'Worth giving a chance' – Kaimanawa wild horses could face being culled if not rehomed

Around 200 Kaimanawa wild horses are looking for homes ahead of the upcoming muster, and could face being culled if they can't be rehomed.

Last year's muster was cancelled due to Covid-19, when the country was plunged into lockdown.

It means even more of the horses need to be rounded up and removed as part of the Kaimanawa Range management plan, which requires the herd to remain at 300 horses maximum.

This year, around 206 horses need to be removed. In previous years, those that aren't rehomed are culled.

So far, homes have been found for 55 horses this year, since the call went out last year.

It's coming down to the wire; the deadline is Wednesday.

But Sue Rivers, chairperson at the Kaimanawa Heritage Horses Welfare Society, is hopeful enough people will put their hands up in time.

"These horses are worth giving a chance," she told 1 NEWS.

"They will take you on a journey of discovery about yourself, and teach you things about horses that most people don't believe are possible. 

"Their incredible ability to bond with people and their willingness to do anything asked of them make them fantastic companions as well as honest horses that can achieve great things in most disciplines."

It can be a difficult process to rehome the wild horses, which are unused to humans.

Some trainers are able to handle the horses before they're sold, while other Kaimanawas are rehomed wild.

Rivers says finding homes with suitable experience and facilities is the biggest challenge they face.

"Although we have a growing list of registered and suitably qualified handlers, as well as a growing list of people who would like the initial handling done on their behalf, we often struggle to find suitable facilities to use for this purpose."

Last year's delay means that as well as having to round up more horses this year, "a high number" of applications had to be withdrawn after their circumstances changed, River says.

"Many people have commented to say that if it were not for Covid, they would have been able to help more this year."

Tūrangi-based Department of Conservation operations manager Dave Lumley says this year, they're planning to only muster as many horses as they have homes ready for.

"We're scrambling to find enough homes," he says.

"Inevitably we'll be left with more horses than we would really like there, and we're going to plan, subsequent to the muster, how we will deal with this issue into the future."

Lumley says they'll be evaluating whether the usual muster plan to reduce herd numbers is still up to scratch.

"There's no point at this stage of us mustering more horses than we can rehome. And at this point, finding homes is proving more and more difficult."

It could mean looking at contraceptive methods for the still-wild horses, something Lumley said occurs in the United States.

"We don't currently have a real plan for that, but that's one of the options we do have."

The muster's due to take place during Anzac Weekend. 

Anyone who's able to take on a horse from the muster or is able to help them is asked to get in touch with the Kaimanawa Heritage Horses Welfare Society .

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