Kaimanawa muster sees 104 horses removed from backcountry

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Kaimanawa horses on the range. Photo: Kaimanawa Heritage Horses Society
Kaimanawa horses on the range. Photo: Kaimanawa Heritage Horses Society

More than 100 wild horses mustered from the central volcanic plateau in New Zealand’s North Island are today beginning their journey to new homes around the country.

Kaimanawa Heritage Horses reports that 104 horses were removed from the ranges yesterday in a muster involving three helicopters. The operation proceeded in good weather.

The horses, reported to be in excellent order overall, were held in yards overnight while members of the group matched the list of captured horses against those wanting to provide them with new homes.

The horses would today be trucked from the yards to four transition points around the North Island, from which the animals become the responsibility of their new owners.

It is the first muster in which demand for the horses has exceeded supply.

The group received applications for 170 horses, with the Department of Conservation muster targeting 100 horses to bring the wild population back to the agreed management level of 300.

Checks on potential owners’ experience with horses and the suitability of their premises are a mandatory part of the approval process, and some did not meet requirements.

However, Kaimanawa Heritage Horses ambassador Marilyn Jenks said the muster remained oversubscribed, and some people offering good homes would miss out this year.

She said a question-mark remained over just one of the mustered horses. A mare, she said, had a hoof problem. It was possible she may have hurt it during the muster or it may have been a pre-existing condition. She would be reassessed this morning.

The mare has been offered a home by people within Kaimanawa Heritage Horses, but must first be deemed fit for travel. That decision was to be made this morning, but communication with those at the yards in the back country was limited.

Jenks praised the efforts of all those involved in the operation, saying they had worked like Trojans to make the muster successful.

She did not yet have a complete breakdown of the horses, but understood there may not be as many younger animals as originally hoped.

Even so, homes were waiting and the horses were being trucked from the yards today.

Ten of the younger stallions will be adopted by individuals taking part in the Kaimanawa Stallion Challenge. The inaugural competition, in which the stallions’ trainers are judged on the skill-sets acquired by their animals, was first held after the last muster two years ago.

The last roundup in 2014 resulted in 162 horses being gathered. The charity found homes for 139 animals, another group successfully rehomed eight, and 15 went to slaughter, which was the best result in the charity’s history until this year’s muster.

About 1100 horses were removed in 1997, with the herd permanently cleared from the more ecologically sensitive areas in the northern region of the ranges. That effort brought numbers back to around 500 and the herd was managed at that level for a time. For the last four or five years it has been managed at around 300 horses.

The condition of the horses was generally found to improve once management numbers were reduced to 500, although thin pregnant mares with foals at foot were still seen.

The wild horses’ condition had improved even more since the management level was dropped to 300. The mustered horses were now well rounded, as if they had just come out of people’s paddocks.

One thought on “Kaimanawa muster sees 104 horses removed from backcountry

  • April 28, 2016 at 3:04 pm
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    I know it isn’t a perfect solution, but given the much improved condition of the horses and the problems being encountered managing feral herds in other parts of the world, it would seem the balance is now pretty good. Kudos to a lot of people who have worked very hard and suffered unimaginable heart ache over the years to achieve this result.

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