Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Easy to muster enthusiasm for this Shepherdess do

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Sara Hilhorst feels renewed and refreshed after an event designed for rural NZ women.
The jam-packed weekend offered a range of workshops catering to everyone’s needs, ranging from early mornings to late in the evening.
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As we landed back at Palmerston North Airport on Sunday afternoon on February 18, one word jumped to mind to describe my experience of the Shepherdess Muster – “Wow.” 

When I thought about this word, having processed my experience more, I came to the realization that the wahine of New Zealand are a force to be reckoned with. 

The weekend offered an insight into the lives and journeys of influential women from many different cultures and backgrounds who navigated their way to success.

Typical of the New Zealand transport system, the journey had started with a cancelled flight to Auckland. This meant no flight to Gisborne, which left no alternative but to drive. As someone who suffers from travel sickness, my anxiety levels were increasing. To make matters worse, I still hadn’t yet met the women I would be traveling to Mōtū with. Well, a seven-hour car trip means you get to know strangers pretty quickly and while this wasn’t exactly part of the plan, it was certainly a case of some things are just meant to be.

On arrival, a couple of hours late, it was straight into our “OpShop Frock” attire and to dinner – after having an Instagram pic under the Shepherdess Muster arch, which was dressed in a large array of flowers. 

Looking around over drinks and canapés in the sunshine, it was clear to see that everyone was embracing the dress-up theme. Before any formalities, one trend that was already beginning to shine through was that everybody could be completely themselves with no judgment, which allowed people to quickly settle into the relaxed culture of the weekend.

A roundup of the troops for dinner and a comedy session were next on the agenda and guests were treated to the delightful Michèle A’Court, who had everyone in hysterics at her female-orientated jokes. 

With everyone staying on site there was no limit to alcohol and good times, particularly when the band was introduced, and many danced their way into the next morning.

Saturday morning, it was off to one of the fitness options to make the most of the jam-packed weekend. I was quietly trying to head my way to yoga but unintentionally made eye-contact with the dance instructor. It took a little bit of warming in at 6.30am but it did break the ice with a group of people in the same boat.

The weekend progressed with several workshops and key speakers, all of whom had their own quite different but equally empowering stories of their journeys through life and business. 

Flower crown workshop at The Shepherdess Muster. Photo: Supplied

The workshop options catered to a variety of needs, depending on what you wanted to get out of the weekend. Many were female and business focused but there were craft, dance, and comedy options available for those who wanted an experience that didn’t work the brain as much. 

If your focus was to rest and relax, beauty and massage appointments were on offer also, as well as wellness caravans and melanoma spot checks. The Shepherdess team nailed the choices and there was something for everyone at every stage of the weekend. 

The weekend was fully catered and when it came to the food there couldn’t possibly be any complaints, with options often described as a “wedding menu”. 

With no cell phone reception, networking, and socialising were forced upon everyone, particularly at seated meals. This allowed mixing and mingling with people from a range of areas. With fewer than 350 guests in attendance, you bumped into one another multiple times over the weekend, which gave you a real sense of belonging.

All in all, this weekend was beyond my expectations. I came away with a new sense of belonging, gratitude, and pride in our rural women and communities. I made a trio of great new friends on my road trip and spoke with people from many different walks of life, who I would never have crossed paths with in normal daily life. 

I can fully recommend this opportunity to anyone who needs a weekend away to refresh and refocus, as well as gaining invaluable business and life education.  Congratulations to everybody who had input to the weekend – you nailed it, and I know many who attended, including myself, will be back.

MORE: Sara Hilhorst is an AgriHQ analyst. She attended the event as a guest of Shepherdess Muster.

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