Wanstead adventurer plans epic horseback trek

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ON THE ROAD: Louise McNutt on a trial trek in Gisborne earlier this year, aboard Pedro, with Koru alongside, in preparation for her 2500km journey through New Zealand.
ON THE ROAD: Louise McNutt on a trial trek in Gisborne earlier this year, aboard Pedro, with Koru alongside, in preparation for her 2500km journey through New Zealand.

Louise McNutt has travelled the globe following her passion for wildlife conservation, but this month she is taking time to discover her own backyard on a new challenge, an solo trek by horseback from Bluff to Cape Reinga.

Raised on a 1000-acre (404ha) sheep farm in Wanstead, Louise spent her childhood roaming the hills on her pony, and this freedom fostered a love for wide open spaces and the creatures that live there.

After finishing school at Central Hawke's Bay College, she went to Massey University and it was while studying a Bachelor of Science that she heard the call of the wild.

"I realised that what I was doing was very theoretical and that I would come out with degrees but not the experience needed to get a job."

So she took a year off and headed to Canada before finishing her studies. She has since been to many parts of the world working and volunteering on research projects with the likes of Siberian tigers in Russia, wolves in Montana, snow leopards in Mongolia and more recently wildlife monitoring in Kenya.

She has also worked on boats as an observer off the coast of New Zealand collecting data on marine life, but for all this far-flung globetrotting she had left one country out.

"I didn't feel I had explored New Zealand as well as I could have and I was keen to do it at a slower pace, so decided what better way to do it than by horseback."

She knew she would need good horses for the 2500km trail, hardy and sure-footed, and the breed that came to mind was Kaimanawa horses.

She's the first person to make this solo journey with Kaimanawas, and for the past six to seven months she has been back at home in Wanstead preparing the two she will be taking.

One, Koru, is a 7-year-old stallion (now gelded) she picked up from this year's muster in May, the other Pedro, a 5-year-old who was bred in captivity.

"Both horses are quite green and inexperienced - I have had to teach them to carry packs, be hobbled, tethered, and get used to things rattling on them, as well as walking on roads, in rivers and bush."

The plan is to drive the horses to Bluff in the float, and then assess the route she had mapped out.

"I had a plan of exactly where I would like to go but I'm not sure how those areas have been affected by the earthquake."

Her preparations have also included contacting landowners to seek permission to ride over their properties, and preparing supplies she will take.

Her partner will be supporting her in the first few months, dropping food supplies off at pre-arranged locations.

"I have organised 12 buckets, each of which contain 10 days of food as I anticipate that will be the longest stretch of time between re-supply points."

The staple food will be Kaweka meals, as part of a sponsorship deal, pasta, rice, dehydrated vegetables and other non-perishables.

As for the horses, their grazing will be boosted with additional feed and Equilibrium mineral supplements, and their hooves protected with Renegade hoofboots that will provide good traction, regardless of the surface.

In terms of safety, she will be carrying an EPIRB beacon locator and a SAT phone as well as first aid kit.

At this point, she intends to be in the South Island by December, and in the meantime has a three-day trial trek from Wanstead to Blackhead Beach.

As well as challenging herself, she said the aim of this adventure was to inspire others, and she has set up a section on her website so people can follow her journey.

"I would like to think that reading my story would inspire others and show them that if you are focused and work hard you can pull it off."

She said a lot of people had come on board to support her efforts with advice and help - "it's been overwhelming".

People can follow her trek on her Facebook blog page GingerNutt Journeys and more about her background can be found on her website www.loumcnutt.com

- Hawkes Bay Today

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