Zealand - they say that is even more amazing!
11/25/2012 Mary
Your escapades always give me such inspriration -- From hog hunting to Tasmanian trail blazing. Great stuff. Thanks for writing about your adventures!

   
"No one can teach riding so well as a horse" - CS Lewis