By Michelle Creegan-Dougherty.

A light drizzle of rain glistened on our horses coats as we waited for our transport truck. We had been awake since dawn, and we were trying our best to keep butterflies and mild symptoms of anxiety at bay. This was to be the first day of our dream adventure, a six month journey riding through the South Island.

It was late spring in Hawkes Bay, November 12 to be exact. As we hopped from foot to foot waiting for our trusty chariot to arrive and carry us into the unknown, the future seemed to be a huge blank canvas spread out before us.

It is now day 126, and that canvas has started to become quite full and colourful. We just barged our horses across Lake Wakatipu, and are taking a few days to plan our way south through the Greenstone. How life can amaze you!

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Michelle, Blythe, and Jade crossing the Cook Straight on the Interislander.

This trip is Blythe’s brainchild; for years she has dreamt of riding her horses through the high mountains and valleys of the South Island.

Blythe packs, trains, shoes, lives and breathes horses. When people ask her what she does normally her answer is a laughing “this”.

Four of the six horses on our trip belong to or are under her capable charge.

Most horses are pretty cool, but if I may go out on a limb our horses have been bloody brilliant. For over four months they have been through almost every counter-intuitive situation a two legged could think of, and not only kept it together but excelled. Jade’s horses are living proof of how adaptable and incredible heard animals are.

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Blythe on Whiskey leading Spirit and Magic across the Rakaia River.

Jade has competed for most of her riding career and has two lovely jumping horses. They had never done anything like the backcountry travel they do these days! Today, you can find Jade and her lovely paints tramping through big ?, crossing glacial rivers and climbing like goats up mountains.

Our journey through the South Island has been an adventure everyday. We have been incredibly blessed to ride through large tracts of private land and have met amazingly supportive people. We still have six weeks of riding ahead of us! We all realise that many horse riders out there would love to do what we are doing, and we are all the more appreciative of this opportunity knowing that we are living more than our own personal dream.

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Wairau River. Michelle riding Jack, leading Lani and holding Whiskey.

For this Canadian who always dreamt of visiting NZ, there is no turning back. Riding this land has created a love for this place which resembles my obsession with the Canadian Rockies. I drew the lucky straw when Blythe and Jade asked me to join their trip and test out my mountain skills this side of the pacific.

Our journey has resembled nothing that we have done before. We have no specific end goal, timeline, route or schedule. We have experienced freedom in the truest sense. And with out six closest four legged friends always close at hand, these three girls hit the road with a smile everyday.

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Jade on Jack and Michelle on Whiskey heading towards Castle Hill Station from Flock Hill Station.

Photography by Blythe Cruickshank


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