Wilderness horse riding trial

Horse riding was trialled in 4 national parks between April 2014 and April 2016. The pilot program provided an important opportunity to test whether horse riding is appropriate in wilderness areas.

The NSW Government is committed to providing opportunities for horse riding in New South Wales national parks. The wilderness horse riding trial was recommended in the Strategic Directions for Horse Riding in NSW National Parks to assess whether horse riding in wilderness could occur without causing irreversible damage to park values.

The trial involved a comprehensive monitoring program to assess the appropriateness of horse riding in wilderness areas, with detailed fact sheets providing information about the trail riding opportunities. National parks identified for the trial include:

Trial results for Kosciuszko, Mummel Gulf, Deua and Monga National Parks areas have been assessed and the amendments to plans of management to allow horse riding in certain areas of these 4 parks have been finalised.

More information on the amendments and plans of management is available: Horse riding in wilderness amendments to plans of management for Far South Coast Escarpment Parks, Kosciuszko National Park and Mummel Gulf National Park and State Conservation Area.

The plan of management for Curracabundi Parks has been finalised and is available at Curracabundi Parks Plan of Management. It provides for the commencement of a two-year horse riding trial within the Curracabundi Wilderness in conjunction with a monitoring framework, and will only be accessible to riders using the Bicentennial National Trail or staying at Karamea Homestead.

Results of the trial

The horse riding trial was subject to a comprehensive monitoring program. Now the trial is over, we have evaluated the outcomes of the program. The trial indicated very low usage by horse riders and wilderness values were protected.

The Horse Riding in Wilderness Trial Monitoring Report documents the findings of the trial in detail.

Based on outcomes of the wilderness horse riding trial, amendments to the relevant plans of management enable horse riding on trails that were part of the trial to continue.

A comprehensive monitoring program was developed to protect wilderness values from being irreversibly compromised during the horse riding trial.

The trial was monitored in accordance with the Monitoring Framework for Wilderness Horse Riding Trial. This framework provides guidance for how to:

  • monitor impacts from horse riding
  • manage these impacts
  • measure whether management was successful.

The methods and design of the monitoring framework followed the EES approach to achieving scientific rigour (PDF 208KB) and applied adaptive management principles.

Researchers from the University of Melbourne helped develop the document Developing management thresholds for the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage framework for trialling horse riding on wilderness trails (PDF 841KB). This provided impact levels, or thresholds, to use to manage and respond to horse riding-related activities that had an impact on wilderness areas.

Indicators, management thresholds, management responses for horse riding in wilderness trial locations (PDF 111KB) were developed and reviewed as data became available.

Baseline data was collected before horse riding commenced on selected trails and tracks using Wilderness Horse Riding Trial Monitoring Methods (PDF 1.2MB). 

A baseline weed assessment (PDF 508KB) was undertaken to establish which weeds existed on the trails before the horse riding trial started. This provided a pre-activity reference point and a guide for initial threshold development.

Monitoring was done at about six-month intervals throughout the trial period. The final sampling period was Spring 2016.