30 Mar 2024

200 homes sought for wild Kaimanawa horses as advocates face 'very difficult' year

6:54 pm on 30 March 2024
The Kaimanawa horses are mustered annually to keep the herd at a maximum of 300 animals.

The Kaimanawa horses are mustered annually to keep the herd at a maximum of 300 animals. Photo: Supplied/Kimber Brown

Advocates are desperately seeking hundreds of homes for wild Kaimanawa horses before their muster in a few weeks' time.

The horses - descended from ponies released by early European settlers - have roamed the Waiouru Military Training area in the central North Island since the 1800s.

They are mustered annually to keep the herd at a maximum of 300 animals and protect the native plants that are unique to the area.

Mustered horses are then available for adoption by experienced horse owners.

Last year's muster was cancelled due to Cyclone Gabrielle, so this year, 230 horses will be seeking homes after the round-up on 25 April.

However, only 14 people have applied, according to the charity Kaimanawa Heritage Horses.

"This year it is proving to be a very difficult time to find homes that can provide the care needed for a wild horse, although we are still hopeful that many horses will successfully be rehomed and this is what we are working hard to achieve," the charity said in a Facebook post.

"Our purpose is to place horses in homes where they will be most likely to be successfully tamed and cared for by knowledgeable owners."

A Kaimanawa horse which was re-homed.

A Kaimanawa horse that was rehomed after a previous year's muster. Photo: Supplied / Kimber Brown

An aerial survey carried out last month by the Department of Conservation (DOC) showed the herd had increased to nearly double the recommended number of horses for the area.

"The large herd means damage to the environment, and the wild horses outstripping their food supply," DOC central plateau operations manager Dave Conley said.

"A herd this size also increases the risk of horses wandering towards the Desert Road and becoming a hazard for drivers.

"The need for the muster is clear, we just hope we can find plenty of good homes for the horses."

Kaimanawa Heritage Horses chair Carolyn Haigh encouraged people to contact the charity as soon as possible. Its welfare team would provide more information about the rehoming process, she said.

Those interested would also need to complete a property check.

"With not long until applications close, there's not a lot of time for interested parties to deliberate," Haigh said.

"It's a real concern that some people may simply run out of time."

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation lists Kaimanawa horses as a group with special genetic value, comparable to the mustangs of the western United States and wild zebras.

The herd grew to greater prominence in 2015 with the release of the Wilson sisters' TV show Keeping Up with the Kaimanawas.

Released in 2015, the show followed the trio - Vicki, Kelly and Amanda - as they attempted to tame some of the wild horses and turn them into show jumpers.

Since 2022, contraceptive injections have been given to some Kaimanawa horses in hopes of keeping their numbers low and taking some of the pressure off the rehoming programme.

Anyone interested in adopting one of the horses can contact Kaimanawa Heritage Horses at muster@kaimanawaheritagehorses.org or visit https://kaimanawaheritagehorses.org/muster-information/.

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