The Biennial Kaimanawa Wild Horse Muster has been brought forward to April, sparking fears homes won’t be found for the horses in time.
Rescuers are scrambling to save about 100 wild horses from slaughter after being given just weeks to organise a muster.
Elder Jenks, chairman of the Kaimanawa Heritage Horse organisation, said the Department of Conservation called him yesterday to say the muster, planned for June, had been fast-tracked to April.
“It’s an incredibly hard task for us to home these horses in time, and it’s going to be touch and go if we can do it,” he said.
“Horses that don’t have homes to go to will be slaughtered.”
The voluntary organisation is concerned it has not received any applications from people wanting to adopt the horses.
Jenks said since 1997 the muster had happened at the beginning of June, when the foals were just old enough to be transported and the pregnant mares were safe.
“Some of this year’s foals will be quite young and shouldn’t be weaned,” he said.
This year, homes need to be found for mares and their foals.
“We usually get 12 to 15 mares and foals but we’re hoping for more and we try very much to keep them together.”
The organisation is appealing to people who have the experience and facilities to adopt the horses.
“These are wild horses, they’ve never seen fences or tractors, but if you give them 10 per cent love they will give you 100 per cent back.”
The Kaimanawa muster started in 1997 in the central North Island and occurs every two years with the aim of keeping horse numbers to 300.
In 2014, 139 horses were mustered and all but 15 were homed.
Gillian Hayes adopted two pregnant Kaimanawa horses from the 2014 muster. “They were older mares that nobody else wanted to take because they are harder to train,” she said.
Hayes, who owns Beach Brook Stables in Otaki, said the horses were not for the faint-hearted.
Training and taming the mares took 18 months, but Hayes said they were worth the hard work.
“They are the most beautiful horses when they’re tame, they’re calmer, quieter, very bold and brave.”
As New Zealand’s only wild horses, they deserve to be saved, and she believed sponsorship was the way forward.
“If trainers were sponsored to train the horses for people who wanted to buy them, we could save more,” she said.
“I’m sure there are people who would donate $20 to save a Kaimanawa.”
The Department of Conservation has been approached for comment.