Sunday, August 29, 2010

Flight of Piwakawaka - part 1

A few photos of the 2010 Kaimanawa muster.

A heavily pregnant mare with a foal from last year.

A few pics of the helicopter round up.

So, 3 months after our little Piwaka arrived in Takapau we finally have her in the yards down the road. It has been quite an adventure already and our nerves and strategies have been stretched and tested. When she first landed she and 5 other Kaimanawas were released into a rather large open paddock with questionable fencing. Over the period of about 5 days they had settled enough to wander close to the road side of the paddock and munch on the grass. They had no interest in the hay we gave them and continued in their wild herd mentality.

The day came when we were to try and round them up into the yards in the corner of the paddock. Things were looking promising until they approached the yards and 2 young kids raised their heads (and arms) above the yard railings. The horses turned on their heels to see a group of people walking towards them and decided that the only place left to go was over a barbed wire fence. Three went 'over' - each getting caught in the wires one after the other. Luckily they managed to free themselves and galloped off in the direction of a herd of cows. With a bit of persuasion we got Piwaka back into the big paddock and the other two took off in another large paddock.

We tried to get the 2 strays in with the others but they had a different idea and went through another fence and in to the house paddock with some of the domesticated horses. We focussed our attention back on the 4 in the big paddock. Piwaka was eyeing up the fences again thinking she'd give it another go at an escape. Luckily she decided against it.

Six hours later we (and the horses) were exhausted and we managed to get them in to the holding pens by the sheep yards and decided to let them calm down for a few days. At least it was a smaller area to limit their grass intake and hopefully eat hay that we provided for them - one way to get a bit of trust.

Our neighbour then went over to Sweden for a month and the horses were let back into the big paddock. They stayed there for another month and were not handled and no there were no attempts to get them into the yard the entire time. One of the colts was banished to a distant corner and Piwaka, a colt and a big mare became a clan.

In the past few weeks we set up an electric temporary fence cutting off half the paddock and every few days we moved the fence line in so encourage the horses towards the yards. We gave them water and sat in the paddock. The colt thought about coming over - either out of curiosity or in an attempt to be threatening and keep us away from his girls. We put hay in the yards and water fairly close to the yards and from that saw that they were venturing in there at least to eat.

Anyway, on Friday Marty and I went over to reduce the size of the paddock and all three went into the yards. We moved closer and closer but obviously not fast enough and Piwaka bolted out soon after, before we had a chance to lock them in there. We didn't want to push them in case they went back through the fence so we left them for another day.

On Saturday, Marty, Graeme and I went back to drastically cat their grazing area and managed to get them all into the yards again and this time we managed to get them locked in there. Piwaka was terrified, the other two were scared but not as much as our little girl.

Piwaka has obviously found this whole process (her mother died in the main muster yards the night they were brought in off the Kaimanawa Ranges) quite hard. She has lost a lot of weight and is very skittish. For a while I thought that she was the ring leader of the 3 but I think she is looking for guidance from the older horses and is actually just very scared. She's incredibly woolly - so much so that her fur actually wafts in the wind.

I'm hoping that her skinniness is due to the abrupt departure from her mother and that once the weather warms up a bit and the grass comes through she will put on a bit of weight again.

We've been topping up their water in the yards each day and giving them plenty of hay but Piwaka is at the bottom of the pecking order so it's a bit of a battle. The others are heading off to new homes this week - the mare on Sunday and the colt hopefully on Thursday.

The colt is such a typical looking Kaimanawa. He is super stocky with a big heart-shaped bum and a neck so solid and thick he looks like he's about to founder.

The mare looks like she has been domesticated her whole life. She is in amazing condition and nicely proportioned. She's very big. Probably about 15.2-15.3hh and is lovely.

This Friday we have Tigger's trainer coming over and we'll get some advice on the next step with Piwaka. We need to get her back here as soon as possible and try to get her settled in her new home. We'll put her in with Brother because he's calm and not too impressionable. Hopefully he'll teach her some good habits but also keep her in her place.

It is hugely relieving to have her in the yards finally. Stage one is complete. It's been a long time in the making. I should have just put her straight into yards but unfortunately that didn't happen and I can only blame myself for that. Next time will be different.

I'm planning on documenting her progress on this blog. It will be an entirely different situation from Tigger methinks. But it will be a good learning experience and I'm looking forward to sussing out her little idiosyncrasies.

It is absolutely pouring with rain and cold outside which makes me worry about her being so thin. I have to keep reminding myself that she is from the Desert Rd and has probably experienced much worse in her short life.

Anyway, I will keep this updated.


K :)

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