NZ Booklovers chats with Kelly Wilson about her book For the Love of Horses, which tells the inspiring story of re-homing wild horses.
In For the Love of Horses you describe that it was the loss of some of the Kaimanawas that made you first sit down and write about them – do you feel that writing about it is in some sense a way of processing or dealing with the heartbreak you experienced, or was writing something you had always wanted to do?
Writing a book is something I had never considered, and was motivated by losing Major – his story deserved to be told. I had always wanted to publish a photography book and often written for magazines so the writing came quite naturally for me and I have enjoyed the process.
In the book you describe many uplifting moments, or “break-throughs” with the eleven Kaimanawas from the 2012 muster – was there a favourite moment, something that really stood out for you as your defining moment to getting an insight into the specialness of these horses?
On day 22 when we took the first horses to beach – it was a magical moment riding Survivor the young mare for the first time. To do that after only three weeks, and also let her loose on the beach, was amazing – the trust she had in us was absolute and she loved the company of humans.
You and your sisters are in the process of training another lot of Kaimanawas from the 2014 muster – how many do you have, and are you finding it easier this time? Are many of the issues similar to last time?
We have 12 from the 2014 muster and it has been both easier and harder. We were riding one of the mares and one of the stallions after just eight days and they are some of the most amazing wild horses we have ever worked with, then on the other extreme we have two that we still cannot safely touch after eight months.
Do you have any particular influences in your approach to how you train the horses, or your philosophy behind horsemanship?
No it is all things we have developed over time, usually from observing horses and adapting as needed – the horses are the best teachers, and if they are well adjusted and happy you know you are doing something right!
In the book you mention that you have several other ideas for Kaimanawa stories – what are you currently working on?
I am currently working on the sequel to For the Love of Horses, which follows the 12 horses from the 2014 muster and also the success of our Show Jumpers in more recent years, including Amanda selling her famed pony to Denmark and Vicki winning her first World Cup competition.
You are also an accomplished photographer – do you see your writing as going hand-in-hand with the photography in the sense that your photos will accompany what you write?
I love that my photos can help tell the story and have been back into the ranges four times already this year to photograph the wild herds and have over 25,000 photos of our Kaimanawas since they were mustered eight months ago – it also helps me to accurately remember every stage of the journey – it’s impossible to forget when you have such comprehensive and visual reminders of the highs and the lows.
With your freelance design and photography career, the riding, and the many other things that you are involved in, how to you manage to make time for writing and what – if any – are your writing rituals?
I know I have to write 5000 words a week to meet deadline so I try and keep on top of that. If I’m too busy one week then I make up for it the next – I’m halfway through the next book at the moment and it’s reading amazing – we didn’t think it was possible but the journey with the current horses has been even more extreme than 2012 and it makes a compelling story.