Stallion Challenges: From the Kaimanawa Wilderness to the Show Arena, is writer, photographer and horsewoman Kelly Wilson’s follow up to her first book, For the Love of Horses, and charts the amazing journey of ten wild horses taken from the Kaimanawa ranges. From their muster in 2014 during the bi-annual Department of Conservation round up of New Zealand’s wild horses, to the eventual participation of three Kaimanawa stallions in the first ever national “Kaimanawa Stallion Challenges”, Wilson documents the highs and the lows of the horses as they try to adept to domestic life on the Wilson’s farm.
The Wilson sisters (Vicki, Amanda and Kelly) became – somewhat reluctant – household names when they agreed to let TVNZ document their work with the wild horses they saved from slaughter, resulting in the reality show “Keeping up with the Kaimanawas”; but whether you have watched the TV series or not, you are bound to be captivated by this beautiful and heartfelt written account of the newly mustered Kaimanawas.
Kelly Wilson’s easy narrative provides rare insight into the Kaimanawas’ personalities, highlighting the differences between these horses – some of whom adjusted quickly to domestication and humans, while others were much more challenged by their new life. Stallion Challenges introduces us to Argo, one of Vicki’s stallions, who takes to his new life with amazing curiosity and ease and becomes the crowd favourite at the Kaimanawa Challenge event; while on the other end of the spectrum there is Hoff, one of Amanda’s stallions, whose physical issues sustained from his life in the wild means that he is unable to ever conform to a happy domestic life.
Underlying these stories is the question that the author keeps coming back to, which is whether the once-wild horses are able to experience true quality of life once they have been put into domestic confines – can humans offer these horses a life without subjecting them to resignation and mental suffering? Stallion Challenges shows how patience, skill and respect can foster astonishing bonds between humans and wild horses, and highlights just how adaptable these horses can be when they are in the right hands.
There is rarely a dull moment in this book – unpredictable, and often truly harrowing situations take the narrative from joy, to suspense, drama and sadness, and right back to joy at the ending of the book, where Kelly Wilson reflects on the fact that the horses have revealed themselves as true teachers, and that the winning of their journey was never about the winning of the event of the “Kaimanawa challenge”.
This book is about three tenacious and gutsy young women, determined to show the world that the Kaimanawa wild horses deserve better than to be slaughtered; but it is also – most importantly – about the incredible spirit of these horses and the need for the New Zealand Government and the public to value and protect these beautiful and rare animals. Inspiring to the end, Stallion Challenges tells stories of self-discovery, and that “if you have enough passion, dedication and vision, anything is possible.”