Saturday 18th May 2024
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Over the Gate with Kimber Brown

While a certain Pukeoware couple may have long been the ‘Elder’ statesmen of the cause to protect the magnificent Kaimanawa horses, Marilyn and Elder Jenks cannot do this alone.

Kimber Brown with two re-homed Kaimanawa horses. Photo: Wayne Martin

Chairman of Kaimanawa Heritage Horses (KHH) charitable society, Kimber Brown, has been most active in her efforts to help save our wild horses.

What’s more, as an accomplished photographer, this Kingseat lifestyler knows that sometimes it really is best to shoot first and answer questions later, even when answering them… Over the Gate.

What does your role as chairman of Kaimanawa Heritage Horses involve?

I ensure that the KHH objectives are progressed each year – the main focus being welfare. We promote the society and its efforts, while forging strong, professional relationships with groups such as DOC and the NZDF (New Zealand Defence Force), which owns much of the land where the horses live in the wild.

What makes these horses so special?

I have a strong family connection with the Kaimanawa Ranges. Along with my uncles, my father used to fish and hunt deer there. I remember dropping them off with their horses and picking them up a week or so later.

They usually returned with photographs and footage – from old, grainy super 8 movies – of the horses they’d seen while deer stalking.

Today, Kaimanawa represent a world that is fast disappearing. There are not many places we can see wild horses in their natural family units. That’s why we continue to nurture and protect these special horses.

When is the biennial muster expected to begin and end?

The next muster is expected to take place in April. It will happen over a few days but is always weather dependent. Family units of horses are slowly mustered into the yards by highly experienced helicopter pilots. Once in the yards, they are checked by veterinarians before being delivered to redistribution yards around the North Island and on to their new homes. We try to get this part of the process over as quickly as possible to minimise stress on the horses.

How many do you think you’ll be able to re-home this time?

There is a higher count in the ranges than at the last muster, so we will be working hard to find homes for even more. We’ve already started urging people to consider taking horses, but we won’t know how many we will be able to re-home, and where those homes will be, until closer to the date.

The last the muster needed to be held earlier than usual due to weather conditions. Did this mean more horses had to be culled?

It was brought forward so that the horses arrived at their new homes in drier conditions, which was better for them and the trainers. Every horse was re-homed, with the exception of one, which had to be euthanised due to an old leg injury.

We were so pleased with our near 100% result, which is the aim of the society.

What’s required to keep a Kaimanawa as opposed to any other equine?

Kaimanawa are like other horses, except they are brought up in family units. They build their lives around family and relationships. Owners need to shape their experiences – building a relationship with your wild horse is the most important thing to do.

For those not experienced with wild horses, we can recommend a number of trainers around the country who have the necessary expertise to get the basics sorted. It is a common misconception that you lose the ‘wild horse’ experience by not doing the initial handling – there will still be plenty for you to do once your horse arrives.

It will also be grateful for one-on-one relationship building after the drama of the muster and will begin to look to you as the central person in its life.

Can these horses be trained for trail riding, cross-country or jumping?

Once you earn the trust of your Kaimanawa and build a bond with them, they will do the best they can for you. In 2012, Tegan Newman won the Pony of the Year at HOY [Horse of the Year] on Watch Me Move, for example. And, at Equidays (Oct 2017), the top two horses for one event were Kaimanawa – Georgia Bouzaid, on Redcliffs Bill, placed first and Keira Page, on Redcliffs Ted, placed second.

KHH has also run Stallion Challenges to showcase the horses amazing talents. We’re now sponsoring two Kaimanawa riders through the 2017 season, Georgia Bouzaid, as well as an amazing endurance rider, Brittney Turner, and her horse, Queen of Hearts. They both make great teams and we look forward to watching their progress.

Do they often simply become paddock companions?

Elderly Kaimanawa (and some that need special care) often become the best paddock mates and, once they bond with their new owner, the best of friends. These horses have put in the miles and have earned a happy, well cared, for retirement.

Do you have any Kaimanawa yourself?

I am not in a position to have a Kaimanawa. Being chairperson/photographer, although voluntary, is a full time job in itself. If I was to start over, though, I think I would have liked to have been much more involved with horses.

If people are unable to take a horse under their wing, what else can they do to help?

One of the easiest ways is to become a member of our society. Members receive copies of our magazine three times per year. All the information is on our website: People can also make a donation, without becoming a member, through our give-a-little page at

How important a role do the guided photography trips play in protecting the Kaimanawa?

Since KHH started running small photography trips into the ranges in 2013, they have become very popular with professional and amateur photographers. We don’t make a huge profit from them, but we achieve plenty of publicity as most people share their experiences with the horses through their images, books and stories.

For some, these trips provide a most spiritual experience. Others come to see their horse’s natural, free environment which, in turn, helps them understand the huge adjustment their Kaimanawa has had to make to live in our world.

Has awareness of their plight increased in recent years?

The efforts of our members have ensured awareness has been raised hugely. And, with exposure on TV, Facebook, and in print, more and more people have got behind the drive to help these horses in need. The Wilson Sisters have also been very valuable in this respect.

If you could grow any plant or raise any animal (real or imagined – aside from Kaimanawa) what and why?

I couldn’t choose just one! I love life and have empathy for all living things. I love to watch the cycle of life at work in the world and my own backyard; this gives great energy.

If you could be Minister of Conservation for one day, what would you do first?

Set up a programme to help with the relocation of wild horses; we are desperately in need of a block of suitable land and finance to relocate and train them. The efforts of our volunteers and members can only go so far.

If you could invite any three people (living or dead) to dinner, who and why?

My father and two uncles, so they could see the difference in these Kaimanawa wild horses from their time spent in the Kaimanawa ranges, and how people’s attitudes towards protecting these magnificent horses has changed for the better.

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