It was way back in 1876 that the first wild horses were recorded in the Kaimanawa mountain ranges. The Kaimanawa horse originated from Exmoor and Welsh Mountain pony stock released in the1870’s. These ponies came to New Zealand on sailing ships and were a huge part of pioneer life selflessly working to aid European settlement. Escapees and releases of horses from farms and the cavalry at Waiouru have added to the gene pool as have “Desert Road Drop-offs” of other unwanted horses.
Today, the characteristics of the Thoroughbred, Arab, Standardbred and Clydesdale can be seen in certain geographical bands within the Kaimanawa population. Historically, population numbers reaching into over two thousand across a wide area resulted in horses struggling in poor condition due to lack of food. In recent years the population has been culled to a maximum of 300 horses to conserve available food and to save the environment from over population. Due to the hard earned efforts of the Kaimanawa Heritage Horses Welfare Society the majority of horses culled are now going to new homes.