Horseback Riding on the beach of Mornington Peninsula

I’m quite convinced there is no better way to see a beach than to ride on a majestic horse across the soft sand during twilight.

I’ve always wanted to try out horseback riding, and when I was in Australia, I figured it was the perfect time to do it. Great weather and scenery – Australia has arguably some of the best beaches in the world. 
Hi little pony!
When Sam and I arrived at Gunnamatta Horse Trails located in the Mornington Peninsula (about 2 hours drive from Melbourne), we really weren’t quite sure of what to expect. I mean, how  difficult can riding a horse be? You just haul your ass onto the big beast, and hold on tight so that you don’t fall off and embarrass / injure yourself. Right? 

Wrong.
I think horseback riding is anything but easy.
Daunting, tiring, challenging, gratifying, exhilarating, yes… but it’s nowhere near as simple as it looks. 

Before our 2 hour ++ horse trail ride into the Australian outback and beach started, we were given forms to sign (something along the lines of, “If you die, that’s not our fault.”) and we had to pick our helmets. That’s when I realize Sam and I had massive heads! Random but true. We had to use some of their biggest sizes.
When we were ushered into the stables area, I was literally shitting my pants. These horses were HUGE, and some of them didn’t look that friendly, or obliging. I’m uncomfortable and skittish even around little doggies when I visit people’s homes, imagine me in front of big giant beasts. Ok maybe I shouldn’t call them beasts, that’s a little unfair since they didn’t hurt no one that day and don’t have a record for being evil, but they sure are strong, and intimidating. Yeah, they look big and horse-like in the picture, but they’re really fucking ginormous in real life. I almost considered backing out at the last second. I asked Sam in a wimpy voice, “Can we not do this please?” but he ignored me. I’m glad he did, because horseback riding must be one of the most thrilling events of my life!
We were in a group of about 7 people. When they asked, “Who has zero experience in horse riding prior to this?” Sam and I were the only ones who raised our hands. Great, so everyone else knows what they’re doing, and the nerdy asian kids are gonna be the clueless ones again…

“Now, who is nervous about today’s experience?”

My hand shot straight up without hesitation. I thought they were going to go easy on me, but to my UTMOST horror, they went, “Okay, it’s Jess right? Jess, you can have our biggest horse today, her name is Audrey.” 

Mortified. You should’ve seen my face.

They then led the LARGEST horse in their stables that looked like it weighed 2 full tonnes over to my direction. I gave Sam the ?!?!?! look, and asked the tour people why I was getting the biggest horse when I’m the newcomer.
Her reply: “Oh, don’t you worry! Audrey here is very gentle. Sometimes the bigger the horse, the better it is for nervous people. It’s not in the best interest for large horses to make sudden movements because they’re so big. It’s the small horses that can be pretty mischievous. Come on up here, I’ll show you how to saddle a horse.”
The next few minutes were a blur. I vaguely remember trying to get onto Audrey’s back, but she was so dang TALL, all I had a was a stumpy stool below my feet to lift myself off the ground from – I failed the first couple of times trying to get onto the horse. I was really scared to haul my weight onto the horse. I know a big horse like that wouldn’t mind my weight, but if I asked you to climb onto an animal, wouldn’t you be worried about their reaction as well? What if it doesn’t like me, and throws me off??? With some help from the tour guides, I was finally on the horse. I turned around to look at Sam, who was already on his horse as well.



And the horseback riding officially begun.

We formed a single line, all of us on our horses, and set off into the bushes. It was the first time I had really been IN the Australian bush – I’ve taken road trips into the countryside, but always remained where there were roads and beaches, so our paths were quite urbanized. Now we were crossing serious rural farmland – there were no roads, but instead, what we saw were hordes of mooing COWS grazing on lush grass right next to us, barely a meter away as we trotted right past them! How about that. I don’t know why I haven’t experienced this part of Australia sooner.

I think I’m quite the retard. I tend to mimic animal sounds when I see them, as if to solicit some kind of response from the animal. For example, when I see a cat on the streets, I’d walk up to it and go “meow.” Or, if I walk past a person’s house and their dog is barking at me, I’d sometimes shout “Woof woof!” back. I have even gone “churp churp” to a bird before. DON’T ASK ME WHY I DO IT. I just do. So, out of nowhere, I decided to turn my head and go “moooooo” at a black cow that was startlingly close to me, just for the heck of it. To my complete freaking amusement, it actually moo-ed back at me, in a very deep, LOUD and trembling tone, and moved towards me. LOL I was so surprised and partly terrified, I almost fell off my horse. Can you believe that?! I can speak cow!!! I am gifted. I tried moo-ing at other cows that we passed, but none of them spoke Cow as fluently as that big black one.
I couldn’t take any pictures during the bush ride because I had to hold onto my saddle tightly, but I wish I could, because it was such a unique experience! I’ve never seen Australia like this before – being surrounded by this much flora and fauna. I was grinning from ear to ear, and 20 minutes into the ride I was a lot more relaxed, instead of holding onto my saddle for real life I’d be looking around at the scenery, truly appreciating my environment. Reasons like this is why I love Australia. So much freedom, so much beauty! The terrain was also fun and exciting for horseback riding. We had all these little downward slopes, upward hills, nooks and crannies that we had to maneuver through, which was pretty thrilling for a first-timer.
So, the actual act of riding a horse wasn’t so bad – you just have to balance yourself on the saddle and move “in tune” with the horse, and bear the discomfort in between your legs. The difficult part is really controlling your horse and making it listen to you. Make the thing go where you want to go. It was hard to keep up with the pace of the other more experienced horse riders because somehow my horse Audrey seemed to know that I was a noob. Perhaps I wasn’t dominating enough. Because she would constantly bend down, stop in the middle of our paths to graze on grass. My tour guide would look over with a disapproving look and shout at me, “No!!!! Please don’t let Audrey eat, she knows she’s not supposed to do that. Kick her!!!! Kick kick kick!” 
That stressed me out. I don’t like kicking horses, but she meant it when she asked me to kick the dang horse. They instructed me to dig my heels a couple of times (HARD) into the horse’s abdomen (stomach? dunno what part of the horse that was) whenever it was doing something wrong like grazing on grass, or when it’s not going fast enough, etc. Basically, kicking it gets it’s attention. The tour guides said it doesn’t hurt them, because they’re so strong… if we just pat them, they won’t feel it. I was unconvinced. When they bend their heads down to graze on grass, you’re meant to tug hard back on the reigns, to stop it from eating. I failed at this because Audrey seemed really hungry and stopped for grass ALL the time. I think I held up the group awhile because they had to wait for Audrey a lot, but what do you want me to do?!  Look, this wasn’t a machine. It’s a living breathing thing, who is a hell of a lot stronger than me and probably knows it. I tried to pull back on the reigns with all my might, but of course this horse is stronger than me! Sometimes when I tug too hard, Audrey gets a little pissed off and neighs / snorts suddenly. I did finally man up, and used a lot more force eventually, and Audrey seemed to be better behaved after the first hour passed.
Just when I thought my horsey troubles were over, the tour guide informed everyone that we were going to learn how to trot.
Trotting is like jogging for us humans. It’s faster than a walk, but slower than a run. So to properly do horse trotting, you have to….. man I can’t even put this into the proper words. It’s like you have to learn forward, but not too far forward because you might lose your balance and fall off the horse. Then you have to sort of stand and squat, alternating between those two motions as when your horse trots, it will bounce you up and down, up and down, so you go up and down with it. You’re not meant to be just plainly SITTING your ass down on the horse as it trots, as that is uncomfortable and difficult for the horse, apparently it strains their back. You also don’t just stand and squat, stand and squat, I was told you have to stand, then squat (ass lifted off the horse without touching it) for like 3 seconds, then stand, repeat process. It requires a LOT of strength and co-ordination to do it properly!!! Not my two best qualities. Seriously, doing squats while riding on the back of a giant trotting horse that you still have to guide and trying not to lose your balance while the instructor shouts at you for doing it wrong was very very demanding. We didn’t do this for 5 minutes, think we did trotting on and off for half an hour. 

The aftermath of horse riding, pictures taken the very next morning!
I posted this picture on Instagram and this was my caption: “Patches of bruises over my inner thighs, which I forsee them turning surer and darker colored in days to come, my legs literally don’t work anymore, I can’t walk 3 steps without groaning.. And my back feels like an obese giant sat on it the whole entire night.”
Yeah… not gonna lie. One of the hardest physical things I’ve had to do, like rock climbing when I was in Vegas. Guess I’m just not cut out for sports, huh? But I’d do it all over again if I had the chance, any day! In fact, as I’m writing this post, I’m looking forward to the next time I go horseback riding. I’ll be more mentally prepared, and hopefully they will want to trot less!
The best part about the tour was when we rode our horses out of the warm Australian bush, and onto the beach. It was nothing short of breath taking, and to feel that sea breeze on my face was priceless. It is regrettable that my camera didn’t capture the full beauty of the beach, but it seemed to stretch on for miles, and the twilight sky was lit beautifully.

This is me, on ma horse, Audrey! Say hi to everyone, Aud!!! I’m almost 1.7m, so imagine how tall Audrey really is.
Don’t laugh at how I look like!! I was wearing leggings + a random dress + Sam’s hoodie over my dress… and I had zero make up on, I was wearing my glasses (transition lenses that turn black to protect my sensitive eyes from sun light) and also had my hair tied up. And I was wearing a helmet. In short, I looked like a boy from China.

This is Sam’s horse, Jet! Jet likes to pee and poop a lot. I think I’ve seen Jet pee twice and poop once during our 2 hour trail ride. I could have lived my life without seeing a giant horse penis having urine splash out of it, or lived my life without smelling fresh horse poop. But, well, that’s life for you.

Sam didn’t do so well with Jet either… apparently when he tried to stop Jet from eating grass (glad to know Audrey wasn’t the only one), Jet got pissed off and yanked the reigns out of Sam’s hand, which cut him! Yikes.

Guess the smaller ones are more feisty, Audrey turned out to be quite a darling at the end of the day. A hungry, slightly stubborn darling, but a darling nevertheless. I found myself stroking her mane and going, “There’s a good Audrey.”

Just two horses hanging out!

Horseback riding on the beach was so, so nice. The horses seemed to like the breeze as well, and were easier to handle. Their pace was relaxed and easy as they dipped their hooves into the sea water… and I had the complete luxury of soaking up the experience at ease. Like I said, there ain’t no better way to check out a beach than on a horse. It looks different from up there.
I love how empty and quiet the beach was, away from civilization, just Mother Nature in her true form. The sand wasn’t the whitest or the softest I’ve seen, the waters not a sparkling blue, but it was so raw, and real.

I cut out my face coz I looked beyond spastic but here’s a slightly closer shot of Audrey & I!

I can’t believe all the adventures Sam and I get up to. Looking at this pic reminds me of us riding ATV vehicles and elephants in Thailand a few years ago. We sure do like to ride on strange things!
On our ride back to the stables, I was thankful that this awesome opportunity happened to me, but at the same time, also thankful that it was going to be over soon. Couldn’t wait to be on solid ground again, walking on my own two solid feet, instead of bobbing up and down on Audrey’s back. Riding for more than 2 hours straight was more than my body could handle, I was exhausted, especially since we had to drive a long way to get here earlier in the day. I was so knackered, I just FELL off my horse. I tried to use my leg muscles to lift myself off the horse and glide down, but I just fell, ungracefully, and ever so clumsily. Thank god Sam was there to catch me, otherwise I would’ve landed straight into a pile of sand that was covered in copious amounts of horse poo & pee, for real.
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We ended off this epic day with soaking in Mornington Peninsula’s Hot Springs. 

Soaking in a 35 degrees natural hot springs pool after a day like that…. JUST what we needed!!! I was floating in bliss. Something about that warm, natural spring water seemed to have magical healing abilities – I was feeling good as new after soaking in it for 45 minutes.

I was also really happy to get all that horse smell off me, and that I didn’t need to endure the 2 hour drive back to Sam’s home in Melbourne smelling of horse. The hot springs were only 15 minutes away from the horse riding place, and it was so so good – I’m going back there the next time I pop by Melbourne. They have different pools of different temperatures, and the whole set up and scenery was pretty mind-blowing. Too bad it was already relatively dark by the time we reached, I think it would’ve been the most beautiful around 5pm. 

Check out pictures of the hot springs here – and be very jealous!!! 
My favorite hot springs pool was at the top, where Sam and I gazed into the vast openness and the starry night sky…

The moon looked really round and red that night. It was lovely and serene out there.

It would’ve been more romantic if there wasn’t hordes of people around, but considering it’s such a nice place to be and that it was perfect weather to be out, I don’t blame those people for having the same idea as us.