Heading out
pack trips in New Zealand's south island
Overnight hut accommodation
Paddocks for the horses

This equestrian ride is a short break designed to give fit and balanced beginner riders onwards a taste of adventure, on a horseback trail through the hills, valleys and rivers of the South Island with traditional pack horses while staying in cabins. Everything is transported on horseback, so be part of the team helping to load the 'swag and tucker' and experience just a little of the pioneer spirit and wildness of the landscape for a few days. 

Enjoy hearty food cooked over the campfire at the end of each day while swapping stories about the day's adventure over a glass of wine.

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Day 1 Arrival 
Arrive the day before the ride begins, pick up the afternoon transfer shuttle from CHC Airport and head to the stables to meet the team.

Day 2 
10.00 – 10.30 a.m. Ride to the influx where the Mandamus River meets the Hurunui River. After crossing the river, ride upstream and along the road, passing farm buildings and then up onto a 6,850 hectare (17,000 acres) station. Onwards to Glencoe River, passing hilly country of native scrub and scattered silver tussocks before reaching the Mandamus River and travelling up the east bank. After crossing again, follow the track through dense manuka scrub into Organ Stream where the first night is spent in the Valley Hut. (approx 5 hours riding)

In the morning pack up and set off over Beau Saddle, then down to cross the Hurunui River again.  Ride along the Hurunui River until lunch. In the afternoon set off up the Sumner Road then turn left go through a gate onto Mt Nobel Station. A few up and downs arrive at the Shearers quarters. Spend the night here.(approx 6 hours riding)

Day 4
Pack up your stuff for the final time and depending on the weather head back down the Lake Sumner Road, stop for a picnic lunch then follow the river down until you arrive back at the base. Stay the night
(Approx 8 hours riding)

Day 5 Departure
Say farewell and depart for the airport on the shuttle, first thing to start your journey home. 

Please note that the itinerary may change depending on conditions and weather.

It is recommend that you arrive a few days in advance of the trial if possible to allow you time to get over any jet lag you might experience.  Christchurch is New Zealand's largest south island city. It is framed by the Pacific to the east and the snowy Southern Alps to the west.  The city is nicknamed the Garden City because of its numerous green spaces and is known for its innovation as well as its beauty, combining architectural charm with art.

Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.

Horses & Riding

There are 70 horses on the farm with 40 available for riding. Both the riding horses and pack horses are a delightful mix of Clydesdale X Thoroughbred. They are sure-footed (having been bred in the hills) and are very comfortable to ride - like gentle giants! The horses range between 16hh and 18hh. The tack used on this ride is Australian stock saddles (made in New Zealand) and single-rein bridles. The riding is English style. As explained in 'Rider requirements', the terrain on this ride can be very rough. As well as long (and potentially deep) river crossings, the are steep ascents and descents.

The horses are used to this terrain and it is up to the rider to trust their mount and let them find their way. Riders dismount and lead their horses on the downhills which can sometimes be for up to one hour (totalling around 2-3 hours of walking on foot per day). The pace of the ride is taken at a walk due to the rough terrain and the pack horses which accompany the ride, carrying all the food and equipment. This was how it was done in the old 'muster days', when there were no helicopters and 4X4's like there are to help the land owners nowadays. Using pack horses is a dying art and one which is a special experience.

There is no mobile phone coverage during the ride but the guides carry a satellite phone. Riding hats are provided if required and it is compulsory for riders under 16-years-old to wear a riding hat.

Rider requirements

This trip is suitable for novice to experienced level riders. The ride is taken at a walking pace only (although there is the odd spot for a trot or canter), riders should be in good health, be balanced in the saddle, and ready for long hours in the saddle (around 6-9 hours per day). Riders are required to be able to mount and dismount unaided although there are often plenty of rocks and logs available to help.

Decent hiking boots with good ankle support are recommended as there are steep descents on foot, leading the horses. Good general physical fitness is also necessary and riders should be surefooted with good hips, knees and ankles. There is a fair amount of walking with the horses on this ride - horses are always led downhill, sometimes for up to one hour (totalling around 2-3 hours of walking on foot per day). The hills are steep with drop-off’s; therefore, this ride may not be suitable for nervous riders or those with a fear of heights.

Riders are required to help with the horses, such as catching, grooming, tacking/un-tacking, feeding and watering. It is also appreciated when riders help with pitching tents and food preparation. All tack is checked prior to mounting and if a rider cannot tack-up then help will be given. Assistance is also expected to saddle and load the packhorses, after the swags have been weighed and strapped together. For non-horsey guests there is always a need for help in the kitchen. Campsites and huts need to be left clean and tidy.

Packhorses normally walk free. At times riders may be required to lead a packhorse, or ride in front to keep them under control.
*Riders are asked to disclose any medical condition, in confidence, prior to booking this ride*

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 264 lb/120 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

The accommodation ranges from tents to a woolshed, muster huts and a B&B. This depends on external factors such as where riders will be staying, for instance if sheep are being sheared it will not be possible to stay in the woolshed. On some nights, there will be no electricity or running water but there will usually be a stream or river nearby to wash in - they are also great for a swim at the end of a day in the saddle! On some nights there may be a hot shower. Toilets also range from long-drop (whilst camping) to normal toilets. Airbeds are provided.

The food on this ride can be described as good, healthy farm food - it is intended to fill riders up and give them energy. Expect meals such as steak, mince and stroganoff. Jenny, one of the hosts, cooks everything herself from scratch using local ingredients. Her pies and cakes are legendary! Tea, coffee and water are included in the price of the holiday. Alcohol and canned drinks are not included, nor provided, but riders are invited to bring along their own supply with them. This can also be pre-ordered in advance before travel commences and will be waiting for the rider upon arrival.

Please note that while gluten free, diary free and vegetarian diets can be accommodated, vegan or special diets are not.


Vegetarian or other dietary requirements within reason can be accommodated with advance notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests before booking.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip.

NB: Be sure to check the COVID status of the country you plan to visit including entry procedures

When visiting New Zealand, your passport should be valid for three months from the date you intend to depart.

Visas are not usually needed to enter New Zealand as a visitor for up to 6 months, but you will need to get a New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA) before you travel.

The NZeTA costs NZD $9 if applying via the dedicated mobile app, or NZD $12 if completed online. You will also need to pay an International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL) of NZD $35 when you apply. Once issued, the NZeTA is valid for up to two years. The New Zealand immigration authorities recommend that applicants allow up to 72 hours for processing.

On arrival in New Zealand, you will also need to satisfy the Immigration Officer that you meet the criteria for visa-free entry, which includes having an onward ticket and sufficient funds to support you during your stay.

Passport and Visa requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country.

Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate should you need a visa.

In the UK the British Foreign Office gives advice: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/new-zealand

In the US: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/NewZealand.html

In Canada: https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/new-zealand

Climate Summary

Although this ride takes place in the summer, riders can experience all four seasons in one day, due to the mountainous location.


COVID: Be sure to check the latest COVID regulations for travelling in any country you visit.

You should always bring any regular prescription drugs you may need with you.

Research has shown that asthma sufferers may be more at risk of an attack in New Zealand and sufferers should be suitably prepared.

Please refer to your country’s latest health guideline for travel in the New Zealand and contact your own GP for up to date advice on vaccinations and prophylaxis prior to travel.

Health (ride specific)

Guests must declare in confidence any medical condition they have prior to the ride. Anyone with a medical condition requiring specific medication – please make sure you carry sufficient medication for more than the safari's duration. Bad weather and rising rivers can mean delays of a few days.

Occasionally in the native bush the ride will come upon a wasp nest. Comprehensive first aid kits are carried which include antihistamine tablets for stings. However if you are allergic to stings please carry your prescribed medication.


In New Zealand the supply voltage is 230V. If the appliance is a single voltage rated appliance, it will need to operate at the same voltage as the supply voltage of the country i.e. 230V. If this is not the case it should be used alongside a voltage transformer or converter to allow the appliance to work safely and properly.

Mobile, WiFi and charging

There is no cellphone coverage during the trail.
A Satellite Phone is carried for emergencies only along with a located beacon. The Satellite phone is turned on from 20.00 – 20.15 each night when no phone is provided at accommodation. If contact can be made any other way,  the satellite phone will not be turned on.  The satellite Phone Number is 0088 1621 463801. It operates through the United States of America and  calls will be charged to you in USD. Calls worldwide US$ 1.50/min. Calls to other satellite systems US$ 10.00/min. Please only use in emergencies.

Packing List

We suggest riders bring at least three complete changes of clothes. Remember, in the South Island High Country it is possible to experience four seasons in one day. Warm clothes are essential all year round.
Thermal undergarments e.g. Polypropylene or Icebreaker
A warm sleeping bag
Camera / battery charger
Towel and Toiletries (only small bag)
Sun block, chapstick, insect repellent
Gloves + “Freezer” gloves for rain
Strong sturdy boots e.g. Tramping or Hiking boots. NOT Leather soled Jodhpur boots or Gumboots
Hats – Rain, sun, wind and cold
Warm jacket and scarf
Laundry soap
Light shoes to wear in huts
Torch / flashlight with batteries


Swagrolls, Airbeds
Saddlebags for small personal items camera, gloves, …
Lunchbox and drinks bottle (go in the above saddlebags)
A swag roll, made of canvas, in which riders place their sleeping bags, and clothes in a pocket at one end, is supplied. This is then tightly rolled, fastened, then placed in a waterproof bag and strapped on the side of a packsaddle.
Some guests prefer to ride in jodhpurs, other track pants, shorts or jeans. Choose your preference but be wary of clothes that chafe. Bicycle shorts under your trousers add extra padding. Some guests ride in calf-length chaps for leg protection.
Guests normally bring their own alcohol supplies for the trip.


This is a 5 day/4 night/ 3 riding days, expedition available on set dates. Other dates are available on request.

Departure Dates

2024: 3 Mar; 22 Mar;
On request November to March

No single rooms available (on some or all nights). Riders must be prepared to share with someone of the same sex.

No of   
Riding days Product item description £
2023/20245d/4n3double pp779
No of   
Riding days Product item description
2023/20245d/4n3double pp909
No of   
Riding days Product item description US $
2023/20245d/4n3double pp1,019
No of   
Riding days Product item description SEK
2023/20245d/4n3double pp10,419
Other Activities

There won't be time to do much else apart from ride on this expedition, but of course there's always new areas to be explored on foot during break times or after the riding finishes. Riders may also be able to swim in the rivers (conditions permitting). It is also nice to rest and take in the magnificent views; the riding is in very remote and riders may not see anyone else apart from fellow riders.

Other Information

Mobile phone reception is non-existent on this ride. The main guide carries a satellite phone for emergencies.

*Riders are asked to disclose any medical condition, in confidence, prior to booking this ride*

Other Country Information

New Zealand has very strict bio-security regulations. It is illegal to import most food-stuffs (meat and meat products, honey, fruit, dairy produce) and strict penalties are handed out to those breaking these rules. Take care when importing wood products, golf clubs, footwear, tents, fishing equipment and items made from animal skin.

New Zealand is a fertile and mountainous group of islands in the south-west Pacific Ocean. It is made up of two main islands (the North Island and South Island) and a number of smaller islands.

New Zealand's first settlers were the Maori, whose Polynesian ancestors probably landed on what they called Aotearoa ('Land of the Long White cloud') during the 10th century AD, making New Zealand the last major habitable land mass to be settled by mankind. European settlers first came across New Zealand in 1642 when the Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, spotted it in the course of his search for Antarctica. He named the South Island 'Nieuw Zeeland' after the Dutch province. James Cook sighted the North Island in 1769 and returned with various charting and scientific expeditions a number of times over the next few years. His enthusiastic reports encouraged a wave of European settlers who came across from Australia, and whalers who came from the UK, the USA and France. They gradually displaced Maori from their lands.

New Zealand is a country of rare seismic beauty: glacial mountains, fast-flowing rivers, deep, clear lakes, hissing geysers and boiling mud. There are also abundant native forests and long, deserted beaches. Because of its isolated geographical location, New Zealand is home to many unique species of flora and fauna, including the kiwi, kakapo and weka (all flightless birds).

New Zealand is twelve hours ahead GMT and they use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram.

The international dialling code is +64.

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Christchurch International Airport (CHC), New Zealand
Included from meeting point.
Flight Guide:
London to Christchurch from £1500pp return
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