By Michelle Creegan-Dougherty.
Travelling around the South Island with our horses has been a dream come true, but an adventure such as this takes a lot of hard work. Truthfully, we have had many blissful days free of worry, yet even these days come with their fair share of hard work and responsibility. One of the most challenging aspects of a trip like ours, with no support vehicle and our only supplies being what our horses can carry, has been the health and upkeep of our mounts.
Our horses are our number one priority, the most important part of our daily lives. Any opportunity to let them eat, rest and recover is taken. Special care to avoid rubs, to keep up their condition, and to maintain their overall wellbeing is a daily constant. Our lives at the moment are intricicately entwined with our horses, and we have been blessed to have such a willing and able herd!
So far we have been travelling for four and a half months, and have come from Blenhiem to just south of Queenstown. Yes, our trail has resembled a meandering river more than a straight line, but the prevalent reason for slow travel is to ensure we don’t push our horses too hard. They are in a marathon on this trip, not a sprint!
When we started our trip, three of the six horses were very green. Two geldings (brothers in fact) Magik and Spirit had just been started by Blythe. Although related, they have very different personalities. Where Magik is grey, very laid back and open, Spirit is dark bay, highly intelligent but untrusting of people (he loves humans he knows and trusts). They are four and have done a fabulous job as packhorses and will be very solid riding horses when we get home. The other inexperienced horse is Lani, a seven year old who Blythe started as a three year old. She was in pasture for a few years and hadn’t done much since being started, so she began the trip packing as well. She quickly progressed to be my riding horse, and has proven herself time and time again. It is truly incredible to see how far these three have come!
Blythe’s horse Whiskey is our trail savy leader, having years of experience under his girth in the bush of the Ruahine Ranges. He is a handsome chestnut, with a strong build and a wonderful temperament. Many people have had smiles on their faces after encounters with this lovely gelding! Jade’s two paints had never really experienced natural challenges before like they have in the high country of the South Island. Being competition horses, their lives changed the most drastically. They are proof that horses can do almost anything with the right leadership. All of our horses constantly raise the bar, climbing mountains, navigating bush and swamp, and staying calm on busy roads. We have mustered with them on high country stations, swum them in crystal clear lakes and even taken them on a barge across Lake Wakatipu! Whether we are asking them to side step boulders or avoid sheep trucks they willingly work everyday.
This sort of a trip really connects a person to their horse. We spend almost every waking and sleeping moment beside our horses. Their natural rythyms and energies rule our world the way a schedule rules most of the rest of the world. It is a rare and profound opportunity, one that we are grateful for everyday. All horse lovers should have a chance at some point in their lives to connect on a deeper level with their equine partner, no matter the discipline- we highly recommend it! So this entry is for you, our six beautiful and brave friends. Thank you for allowing this dream to come true!