Horseback Riding at Battle Hill Farm Forest Park in New Zealand
Equitrekking contributor Andi Vailalo describes her favorite training trails at Battle Hill Farm Forest Park in Wellington, New Zealand.
Going past The Deer Farm – Battle Hill Farm Forest Park. Photo by Andi Vailalo.
From battles fought to an equestrian adventure, Battle Hill Farm Forest Park in Wellington, New Zealand, is steeped in rich New Zealand history. It was the site of a land clash between Maori and British troops in 1846, one of the last battles to take place in New Zealand. The hill was besieged for several days of fierce battle before the beleaguered Maori Chief Te Rangihaeata and his forces escaped to the lowlands of Poroutawhaoa, which is further north of Wellington.
On hushed early mornings or at dusk's dawn, riding over the hills--you can almost imagine hearing the eerie whisper of a fierce warrior's cries shadowing the native birds as they wing past, or an echo on the breeze that ebbs and flows through the forest trees. Battle Hill is preserved to remember a New Zealand of the past--one far away from the conveniences and bustle of modern city life.
The park is easily accessible to outdoors enthusiasts. Local recreational and competitive equestrians are fortunate to have access to this magnificent and popular park, which is conveniently located near a sprawling urban divide. Whether for training, leisure, or competition: the park has something for everyone. Local equestrian events are held in the park, which boasts a full course of fixed cross country jumps for organized events. The local pony club base also resides in the park, along with the local branch of Riding for the Disabled--complete with their amazing herd of support horses.
The downhill trail views across to the Pauatahanui Inlet. Photo by Andi Vailalo.
The trails feature various terrain: lowland flats, ponds filled with water birds, various gradients of hills, meandering streams, and a challenging hill filled forest terrain trek, where you head into the Akatarawa Forest, at the summit. They are well maintained and have good footing, albeit some can be a bit worse for wear in places after one of Wellington’s gusty winter storms blows through. The park is also a full working farm stocked with sheep, cattle, and deer, all of who show a surprising amount of interest in passing trekkers and tourists. Hearts can stop, then take off, (along with your seat if you aren’t careful!) when you encounter an extreme mountain biker on a blind bend, speeding through the twists and turns of the forest hill trek.
The trails are wide though, and If you obey the “road rules” by keeping alert, hanging to your side of the track, and have a horse like my Ru, (who barely bats an eyelash at the potential unfolding drama), then we can successfully cohabitate on the more challenging trails. In fact, the most difficulty I have is when we cross paths with any unsuspecting trail hikers, and Ru being Ru--we must stop, chat, and make friends. I’m beginning to think it’s a cunning horsey ploy to make cute faces and get out of trekking up those hills!
A welcome drink at Horokiri stream after the challenging Akatarawa Forest climb. Photo by Andi Vailalo.
I live in the heart of a city suburb, where pizza deliveries are inclusive for my urban dwelling teenagers, but within a 7-minute drive I am away from the hustle and astride my horse--heading out on one of the trails scattered over the park. Battle Hill Farm Forest Park is our training ground and where we build our strength and endurance along the more difficult trails. It's also our favorite place to nurture our bond as a team, logging countless hours in the saddle in one of New Zealand’s most striking and historic vistas of nature.
With a major highway being built conspicuously in the middle of the park, we now have the added interest of a purpose-built horse and bike underpass to navigate--which adds to the theater and diversity of the ride while also preparing us for future competitive events. Having Battle Hill Farm Forest Park at our back doorstep has both our inner cowgirl and cowpony fizzing, as we both have strong roots in farming and the land. There are also miles of wild ocean beaches just a short drive up the road. This is why I love this place so much--without a doubt the best of both worlds.
About the Author: Andi Vailalo lives in Wellington, New Zealand. Andi and her horse, Ru (Ruhana Goldrush), compete in local competitive trail riding (CTR ) and endurance events--with the odd local show jumping event thrown in for fun. Continually working on finding the balance between home life, three busy children, and living and working in the city...all the while being a true cowgirl at heart. Follow her on Instagram.