The lives of 150 Kaimanawa wild horses hang in the balance as the deadline looms for rehoming requests ahead of this year’s muster.
Last year’s roundup in New Zealand’s Kaimanawa Ranges was cancelled because of Covid-19, and advocates say about 200 horses will be removed in this year’s muster at the end of April.
Applications to take a horse from the muster close on April 1 with advocacy group Kaimanawa Heritage Horses (KHH), a registered charity run by volunteers. Applications for only 50 horses had so far been received.
Horses are rounded up in family groups by the country’s Department of Conservation (DoC), usually from specific areas which are decided by DoC from the results of the annual census.
DoC veterinarians decide which horses are suitable for re-homing and which will be slaughtered. At the last muster, in 2019, 70 horses were brought in, and for the first time, none were vetted out or euthanised.
KHH is urging those who want to take a Kaimanawa horse to start working toward their application early. “If you need to prepare yards, create paddocks or build a loading ramp, by starting now you can save a whole lot of heartache closer to the muster because things just weren’t ready in time,” the group says.
DoC will transport the horses from the muster yards to a distribution point, and transport to their new homes is to be arranged by their new owners. “The truck driver may refuse to unload the horses if he believes the facilities provided are unsafe for the horses, driver, or the truck.”
Representatives from KHH are available to assess properties for suitability. For applications, two referees are required, as well as a home inspection, and an application fee of $100 which is deducted from the purchase price of the horse.
KHH said that prospective homes need cattle yards with a loading ramp. The yards should be a minimum height of 1.8 metres.
The group also said that care was needed in initial grazing management and feed routines. “Grass, hay and plenty of clean water are required when a horse first arrives. Wild horses are not used to lucerne or grain feeds, which should be introduced slowly.”
The price of the first horse is $250, and additional horses are $220 each. Mare and foal combinations are $400 for the first pair, and $370 for additional pairs. These prices include a one-year KHH membership and horse registration. A $75 gelding rebate is available on receipt of a veterinary certificate.
Kaimanawa horses are small but strong and sturdy horses, good doers, with intelligence and personality. They domesticate well and become loyal family members, the KHH says.
• More information on applying for a horse from the 2021 muster is here.