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For many years, the New Zealand equestrian community has viewed the adoption of a wild horse as an act of charity rather than desiring a Kaimanawa horse for their qualities and value. Wild horses require special skills and facilities to habituate them to a life of domestication and unfortunately, those people who are most suitable, are often the least interested in taking on a wild horse.

If this perception could be changed through a competition, it would show the NZ public not only what skilled professionals could achieve with these horses, but what they too could aspire to, and how wild horses could fit into their own equestrian goals. Kaimanawa Heritage Horses’ ultimate goal is to secure quality homes for every horse that is mustered in future and create a nationwide passion for Kaimanawa horses’ beauty, versatility and trainability, ensuring their preservation in the wild, for future generations.

It was a mammoth undertaking but with the vision of Kelly Wilson (a NZ equestrian celebrity and KHH member) spearheading the project, the Kaimanawa Heritage Horses Stallion Challenge was born. Sponsors were secured and 12 trainers were selected from various disciplines and invited to compete for a prize pool of $50,000 in cash and prizes.

Each trainer had one or two wild stallions assigned to them and 19 stallions were sent, direct from the 2014 muster. Their first challenge was to handle, geld and habituate their horses to domestic life before showcasing their achievements just 150 days later in the ‘Major Milestone’ challenge at Equidays. This consisted of a halter class where the (now gelded), stallions were required to complete certain tasks in hand such as being released and recaptured in a pen, picking up all four feet and loading into a horse float, as well as performing other tasks chosen by their trainers, to demonstrate their unflappable natures and unwavering trust. The second part of the ‘Major Milestone’ was a ridden challenge. It was anticipated that only a few of the horses would be ready for ridden work so soon in their education, but the majority of the horses competed and astounded the crowds with what they could do. Indeed, these horses not only performed beyond their expectations, they willingly performed feats that would normally take years to teach a domestic horse and the equestrian public were hooked.

With everyone thoroughly inspired, the trainers and their horses went home to continue their training for another 100 days, in preparation for the final ‘Stallion Makeover’ challenge at NZ’s most prestigious ‘Horse Of The Year Show’. The first part of this challenge was an evaluation of the horses’ soundness and condition. 7 of the original 19 horses didn’t go to HOY due to various health issues but all those presented, passed with flying colours. Over the next 3 days, they competed in a Horsemanship challenge, an Obstacle Course and a Freestyle challenge where they once again, exceeded all expectations. The announcers, with 20 years’ experience of HOY under their belts, were left speechless and struggled to find words to express their amazement at what these horses could do and what their trainers had achieved in just 250 days. Record crowds filled the grandstand and packed the arena rails to watch the top 8 competitors compete for the KHH Stallion Challenge title which was ultimately won by Tina Fagan and her horse, Rock Star.

The trainers and their horses certainly met the goal of inspiring the NZ equestrian public and changing all previous perceptions. However, the true success of this event will only be measured by the number of successful home placements from the 2016 muster and those beyond. The Stallion Challenge has proven that every healthy Kaimanawa horse mustered, no matter what their age or gender, is not only deserving of a loving home, but is capable of anything their domestic peers can do and more. Now it’s over to the NZ public to take on the challenge of giving a wild horse a home and helping KHH achieve their ultimate goal of no healthy horses going to slaughter.

WashBar Trot-Up – Welfare and Best Conditioned

The first item on the competitors calendar was the WashBar Trot-Up and Best Conditioned on Wednesday the 18th March. It was judged by a vet from Hawkes Bay Veterinary Services, and our Welfare Officer Michele Haultain.

All the horses were presented in immaculate condition, and flew through the trot-up, gaining entrace to the remainder of the competition. The score from this event made up 20% of the score for those that made it into the final.

The results were:

1st – Vicki Wilson and CopRice Argo KH
2nd – Tina Fagan and Rockstar
3rd – Paddy Mair and Kachina

Saddlery Warehouse Horsemanship Class

The Saddlery Warehouse horsemanship class was sponsored by Saddlery Warehouse and Thoroughbred Floats, and took place on the evening of Wednesday. The judges were Scott Borland and Penny Castle.

It was a late start, with the previous class running over time, but it was thankfully finished during daylight. In this competition the trainers had to ride a set workout pattern that included ground tying, mounting, trotting through bending poles, trotting over ground poles, cantering circles, galloping, and side-pass over a pole.
All trainers impressed the judges with what they had achieved with horses less than a year out of the wild.

The results were:

1st – Kate Hewlett and Redcliffs Bill
2nd – Tina Fagan and Rockstar
3rd – Tommy Waara and Tukotahi
4th – Chloe Phillips-Harris and Phoenix
5th – Vicki Wilson and CopRice Argo KH
6th – Anne MacAulay and Ulysses
7th – Tim Featherstone and Redcliffs Ted
8th – Ben Longwell and Viento
9th – Paddy Mair and Kachina
10th – Tommy Waara and Te One

Thoroughbred Floats Obstacle Course

The Thoroughbred Floats obstacle course was sponsored by Thoroughbred Floats and Horse Gifts NZ, and took place on the evening of Thursday. The judges were Russell Higgins and Rebecca Wylie.

This event was a big unknown to all the competitors, for everything else they knew what to expect, but here they would be seeing the obstacles for the first time only an hour before the competition – and there would be no trial runs.

The nine obstacles were the Horse Gifts curtain of towels, the Kaimanawa Krazy stairs, the Coprice carpet walk, the Saddlery Warehouse goal, the Washbar maze, the Eqidays back-up, the John Wilson Sculpture figure-of-eight, the Tuffrock pail carry, and the Thoroughbred Floats float loading.

Originally only five minutes was to allocated to each competitor, but that was increased to seven after difficulty on the stairs. While some obstacles like the stairs proved troublesome to most competitors, there were always some that completed the obstacle without breaking a sweat.

The results were:

1st – Vicki Wilson and CopRice Argo KH
2nd – Tina Fagan and Rockstar
3rd – Paddy Mair and Kachina
4th – Tim Featherstoen and Redcliffs Ted
5th – Kate Hewlett and Redcliffs Bill
6th – Kelly Wilson and CopRice Anzac KH
7th – Amanda Wilson and CopRice Nikau KH
8th – Chloe Phillips-Harris and Phoenix
9th – Tommy Waara and Tukotahi
10th – Tommy Waara and Te One

WashBar Freestyle

Very early on Friday morning a crowd began gathering to watch the 7am WashBar Freestyle class. It was judged by Scott Borland, Russell Higgins, and Rebecca Wylie.
In this class, competitors had four minutes to show off what they have achieved with their horses. Competitors were able to bring in their own props, but had only one minute avaialble to set up before their performance.

The riders and horses were in costume and performed amazing and challenging feats of horsemanship and athleticism. Choreographed music added to the spectacle, and the judges and crowd were thrilled.

The results were:

1st – Tina Fagan and Rockstar
2nd – Ben Longwell and Viento
3rd – Tim Featherstone and Redcliffs Ted
4th – Paddy Mair and Kachina
5th – Kate Hewlett and Redcliffs Bill
6th – Vicki Wilson and CopRice Argo KH
7th – Amanda Wilson and CopRice Nikau KH
8th – Tommy Waara and Te One
9th – Chloe Phillips-Harris and Phoenix
10th – Tommy Waara and Tukotahi

CopRice Stallion Makeover Final

At the completion of the previous class, the sums were done and the top eight ranked combinations were notified of their place in the CopRice–sponsored Stallion Makeover Final, due to take place that night during the Friday evening show. The judges for this event were Jock Paget, Vaughn Jefferis, and Penny Castle.

The final comprised two events, firstly a freestyle at 7:15pm, and then an obstacle course at 9pm. Their results from these two events, combined with their score from the trot-up earlier in the week, would determine who would take the title of Stallion Challenge winner.

A packed grandstand braved the chilling weather to watch both events. It was spectacular to see the conclusion of all the trainers hard work during the previous months. The trainers and horses did the still wild breed proud, putting on a show that any horse would have a tough time immitating.

The obstacle course that followed was shortened to seven obstacles, but this time speed mattered. With all trainers knowing what to expect, and having had a day to prepare, it came down to who could complete all the obstacles the fastest.
In the end it was very close, with many combinations finishing within a few points of each other, but there could only be one winner:

1st – Tina Fagan and Rockstar
2nd – Paddy Mair and Kachina
3rd – Tim Featherstone and Redcliffs Ted
4th – Vicki Wilson and CopRice Argo KH
5th – Ben Longwell and Viento
6th – Kate Hewlett and Redcliffs Bill
7th – Chloe Phillips-Harris and Phoenix
8th – Tommy Waara and Tukotahi

Our Sponsors

Without our sponsors the Stallion Challenge would not have been possible. They contributed very generously with cash and prizes to make it one of the biggest prize pools at Horse of the Year. Support from such well-known companies and people acknowledges the value many New Zealanders already placed on the Kaimanawa horses, and the sponsors involvement has exposed the Kaimanawas to a much greater audience – giving all horses that are mustered in the future a greater chance of finding homes.

  • CopRice
  • Equidays
  • Horse Gifts NZ
  • Horse of the Year
  • John Wilson Sculpture
  • Kelly Wilson Photography
  • New Zealand Horse and Pony Magazine
  • Saddlery Warehouse
  • Thoroughbred Floats
  • Tuffrock
  • WashBar