By Tim Saunders on
Keeping Up With The Kaimanawas was one of the most popular TV shows to hit New Zealand screens this year, and Kelly Wilson’s new book, Stallion Challenges, goes behind the scenes of what has become a Kiwi phenomenon.
The Wilson sisters – Vicki, Kelly and Amanda – have been big names on the equestrian circuit in New Zealand for a number of years, and Kelly’s earlier book – For The Love Of Horses – explained in detail their life with horses and their first successful attempts to train wild Kaimanawa horses in 2012. But in 2014, the sisters put forward a new plan – a series of challenges designed to give professional horse trainers an incentive to take on the wild horses and compete with them professionally. The Stallion Challenges were born from a desire to raise awareness of the potential of these graceful and grand animals, and ensure they will live in the hearts of generations to come.
Kaimanawa horses are the wild horses that have roamed the central North Island of New Zealand since the 1870s, and have been mustered and culled since the 1990s for conservation and preservation. Around 170 horses are mustered every second year to maintain a managed herd of 300 horses – somewhat less than America’s 80,000 mustangs and Australia’s million or so wild horses, but a challenge in itself for the Department of Conservation and Kaimanawa Heritage Horses, a non-profit charitable society dedicated to the welfare of the Kaimanawa Horses in both the wild and domestic environments.
Kelly Wilson isn’t just a talented writer and horsewoman, she is also an award-winning photographer and recently – along with her sisters – spent 100 days in the US, where she competed in the Extreme Mustang Makeover, one of the largest wild horse events in the world. As well as hanging out with renown horse trainers such as Pat Parelli, Kelly was placed sixth against some of America’s best trainers, and has been invited to compete in Mustang Magic, which only accepts 25 trainers worldwide.
Stallion Challenges follows the girls as they accept the responsibility of taking horses from the wild and use kindness and gentleness to encourage them to be champions. But it is more than just a book about horses, it is an inspirational journey of how hopes and dreams can be achieved through courage and hard work. As Kelly says, those who are crazy enough to change the world are the ones who usually do, and anything is possible if you have enough passion, dedication and vision. As a result of the girls’ Stallion Challenges, only 15 horses were sent to slaughter following the 2014 muster – compared to 72 in 2012 – and if that isn’t changing the world, I don’t know what is.
The book is filled with hope and elation, mixed with heartbreak and pain, and sprinkled with a great deal of humour and adventure. It is a story of horse conservation and the ability of the human spirit to bond with animals and overcome any obstacle. And it is a journey well worth taking.
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