1500km horseback journey highlights rural community spirit

1500km horseback journey highlights rural community spirit

Just over a year ago, Karolin van Onna and her friend Nici set off on the adventure of a lifetime. They rode the whole length of New Zealand's South Island on horseback, travelling over 1500 kilometres across three and a half months.

Van Onna, a German expatriate who has embraced New Zealand as her home, shares her extraordinary three-and-a-half-month-long horse trekking adventure. 

Alongside her friend Nici, Karolin rode on standardbred horses, originally harness racehorses, across the South Island's dramatic landscapes. The journey, while a testament to the resilience of both humans and horses, also highlighted the deep connections formed with the rural communities they encountered. 

Van Onna recounts her life's transition from media to pursuing her passion for horses, eventually leading to her founding a horse trekking business in Cromwell. 

"I always kind of found it really cool to follow people who do long horse riding trips like that worldwide really, and that kind of gave me the idea I would be so cool to see New Zealand from horseback." 

During the trek, Karolin and Nici faced various challenges, including the harsher weather towards the end of the trip and navigating the backcountry on horses not bred for such terrain. Yet, the horses showed incredible readiness, greeting them "at the gate and, you know, just ready for a new day." 

The bond with the horses was palpable, as was the hospitality of the people they met. 

"One of the best parts of the whole trip was the people that we met along the way," van Onna reflects, emphasising the overwhelming kindness of the landowners. 

The conversation also delves into the Golden Hills Horse Tracks in Cromwell, underscoring the popularity of the location for equine adventures and its social media presence, which can be explored through platforms like Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram. 

The conversation not only captures the essence of the duo's remarkable journey but also the sense of awe they experienced. Van Onna's narrative is one of encouragement for others to seek their adventures. 

Reflecting on the journey, she admits, "The whole time it kind of felt really surreal," expressing a mix of disbelief and gratitude for having seen parts of New Zealand most will never witness. 

Van Onna hints at the possibility of a documentary capturing their journey, potentially to be featured in film festivals like the Women's Adventure section of the Aussie Film Festival. 

For now, she continues to find joy in her horse trekking business.

 "I have nine horses so they keep me busy either way, but it's still, you know, riding horses every day, so I'm not complaining."

Listen to the full chat between Karolin van Onna and Dominic George above.

To check out more episodes listen to the REX Podcast anytime on your favourite streaming platforms including Spotify, Apple Music and Rova or tune in to REX Mornings live on Magic from 5 am to 6 am every weekday.

Visit the Rural Exchange Facebook or Instagram page for more information and regular updates from the REX team.