1. The Tasmanian Trail
Devonport to Dover, 480km
The Tasmanian Trail is an excellent long distance horse trail, and in fact the only long distance multi-use trail in Tasmania. In its bid to cater for equestrians, the Tasmanian Trail does not traverse National Parks. Instead, it relies on support from Forestry Tasmania and other land owners and managers for its pathways.
It often passes through or close to small towns, allowing travellers to visit local attractions while using as little or as much as they like and to take advantage of local accommodation, hospitality and specialist services.
The TT website notifies trekkers of the following :
“You are likely to be faced with sudden weather changes, water crossings, varying surface conditions and steep terrain. Drinking water may be difficult to find and access to phone reception will not always be available.
Parts of the Trail are not for the inexperienced or the faint hearted as some difficult sections will be experienced. The surface of the pathway is varied with most of the Trail on some form of made up road but there are sections that may be difficult where they cross virgin bush, farm land and eroded stock routes. If attempting the whole Trail two rivers need to be crossed and both can be impassable after rain.”
While the Tasmanian Trail has earned a reputation amongst hikers for being ‘not a proper hike’ due to its large proportion of road travel, several people have successfully completed and enjoyed the trail on horseback.
2. The Kidman Trail
Mount Lofty Ranges, South Australia
Distance: 269 kilometres
Named after Sir Sydney Kidman, a prominent horse breeder and pastoralist, The Kidman Trail is designated as multi-use and runs through forest tracks, private land, gazetted roads and along verges, making it an excellent long distance horse trail. The trail traverses the Fleurieu Peninsula, Adelaide Hills, Murraylands, Barossa and Clare Valley tourism regions.
A number of horse yards, campsites and float parking facilities have been provided. For further information on trekking the Kidman Trail with horses, check out the excellent guide to riding the Kidman Trail, written by Pam Brookman.
3. The Canning Stock Route
Halls Creek to Willuna
With a total distance of 1850km, the Canning Stock Route is the longest historic stock route in the world. The stock route was proposed as a way of breaking the monopoly that West Kimberly cattlemen had on the beef trade at the beginning of the 20th century.
The Canning Stock Route is now a popular four-wheel driving mecca, taking 10-20 days by vehicle to complete. A few adventurers have traversed the track on foot and by bicycles, but no modern day journeys on horseback have been recorded along the Canning Stock Route.
However, having been established as a stock route, the Canning would have seen many horses in its time. In 1911, it was reported that the first mob of cattle to traverse the entire length of the stock route actually gained condition on the long drive. In the 50s, the stock route was used to drive horses north to replace those lost from ‘Walkabout Poison’ in the Kimberley. The last droving run was completed in 1959, and many of the wells the drovers relied upon so heavily have since fallen into disrepair and become unusable.
A modern day traverse of the Canning Stock Route by horseback would undoubtedly require a reliable support team, back-up vehicles to supply food and water, and militant levels of planning.
4. The Holland Track
Broomehill to Coolgardie
Distance: 700 km
in 1893, John Holland carved a track through rugged bushland to create a shortcut to the Goldfields. Now popular with 4WD, The Holland Track was heavily used by prospectors; with horse and camel teams transporting supplies. The sandy, rugged 4WD section of the track commences east of Hyden (Wave Rock), and travels to the historic gold-mining town of Coolgardie.
Much like the Canning Stock Route, wells and watering points along the track are unreliable, and catering for the feed and water requirements of riding and pack animals would now be challenging at best.
5. The Bicentennial National Trail
Healesville to Cooktown
Why not save the best for last? The Bicentennial Trail is a 5330km long route between Victoria and far north Queensland, following the spine of the country along the Eastern seaboard and The Great Dividing Range.
Brought into fruition by legendary stockman R.M Williams, the Bicentennial National Trail was created with the needs of horses in mind. Each camp is a comfortable day’s ride apart, and grass and water for stock are generally available at each campsite.