Horse and rider complete circumnavigation of NZ six years after leaving Hawke's Bay

Sitting in a saddle for 9000 kilometres, circumnavigating New Zealand is not everyone's idea of fun. 

But South Islander Larissa Mueller and her trusty 11-year-old grey station bred Sprite have had disadvantaged children top of mind at every turn - and their marathon journey came to an end on Saturday six years after it all began. 

"It's been a bucket list adventure", says the 33-year-old. "An adventure of a lifetime for sure."

Mueller barely knew the back end of a horse from the front when she first set out in 2014 with friend Kendall Waugh to tackle the 4000 kilometre South Island coastline.

"The first time we turned around within a day we realised we were too inexperienced so we spent another year planning," says Mueller.

When Waugh found love, Mueller decided to go it alone in 2019 with her trusty companion Sprite.

She travelled up to 30 kilometres a day during the summer season with "non-stop travel for 6-7 months and then we've stopped in the winter and that's a chance for me to earn money to keep me going too".

With a day off every few days "to rest Sprite, do my washing and life admin", her focus has been raising $20,000 for the Leg-Up Trust, which works with disadvantaged youth with mental health, or behavioural problems.  

Over the six years, she's been supported by strangers who've offered grazing, shelter and food; handwritten notes with directions across farms and even a regular Kiwi bloke who drove with them on dangerous stretches north of Greymouth. 

"I'm not one to toot my own horn but I'm really proud that I've done this and stuck at it, it hasn't been easy. There have been many hard days but there have been some incredible days too and it's the generosity of kiwis that's made it all worthwhile," says Mueller.

Despite wearing high visibility clothing, and in some cases having a pilot vehicle driven by partner Alex, Mueller says she's had some close calls.

"Motorists still don't understand no matter how bombproof horses like Sprite can be, you still need a 2-metre wide berth."

And it's her mate's welfare on this fundraising drive that's always been key.

Because after all the effervescent Sprite ridden in just a rope halter, has given it her all, right up until the finish line.

Click here to donate to the Leg-Up Trust.