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Horsing Around in the Capital

By 13 June 2014 17

horse

I wanted to take time out from my regular write-ups of local venues to wax lyrical about something close to my heart, and one of the reasons I prefer living in our fair capital to places like Sydney.

I’ve been riding horses since I was about ten years old. I started off at one of the many local riding schools and got my first horse at 15.  He was a Welsh pony named Banner and my legs dangled down by his knees, but I didn’t care. He lived on Kambah Pool road down near the Gleneagles estate.

During my teenage years I attended the local pony club and due to a lack of transport a lot of the time I would ride my bike from my house to the paddocks; backpack stuffed with bridle and saddlecloth, saddle strapped precariously to the parcel rack of the bike and riding helmet strapped to my head. At one point I remember cycling past a couple of schoolgirls who giggled and pointed at me.

“Nice helmet!” *snigger*

“Excuse me, I have a HORSE, and I’m going to go and RIDE him?” Smackdown! They probably thought I was some stuck-up country club kid. Or, more likely, a crazy person.

Canberra may have its detractors, but where else in this country can you live in a city and keep a horse in the suburbs? The government operates several horse paddocks in Kaleen, Lyons, Curtin, Macarthur and Watson among other areas. Private properties offer horse agistment in areas such as Holt, Weston Creek and Kambah. Human accommodation around here might be exxy, but keeping a horse is surprisingly affordable compared with the other capital cities.

If you’re a parent being harangued by your horse-mad eight-year-old, there’s about half a dozen riding schools in the region. Horse riding lessons aren’t the cheapest sport around, but the bonus is you can drop them off and let the school horses tire your offspring out. Plus, learning to ride a horse isn’t anywhere near as painful as learning to play the violin. For the parents, at least. If you’re feeling brave most of these establishments also teach adults as well as offering casual trail rides.

If you decide to give in to your aforementioned eight-year-old’s pleas of ‘PLEASE can I have a pony?’ fear not, there are 14 pony clubs in the area—and four of these are within the city limits.

10 minutes from the centre of town there is a public equestrian park that pretty much anyone can use for free. It’s recently been upgraded with new arenas and looks pretty schmick. On certain weekends if you drive past on the Cotter Road you’ll get to see equestrian competitions. These aren’t just little local things either – a good number of world class riders travel to Canberra to compete.

We’re lucky enough to have a series of dedicated equestrian trails that meander throughout the suburbs. They all link up; you could ride from Tharwa to Hall if you wanted to. Back when I was young and silly my friends and I rode to the McDonalds in Tuggeranong on a couple of occasions. We’d follow the equestrian trail through the back of Kambah and continue along the lake. Crossing Athlon drive and dodging cyclists and dog walkers on the path around Lake Tuggeranong got a bit hairy at times, but nonetheless we survived to enjoy our reward. The fact that my pony was quite partial to the odd Quarter Pounder is neither here nor there. We’d continue around the lake (stopping in at my house for refreshments and scaring the cats), and up through the centre of Kambah on our way home.

32-year-old me is mildly horrified that 16-year-old me was dumb enough to ride a horse through the middle of a built-up area, just to get a burger. 16-year-old me didn’t care about things like public liability and doing things that are (probably) illegal, like riding a horse through a drive-thru.

The equestrian trails also link up with the multi-use Bicentennial National Trail, which runs the entire length of the east coast. Part of the BNT runs through Stromlo Forest, which is now a popular area not just for horse riders, but runners and mountain bikers too. Riding through what’s left of the Stromlo forest isn’t the lovely experience it used to be due to the 2003 bushfires, but it’s still great to have such an expanse of trails to ride through, that don’t come near built up areas. A few years back (2008 from memory), a bunch of horse riders attended the re-opening of the Stromlo Forest trails. I went to the opening on a spotty fellow called Harley, who later tried to run down John Stanhope on his way out. I gave Harley about half a dozen carrots when we got home. I’m not saying these two events are related.

These days I tend to stick to the property where my current horse lives. I don’t compete. I don’t hit the trails. I definitely don’t ride through fast food chains. But I will soon be living five minutes’ drive from my horse, and ten minutes’ drive from the centre of town. I’m fairly sure you can’t do that in any other major city in Australia.

Niki van Buuren is a Canberra-based writer, teacher and human slave to a 5-year-old quarter horse named Ollie (pictured).

 

 

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17 Responses to Horsing Around in the Capital
#1
marcothepolopony10:31 am, 13 Jun 14

That is a lovely story Niki, thanks for sharing and I think I may have seen you riding around Tuggers years ago. Love the picture of your horse.

#2
dungfungus11:51 am, 13 Jun 14

There is an equestrian trail that surrounds Fadden Hills (on South side of Mt Wanniassa) but I have never seen any horses use it.
Is this because it is sealed with bitumen and blue metal? There are some steep sections and the horses may slip perhaps?

#3
Grrrr1:51 pm, 13 Jun 14

The violin is more painful? Can’t say I’ve heard of anyone falling off a Violin and breaking bones!

If anyone has a pony who isn’t bothered by cars / dogs / bikes, they should totally be getting ride-through on Saturday nights. Remind a few fat drivers there’s other ways of getting around. I promise to provide any horse seen at the local shops with carrots.

Personally, I prefer the Iron Horse and I have to ask: Why so few horse riders using Mt Stromlo? I have never seen one during my bike rides there, and recently heard someone horsey complain that they couldn’t ride at Stromlo because “there’s too many mountain bike events on there.” That seemed a bit odd given they mostly use different trails, the DH Bridge was installed to separate the two, the signage reminding MTBers to give way, etc.

#4
wildturkeycanoe2:17 pm, 13 Jun 14

To all the horsey lovers out there, if you ride along our reserves where there are footpaths and bicycle paths, please pick up and dispose of the cr@p that the horses leave in the middle of the path. Dog owners have to, why shouldn’t you, especially considering how massive the piles are!

#5
Maya12310:32 am, 14 Jun 14

wildturkeycanoe said :

To all the horsey lovers out there, if you ride along our reserves where there are footpaths and bicycle paths, please pick up and dispose of the cr@p that the horses leave in the middle of the path. Dog owners have to, why shouldn’t you, especially considering how massive the piles are!

Take it home to the vegetable garden. Don’t look a gift horse in the face.

#6
bigfeet10:46 am, 14 Jun 14

Maya123 said :

wildturkeycanoe said :

To all the horsey lovers out there, if you ride along our reserves where there are footpaths and bicycle paths, please pick up and dispose of the cr@p that the horses leave in the middle of the path. Dog owners have to, why shouldn’t you, especially considering how massive the piles are!

Take it home to the vegetable garden. Don’t look a gift horse in the face.

So using that argument it is ok for me just to throw all my food scraps and recyclables out onto the street? Someone who can find use for them may come along and pick them up?

I note in another thread you mention that you never fill your bins. I believe we have found the reason for that!

#7
sepi1:15 pm, 14 Jun 14

Put it on your roses – or just walk around. At least the blobs are so big you won’t step in it by accident, and it is 99% grass really like kangaroo poo.

#8
wildturkeycanoe5:03 pm, 14 Jun 14

sepi said :

Put it on your roses – or just walk around. At least the blobs are so big you won’t step in it by accident, and it is 99% grass really like kangaroo poo.

So if I leave my lawn clippings on the road, or dump compost on footpaths you wouldn’t object, because others can use it in their gardens and it’s organic? Get real. It’s the rider’s responsibility, not someone else. After a bit of rain, as it gets washed around and spreads across the whole path, it isn’t easily avoidable either. It’s still $#!t regardless how useful it might be and doesn’t belong where people walk and cycle.

#9
Maya1236:05 pm, 14 Jun 14

wildturkeycanoe said :

sepi said :

Put it on your roses – or just walk around. At least the blobs are so big you won’t step in it by accident, and it is 99% grass really like kangaroo poo.

So if I leave my lawn clippings on the road, or dump compost on footpaths you wouldn’t object, because others can use it in their gardens and it’s organic? Get real. It’s the rider’s responsibility, not someone else. After a bit of rain, as it gets washed around and spreads across the whole path, it isn’t easily avoidable either. It’s still $#!t regardless how useful it might be and doesn’t belong where people walk and cycle.

Someone’s dumped compost! Where? Is it any good?

#10
Mr Evil6:14 pm, 14 Jun 14

The question that I have never been able to find an answer for is are the government operated horse paddocks completely self-supporting through adjistment fees, or do ACT taxpayers subsidise them?

#11
Maya1236:48 pm, 14 Jun 14

Mr Evil said :

The question that I have never been able to find an answer for is are the government operated horse paddocks completely self-supporting through adjistment fees, or do ACT taxpayers subsidise them?

I guess the horses save the cost of having to mow the paddocks. I would factor that in too. (I don’t have a horse.)

#12
sepi9:52 pm, 14 Jun 14

There is not a lot of outlay in govt horse paddocks, I doubt we’d be subsidising them. They are just a paddock with a fence (existing). And they are quite nice to drive past. Admin would be minimal as most people have longstanding arrangements.

#13
Mr Evil6:31 pm, 15 Jun 14

sepi said :

There is not a lot of outlay in govt horse paddocks, I doubt we’d be subsidising them. They are just a paddock with a fence (existing). And they are quite nice to drive past. Admin would be minimal as most people have longstanding arrangements.

I am pretty sure weed control (herbicide), pasture improvement and erosion control are not cheap.

I recall that the Cook horse paddocks had to have several applications of herbicide to kill Patterson’s Curse at one point about 10 years ago (and probably annually ever since?), after complaints from the horse owners there – and I can almost bet my bottom dollar the horse owners weren’t footing the bill.

#14
Piratepete8:05 pm, 15 Jun 14

Mr Evil said :

sepi said :

There is not a lot of outlay in govt horse paddocks, I doubt we’d be subsidising them. They are just a paddock with a fence (existing). And they are quite nice to drive past. Admin would be minimal as most people have longstanding arrangements.

I am pretty sure weed control (herbicide), pasture improvement and erosion control are not cheap.

I recall that the Cook horse paddocks had to have several applications of herbicide to kill Patterson’s Curse at one point about 10 years ago (and probably annually ever since?), after complaints from the horse owners there – and I can almost bet my bottom dollar the horse owners weren’t footing the bill.

At $299 per horse per quarter with virtually no money spent on anything unless a fence happens to get damaged etc, x 25-30 horses per paddock facility equals a lot of weed spray. I used to agist over the 25 years I had horses and we used to do the landcare programs and plantings of wind breaks etc ourselves (with authoristion). You have to supply everything including organising extra round bales of hay over winter months as the horse paddocks rarely have enough feed over those times. Agistment fees go purely to maintenance and profit.

#15
cavvygreen8:38 pm, 15 Jun 14

Ollie is a cutie!

#16
Niki van Buuren11:49 am, 17 Jun 14

dungfungus said :

There is an equestrian trail that surrounds Fadden Hills (on South side of Mt Wanniassa) but I have never seen any horses use it.
Is this because it is sealed with bitumen and blue metal? There are some steep sections and the horses may slip perhaps?

It’s most likely because the closest horse agistment to Fadden Hills in the Mt Taylor govt paddocks. You’d probably only get riders there if they are going on longer trail rides I think. The equestrian trails that get used the most are around Belconnen and Cooleman ridge as this is where the most horses are kept.

There are a lot of mountain bikers who use Stromlo and horses can get a bit skittish if they are surprised by a bike rider. It can be offputting if you’re not a confident rider sadly, and I think this is why some riders will avoid Stromlo. The best trails for horse riders are in the more remote areas where the bikes tend not to go.

I’ve not had much to do with the government paddocks but I *think* they are self supporting. They’ve been sub-contracted to a private company who runs them but ultimately they are government land and the govt can take it back at any point to put to other uses.

I’m not a fan of seeing horse poo in built up areas, but it’s less disgusting than dog poo! My feeling is, if you’re going to ride a horse through the suburbs, stick to dirt paths and avoid the cement. Not so good for the horses’ legs anyway. In defence of riders who do though- it’s much harder to pick up a pile of horse poo. Carrying a shovel isn’t particularly practical…

#17
Niki van Buuren11:57 am, 17 Jun 14

cavvygreen said :

Ollie is a cutie!

He’s also a real character. His favourite thing to do is put things in his mouth. This includes not just grass but brushes, lead ropes, fence posts, jumpers and my new Doc Martens (don’t ask).

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