Nature conservation

Parks, reserves and protected areas

Wilderness horse riding trial

Horse riding in Kosciuszko National Park

Parks in the wilderness horse riding trial

The two-year wilderness horse riding trial took place in four national parks from April 2014 to April 2016. The pilot program provided an important opportunity to test whether horse riding is appropriate in wilderness areas.

Information about the trial riding opportunities was given in the riding fact sheet for each of these parks:

A trial is still proposed in Curracabundi National Park. This will be finalised following exhibition and adoption of the plan of management.

General information about each of these parks is available on the National Parks website:

The horse riding trial was subject to a comprehensive monitoring program. Now that the trial is over, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is evaluating the outcomes of this program. The trial has indicated very low usage by horse riders and wilderness values were protected.

Monitoring and evaluation

The Horse Riding in Wilderness Trial Monitoring Report (PDF 7.1MB) evaluates the trial and the findings of the monitoring program. In summary, there were very few horse riders utilising the tracks and trails during the trial period. The majority of agreed thresholds were rarely exceeded, all exceedances were referred to management and management interventions were successful when enacted. The primary objective of the monitoring program, to protect wilderness values from being irreversibly compromised during the horse riding trial, was met. However, the trial was not able to predict the potential impact prolonged use of tracks and trails by horse riders or an increase in horse rider numbers might have on wilderness values.

The trial was monitored in accordance with a monitoring framework (PDF 555KB). The methods and design followed the OEH approach to achieving scientific rigour (PDF 174KB) and applied adaptive management principles.

OEH scientists and operational experts worked with external researchers and key stakeholders to design the monitoring program and develop initial thresholds for managing impacts. Thresholds represent points that guide what, when and how management decisions and responses might be applied to manage impacts of an activity. Thresholds allow an adaptive approach to be applied to the trial. Management responses are recorded as part of this approach.

Threshold development was facilitated by researchers from the University of Melbourne (PDF 841KB) through a series of workshops using a structured decision-making framework. The thresholds developed during this process were then reviewed by OEH and refined in accordance with the structured decision-making approach. These thresholds (PDF 111KB) were adaptively reviewed as further data became available to ensure that natural and observer variability was taken into account, and that thresholds were indicating genuine changes of concern. Baseline data was collected before horse riding commenced on selected trails and tracks. This provided a pre-activity reference point and a guide for initial threshold development. Find out about the methods used to collect data (PDF 1.2MB).

A baseline weed assessment was undertaken to establish which weeds were existing on the trails prior to commencement (PDF 508KB) of the horse riding trial.

As part of the monitoring program people using the tracks and trails in the identified wilderness areas were invited to complete a short survey (now closed).

Monitoring continued throughout the trial at approximately six-month intervals to assess how impacts were tracking against the thresholds and baseline reference. Data was made publicly available after each monitoring event until the final sampling period in spring 2016.

Monitoring data reports for the wilderness horse riding trial

Summer/Autumn/Winter 2016

Spring/Summer 2015

Autumn/Winter 2015

Spring 2014

Monitoring location maps

Page last updated: 24 July 2017