Kiwi horse lovers dug deep this year, despite the recession, to ensure as many horses as possible were re-homed.

Date:  23 June 2009

Kelly Cairney with her horse Kaimanawa Lady Grace.
Kelly Cairney with her horse Kaimanawa
Lady Grace

Just five days after Kelly Cairney collected her wild Kaimanawa horse earlier this month, she got her first kiss.  “She is just delightful” said Ms Cairney, from Waiau Pa near Pukekohe. “We named her Kaimanawa Lady Grace, but call her Gracey.” Ms Cairney is thrilled with how quickly Gracey has adapted to her new environment. “We have spent many hours together each day to get her used to the odd two legged things that now inhabit her world.”

Gracey is one of 113 Kaimanawa horses that were suitable for re-homing following the muster and removal of 230 horses in the Waiouru Military Training Area, off the Desert Road in the central North Island. Her story is typical of the feedback coming from across the North Island.

Nigel Coddington, from Feilding, has been the muster’s vet for the past 12 years. He and his team assess the age, sex and condition of each horse before sorting into groups for transport. “It is generally only the juveniles and mares up to four years in good condition that can be re-homed, usually about 50% of the total mustered,” reports Mr Coddington. He noticed the overall condition of the horses was a little down this year.  “This probably reflects the drought experienced in this area over the past two years,” he suggests.  Cold winters and poor nutrients in the tussock land can also contribute.

Kiwi horse lovers dug deep this year, despite the recession, to ensure as many horses as possible were re-homed.  Between them the Kaimanawa Wild Horse Welfare Trust (KWHWT) and Kaimanawa Wild Horse Preservation Society (KWHPS) found potential homes for about 160 horses. “Some people missed out this year,” reports Elder Jenks, Chairman of KWHWT, “but they will be first in line next year”.

Shirley Blank, vice-chairperson and secretary of the Kaimanawa Wild Horse Preservation Society, assisted at the muster this year. A long time horsewoman and advocate for the welfare of Kaimanawa horses, Mrs Blank is quick to assure people that it is in the best interests of the horses to control the population, even if some need to be culled. “The last thing we want to see is huge numbers of starving and sickly horses, as we did in the early 90’s, when horses were left to reproduce without control,” she said. “This is the responsible course of action.”

The Department of Conservation (DOC) manages the herd to control the population, maintain it in a sustainable and healthy state, and to prevent damage to threatened species in this fragile landscape. The Kaimanawa Wild Horse Advisory Group (KWHAG) assists and advises DOC in this work. Membership includes the two horse welfare groups, tangata whenua, RNZSPCA, Forest and Bird, NZ Veterinary Association, NZ Defence Force and NZ Army, Taranaki-Whanganui Conservation Board, and neighbouring landowners. The same experienced team of stockmen, vets and helicopter operators have been contracted for the last 12 years to carry out the operation.

In the long term regular musters may not be needed if recent developments with contraceptive vaccines prove to be a viable option. The Kaimanawa Wild Horse Welfare Trust is committed to further investigation of this tool to help manage reproduction of the herd, and is working closely with DOC & other stakeholders to progress it. Chairman Elder Jenks is enthusiastic about this possibility. As horses have no natural predators in New Zealand to keep the population in check, the population increases by 18-25% each year. His group’s primary concern is maintaining the health and well-being of the herd and minimising the need to cull. “There is no point continuing to allow the horses to breed knowing at least half will be put down,” he said

For more information contact or comment:

Department of Conservation
Jason Roxburgh, Palmerston North Area Manager

Manawatu Base
Phone:   +64 6 350 9700
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   717 Tremaine Avenue
Palmerston North 4414
Postal Address:   Private Bag 11010
Palmerston North 4442

Horse Welfare Groups:

Kaimanawa Wild Horse Preservation Society, Karen Edmunds, Ph +64 7 823 3133
Kaimanawa Wild Horse Welfare Trust Inc., Elder Jenks, Ph +64 9 236 4115

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