Season 1, Episode 2

Blazing Saddles

Benjamin Starr speaks with Michael, owner of the outdoor adventure company ‘Blazing Saddles’ located in the beautiful Tropical North Queensland city of Cairns. 

You’ll definitely want to add this on your ‘go to’ list of destinations after listening to and learning about the history of Blazing Saddles. From thundering waterfalls in the mountains, to the magical beach coves, there is more to Cairns than meets the eye.


Hosts & Guests

Benjamin Starr


Read the transcript

Ben: Okay we’re driving our own adventure Ingenia Holidays and let me tell you we’re in a very interesting place here, chatting to a guy called Michael Trout who owns a company called “Blazing Saddles”. Michael what an interesting place Cairns is. 

Michael: It certainly is, we live in absolute paradise up here and I guess from a customer or for my clients that are all over Australia and the world, the great benefit of coming to North Queensland is the diversity and range of activities that families can do. It ranges from families holidaying here with young children right through to teenagers and couples that are just looking for some adventure. 

Ben: Now how did you get into this this adventure tourism business? 

Michael: We were cattle people, our family, for many generations and the opportunity came in early 1990 to look at a property in the Atherton Tablelands and it’s Mungalli Falls. It’s one of the most picturesque places on the planet. It had a teahouse there and a working dairy farm, and they were doing horse riding. And I thought, well, that’s one thing I do know, is how to ride a horse. And so we started that as a small family and you know things changed quite dramatically in the early nineties. I came in just after the pilot strike, so this town was quiet, we already had a lot of the Japanese that had come in and built lots of hotels and so forth in the eighties and early nineties. But it came to a bit of a standstill. But we came in at a quite good time and as I said, from decade to decade things do change and we had to reinvent ourselves because the Atherton Tablelands were such a popular destination. People would come up on the train, visit Kuranda and then they would then go across the Tablelands to Lake Barrine and the waterfall circuit. 

Ben: Right, and then they’d miss all this? 

Michael: Yeah well I mean that was those days there were a lot of coach operators back then. But today there’s over three thousand hire cars alone traveling around. And so that disperses people you know quite well from here to the Daintree and down to Paronella Park and Mission Beach and up to Cook Town. Cook Town’s now sealed.

Ben: Now it’s interesting people in the city miss out on all this country sort of life, I mean we see people riding horses, but you don’t see a lot of city folk riding horses. What do people miss from the city that they can learn from riding a horse?

Michael: I got a really good story about horses. In the wild they are absolutely terrified of a human being. A lot of the horses we have here   originated from a property I call ‘Petford’ up on the Tablelands there, by a lower? horse whisperer called Jeff Guest. He’s in his nineties now, and he uses wild horses or what we call ‘Brumbies’ to help young children that have been either disadvantaged or been in trouble with the law.

Ben: Oh really?

Michael: Most Australians think the best thing you can do is lock them up or punish them somehow. Well you can’t punish someone that’s already been punished.

Ben: They’re living their own punishment aren’t they?

Michael: That’s right. So he brings these horses into a round yard and that horse is absolutely terrified of a human being. But after one hour or two hours, if that young person is kind to that horse and uses a nice tone of voice, that horse will then pull up for them and before long they got a hand on that horse. And once they’ve patted that horse, that horse just calms down dramatically. So for the first time in their life, a child has seen that if you’re kind to something it replays it back to you.

Ben: And I suppose for a child looking at a horse which is huge, to see that they’ve tamed a wild animal must be an amazing experience?

Michael: It’s life changing.

Ben: And is there a bond instantly formed?

Michael: A hundred percent, yeah, like from the first hour that they are with that horse to within three days, they actually ride that horse around and swim in a dam, and building that bond over two months or three months, is the life change that those kids need.  Because A. they’ve got a purpose. They’re not just, sleeping in the daytime and playing up at night-time. They actually physically go to bed very tired and they wake up in the morning wanting to bond with that horse again. So we’ve probably bought over the last twenty-eight years, we’ve probably bought about two hundred horses off of Jeff Guest. And he passes half that money onto the young person, as their award and they go back and train some more horses.

Ben: Now do you ever get to meet any of these people, the kids that have been dealing with the ‘Horse Whisperer’? Do they ever come here and find the horse that was their friend?

Michael: Well I’ve got two boys here right now, I’ve got quite a few Indigenous staff here. And the great thing about the ‘Petford’ training centre is that now there’s leaders in all the communities that have been through that centre, that would have fallen off the wagon, and you know, have no purpose in life. Now these – some of these are Mayors of their communities. And a lot of them are leaders, but I got two boys here right now, and they’re as good as any, you know, person I’ve had   employed here and they take a lot of care of  those horses. And they make sure that, you know, the saddles fitting well and the other part to it, as well, is it gives tourists, you know, something to go away with that ‘Wow’  “I’ve been with some indigenous people, that know how to train horses”. They’ve got a great affinity with the land here and their stories. You know, they don’t miss anything. When they’re going past a tree, most people wouldn’t even see something. They’ll point it out to the guests that come here, and that in in itself is just something amazing.

Ben: So for people that have never ridden a horse what advice do you have for them? They’re coming up here, they’re going to experience Cairns and there’s so much to see but, do you sort of say to them, “Well if you’ve never ridden a horse, just come on out and I’ll show you how to do it”?

Michael: Well I’ve got a great sign in there, that we have quieter horses for beginners and we got some horses, if you’ve never ridden before, they’ve never been ridden either. So we keep that pretty light hearted.   

Ben: And I love that other one you’ve got, ‘Stop Horsing Around’.

Michael: But you know, we’ve got probably 80% of the people to come here, have never ridden a horse before. Very few people – if we got experience, we can cater for that as well but it’s a lot of children. Like today there’s half the riders is children and that’s what we like to cater for with the horse riding as well as the quad bikes.  Some people align with horsepower; some people align with the horses, so both ways that works for us here.

Ben: Fantastic! If you are up here, what adventure would you say people should be doing if they’re driving around?

Michael: I guess that is the greatest benefit Cairns has. We are the adventure capital of Australia, and it doesn’t matter whether you are two years of age or ninety years of of age you can enjoy it. And from skydiving through to the aquarium, through to bush walking, and trekking through the jungle of Cape Tribulation, there is so much here for everyone to do. I think there is over six hundred day tours you can do out of Cairns.  

Ben: Good grief.

Michael: So you can spend quite a bit time doing your research and then, yeah, even when you’ve done that you’ll still see new brochures that you’ve never seen before. That open your eyes to go, “Wow I should’ve stayed here another week.”                

Ben: It’s an amazing place I mean you know, it’s got everything. I mean you don’t go swimming in in summer; you’ve got all these other things you got to factor in.  The crocodile thing is interesting.    

Michael: Yeah well the crocodiles have certainly been on the agenda here for number of years, but the government is getting it right now and in the heavy populated areas, they are getting removed, again, but you know, you go to Hartleys Creek and see the crocodile show up there, where you’ve got the jumping crocodile out of the side of the boat. Wow. So there’s a two tonne crocodile that’s an armed length from you.  And you know jumping out of the water or the croc attack show, it’s insane. You’ve got the jumping crocodile out the side of the boat so there’s a two tonne crocodile that’s an armed length from you. You know, jumping out of the water or the croc attack show, yeah, it’s insane to see a human being, a man standing in water with a crocodile, while there is two or three hundred people in the in the crowd watching that, so I think that the wildlife component we’ve got up here from you know.

Ben: You’ve got everything.

Michael: Is something else, and kids just love to, you know, see wild animals and we have even, at, you go out to Koala Beach where the polocrosse grounds are out there, there’s hundreds and hundreds of wallabies. You can go right up beside them and take photos of them and  you can go out to Granit Gorge, just out from Mareeba there and feed the wallabies. And for a family that live in the city, something great to see that’s in nature. That’s not behind of a cage, or anything else, it’s in the wild that you can go and see, is something else.

Ben: Cities are very cold places, you can blend away and be nobody in those types of places and I suppose coming out here gives people a reason to reconnect. You must see some amazing things though, if like with families and kids that are so disengaged, they may come to a place like this and not really want to come here because mom and dad have chosen, but then they get here and you see a shift happen.

Michael: Oh certainly, we see a big spike every Christmas, every school holiday up here and, you know, for children to get out of their comfort zone, I mean the era’s change where we would be playing outdoors until dark, now you’re indoors all the time. And these kids get the advantage now of coming to Cairns, where they can actually go and run a quad bike or go snorkelling or do activities that are way outside their comfort zone  and that’s the reason why people keep coming back.

Ben: Now you got the caravan parks up hear, there’s a big business in in that area. Do you get a lot of people coming in from the parks to experience all this stuff?

Michael: Oh we certainly do there is no doubt about that, the, a lot of people enjoy the parks because there’s entertainment you know, all day round. And if you are in a hotel you got the swimming pool down stairs of course.

Ben: That’s about it. 

Michael: But with the the the new parks today, the kids are entertained from daylight til dark, and they actually go to sleep at night time because they’ve had so much fun through the daytime, and you could actually sit back and have a wine and and enjoy your evenings, but I’ve certainly    seen the shift towards parks and and I think it’s absolutely fantastic that we’ve got, you know, world class parks in Northern Queensland.

Ben: And a great working relationship. So if someone wanted to come out here and do one of your day tours, what do you recommend? What,  where do they go on a horse ride?

Michael: Yeah well we’ve got a courtesy bus, so we pick people up, but a lot of people that are staying in parks, some have cars and we do a great self-drive market here as well. But we do a really good price if you do the horses and the quad bikes together. One time you’d stereotype that all males like quad bikes, and all females like horse riding, but I tell you what, the girls are giving it a run for their money now.

Ben: I bet you they are, well you’ve got quite a few out there, how many of them you got? 

Michael: Yeah we can cater for thirty horse riders at any one time, the same with the quad bike. And we’ve got a four by four quad bike, so we can take kids down to four years of age, on both the activities.

Ben: Really?

Michael: And so the whole family do get to enjoy and sometimes if there’s a two-year-old infant, well you know someone can come out and look after them here. So they can still see what’s going on, and enjoy it.   So we’ve.

Ben: So you hop on the horses here, and where do they go? They go down through the back there somewhere?

Michael: Yeah well we got this beautiful bit of rainforest down the bottom here. And we’ve got the big billabong, and the billabong is eighteen acres and as we said before, there’s crocodiles in there.

Ben: Oh there is?

Michael: And yeah so it’s, signs will been there for a long long time, so beware of the crocodiles, but they are more scared of you than you are of them. All about the same probably.  So when there’s human beings around, they they tend to hide themselves very well, but there’s  amazing birdlife and butterflies in this area right here.

Ben: Really?

Michael: And you know, from a Jabaroo, that’s migrated down here this year to you know pigeon from PNG that’s down here at the moment.

Ben: Wow! 

Michael: And we got a lot of native ducks and and so forth. So there’s not a square inch here your not seeing a bird around here and so that’s what I really like about the horse riders, it’s very relaxing thing to do.

Ben: Sure.

Michael: And look at the mountains here, we got The Great Dividing Range and a lot of people wouldn’t even know that the The Great Dividing Range, runs the whole east coast of Australia, and right where we are here, is the closest Great Dividing Range comes to the coast so. 

Ben: Is that true?

Michael: So for the Daintree you’ve got, that that’s why they always say “where the rainforest meets the ocean” or I think it’s “The Great Barrier Reef.” And and right here, and an interesting story is Captain Cook when he circumnavigated Australia, he actually came in here to Palm Cove and he’d been trudging you know twenty kilometres inland to get a fresh water. And when he saw the mountains here, he came straight in and he filled the water, filled his barrels off the beach of Palm Cove and he  called that creek there Sweet Creek, so it’s still named  from his time in 1770.

Ben: Now do they still have the little cane trains that run around, or is it all gone now? 

Michael: No it’s still here.

Ben: Oh it’s still there? Still running around?

Michael: It’s still here. The seasons on right now, from now to    November. And all the cane is cut in that time and all done by a mechanical harvester now so it’s quite different.  Done very quickly.

Ben: And best time of the year to come up and do horse riding?

Michael: Any time of the year is good. You know certainly, you know, your school holiday times.  Now through til, you know, from June through til, you know, October is is definitely your top time of the year    to come here, but I always say to people, you’ll see something different each time you come here, explore different areas and the hotter  months of the  year, you know that’s when you go find Crystal Cascades and all the places with beautiful water and and nice and cold from the rainforest.

Ben: Well Michael Trout, thank you very much for joining us today and the telling us about you wonderful business ‘Blazing Saddles.’ Another great adventure here on Driving Your Own Adventure for Ingenia Holidays.

Michael: Thank you very much.

Intro Guy: Thanks for listening to Drive Your Own Adventure with Ingenia Holidays. With holiday parks and resorts across New South Wales and Queensland. Ingenia Holidays offers the ideal place for an extended break, weekend get away for a short stop over. Find your dream destination, with Ingenia Holidays at:           

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