Take an Outback trail ride, Central Coast style

The natural beauty of the Central Coast often inspires visitors and locals alike to explore their surroundings in many ways. Hiking, cycling, walking and running are all great ways to get out and see what the Central Coast has to offer. Horseback riding is another way to hit the trail and Outback Trail Rides offers rides for anyone interested in seeing the area from the back of a horse.

Mick Harper, owner and guide at Outback Trail Rides, has worked with horses for most of his life. His family breeds and grazes Brahman cattle and Australian Stockhorses in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, Australia. Harper was raised on this property and learned horsemanship from his father at a young age. 

“I have been in the saddle all my life,” Harper said. “Some of my fondest memories include days riding, mustering cattle (rounding-up), and sleeping out under the stars with my dad.”

Harper’s experience in the saddle continued to grow as he competed in the Australian sport of camp drafting and took part in rough-riding rodeo events such as bull riding. In 1999, he made his way to California to take a job in Parkfield at the V6 Ranch with the Varian family starting and training young horses. It was during this time that he met and married his wife, Raili, a native Paso Roblan. 

The couple moved to Australia and spent a few years ranching before returning to settle in Paso Robles and start their family and their business. According to Harper, the Central Coast is the perfect place for his business. 

“Since first visiting many years ago, I surmised that the beautiful coastline around Cambria would be a great location for a tourist horseback destination,” he said. “We were excited to obtain such an ideal property to host our trail rides, and to collaborate with the Fiscalini family in 2009.”

“With so many requests for wine rides, we have been excited to add Cass and Calcareous Vineyards in 2013,” Harper said. 

According to Harper, riders of all experience levels will feel comfortable with an Outback Trail Ride experience. At the beginning of a typical ride, the staff will assist guests with preliminary paperwork, help them get fitted out with helmets and boots if desired, and ascertain each guests’ riding experience and ability. 

“We endeavor to match each guest with a horse that is suitable for their riding level,” Harper said. “The pace of the ride is determined by the groups’ riding experience, and most guests can enjoy some trotting and cantering on their ride. 

Outback Trail Rides takes advantage of the varied terrain of the Central Coast with its three trail locations. Harper, when describing the Cambria trail, said the terrain on the coastal ride is fairly mountainous and the longer trails offer spectacular views of the coast. 

“These rides are suitable for beginner to advanced riders and we can take little guys
and gals down to the age of 6,” Harper said.

 The Cass Vineyard trail is described by Harper as a gentle ride through the rolling hills of the vineyard and is suitable for all levels, even beginner riders. The trail at Calcareous Vineyards, he said, is the most rugged of any of the Outback Trail Rides.

“It is more suitable for more experienced riders and for those up for a more adventurous ride,” he said.

The folks at Outback Trail Rides not only offer an adventure and great perspective on the beautiful terrain of the Central Coast, they do it as Harper says, in “Outback style!”

For additional information on Outback Trail Rides and a current ride schedule, visit outbacktrailrides.com or call (805) 286–8772.  

Kate Joyce - is a local writer and photographer.