Wild West: Taumarunui's wild horsemen
Authorities are angry at cowboys racing horses down the main street of Taumarunui, helping reinforce the town's Wild West reputation.
The riders have thumbed their noses at bylaws, recklessly bareback riding, or leaving their animals tethered without feed or water to fences, trees and clothes lines.
Ruapehu District Council has recorded 50 horse-related complaints in the past year, while police and the SPCA have dealt with numerous calls over horse welfare and risky riding on the roads.
In one incident, visitors saw a man galloping his horse along the town's main street, dodging traffic, just after 3pm.
He was eventually caught by police and issued a $50 infringement notice.
Similar antics have been frequent in the suburb of Matapuna, where young people have been riding horses bareback, up and down streets during daylight and at dusk.
One horse has been seized and offered for sale by tender, and a rider earned two infringement notices for disorderly behaviour and reckless riding.
Council compliance team leader Brenda Ralph said one horse had been impounded twice in the past month before being sold to new owners out of town.
The council pound does not have heavy-duty fencing and several horses had been broken out and ridden away.
One seized horse had a large abscess on one hoof diagnosed by a farrier as being up to six months old. Ralph said staff often found horses tethered without water or feed.
"People with the horses in the residential areas use them as a form of transport but overlook the fact that like a vehicle, horses still need maintaining."
The owners have left horses - often three or four at a time - tethered to neighbours' fences, trees, clotheslines, and vacant rental properties, causing damage and creating health hazards from droppings.
Other complaints included dangerous riding, children racing horses and horses on the road or grass verges after dusk.
It was doubtful the majority of horses had worn a saddle which meant council staff seizing the animals had to lead them on foot, up to seven kilometres, to the council pound.
Ralph said the council had " tried to work" with owners giving them time to remove the horses to decent paddocks.
"We realise we are a rural town but realistically the sections people try and house a horse in is not suitable."