Forget white sandy beaches, steel bridges, our sacred red rock or the Great Barrier Reef – Emu Creek’s Cowboy Up Trail Riding has been named as a top Queensland tourist destination.

Cowboy Up, conceptualised in 2009, is a farm in South East Queensland dedicated to all things horse riding. Peter and Gillian Gould established the Emu Creek farm to diversify from other farmers in the Darling Downs region. A lifelong passion and love for horses combined with a desire to teach drove them to start their now decade old venture. “We thought ‘why not try our hand at trail riding’ and it’s just gone from strength to strength,” Gill said.

What started out as a part-time business ended up being full-time work for the Goulds, from when they wake up in the morning to when they hit the hay at night. Feeding the animals comes first, which Peter says gets done “before we even have breakfast”. Between the trail riding, show horses, dogs, cats, sheep, chickens and cattle, there is still maintenance to think about. The couple say the work never ends but it is always worth it.

For Gill, what brings her the most joy every day is riding horses. After growing up in Sydney and always wanting a horse, Gill left home, and when she turned 19, bought her first horse. “I married a cowboy and the rest is history,” she laughs. As Gill talks about the horses, her enthusiasm is evident in every word, memory and breath. “Our horses are amazing. Their personalities are patient and forgiving — despite people bouncing around on them — they’re beautiful horses with great personalities. What do we do for a job? We ride horses. What do we do for fun? We ride horses.”
Though any teacher will say they “don’t have favourites”, Gill does not play into the stereotype for too long. She mentions Malcolm as her horse of choice, a grey gelding who has just turned 21, and has been with Gill for 20 years. “I always say if ever a horse was made for someone, he was made for me.”

But she is not the only one comfortable on Malcolm’s back. In preparation for Baz Luhrman’s film, Australia, actor Hugh Jackman learned the ropes of horse riding on Malcolm as a safety horse. Peter says the chemistry between actor and horse was remarkable. Aside from Jackman being “really down to earth” as a person, Peter describes him as enthusiastic and naturally gifted when it came to horse riding.

Since then, Peter has been named the must-see resident of Southern Queensland by Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ), putting him and Cowboy Up on the map as a tourist attraction. Peter has taught horse riding in multiple countries, taught stunts on the horses, trained horses for films and the business has also featured on an episode of The Bachelor New Zealand. But the cowboy remains grounded, and says the biggest highlight is watching people improve and learn. “That is my biggest thrill. You have got to have something that motivates you and that’s mine.”

Readers also enjoyed this story about our photographer Janine Waters.