If you loved The Man From Snowy River
then you're going to love this country escape.
The Watson family has been living on their 295ha property, bordering the Great Dividing Range in Mansfield, for 42 years. Ian and Jill Watson began Watson's Mountain Country Trail Rides 21 years ago and it is now run by Michael and Sally Watson.
The Watsons keep 46 working horses and have 17 staff. Their business has been accredited by the Association of Horse Standards and Education, a prerequisite for all companies offering trail rides. Standards are high to ensure safety for horses and riders and guides are trained in all areas of safety and education.
They offer a good variety of rides. There are one, two and three hours on the trail for two or more people, two-hour rides for eight or more, including barbecue dinner in warm months and barbecue lunch in winter months. Eight or more people can enjoy a four-hour day ride with lunch included. Rides outside these parameters can be arranged with the Watsons.
One-hour rides are better for children, as there aren't many inclines. Tours over two hours include steep inclines and gradual downhill slopes.
The scenery is superb. Tours of over two hours give you 360-degree views from the 640m high ridge over the Delatite Valley and mountains for 10km. There is a sharp drop away from the ridge, giving spectacular views of the High Country.
Wedge tail eagles silently glide overhead while keeping an eye on riders. Riders also come across wallabies and eastern grey kangaroos, sometimes the nocturnal wombat or echidna and non-native deer. Ghost gums and fern gullies complete the setting and provide cool spots.
Riders also visit the downhill slope where the famous jump was filmed for the Man From Snowy River, something not recommended for day riders!
Your guide will determine the best pace for you and your horse, walking, trotting or cantering. Most riders get up to a trot, but whatever the pace, the faster ones are happy to take in the views while waiting for the slower ones to catch up.
All riders are equipped with a horse, of course, stock saddles, riding helmet, oilskin coat, riding boots if required, sun block and insect repellent. They also supply toe stoppers, which prevent feet sliding too far forward in the stirrups. Riders must wear long pants and shirts.
While most people want to ride on clear blue days, the Watsons have found that riders find the out-of-comfort-zone days of rain and mist more thrilling.