Trek may spot wild horses in hills above Kaitangata

Wild horses await discovery in the hills above Kaitangata during a fundraising trek this weekend....
Wild horses await discovery in the hills above Kaitangata during a fundraising trek this weekend. PHOTO: RICHARD DAVISON
A rare opportunity to share in one of Otago’s more unusual spectacles takes place this weekend.

The annual Kaitangata Wild Horse Trek has been running for more than 25 years, offering riders the chance to catch a glimpse of the town’s 108-year-old herd of roaming equines.

Once numbering more than 100, the herd today was managed carefully by the trek committee, secretary Rose Waddingham said.

"We have an agreement with the forestry concerns at the back of Kaitangata which allows up to about 25 animals to roam wild in the blocks.

"But although in theory they have about three or four hundred square kilometres of territory they could explore, the main mob tends to stay pretty close to town."

Rose Waddingham
Rose Waddingham

She said the committee intervened as little as possible with the horses, which were descendants of an original herd bred on a local farm in 1913.

"We do a round up each year to check on numbers and take foals and other animals away to good homes as necessary, and then the trek, but otherwise they’re largely left to their own devices."

Mrs Waddingham said local townspeople held their wild herd in "affectionate regard".

"People get pretty upset if something happens to one of them. They do come down into town sometimes, so people know they’re there."

The trek had originally been one element of a wider festival for the town, including a "Coal Queen" contest celebrating Kaitangata’s coal mining heritage, and a dance.

Today the trek attracted as many as 70 riders, from as far afield as Oamaru and Invercargill, she said.

"People just see ‘wild horses’ and are pulled in, I think. There’s something thrilling about the chance of maybe glimpsing them out there in their natural state."

The trek begins at 9am tomorrow and would last about six hours.

It could be found by following signs on Lakeside Rd, she said.

Participants could sign in on the day, and an entry fee of $40 an adult and $10 a child covered a woolshed barbecue at the conclusion of the trek.

Surplus funds raised supported the annual roundup, and other Kaitangata good causes.

"It’s a good riding challenge. We’ve had a few riders not quite used to the hill and bush riding in the past, but we make sure everyone’s OK.

"People keep coming back year on year. It’s just one of those special events."

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