The charity that champions the wild horses that inhabit the Kaimanawa Ranges of New Zealand is hailing what it calls a ground-breaking change in public support for the animals, following a successful 2014 muster.
The Department of Conservation muster was originally aiming for the removal of 180 animals from their central North Island rangelands.
The helicopter muster was completed this week, with 163 mustered into the holding yards.
It was originally anticipated that up to 34 horses were likely to go to slaughter, but of the 163 mustered only 10 suffered that fate.
The charitable society, Kaimanawa Heritage Horses, which sets about organising homes for as many horses as possible in the leadup to each muster, said the 10 were either vet-checked as unsuitable to rehome or were unplaced.
“It’s still a tragic end for these horses but in comparison to the 72 horses that went to slaughter in 2012 ,that’s a ground-breaking change in public support for these horses,” it said on its Facebook page.
It thanked those who rehomed, sponsored or donated to help save horses from the muster.
All the horses were sorted upon arrival at the yards and left in trucks either bound for their new homes or went direct to slaughter.
The charity said the rehomed horses would be pretty quiet and shell shocked for the first few days. It urged those who had given them homes to ensure they gave them plenty of time to settle.
“They’ll also have lost their glossy, proud and defiant bearing from their wild days so be careful you take your time and let the horses choose the timing for each stage of their training … it’s vital to get that spunk back if they are going to enjoy the transition to domestication.
“Slow down, make friends with them and enjoy the journey.”
Homes for some of the horses were also found by members of the Kaimanawa Wild Horse Preservation Society.
The state-funded musters are undertaken to keep the population in check.
The official count from the aerial census conducted by the Department of Conservation in March indicated there were 469 Kaimanawa horses within the designated management zone and another 38 horses outside the area.
The department aims to maintain the wild horse population at 300 horses, making the mustering and removal of excess horses necessary.
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 homes can be found.
In 2012, the group had 179 horses to place. It found homes for 119 horses.
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.