Taking 'wild' out of the Kaimanawas

Debbie Newton plans to use her four Kaimanawa horses in her trekking business.
Debbie Newton plans to use her four Kaimanawa horses in her trekking business.

Wild horses couldn't stop a Taranaki woman from taking on four of the beasts from this year's Kaimanawa muster.

Debbie Newton is planning to tame the horses and have them available for people to ride in her horse trekking business.

"I'm going to use them for horse trekking so people can actually ride a Kaimanawa," she said.

But the horses would need a lot of care, attention and work before anyone got in the saddle.

"They are really quite fresh. They see humans as predators so they're pretty skittish," she said.

To help prevent damage to the environment that a big herd could cause, every two years some of the horses roaming free in the Kaimanawa Range are mustered by the Conservation Department and either found new homes or killed.

This year 191 horses were rounded up and 71 of those were sent to the abattoir.

Two of Ms Newton's horses arrived on Sunday and will be held in yards in New Plymouth for several weeks while they become used to human contact before Ms Newton takes them out to the Piko Rd farm where she runs Horse Trek'n.

The horses, as yet unnamed, are both fillies thought to be two years old.

"I asked for two-year-olds, but you usually tell how old a horse is by looking at its teeth and they couldn't get close enough to these ones to do that, so they could be anywhere between one and a half and four."

Ms Newton, a self-professed "horse pacifier" with a solid background in working with horses said she did not know how long it would take to get her new additions under control.

"They have to be desensitised first and learn to trust humans and then I'll be getting them ready for horse trekking, but how long that takes is anyone's guess."

Being able to save some of the Kaimanawa horses was worthwhile, she said. "I'd love to see wild horses running free, but they've been culling them for years and they're not going to stop.

"So if I can preserve a few of them, that's great."

She said she thought the horses would settle in well to their new life.

"Being out on a big back-country farm is perfect for them really."

And she doesn't doubt the horses can be tamed. "To be honest, they can be really nice little horses."

Taranaki Daily News