Horses have been part of the local community since European settlers first came to the region in 1800’s and horses have been an integral part of the local landscape since then.
Stromlo Forest was opened to the public in 1967 and quickly became an important recreational resource for Canberra equestrians. Also in the 1960s, Canberra’s system of government horse paddocks developed and paddocks in the Weston Creek area (Yarralumla, Curtin and Illoura) allowed local horse riders ready access to hundreds of hectares of pine forest.
Private equestrian facilities appeared; Mrs Llewelyn’s riding school ‘Llanelly’ on Lady Denman Drive and the de Salis’ property, ‘Weston’, in Weston Creek. Children rode their horses to the Equestrian Park at Curtin for Pony Club and through the Stromlo Forest for recreation and exercise.
In the 1970s, as equestrian activities continued to grow in popularity, Forest Park Riding School at Curtin and Bibaringa Riding School (now Mt Stromlo Equestrian Centre), closer to Mount Stromlo, opened. Properties along the Cotter Road, such as ‘Bulga Creek'(now the National Equestrian Center) and ‘Riverview’ offered agistment to the many riders who wanted to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Forest.
Equestrian activities and forestry operations happily coexisted in the large pine plantation. Endurance riders found kilometres of training tracks, show jumpers had their choice of strengthening hill climbs and everyone else had shady rides along pine needle strewn tracks with spectacular views.
As part of Australia’s 200th birthday celebration, Stromlo Forest was integrated into the Bicentennial National Trail (BNT), the longest marked non-motorised, multi-use trekking route in the world, stretching an extraordinary 5,330 kilometres from Cooktown in North Queensland, to Healesville in Victoria. The BNT links up with the ACT equestrian trail system to provide access from Stromlo to riding areas in north and south Canberra.