While the first horses were introduced into New Zealand by Samuel Marsden in December 1814, it was not until 1876 that the first wild horses were recorded in the Kaimanawa Ranges.
Between 1858 and 1875 Major George Gwavas Carlyon imported Exmoor ponies to Hawkes Bay. These were crossed with local stock and a sure-footed pony known as the Carlyon pony resulted.
Sir Donald McLean imported two Welsh stallions, Kinarth Caesar and Comet. When crossed with the “Carlyon” a small statured, sure footed, robust horse resulted. These horses became known as the “Comet” breed.
During the 1870’s McLean released a Comet stallion and several mares on the Kaingaroa Plains. In later years this bloodline was reportedly apparent in the wild population.
Over the years that followed, other horses contributed to the bloodline of this wild population. There were escapes and releases of horses from sheep runs in the area and in 1941 horses from the mounted rifle cavalry units at Waiouru were released when a strangles epidemic threatened. It is also reported that Nicholas Koreneff released an Arab stallion into the Argo Valley region during the 1960’s.
With the varied gene input that followed their origins, the horses have generally become larger in stature than their pony forebears and there is also some variance in their conformation and build. The horses are however, generally known for their calmness and inquisitiveness and in many of the bands, the classic characteristics of the Comet breed are still clearly exhibited.