2020 Kaimanawa ranges photography trip
For as long as I can remember I have loved horses, so seeing the wild Kaimanawa Horses was obviously a Must-Do on my bucket list! For over 10 years I have driven through the Desert Road hoping for a quick glimpse of these wild horses, yet none have ever come our way (I later found out from someone on the trip that the last horse sighted that close to the road was 1994, so no wonder!). When I saw the Kaimanawa Heritage Horse Trust had advertised a ranges bus trip to go see the horses, I was practically jumping around with excitement, it was amazing, what more could I possibly wish for? Then I saw the Kaimanawa Ranges Photography Trip.... SOLD!
I honestly did not know what to expect from the trip. I knew there would be horses, and passionate horsey people, but that was it really. The first night we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at the Ruapheu Mountain Lodge in Ohakune and watched a short movie detailing the Kaimanawa Horses, the musters and what they faced in life. I knew musters took place to control the population, but this was a real eye opener to their plight.
Next morning we set off and visited the most photographed church in New Zealand, Te Ratana Church. It was awesome hearing that renovations were soon to take place, as you could see it was once a proud building, but life had got the better of it. After this quick stop off we went to Tommy Waara's property, a trainer of Kaimanawas and a very well known horseman. Here we also met Te One, a stunning Kaimanawa stallion who was from a muster a few years prior, and now one of Tommy's top horses. After a Billy Tea and a photography session with Tommy and Te One, Te One put on a little posing session for us gearless and to show off how handsome he was!
With the alarm set for 3.45am I was ready! This was the day we could head out into the Kaimanawa Ranges to see the wild horses. Speaking to those who had been on the trip before said it will be exactly as I expect... Did that mean we would see the stallions fighting over mares? Foals galloping off into the morning sun? Surely not...
We met the first band in the reserve paddocks, a group of males and a lone female. With the grey sky behind, chilly morning and the sunrise hiding from us I was doubting whether I would get my dream photos, something I really shouldn't have worried about at all!
With Kelly Wilson and Eric Theodore (NZDF) guiding us, this was so much more than a photography trip. We learnt about each of the bands and the stories behind many of the individuals that call the ranges home.
One story that really stuck with me was that of Spotty and Satellite. Satellite lost his mare to Spotty in a fight, and normally these bachelor males go off and band together for company, however Satellite, staying loyal to his mare hangs around the band, just to stay watch. Spotty prevents Satellite from getting too close, but this does not scare him off at all.
We must have seen at least 180 horses throughout the day across several bands and two main locations, Home Valley and Argo Valley.