Wild Horses

Wild horses have always played a big role in my heart. Their's something about these feral equine's that fascinate me.

I come from a family that for many generations have broken in and educated wild horses.

My dad has told me many stories about when his dad used to muster up the brumbies that used to roam free across the sandhills of Kawhia and Aotea.

After rounding them up, they would then herd them across the sandhills and down a long valley to a corral they had erected, close to Maketu marae.

Then my grandfather and his friend "George Tukua" would spend weeks, breaking them in to be riding horse's.

My dad was only young at the time, but even at the age of five years old, his dad would put him up on a newly broken horse, while he lunged it round and around.

Dad said it felt like sitting on a small volcano ready to erupt, and sometimes it did...but it was lots of fun and very educational.

He Learned to improve on the harsh ways of breaking in a horse, by developing a more of a trusting relationship with them.

When I was four years old, my dad managed to get three Kaimanawa horses from the annual muster, delivered to our farm.

They were so beautiful and within four days, I was riding my Kaimanawa pony around the farm. Although one of the other ponies had a real wild streak in her. Dad said it was going to take more patience than mine, to build up a trusting and loving relationship with her.

Unfortunately not too long after getting our Kaimanawa's a horrible lifestyle change happened. We had to move to the city and could only attend urban riding schools.

Gone were the miles upon miles of ocean beaches and the un-ending forestry and farm trails.

I started to understand what a wild horse whether a brumby, a mustang, or a Kaimanawa must feel when caught and trained and domesticated.

What sorrow it must suffer to be dis-connected from the 'wild' and wide open spaces and it's family.

Humans can be so cruel and ungrateful. After thousands of years of devoted service, of lugging us around the planet, to wars, discovering new lands, spreading great religion's, hauling heavy wagon's, logs and agricultural machinery and the thousand's of other uses.

Surely the least we can do for the remaining wild horse's is to create sanctuary's...BIG sanctuary's where they can roam free and without been hassled.

If I had a million acre's of land, I would turn it into a horse sanctuary.

To the true horse lover, the realisation that this magnificent creature, is essentially a wild animal only adds to his mystique.

We are so accustomed to his domesticity, that to see the horse in his natural environment, whether it is on the Kaimanawa ranges of New Zealand, the Australian outback, the open plains of America, or the moorlands of the UK, brings us up short.

No other animal has lived so close to humans, nor captivated us for so long.

From his early domestication, he has gone with us unquestioningly to war - and often perished - he became our foremost mode of transport, and is now our companion in competition and leisure.

His destiny has always linked to that of MAN, yet swathes of our planet are still populated by wild horses. And how tragic it would be if that were to change.

Where Darwin's law of survival of the fittest rules, the horse will continue to evolve and thrive and benefit mankind for years to come.

Naturally gregarious, horses are herd animals - any horse owner will know that horses turned out together in a field are likely to form a 'pecking order', heirarchy and will for the most part, remain as a group, even if they are quite different types and breeds.

Likewise, in the wild, horses instinctively form herds, usually comprising several family groups of a stallion and perhaps five or six mares and their offspring. As a herd, they will sleep, play and feed - a wild horse will graze for up to fourteen hours a day - while constantly being alert to any danger.

Although during the mating season stallions within the groups will fight for dominance over the breeding females, the herd is usually controlled by the other mares, who will keep in check any high spirits among the younger members of the herd, particularly the colts.

But while domesticated stallions are generally percieved as more dominant and unpredictable than mares, the matriarch's of wild herds can be equally agressive and far from submissive.

Safety for the wild horse is aided by a combination of excellent physical and sensory attributes - explosive speed and stamina to outrun any predator, as well as superb vision and hearing to detect any threat.

For survival in the wild, the horse depends on the 'fight or flight' mechanism. He has strong, potruding teeth and as a 'weapon', particularly against another horse during a fight for supremacy, these can be formidable.

From a standing start, a horse can reach a top sprint of forty five miles per hour, in three or four seconds. His large eye, set either side of the head, has almost all round vision, and his mobile ear, which can rotate almost through 360 degree's, act like radar.

Their is safety in numbers and a predator is likely to be confused by a group of animals galloping around - an embarrasment of riches, rather than several separate meals.

Here again, Darwin's theory comes into play: if a predator does manage to separate an animal from the herd, it is most likely to be old and weak, or sickly, leaving the strongest, fittest members to survive and thrive.

The herd's social structure, in which the co-operation of the group is combined with vigilance, ensures the safety of the individual. It also allows herd members to feed, play and rest in comparative security.

Perhaps the most famous - not to say the most ancient - of the feral equines is Przewalski's horse, or more accurately, pony, since this rare breed stands between twelve and fourteen hands high. Named for Russian explorer Colonel Nikolai Mikhailovitch Przewalski, discovered a small herd of these animals in the Tachin Schah - "the mountains west of the Gobi desert, in 1879, these are said to be the last of the truly wild horses or ponies.

Also known as the Asiatic Wild horse, he is an eerily primitive creature and, indeed, provides the link between the earliest known horses and the modern breeds. The breed differs from its domestic descendent in that it has sixty six chromosomes instead of sixty four.

Despite his diminutive stature, he can be fierce and aggressive. A powerfully built animal, the Przewalski has had to adapt to a harsh existence in the Russian steppes and mountains of Mongolia, where poor vegetation and severe climate have honed his powers of endurance. He is believed to be migratory, moving north in the winter and returning to the south in the spring.

Written by Aotea Taylor (10 years old)