The Ride of the Rings

Trip Start Mar 12, 2012
Trip End Jul 10, 2012

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Wednesday, April 18, 2012

For my third day in Queenstown, I arranged to do something that I had been looking forward to for about 2 years. The Lord of the Rings Ride, run by Dart Stables. Now, anyone who knows me at all, will know that Lord of the Rings are my favourite films of all time, and I'm obsessed with them, and am in love with everything about them. So when I first started planning coming to New Zealand, the ride was the first thing on my to do list. A combination of Lord of the Rings, and horse-riding? There couldn't be a more perfect activity for me! 

 I was picked up from Queenstown at 8am, and we drove down to the town of Glenorchy, which is about 30 minutes away. It was a beautiful drive, with great views of the mountains and the lake along the way. Then we arrived at the stables in Glenorchy. I was introduced to Georgie, my guide for the River Ride. It turned out I was the only one booked on, so it was just the two of us! Then it was off to meet the horses. I had Toby, a sweet little Standardbred gelding (they only use geldings at Dart Stables - no moody mares allowed apparently!). He was a lovely horse, very responsive, and a lot keener than the stubborn cobs at home! 

 We mounted up, and rode down Glenorchy's streets till we crossed the river, and went into the common land. The landscape was so beautiful. Long, golden grass, with mountains on either side (some were used as the 'Misty Mountains' in Lord of the Rings, you can spot them in the beginning of the Two Towers), and the river running through the valley. As it was just me, we could go at the pace I wanted, instead of having to take into account different abilities. That meant we could do lots of cantering! We were racing our horses alongside the mountains, it was such a magical experience, I can't really describe it. And I was being really sad, and singing Lord of the Rings music in my head as we were riding. What a loser. As well as doing lots of cantering, we did go at a slower pace, and I got to take in the wonderful surroundings. I don't think I've ever been in such a beautiful place, it was just perfect. We also crossed through the river a few times, which was really fun. 

After riding out for a couple of hours, we made our way back to the stables. I was having such a good time, I could've ridden round there all day. Toby was a star, and had given me a great ride. What a lovely little horse! Once we got back, the horses got a well deserved feed, and I went off for some lunch. I had a couple of hours before my next ride, so had some time to explore Glenorchy. Georgie recommended the Glenorchy Cafe for lunch, and I had this massive gourmet homemade sausage roll, which was delicious! Then I did a walk to the river side, and around Glenorchy Lagoon. It was so quiet and peaceful, and the scenery was just breathtaking. 

I made my way back to the stables after my lagoon walk. Once again, I was really lucky, and I was the only one booked on for the Ride of the Rings too. So because I had been telling Georgie how much I loved horses and anything to do with them, she came up with a plan to make the ride a bit more special for me. Usually the guide goes ahead, and gets the horses ready before the clients are brought up. But seeing as I was the only one going, Georgie took me with her, so I could get my own horse ready! So we jumped in the van, and drove to the location of the Rings ride. A place called Paradise. No really, it's actually called that. And the name fits, as it's such an idyllic little spot. No wonder all the big film directors go there to shoot their movies!  

Anyway, we arrived at the horse paddocks, got some head collars and went out to catch our horses. As we were walking along, Georgie said to me, "Seeing as you're such a big Lord of the Rings fan, how would you like to ride a horse of Rohan?" I almost screamed. Of course I said yes! So we got to the field, and she pointed out my mount for the afternoon. A big, black, standardbred called Elvis. We caught him, and I waited as Georgie chose which horse she was going to ride. Now, Elvis was quite an old horse, about 21 I think. Which makes sense, as he starred in the Lord of the Rings films, which were made in around 1999! It's strange to think they were made so long ago! Elvis was in the Battle of Helm's Deep, and the Battle of Pelennor Fields. So he was a film star in his younger years. This was so exciting for me, I couldn't dreamed of a more perfect situation. To actually ride a horse that was in the films! I was ecstatic. 

Once Georgie had caught her horse, we walked them back to the tacking area. First job was to give them a groom, as both we rather muddy. So I gave Elvis a good brush, and tried to get all the mud off his coat, which stood out against the black fur!  It was so exciting, it felt like owning my own horse! Then I tacked him up, mounted, and off we went! Georgie decided to take me on a slightly longer ride, as I had helped out with the horses, and again, I was the only one there!

Firstly we rode round the green rolling hills, then into the woods. We got the boys to give us a good canter up the hill into the forest, but they were both quite puffed out by the end of it, they're more used to just walking along! Once we got into the forest, it was like we had ridden into the Fellowship of the Ring. I kept recognising bits of the forest, it was so strange. Some parts had been used as Lothlorian, and some for the battle at the end of the first film. We saw the tree that Aragorn gets pinned to by the shield. We saw the hill where all the uruk-hai run down during the battle. We saw where Boromir dies, and some other places too, including a location for a Hobbit scene! When Peter Jackson approached the council that look after Paradise, and asked them to use it for filming, they said no. So after giving them a large monetary donation, they agreed to let him use it, but only if he put it back exactly as he found it. So before he started filming, he got a team in to map out the forest, and record every plant, tree and rock and where it was. So once filming was finished, the forest was put back in exactly the same way. How sweet.

Then we rode out of the forest, and climbed up the hillside, until we were looking down over Dart River. They used it as a location for Isengard, and it's also been used in Prince Caspian. Also the mountains behind were used a lot. One part was used where the Ents break the dam ('Release the riveerrrr'), and apparently the mountains are often behind Saruman when he's on his tower. I'll have to re-watch them all the movies now and see if I can spot all the places I saw.

 Then we made our way back to the fields, with a couple of canters on our way home. It was so quiet and peaceful, and I rode up front on the way back, and it felt like I was by me and my horse, riding through Lothlorian or something. Just the most amazing moment. 

Anyway, we got back, and untacked, fed and groomed the horses, before taking them back to the field to join their mates. Elvis was such a sweet old gentleman, I was so sad to say goodbye to him. We hopped back in the truck, and made our way back to Glenorchy, where I said goodbye to Georgie, before being driven back to Queenstown. 

  It was just a dream come true to do that ride. I loved every second of it, and all the extra stuff I got to do just added to the experience. I hope I get to go back and ride there again one day! 
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