In October 2019 we embarked on our most daring adventure yet: Taming 3 wild Kaimanawa stallions and traversing the length of New Zealand.

Our Journey So Far

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Nights in tent

Our Mission

In October 2019, we will be traversing the length of New Zealand on horseback, accompanied and guided by our team of recently-tamed, wild Kaimanawa horses. Starting at the Bluff, we will ride through both islands to conclude our journey in Cape Reinga, taking an estimated eight months to complete. 

Through this ride, we aspire to both share and protect New Zealand’s wild spaces, whilst connecting people through nature and inspiring others to embrace a rewilding journey of their own.

In conjunction with our journey, we are also developing our humanandhorse.co.nz platform to connect New Zealand’s equestrian community and develop the equine industry in NZ. Throughout our journey, we will be documenting and advocating for horse-friendly trails / routes throughout the country as well as providing a platform to access information to riders looking to get out and explore. 

 

 

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity”


– John Muir

Follow our Journey

Our story begins four years ago, amongst the snowgum-covered hills of the Australian High Country, retracing the hoofprints of the iconic “Man from Snowy River” movies on horseback. Although we come from very different backgrounds – Jess in forensic anthropology and Bijmin in digital media, our love for horses and exploring the untamed spaces on earth found us both abandoning the conventional 9-5 rat race in search of a more authentic and fulfilling lifestyle. It was during our time here at Watsons Trail Rides that our separate journeys intertwined and a passion for sharing the wild places around us was ignited. Since then we’ve been travelling the world, finding magical places that help us connect both with nature and with ourselves, alongside the best teachers we’ve ever come across: Horses.

Our journey has taken us through the most remote wilderness area in the lower 48 states, guiding 6 day unsupported pack-trips with Yellowstone WIlderness Outfitters alongside the bison, bears and wolves that call these woods and open plains their home. It has taken us to the Tapapa cliffs and rolling green hills of New Zealand’s North Island with River Valley Stables – teaching others how to connect with horses, and themselves, through natural horsemanship. Finally, our journey has taken us to the rugged alpine, glacially-carved valleys of New Zealand’s South Island, swimming horses in crystal clear glacial fed pools and exploring ancient native beech forests with a focus on sharing the transformative power of being immersed in nature with everyone who has joined us for this spectacular 5 day ride with High Country Horses.

Each experience has taught us a unique way to interact with and appreciate the treasures of the natural world and how important it is to share and protect those spaces for future generations. 

Our Story

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Some magic on horseback where the ocean meets the mountains at Kaihoka Lakes with our little wild tribe.

An amazing weekend away exploring the rolling hills, sheer cliffs and native forests of this incredible corner of Golden Bay.
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Some magic on horseback where the ocean meets the mountains at Kaihoka Lakes with our little wild tribe.  An amazing weekend away exploring the rolling hills, sheer cliffs and native forests of this incredible corner of Golden Bay.

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Amazing country!

Great photos. I bet the ponies enjoyed some new scenery too!

That's stunning, thank you for the pictures.x

Stunning 😍

Wow!! Amazing photos, looks stunning 😎 hope you are both well and you and the ponies are enjoying some awesome adventures 🤩

Fabulous riding adventures!

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Toka Days

I spent the morning at Hack Farm playing around with Toka in the field with a neck rope. He is really starting to get it! It's such a magical feeling to have an animal so powerful and independent respond to such light and subtle movements. We worked our way through the obstacle course which included horse-eating pool noodles, attack flags and a scary narrow bridge. Toka did a fantastic job working through each one halterless (I did leave it on him though for emergency brake purposes 🙂 ) and stuck with me every step of the way.

Photo Credit: My friend Siv caught a few photos of us! Thanks!
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Toka Days  I spent the morning at Hack Farm  playing around with Toka in the field with a neck rope. He is really starting to get it! Its such a magical feeling to have an animal so powerful and independent respond to such light and subtle movements. We worked our way through the obstacle course which included  horse-eating pool noodles, attack flags and a scary narrow bridge. Toka did a fantastic job working through each one halterless (I did leave it on him though for emergency brake purposes :) ) and stuck with me every step of the way.  Photo Credit: My friend Siv caught a few photos of us! Thanks!

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Lovely photos

Lovely to see you are still doing what you love Jess!

What a wonderful life you have 🥰😍 playing in nature’s beauty with the most amazing animals 🙌🏻

What a treasure to see you qorkung your horses

Wow, the photos captured your joy. Excellent

Your smile is huge !

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It looks lovely, it's great to see what you're up to and where you are. Thanks for sharing

Looks like a fun time. Glad to see you’re living your best life. 🥰🐴🐴

Patons Rock.......I almost purchased a place there once many years ago. Sigh. I do believe you guys are having some difficulty leaving Golden Bay.....am I right? And I fully understand. 🙂

Yay Dibsy! 🙂

Wind, surf and sky. Perfect!

Hello Jess from Greenfield, NH...🤗

Glad you guys are doing well

Awesome 🤩

Still Jealous😜💕

Where is patterns rock?

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I wrote this in my journal last week and I have slowly built up the courage to post it publicly. The topic, asking for help, is something that I struggle with, especially with Bijmin. It is as if a switch goes off in my head- asking for help means that I am incapable. Even though this thinking is limiting and absolutely incorrect, it still strives to takes root deep inside my mind.

Bijmin and I have been living parallel lives over the last six years- living, working and adventuring together almost 24 hours a day. Sometimes, it's easy to forget that we have separate and distinct strengths and weaknesses- and that that is exactly what makes us a fantastic team. It is not because we are the same that we work well together, it is because we are different.

APRIL 17 2021

Today was profound. Today I asked for help. Today I soothed my ego and decided that going on an adventure to Kaihoka lakes with my Toka-Pony was more important to me than my drive to do it all by myself. Today I decided it was time to alter my internal narrative, the one telling myself I was only "good enough" if I did it on my own.

Today I cried tears of joy and sorrow as I watched Bijmin achieve what I knew Toka (and I) could do. Today I watched him take the final set in float-training my pony. That final step.

After Toka got a fright last week (he squeezed himself under the bum bar), we were back at stage one: staring wide eyed at the float which stood unassuming 3 meters away. I balked at the idea that we would make it back to where we had been (self-loading and happily munching hay inside), in such a short timeframe.

By the time our trip departure date arrived, we had made it back onto the float, but just barely, and nowhere near being "hay-munching" comfortable inside. I wasn't confident in my ability to get him through the final phase of training by the end of the day and thus, Toka's ability to succeed was also impaired.

So I had a decision to make- to ask for help or to continue at my own pace. Either option presented me an opportunity for learning and growth, but the latter had a stronger possibly that Toka would not join us that weekend away at Kaihoka Lakes. So I took a deep breath and reached out for assistance.

This was hard for me and I won't say that it was an overly smooth, graceful and composed request. I am thankful to Bijmin for being so kind and supportive in the face of my vulnerability.

Asking for help is SO difficult. Admitting limitations is SO difficult. But difficult things are not bad things. Difficulty creates change. Change creates growth. And today I became a stronger person. Today I watched with pride and love as Bijmin loaded our ponies and we all departed on a weekend adventure. Today I am proud of myself, proud of my pony and both proud and appreciative of "my" Bijmin.

We had a fantastic weekend spent exploring the hills, valleys and beaches of another part of this stunning country. With lovely riding, wonderful company and perfect weather, the trip was such a wonderful treat. More stories and photos to come of this most recent mini-adventure 🙂

I hope that this little story might give others the strength to reach out and ask for help when they need it as well.

Have a wonderful day!

-Jess
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I wrote this in my journal last week and I have slowly built up the courage to post it publicly. The topic, asking for help, is something that I struggle with, especially with Bijmin. It is as if a switch goes off in my head- asking for help means that I am incapable. Even though this thinking is limiting and absolutely incorrect, it still strives to takes root deep inside my mind.  Bijmin and I have been living parallel lives over the last six years- living, working and adventuring  together almost 24 hours a day. Sometimes, its easy to forget that we have separate and distinct strengths and weaknesses- and that that is exactly what makes us a fantastic team. It is not because we are the same that we work well together, it is because we are different.  APRIL 17 2021  Today was profound. Today I asked for help. Today I soothed my ego and decided that going on an adventure to Kaihoka lakes with my Toka-Pony was more important to me than my drive to do it all by myself. Today I decided it was time to alter my internal narrative, the one telling myself I was only good enough if I did it on my own.  Today I cried tears of joy and sorrow as I watched Bijmin achieve what I knew Toka (and I) could do. Today I watched him take the final set in float-training my pony. That final step.  After Toka got a fright last week (he squeezed himself under the bum bar), we were back at stage one: staring wide eyed at the float which stood unassuming 3 meters away.  I balked at the idea that we would make it back to where we had been (self-loading and happily munching hay inside), in such a short timeframe.  By the time our trip departure date arrived, we had made it back onto the float, but just barely, and nowhere near being hay-munching comfortable inside. I wasnt confident in my ability to get him through the final phase of training by the end of the day and thus, Tokas ability to succeed was also impaired.  So I had a decision to make- to ask for help or to continue at my own pace. Either option presented me an opportunity for learning and growth, but the latter had a stronger possibly that Toka would not join us that weekend away at Kaihoka Lakes. So I took a deep breath and reached out for assistance.  This was hard for me and I wont say that it was an overly smooth, graceful and composed request. I am thankful to Bijmin for being so kind and supportive in the face of my vulnerability.  Asking for help is SO difficult. Admitting limitations is SO difficult. But difficult things are not bad things. Difficulty creates change. Change creates growth. And today I became a stronger person. Today I watched with pride and love as Bijmin loaded our ponies and we all departed on a weekend adventure. Today I am proud of myself, proud of my pony and both proud and appreciative of my Bijmin.  We had a fantastic weekend spent exploring the hills, valleys and beaches of another part of this stunning country. With lovely riding, wonderful company and perfect weather, the trip was such a wonderful treat. More stories and photos to come of this most recent mini-adventure :)  I hope that this little story might give others the strength to reach out and ask for help when they need it as well.  Have a wonderful day!  -Jess

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You can also think of it as asking for guidance from someone who might be able to fill in our gaps. We all have gaps and they change all the time.😘😘

Enjoy it, it's a beautiful part of the country 🙂

Its hard to be vulnerable at times. To admit your weaknesses. But look what it bought you in return.... reading this made my heart smile Jess ❤

Having entered my 70's and NEVER having been one to ask for or accept help, I SO identify with your dilemma! Especially dealing with my 6-year-old mare who is prone to bucking! So glad this worked out for you and that you have a partner who cares so much!

Thanks for the share Jess Mullins! It is hard for many of us to ask for help at times but as I get older I become less judgmental of myself. Be safe...

Great post Jess. Shelton and I face same stubbornness with each other. Always a better day for us when we can each find the other’s strengths. Think of y’all often and really enjoy your posting which let’s me see you both though from a long distance.

Good girl! I am.proud of you.for this step. And I am profoundly grateful that Bijmin in is.there to be your partner! Camt wait to see thw photo

Beautiful post ♥️ Thank you for sharing 😊

Truly valid post Jess, thanks for sharing xxx

You are a beautiful soul Jess Mullins. Thank you for sharing this.

Good on you Jess.

Thanks for sharing Jess xx

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Our little tribe cooling down after some springtime sunshine 🙂 ... See MoreSee Less

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What fun! I got to swim on my horse this summer, Nothing like it. That looks like a great spot.

This is the most beautiful spot for a horse dip <3

So much fun for everyone. Ponies and humans ❤️🐴

That’s beautiful

They're looking really good, great condition and tone on them.

So awesome ❤

Oh this is just so so beautiful. Makes my soul happy.

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Our Horses

In April 2018 we adopted 3 wild Kaimanawa stallions from the annual KHH muster. From the moment Tokala, Madiba and Kaewa stepped off the truck our lives were forever changed.

Although our journey together is just beginning, theirs began a long time ago. These horses are born and raised free spirits of the Kaimanawa ranges; the rolling hills that gave them their name. They spend their days roaming the hills in natural herd groups, existing in harmony with the land around them. These wild animals embody what nature intended for the horse. Over years of survival, the hills have sculpted them into strong hardy animals, with coats to withstand the elements, hooves conditioned to the rough and rocky terrain, and a fiery soul that runs freely through their veins.

Click on any of the profiles below to find out more about each horse and updates with where they’re at. 

Adventure Journal

Madiba the kaimanawa horse
Madiba

Madiba

Madiba (Dibs) is the little joker of the group. This little horse has been one of our most challenging so far but loves cuddles.

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