A group dedicated to the preservation of New Zealand’s Kaimanawa wild horses say up to 120 lives will be lost unless more homes can be found for animals to be removed in this year’s Department of Conservation muster.
The department is targeting 180 horses in the upcoming muster under a programme that aims to keep the horse numbers in check in the remote central North Island ranges they inhabit.
The Kaimanawa Heritage Horses Welfare Society is seeking suitable homes as an alternative to the horses going to slaughter.
Horses leave the muster yards in trucks bound either for their new homes, or direct to slaughter.
The official count from the aerial census conducted by the department last month indicated there were 469 Kaimanawa horses within the designated management zone and another 38 horses outside the area.
The department is responsible for maintaining the wild horse population at 300 horses, making the mustering and removal of excess horses necessary.
It is estimated that 393 of the horses within the zone are adults and 76 are juveniles.
Kaimanawa Heritage Horses commits to taking all of the unplaced foals and yearlings, but horses as young as two years and everything older all face the abattoir unless more homes can be found.
The group has applications for about 60 of the 180 horses, but needs to more than double that number before the April 30 deadline.
In 2012, the group had 179 horses to place. It found homes for 119 horses and the remainder went to slaughter.
Prices for horses are $250 for the first, and $220 for additional horses. Mare and foal pairs are $400, and $370 for additional pairs.
Kaimanawas are generally ponies between 13.2 hands and 14.2 hands. The occasional animal matures to 15 hands, but they are rare. They are mostly bay/brown or chestnut. There are blacks and greys, but no coloured horses.
Kaimanawa horses have made headlines in equestrian circles since the 2012 muster.
They have grown in stature by proving both trainable and talented.
They include 2012 Showjumping Pony of the Year Watch me Move.
Some mustered and rehomed in 2012 are already out competing and winning in open competition. These horses have inspired a number of discerning horse owners to consider taking the plunge and adopt a wild horse, but the group says many more homes are needed for the 180 stallions, mares and foals that will otherwise be trucked straight to the abattoir from the muster in late May.