More homes needed to adopt wild Kaimanawa horses

By Jessica Tyson
Tommy Waara with horses Te One and Tukotahi. Source: Tommy Waara, Facebook

The Department of Conservation (DOC) says more homes are needed to care for up to 80 Kaimanawa horses to be mustered this year.

The Kaimanawa horses are a wild population of horses that roam the outback of the Kaimanawa Ranges.  DOC says they put native plants at risk so are captured and trained to help control their numbers.

The muster is held on an annual basis so that a total population base of 300 horses can be managed, as recommended by the Kaimanawa Wild Horse Advisory Group.

Tommy Waara from Raetihi is one of many trainers who has homed Kaimanwa horses.

He says the most challenging part about the experience is simply surviving.

“Stallions are pretty dangerous to work with if you don’t know them.”

In 2014, Waara trained two horses, Te One and Tukotahi.

"In the 2014 Kaimanawa Stallion challenge, I learned that with the right start, these Kaimanawas can be incredibly versatile horses, capable of excelling in a variety of disciplines and the bond you'll create by gaining the trust of a wild horse will last a lifetime," he wrote in a post on Facebook.

Waara says when the horses first come out of the wild, they have never been in a confined space before. They don't understand fences, farm animals or water troughs and are running off of their base 'flight or fight' fear responses.

"We are currently building the required facilities including round yards, holding pens, loading ramps and handling yards in order to give these horses the best chance they can get at a successful domestic life," says Waara, “It’s not [about] just jumping in with them and trying to break them.  It’s about them letting you into their world – not you trying to bring them into our world.”

According to the Kaimanawa Heritage Horses website, a programme of culling horses was put in place through aerial shooting in 1992.

“To date approx 2,000 horses have been removed from the Kaimanawa Ranges.  Over half have been slaughtered,” Kaimanawa Heritage Horses said in a statement.

DOC says between 20 and 30 homes are still required to meet this year’s desired target.

With progress to date, the re-homing groups Kaimanawa Heritage Horses and Kaimanawa Wild Horse Preservation Society are hopeful that all places for horses required will be filled.