Get to Know Horse Trekking Guide Nette Tuffnell

Nette is a horseback guide for New Zealand-based company Aboutriding. She has lived all her life in the region of Muriwai Beach on the west coast of the Auckland Region in the North Island of New Zealand. Now she loves to show the area to riders, both novice and experienced, while sharing its secrets.
How did you get into horse riding treks?

I have ridden horses for 55 years and coached at adult rides and pony clubs. I was asked to manage another Horse Trekking company which I did for 2 and a half years.

How did you make the transition to becoming a tour guide?

With my coaching experience with positions such as head coach at a number of clubs under my belt, it was an easy transition to becoming a tour guide. I could easily relate to others and combine the riding with a little coaching which people very much appreciate.  Plus I have lived in the area all my life so I am knowledgeable about Muriwai Beach and the surrounding area.

What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day usually starts in the dark and ends in the dark. It is a lot of hard work to prepare all the horses. Our truck carries six horses in one load and we often have to do two loads. Once we are settled at the Horse Park we have to get breakfast ready for all the horses, get them watered, cleaned and geared up, ready for the riders.

Have you got a certain style of guiding, or do you just run with it on the day?

I have my own style of guiding. I make the rides entertaining and fun, and make sure I give everyone some individual attention. I also love to give riding tips on rides and often have repeat business.

What is the best part of your job?

Being with the horses and meeting people. I get on well with all nationalities and can communicate even if I don’t speak their language. I genuinely like people.

What’s the most bizarre experience you’ve had on a guided tour?

When a young child came on a ride who had never been on a horse and was quite nervous. She didn’t really want to go and even shed a few tears. We put her on one of our best horses and by the time we were halfway round the trek she was asking if she could go faster. We gave her a couple of strides which were a little faster than a walk and she managed it beautifully. By the time we were nearly home, all she wanted to do was what she termed as run. She kept saying can we run, can we run? It was classic.

Ever had any odd requests from clients?

One rider who came (a lady around 30 years old) asked halfway round if she could hop off and go into the bushes to take her knickers off as she had worn lacy knickers and they were scratching her. We laughed about that one for days.

Are there any aspects of your job that you aren’t that keen on?

It is a very responsible job and the biggest hurdle is pairing up the riders with horses that you think will suit them best. Some people make it more difficult when they say they can’t ride so you put them on the most steady horses and then you find out they actually can ride. They then proceed to push their horses along and create problems. Our rule is that we generally split the ride if there are riders who can ride and take them for a faster ride without the beginners. I think they are not honest because they don’t want to be put on a horse that is unruly, but we don’t have unruly horses – just plodders for the real beginners which are more suitable for them and riders with some experience don’t need to be on these horses.

What do you think are the benefits of hiring a guide?

Safety would be a big factor. I know all the horses, what they do and don’t like. I also know the forest well – it is 36,000 acres, so one could easily get lost. I know the area well and can also let people know where many movies were filmed along with other interesting and entertaining facts. I also know the best trails.

Tell us something that only a guide would know.

Horses are never as good in high winds, hence why we need reliable usually older horses. Also sometimes riders can be tough for the horses when they don’t ride correctly. For example leaning too far back especially up hill, and balancing on their reins. Our main task is to take care of the horses as they are our bread and butter.

In your view, what makes a good tour guide?

Someone who has good people skills and good horse sense.

Any tips for people who are interested in booking a guide, but aren’t too sure what to look for?

Look at the feedback and reviews. Don’t just look at the latest reviews. Scroll through many so you get a clearer picture of the business and the people who are your prospective guides or guide. Many reviews mention the guide as well as the trek itself, and you can soon work out whether you would trust and feel confident in booking with the company.

Get a feel for what a trip with Nette will be like by checking out this fun little video.  

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