Top Shows

Hyundai Country Calendar


Episode 27: Wild Ride

On the next episode, screening August 16th at 7pm on TV ONE:

Wild Ride

Nearly 150 Kaimanawa wild horses were saved from the slaughterhouse and started new lives in May 2014, thanks to people like Tracey Thompson of Takapau, in Central Hawkes Bay. 

Tracey is one of many who volunteered to look after horses culled in the 2014 Kaimanawa muster.

Well over 1000 wild horses used to roam the hills east of Waiouru but, in recent years, the Department of Conservation has culled the herd to about 350. They say too many horses will damage rare native plants-and lack of food also creates ill-health within the herd.

But not everyone can look after a wild horse.

Elder Jenks of Kaimanawa Heritage Horses, which arranges homes for most of the horses, says those receiving them need secure facilities and the knowledge to handle them.

"They've never seen fences or feed or water-troughs before," he says.

"If anything goes wrong and startles the horse, three or four fences later you've got a very cut-up horse. You can't treat it because you can't get a vet near it-and so the horse is put down."

Country Calendar filmed the Kaimanawa horse muster and followed a group of horses to Tracey Thompson's Takapau farm.

Tracey and husband Dave, who own a dairy unit and a mixed sheep and beef farm, took horses from the 2012 muster and now use them for farm work and recreational riding.

They had no plans to take more but, in early 2014, it looked as though many of this year's muster would have to be killed because they couldn't find homes. 

"Thinking of all those animals being put down, it sort of touched my heart a little bit," says Tracey.

She offered to take five horses and then other people, aware of her skills, asked her to help their Kaimanawa horses adjust to domestic life. She ended up with 16 horses in her care.

The crew filmed the wild horses arriving at the farm by truck at night, and followed Tracey handling them until the first one was ready to go to its permanent owner.

"The thing that appeals the most is their nature," says Tracey. "They are such cool intelligent ponies. They're like a blank canvas and when you start working with them, they learn so quickly.

"Not everyone can take on a wild horse and see it through to its new owner, to being ridden. It takes someone to put their hand up and say yes, and I'm happy to be that sucker because I get a lot of pleasure out of it. It's very rewarding."

Follow the horses on Tracey's Facebook page:

For more about Kaimanawa Heritage Horses:

For Department of Conservation info about Kaimanawa horses:



Frank Torley

Barrington West
Warren Bradshaw

Field Sound
Grant Lawrey
Tony Spear
Don Paulin

Mike Townsend

Colour Grader
Alex Wright

Sound Mixer
Ian Leslie

Post Production Manager
Bailey Palmer

Production Manager
Robyn Best

Vivienne Jeffs

Network Executive
Jude Callen

Associate Producer
Dan Henry

Producer / Director
Julian O'Brien