Riding a horse at Home Valley Station is a fun way to enjoy the stunning Kimberley landscape.
There’s nothing like being high up on a horse in the Kimberley with the sun blazing over vast savannah plains. We ride past red rocky ridges that soar towards the clear blue sky. Brahman cattle meander idly in paddocks, chewing on clumps of grass.
The Australian Outback
The scenery is straight out of Baz Luhrmann’s movie “Australia”.
The vastness of the Kimberley is mind-boggling, stretching across 423,000 square kilometres in the far north. With this immense space comes a lot of room to think.
Riding on a horse gives you the opportunity to soak up the landscape and to connect with the scenery. The best thing of all is you don’t need to be an experienced rider. Even beginners can do it.
Home Valley Station
Our morning begins at Home Valley Station’s stables, where we gather around ferrier, musterer and now pastoral manager John Rodney (known as JR). JR’s job is to break in and train the station’s horses and look after the station’s 6000 head of cattle.
Home Valley Station is both a working cattle station and a tourism property so JR is also in charge of guest activities that involve horses. This includes horse riding and mini musters where six riders leave at sunrise to round up cattle for half a day.
On a horse
In our group of six is a young woman from Amsterdam who has never been on a horse. The look on her face tells me she wants to turn and run. But JR’s keen eye picks up her hesitation and pays her special attention to make her feel comfortable.
Before we’re allowed on the horses, we are given a thorough briefing and a training session on how to use the reins. JR ties a set of reins to a post and demonstrates how to take control of the horse. One by one, we all take turns to show JR we have understood his instructions on how to lengthen and shorten the reigns.
Once we’ve mastered the reins, we mount our horses in the yards and head towards the Cockburn Ranges.
Riding beside me is 28-year-old trainee at Home Valley Station’s onsite TAFE program, Cyril Yeeda. “I love riding here. The Kimberley is my home. It’s a beautiful place,” Yeeda says.
Yeeda is friendly but shy and it’s obvious he is proud to be part of the TAFE programme which was put in place to train indigenous men and women in tourism, hospitality and pastoral operations.
Growing up on a station in Halls Creek, also in the Kimberley, Yeeda has been riding horses most of his life. After trying a few different things at Home Valley Station, he fell naturally into caring for the horses, working in the stables, taking out tourists on horse rides, and working with the cattle.
“There’s a lot to learn,” Yeeda says. JR is giving Yeeda hands-on training on the health and wellbeing of horses, horse-shoeing, horsemanship, riding skills and how to muster cattle. But according to JR, it’s a two-way street. From Yeeda and the other trainees, JR is learning tracking skills and a great deal about aboriginal bush food.
Great Australian Outback Cattle Drive
Next year, JR is hoping to introduce a cattle drive in the style of the Great Australian Outback Cattle Drive where guests will be able to walk cattle from station to station along a historic stock route.
There’s nothing like a long cool shower after kicking up the dust while horse riding. And Home Valley Station has four levels of accommodation: top-of-the-range self-contained cabins called Grass Castles, middle-market guesthouse rooms, safari-style Eco Tents and camping areas.
In the evening, after a drink and a meal at the Dusty Bar & Grill, we gather around the camp fire and listen to the haunting tones of a didgeridoo. It’s a perfect end to a tremendously enjoyable day in the Kimberley.
Discover Western Australia
SkyWest, Qantas and Airnorth fly to Kununurra from Perth, Broome and Darwin. See Qantas, Air North and Skywest. Home Valley Station Homestead is situated 120kms from Kununurra and 1.5kms off the Gibb River Road. 4WD rentals are available at Kununurra Airport or transfers from $260 return.
Grass Castles are $420 a night (includes two breakfasts), Homestead Guesthouse Rooms $230 a night, Eco Tents $190 a night, camping fees $16 (adult), $5 (child). Home Valley Station phone (08) 9161 4322.
2.5-hour morning or afternoon horse riding costs $110 per person. Cattle-mustering is suitable for all ages and costs $280 per person.