Wild horse breed worth the effort

By Gerald Ford gerald.ford@age.co.nz -
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Lynsey Parkes and her new Kaimanawa horse, Otto, with children Reuben, 18 months, and Angus, 3. PHOTO/GERALD FORD
Lynsey Parkes and her new Kaimanawa horse, Otto, with children Reuben, 18 months, and Angus, 3. PHOTO/GERALD FORD

As rescuers of New Zealand's unwanted Kaimanawa horses struggle against deadline to rehome this year's animals, a Wairarapa convert tells why she has taken on her second from the distinctive breed.

Lynsey Parkes, who lives at Longbush outside of Masterton, got her first Kaimanawa horse in 2004, and she still has him.

Kaimanawa horses run free in the Kaimanawa Ranges in the central volcanic plateau of the North Island.

They are descendants of horses and ponies from New Zealand's goldmining days.

The herd of about 300 is managed to protect the environment, with yearly musters of up to 100 horses. Those that can't be rehomed are culled.

"I'd driven up and down State Highway 1 and had seen the signs, but had never believed they existed," Ms Parkes said.

"But I was in the right place at the right time in my life, and I got myself a little horse from there. He's the most remarkable horse I could possibly have managed."

Though smaller than the average horse, Kaimanawas are stocky and sturdy and well able to carry adults.

Ms Parkes' horse, Badger, had been mustered in 2003 and was first taken in by the Kaimanawa Heritage Trust.

There he underwent initial handling so he could travel in a horse float, wear a halter and be safe around fences, other horses and people.

The rest was up to his new owner, and Ms Parkes enlisted the help of Gavin Morrison from Martinborough, who "started Badger under the saddle".

Since then, Ms Parkes has ridden Badger in equestrian competitions including dressage, jumping, one-day events and hunting.

"He's very intuitive to people that he's around," she said. "He's taught a few children to ride -- or given them their confidence back if they've have had a bad experience with a horse that was too much for them. I believe his purpose in life is to help children get their love of horses back -- or get it if they've never had it," Ms Parkes said.

"He's dear to me, a very special horse -- a keeper."

Ms Parkes last year took on another Kaimanawa horse, taken as a foal in the 2014 muster.

"I got him as a project," she said. "He's only 2-years-old and it will be a couple of years before I ride him."

Kaimanawa horses, Ms Parkes said, have "a beautiful temperament" and are very smart.

"They're fantastic horses, so good at so many different disciplines. I wanted that experience again."

Success with the horses is all about "having the time, and having the patience. I've got no agenda and no timeframe and that works."

Other Wairarapa horse lovers have also taken on Kaimanawa horses over the years, and one has even volunteered the use of yards near Carterton to help break the horses in.

The muster is earlier than usual this year and the Kaimanawa Heritage Trust is seeking registrations by tomorrow.

The trust can be found on Facebook.

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