Volunteers struggling to rehome 230 wild Kaimanawa horses this year say financial cost is the “main problem” preventing people from adopting and could end in the animals being euthanised.

Around 530 wild horses currently inhabit more than 63,000 hectares in the central North Island Waiouru Military Training Area, which is managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC) with input from volunteer organisations under Kaimanawa Wild Horse Advisory Group.

In 2010, the herd was reduced to 300 – the minimum number agreed under the Kaimanawa Wild Horses Working Plan.

The re-homing process was carried out by volunteer group Kaimanawa Heritage Horses (KHH), who told Breakfast the population numbers have risen — partly because there was no muster last year.

“We only place them with experienced people, obviously, because they’re a wild horse [but] they’re very tame-able,” said horse advisory group ambassador Marilyn Jenks.

“We do home checks and [find] people suitable and we help as much as we can to put them into homes.”

Jenks said the “very special” horses required gentle handling, which could be achieved with the right people.

“They will quieten down with the right hands, very beautifully,” she said.

She said one of the main barriers preventing people from taking on a wild horse was the financial costs.

“The economic situation is hindering us, yes, and I can understand that.”

Jenks said the prospect of humanely euthanising the horses “is up for negotiation” and said the Kaimanawa Wild Horse Advisory Group would be discussing that as an option.

“That would be a last resort, I hope,” she told Breakfast.

She said the mares have begun contraception as part of a long-term plan aimed at keeping the herd population contained to a healthy level.

“Eventually, the mustering should come down and the horses can stay out there.”

Jenks said the animals were “gorgeous” and three former Kaimanawa horses won their classes at last year’s Horse of the Year show.

“Once you’ve had a Kaimanawa, you realise just how special they are. They’re actually quite different. Because they come from a family group, they’re very family-orientated and when they come out, they’ll bond with a person one-one-one”.

Applicants could contact Kaimanawa Heritage Horses at [email protected] or visit kaimanawaheritagehorses.org.

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