Horse Riding and Training Business: Australia

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Horse Riding and Training Business: Australia

Key Takeaways

  • Eastside Riding Academy and Papillon Stables are the resident schools at Centennial Park, one of the few places in the world that offers inner-city horse rides.
  • Located 25 minutes away from Sydney, the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is one of the most popular attractions in Australia due to its scenic setting.
  • Lake Macquarie, about an hour away from Central Coast, is among Australia’s largest saltwater lakes. Surrounded by nature, the Southlake area is a popular destination for horse riding activities.
  • Canberra’s wine country and historical towns are beloved by locals and count with accessible horse trails.

Introduction

Competitors and locations were selected based on qualitative insights, reviews, and information from credible sources such as the ACT government. There was limited reliable information on horse trails in the Sydney and Central Coast area. We leveraged competitors’ routes (public ones), parks information, and numerous other sources to determine which areas would have trails available. As we only conduct secondary research, it would not be prudent to determine possible trails that are not already established by official sources (e.g., park or government authorities) or well-known as safe routes. We included a section before the Sydney, Central Coast and Canberra attractions explaining how locations were selected to facilitate the reading of this briefing. Other details on our methodology can be found in the Research Strategy Section. For the competitor landscape, we had to rely on reviews (Google reviews and TripAdvisor) and social media analyses to determine some research points, such as details surrounding business models and type of visitors. None of the locations disclose the number of visitors they receive, as it is customary for private and small facilities.

Horse Riding Businesses

Eastside Riding Academy & Papillon Stables

    • Region: Sydney
    • Consumer group: Local, frequent riders (solo and group). Ages and skill levels vary.
    • Main offerings:
    • Nearby attraction: Centennial Parklands
  • Centennial Parklands, known as Sydney's Green Lung, is one of the few places in the world that offers “inner city horse rides.” Located between greater Sydney and Randwick, the area is a nature haven in the middle of Australia’s urban life. It comprises three urban parks, Centennial Park, Moore Park and Queen’s Park, accounting for 360 hectares.
  • The Centennial Parklands Equestrian Centre offers 197 on-site stables, 135 of which are for private leasing, three arenas, a covered lunge yard, stables, wash bay facilities, sand rolls, and on-site float parking.
  • It houses two resident riding schools, Eastside Riding Academy and Papillon Riding Stables. They offer similar services and cater to a similar audience, which is why they are being covered as one.
  • Both schools’ business model is mostly focused around riding lessons, children’s events/camps, and escorted park rides. Due to the area, the rides are walk only, and visitors can book individual or group rides. They are the only providers that can offer riding experiences or group lessons in the park, albeit visitors can ride their privately-owned horses.
  • Of note, the park does allow independent instructors to work in the facilities and to be hired by “private clients utilizing their own horse stabled at the facility.” The park makes it clear that independent instructors are not allowed to teach, in any circumstance, using their own horses, teach group lessons, or operate any booking facilities.
  • The Eastside Academy appears more focused on fun activities within the park while cultivating the “fine art of horsemanship.” Papillon proposes a more exclusive, holistic experience, with “superior personal attention” across all services. Both schools accommodate all ages and skill levels.
  • For children, Eastside Academy offers term riding packages for $1250 - $1400 (10 sessions, one hour each), school holiday programs from 9 am to 4 pm (1 day - $350, 2 days - $620, and 3 days - $900), competition squad programs (between $2200 to $3000 for a 10-week program), and pony rides ($75/30 min) and pony parties ($110 per child). For leisure riders, a fully-escorted, one hour ride through Centennial Park is priced at $140. Full price list available here.
  • Papillon offers private lessons ($150 from Mon-Fri and $160 Sat-Sun/1 hour lesson for adults, or $110 for kids Sat-Sun), shared lessons for non-beginners ($120 per rider/1 hour), park rides ($110 Mon-Fri or $120 Sat-Sun/1 hour), junior camp (between $280 - $750, 1-3 days), pony parties ($400/hour), and photoshoot services (price on demand). Full price list available here.

Port Macquarie Horse Riding Centre

  • Region: Port Macquarie
  • Consumer Group: Families with young children, casual groups and couples.
  • Main offerings: trail rides, food & wine experiences, lessons, children's activities (holiday camps and pony parties).
  • Nearby attraction: Billabong Zoo: Koala & Wildlife Park
  • The Port Macquarie Horse Riding Centre is located at the Cassegrain Winery on the Pacific Highway. The riding center shares grounds with “an award-winning Cellar Door and new Restaurant, Twotriplefour.” It is the closest horse riding provider to Port Macquarie, only 10 minutes from the town center. It is near the Billabong Zoo: Koala & Wildlife Park, the Rawdon Creek Nature Reserve, and Flynns Beach.
  • The riding center offers many options for horse lovers. Visitors can enjoy trail rides, express trails, pony rides, pony parties ($295.00), social rides, lessons, NDIS and holiday camps. It also provides agistment.
  • The Port Macquarie trail ride is suitable for riders of all levels, including children (6+). The 90-minute trail through the “Cassegrain property and surrounding bush trails” includes a quick lesson and ground-based demonstration for $120 per person.
  • The express trail ride ($55 per person) is a 20-minute ride designed for first-time riders and children around the property’s gardens and vineyard. There are trails for experienced riders in the estate's surroundinfs, but prices and details are not available online. There are also references to beach rides online in reviews and horse-related sites, but the official website does not mention these trails.
  • The Horse Power program provides equine experiences for therapeutic purposes. "Pricing starts at $100 per session."
  • The riding center also offers group and private riding lessons (price ranges from $95 to $65). This appears to be one of the most popular services offered. One interesting feature is the school pick service ($6.50).
  • The Ready Set Trot program ($70 per session) is for children who love horses but do not have their own; it aims to “introduce young people to horses and provide them with a better understanding of horsemanship in a fun and exciting way regardless if they have access to a horse or not. Ready Set Trot will teach the fundamentals of horsemanship, introduce young people to the many various areas of the horse industry and aims to instil in them a lifelong passion for horses.”
  • The Ladies Social Riding Group ($110 per person) is a monthly “dynamic, social and informal group of riders and non riders keen to enjoy horse riding in a relaxed and friendly group setting traditionally followed by a delicious home made morning tea.”
  • For those looking for a food & wine experience, the center offers the Brunch & Bubbles ride, in which visitors can enjoy a morning ride followed by "wine tasting at Cassegrain's Cellar Door and finish off with a gourmet breakfast or lunch with bubbles at Twotriplefour Restaurant." It costs between $145 to $165 per person, and the center can accommodate private, group, and corporate events.
  • Considering reviews and social media activity, this provider is mostly for families and couples. Experienced or adventurous riders tend to feel that the trails are too slow or boring, giving that the scenery is not that appealing compared to other locations.

Otford Farm

  • Region: Sydney.
  • Consumer group: Sydney locals, families with kids and teenagers.
  • Main offerings: lessons, trail riding, horse riding camps.
  • Nearby attraction: Royal National Park.
  • Otford Farm is located Otford, NSW, next to the Symbio Wildlife Park and the Royal National Park. It is considered one of the best places to go horse riding near Sydney. The farm caters to both experienced riders and beginners in an area surrounded by mountain scenery, rain forest, and waterfalls. It provides a free pick up for riding customers that choose to use the South Coast railway line (60 minutes by train).
  • Named after a village in England, Otford is a small town located in the Hacking River Valley. Its proximity to Wollongong (37 km) and Sydney (58 km) grants great access to those trying to escape the city for the weekend and visit the Royal National Park, Garawarra State Conservation Area, and Colliery Dam.
  • The Royal National Park is a popular destination for families, and “Sydneysiders treat it an extended backyard, where they can enjoy nature at its finest.” The park spans 160 km² and a 26 km Coast Track, with secluded beaches and lookouts. Those coming from Oftord can go through the forest to reach the coast.
  • Otford farm offers three types of services: trail riding, private lessons, and Children’s camp. Private lessons cost $85 for 30 minutes and $160 for the full hour.
  • The children’s camp is a 5 days and 4 nights holiday camp for kids aged 8-16. “Children are given their own horse for the week to ride and care for as if it were their own. The days are jam packed full of activities including a minimum of 2 hours riding both morning and afternoon each day which includes catered lessons, riding out in the bush and a gymkhana.” It costs $1,199.00 per child.
  • Based on reviews and social media activity, most visitors are from the Sydney region. Children and teenagers seem to be the primary consumer segment for the farm, particularly young girls.
  • During the pandemic, the farm set up a successful GoFundMe campaign to survive the impact of the fires and the COVID-19 virus that gives some insights into the cost of feeding horses in the region. The farm explains that the horses eat around 9 kg of food each or 99.75 vales of Lucerne per week. Otford buys Lucerne bales for “$18.70 each, including GST and delivery. This equates to $1865.30 each week.”

Forest Park Riding School

    • Region: Canberra
    • Consumer group: Canberra residents
    • Main offerings: group riding, muster and camping
    • Nearby attraction: National Arboretum and Stromlo Forest Park
  • Located on Cotter Road, between the Stromlo Forest Park and the Cotter region, only 15 minutes away from Canberra's town center, Forest Park Riding School is one of the most well-regarded riding school/trail riding provider in the Canberra region.
  • Forest Park is accredited by the Australian Horse Riding Centers (AHRC). It offers group and private lessons, little league classes for children, school holiday program, trail rides, agistment services, coaching for competition, and horse training and selling services. What differentiates Forest Park from some of its nearby key competitors (up to 45 minutes from Canberra's center) are the diverse offerings, encompassing riding lessons and riding experiences. Most of the other horse-related businesses in the area are stable/agistment or in-property lessons/camps only. Burnelee might be the exception, but if only offers in-property trail rides and it will be covered further down the research, when discussing the wine country region of Canberra. Based on reviews, casual trail riding seems to be one of the main appeals of Forest Park.
  • One hour trail ride during weekends and holidays is priced at $65 dollars per rider. It varies according to the number of riders during weekdays, from $105 (1 rider) to $65 (4+). There is also the possibility to buy the Trail Ride Ticket, which includes ten trail rides for $620,00. Pony rides go for $30,00/30 minutes. Bookings is only available via e-mail or calls. Worth noting that research suggests that the facilities in the Canberra region tend to be a bit more “old school,” with little information/resources online when compared to the Sydney or Central Coast establishments. Their websites tend to be updated less often as well.
  • The rides happen around the property or in the nearby Stromlo Forest. They are meant to be relaxing, fun activities, for beginners and experienced riders, with “views of the mountains around Canberra and an insight into the lovely home of horses and other wildlife.” For beginners, Forest Park offers a 10-minute training session before the trail.
  • Social media and reviews suggest that Forest Park receives a diverse audience of locals, from different ages.

Chapman Valley

  • Region: Central Coast and Sydney
  • Consumer group: Sydney and Central Coast residents, primarily families and beginners (85%).
  • Main offerings: group riding, muster and camping
  • Nearby attraction:
  • Located in Howes, Hunter Valley (about 2 hours from Sydney and 90 minutes from Central Coast), Chapman Valley Horse Riding is the number one spot for horse riding in the NSW region. The property also has camping grounds for a well-rounded experience.
  • Howes has a very small population, but it is a well-known spot for those looking for a country hideaway. The area is surrounded by country estates, campgrounds, and vineyards and has a good accommodation structure. The property is located between two national parks, Wollemi and Yengo. Chapman Valley is surrounded by small villages and towns, such as Broke. Polkobin, and Cessnock. Newcastle is the nearest large city.
  • The 6,000 acres property has open fields, valleys, and mountains, and its filled with native wildlife, such as kangaroos and wombats. Chapman market itself as a weekend getaway. It also offers group and private rides, a valentines day package, adult horse camps, and holidays. It has a 1:3 instructor/customer ratio, which is a bit different than the average 1:6.
Trails:
  • Analysis of social media and blog posts and the property’s offerings show that Sydney and Central Coast locals are Chapman’s main consumer segment, primarily families. Interesting to note that the property is about an hour away from Hunter Valley Gardens, a popular family hangout. Based on multiple reviews that Chapman received on TripAdvisor, the property is mostly visited by those living in Sydney or small towns in the area. It is a beloved place by locals, maintaining a 5.0 rating with 428 reviews.
  • Besides trail riding, Chapman also offers experiences such as wellness weekends, a package designed only for women, gourmet picnics, and retreats. There are also camping grounds and the possibility to rent the venue for events.
Campsite:
  • One differential, as noted by reviewers, is the horses’ training. They are very responsive and well cared for. Customers can also bring their own horses for $40,00. All bookings must be paid in advance, as Chapman does not accept payment on arrival (for all types of rides).
  • Chapman does not disclose the number of visitors it receives, profit margins, or any financial results. It is an active farm (Beef cattle), and it also counts with revenue from horse riding and camping.

Locations & Attractions

Selection Criteria

  • For the Sydney and Central Coast region, locations/attractions were selected based on accessibility to established horse trails, tourist and local visitors potential, and surrounding area. Unlike Canberra, there were no recent reports with a list of potential horse trails, which limited our possibilities, which is why national parks were used frequently.
  • The Canberra region, on the other hand, had a different barrier. The area outside the capital is sparsely populated (often less than 1,000 people per city); therefore, we had to explore options that are nearby Canberra’s city center to at least consider that there would be a decent addressable market of frequent riders. Some attractions ended up being in close proximity to each other.
  • We aimed to provide regions that were not locations by the competitors; however, it was not possible in some cases. Additionally, we excluded Byron Bay as it was already previously covered.

Sydney

Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park

  • The Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is located only 25 minutes away from Sydney. It is a “popular tourist destination, known for its scenic setting on the edge of a southern branch of the Hawkesbury River as well as rock engravings and other art of Aboriginal origin. Picnic, boating, and fishing facilities can be found throughout the park.”
  • Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park forms a "buffer of natural bushland between Sydney's northern suburbs and the Hawkesbury River. Its river shoreline is a tight cluster of secretive, winding creeks, sheltered beaches, hidden coves, mangroves on the tidal mudflats and wide expanses of deep blue water, backed by heathlands on the sandstone ridges and dense forests on the slopes."
  • There’s 21 km of “scenic trails designated for horse riding, within Ku-ring-gai Chase and Garigal National Parks.” The Perimeter Trail is a popular 7 km multi-purpose (including horse-riding) easy trail through Terrey Hills, tracing the edge of the park. The trail is in the West Head precinct of the park, accessed to the Mona Vale road.

The Scheyville National Park

  • Located 50 minutes from Sydney, The Scheyville National Park offers a possible area for a horse business in a not over-saturated market. The park is an off-the-beaten track location compared to some other attractions, but it does contain interesting and easy horse trails, which are not as common in the area, and an interesting location.
  • The Scheyville National Park has 12km of horse riding trails, surrounded by a bushland setting. Unlike other busy parks, it allows riders to canter, trot or gallop in its charming woodland scenery. The flat terrain provides an easy experience all year round.
  • The park in itself might not be a sufficient attraction, but it does have a good location. The Australiana Pioneer Village, a beloved open-air museum, is only 15 minutes north from the park entrance. The park is located between the museum and Sydney. It is also close to the Windsor riverside city.
  • Between Sydney and the park lies the city of Parramatta (30 minutes away from the park), a business and commercial center, and its over 260,000 residents, expanding the possible serviceable area population.
  • There is one operator of horse-riding trails in the park ($120 for 90 minutes), the Hawkesbutty Valley Equestrian, a “licensed commercial tour operator with a Parks Eco Pass.” More information about the Eco Pass can be found here.

Blue Mountains

  • The Blue Mountains National Park is the most popular national park in Australia due to its beautiful scenery, trails, lookouts, and wildlife. It is a World Heritage Area, with over 10,000 km, covering seven separate national parks, and it is only 50 minutes away from Sydney. The park has many tour operators, but there might still be opportunities for new entrants due to its extension and multiple entrances/areas.
  • The towns surrounding the park are an attraction as well, and present some good weekend getaway options. Glenbrook offers the old town charm, complete with a vintage cinema; Lawson has beautiful waterfalls; Leura provides a more luxurious experience, with antiques and boutique shops; Katoomba is the region's artisans center; and Medlow Bath houses the Hydro Majestic Hotel.
  • Horse-riding tours are common on the Blue Mountain escarpments and valleys leading to the lookouts. For example, the Sun Valley Road fire trail to the north of Glenbrook. The public trails apparently circle the park area, but it was not possible to obtain official sources confirming this information. Notable competitors include the Megalong Horseriding Adventure Centre, Yarrabin, and Centennial Glen Stables. The Blue Mountains Trail Horse Riders Club's newsletters contain some interesting information about possible trails.

Central Coast/ Port Macquarie

Lake Macquarie

  • Less than one hour away from Central Coast and 40 minutes from Newcastle, Lake Macquarie sits in a highly-populated area, with many touristic attractions, receiving thousands of visitors each year.
  • The lake is one of “Australia's largest saltwater lakes,” and the region is surrounded by 13 forests that compose the Watagan Mountains. The area also counts with 32km of coastline.
  • Horse riding is a popular activity at the South lake. The Southlake district can be accessed through the town of Morisset, and counts with charming townships. Morisset:
  • The Southlake area of Lake Macquarie is "located at the foot of the Watagan Mountains. The calm waterways and quiet rural communities of Southlake include Morisset, Dora Creek, Cooranbong, Wyee and the Watagan National Park." It offers "water sports, bushwalking and horse riding in the mountains." Besides the beaches, the Watagan National Park is a popular attraction.
  • The main competitors in the area would be the AAA Horse Riding (trail riding along the Watagan Mountains) and Yara Balba Stables.

Gosford & Popran National Park

  • The Gosford area is known for its year-round outdoor activities, seaside villages and magnificent coastline. The area counts with many attractions, such as Popran National Park, Brisbane Water National Park, and the Australian Reptile park.
  • Located 35 minutes from the Central Coast and 20 minutes from Gosford, the Popran National Park is a good place to find government endorsed horse trails. It is an Aboriginal site is great for outdoor activities, such as Kayak and fishing.
  • Standing next the Hawkesbury River foreshore, it counts with two open trails: Mount Olive Trail and the 248 Trail. The colorful Mount Olive Trail, the most popular, allow riders to enjoy the view of Glentworth Valley and encounter kookaburras and black cockatoos.
  • As previously noted, Glenworth Valley Outdoor Adventures is a competitor. However, based on reviews, it does not seem to attract frequent riders like the smaller players, such as Bensville Riding School and The Outlook. One reason could be the duration of the rides, as Glenworth’s last 2 hours versus the most practical 1-hour ride offered by the other competitors, or simply the way they are presented (adventure versus relaxing riding experience/lessons).

Wallingat

  • The Wallingat region is located halfway between Port Macquarie and Central Coast, about 2 hours from each city. The Tip to Tail trail in Wallingat National Park is an easy trail that takes visitors “on a beautiful journey along the network of public roads and management trails throughout the park.” Riders can reach the Whoota Whoota lookout for amazing views or enjoy a picnic at the Sugar Creek.

Canberra

Cotter Avenue

  • The Cotter comprises a series of reserves surrounding the Cotter River. Cotter Avenue (30 minutes from Canberra) is the recreational side of the area. Popular among families with kids, it is a great venue for “picnics, swimming, fishing, bushwalking and relaxation.”
  • The Blue Range Hut recreation area allows horse riding, 45 minutes from Canberra. It is centered around the heritage-listed remains of a World War II Italian internment camp, the Blue Range camp is a very popular camping and events location. Perfect for family or large groups."

Lanyon Homestead & Tharwa

  • The Murrumbidgee River area is a popular destination for locals and tourists, with outdoor adventures and more moderate experiences. The Tharwa settlement is the gateway to the mountains in Namadgi National Park.
  • Along the river corridor, the Point Hut Crossing Reverse (10 minutes from Lanyon) permits horse riding in the three-filled area along the river. The Gudgenby Valley, about 20 minutes south of the homestead, is an Aboriginal site with horse trails.

Wine Country

  • The wine country region of Canberra is located about 40 minutes from the Canberra’s center. Home to 140 vineyards and 40 wineries, the area is a fast-growing food scene and a “flourishing premium wine scene.”
  • The wine country is divided into three regions: Murrumbateman and Yass (30 minutes north of Canberra), Hall and Majura (15 minutes from Canberra’s center), and Bungendore, Wamboin, Gundaroo, Lake George and Collector along the federal highway.
  • Murrumbateman is one of the most prominent regions, housing 20 boutique wineries. There are no officially designated horse trails in the city, but there could be opportunities to partner with other establishments or private tours, as vineyards in the region do not offer much when it comes to experiences. The city has a horse riding provider called Burnelee Excursions on Horseback; all riding is conducted inside the 3,500 acres property, with no outside trails. Murrumbateman:
  • Hall does not have the same touristic appeal as the other cities in the wine country, particularly Yass Valey, but it could be a convenient option. The area counts with an ACT government horse paddock and public entrance to the Bicentennial National Trail. The village is 12 minutes away from the beautiful Brindabella Hills Winery. It is also the halfway point between Canberra and Murrumbateman. Hall is near the Nicholls/Gold Creek Village (5 minutes), a neighborhood with various attractions designed for children and families, such as the popular Cockington Green Gardens, the National Dinosaur Museum, and the Canberra Reptile Zoo. Hall's main street:
Trail:

Braidwood

  • Standing halfway between Canberra and the South Coast, Braidwood is famous for its gastronomy, rare truffles, and colonial buildings, and heritage site status.
  • It is a hub for “artists, potters, ironworkers, craftspeople and designers.” The town has “quirky boutiques and galleries to browse, as well as a very creative events calendar.”
  • As for trail access, the town is near the Monga National Park and its historical Corn Trail.

National Arboretum & Molonglo Valley

  • The district of Molonglo Valley seems to be the main area for horse activities in the Canberra region, including the Equestrian Association, many horse parks, trail riding, pony clubs, and others. Located only 6 km from Canberra’s center and surrounded by equestrian trails, it is home to the National Arboretum, a regional staple, and the National Equestrian Center.
  • The Arboretum, located 15 minutes from Canberra’s town center, receives thousands of visitors every weekend, especially families, which could explain the unusual number of pony clubs in the area. The 20 km horse trail circle the park, and a dedicated holding yard allows riders to take a break from riding and enjoy the other attractions offered by the park. The "ACT Centenary Trail and the Bicentennial Trail run through the forests connecting the Arboretum to greater Canberra."
  • Arboretum does not have resident schools or providers. In fact, research was unable to locate any horse-riding providers catering for those that wish to experience the Arboretum trails. It is possible that there are services available, but they do not have a relevant online presence, which is not uncommon for the region.
  • About 12 minutes from the Arboretum, riders can also enjoy the popular Stromlo Forest Park and its amazing scenery. The park accommodates trails between 30 minutes to 2 hours. The Bicentennial trail also passes through the park. There are plans to create a direct path between the park and the e ACT Equestrian Park at Yarralumla.
  • The Molonglo Valley is an area with heavy competition, primarily around the Arboretum and Stromlo. At the same time, it is also a high-demand region for horse riding. It was not possible to determine using publicly available information if it is a saturated market or not.

Bungendore

  • Only half-hour away from Canberra, Bungendore, a locals' favorite, is the quintessential countryside weekend getaway. It is a small, historic town filled with colonial buildings and artisan shops.
  • It is often noted as one of the best day-trips for Canberra's residents. "A beautiful little town within easy reach. Visit the village antiques store, the wood works gallery, the Paul Kowalski photography gallery or take some time out relaxing at Lake George. There are plenty of ways to while away some time in Bungendore, from exploring the beautifully preserved colonial buildings made of stone, timber and brick, enticing galleries and quirky shops to visiting the traditional country markets or nearby wineries."
  • The Sparrow Hill trail between Canberra and Bungendore is a possibility. It is most commonly used for mountain biking, but horse-riding is allowed. Another nearby trail is the Kowen Forest, between the two cities and right next to the ACT Nudist Club.

Research Strategy

For this research on horse riding and training businesses in Australia, we relied on alternative sources, such as reviews, as well as reputable sources, like the ACT government, Australian Trail Horse Riders Association, Horse Illustrated, and the National Parks’ Authority.
Sources
Sources