Kelley Wilson

No.1 bestselling author, adventurer, award-winning photographer, wild horse tamer and TV personality!

After nine years together, and at the grand old age of 26, I had to say a heartbreaking goodbye to Elder this morning; the oldest, wisest and wildest of all the wild horses I’ve tamed.

He was one of the first Kaimanawa stallions I gentled, and at 17 years old (at the time) he was by far the most challenging. He was the kind of wild stallion that storybooks are made of: a one-person horse, who never truely accepted humans or domestic life, but who choose to place his trust in me. I am honoured he choose me as his person.

It took me 1000 days to be able to touch him all over his body, yet long before that I could ride him bare back over the farm, take him for four hour treks with 20 other horses, out cattle mustering, gallop down the beach at midnight on New Years Eve, and swim in the ocean and river. He was only ridden about 50 times, however, as most of his life he roamed in large fields babysitting our foals and broodmares: my gift to him was giving him a life as close to his wild days as possible. To this day I was the only person who was ever able to touch him or halter him in the paddock.

Back in 2014, when I saved him from slaughter (he was deemed unsuitable for rehoming due to being severely lame during the muster), I had no idea what impact that decision would have on my life and career. Elder is the horse who helped me discover my love for wild horses, taught me about equine body language and gifted me much of the knowledge I now use with both my wild horses and liberty training.

He is the horse who helped me find myself, my people, and my calling. He helped me to overcome fears and accomplish things I hardly dreamed of.

He was quirky, complicated and opinionated, yet gentle and kind. I’ve never met a horse who tried so hard, and although by most standards he didn’t achieve much, I know just how hard it was for him to accept humans in any capacity. Nothing came easily for him, and we have both had to work incredibly hard for him to have any quality of life in domestication: the only things he truely loved was his herd (especially my retired show jumper Dancer), our beach adventures and CopRice. Because he struggled so much he forced me to improve my horsemanship in order to be able to offer him clear communication and stress free training methods, and I even learnt how to trim hooves so he wouldn’t have the added stress of a stranger having to touch him. He always challenged me and held me accountable, and accepted nothing less than my best.

I have so much gratitude for all he taught me over the years and all he helped me to accomplish. Because of Elder I constantly strove to upskill and learn new things, because the more I learnt, the better I could show up for him.

This summer his health deteriorated and he was constantly lame with arthritic joints. Knowing it wouldn’t be fair to go through another winter, he was laid to rest overlooking the Kaimanawa Ranges and Mt Ruapehu, at the top of my farm, with only native bush and mountains within sight. A fitting place for a horse that was stressed by the sight of humans and who I’ve always wished could have lived out his days roaming free. May he rest in peace knowing that he was loved and that his best interests were always put first, even in his final moments.

Here’s to the horse that built me and helped make me the woman I am today. Thank you for everything you taught me.

Enjoying the estuary at Matapouti beach.

The first time I saw Elder in the wild, back in the winter of 2013.

Summers were often spent swimming in the river, even once he was retired from proper riding.

Swimming in the ocean, during one of our epic Far North Adventures, which included three days of 4-hour rides across beaches, sand dunes, farmland and forests.

My final photo of Elder, taken yesterday. Still looking as handsome as always, and pictured with his favourite mare Dance

Elder enjoying his herd.

Elders final resting spot (Mt Ruapehu is hidden in the clouds).

Midnight beach ride for New Years. He was amazing to canter down the beach in the dark ❤️

Elders first ride in western gear (apart from this he was only ever ridden in a halter).

Riding at the beach was where he felt truly joyful.

For the first few years it cost $600 every time his hooves had to be trimmed as he would have to be fully sedated on the ground, because having someone else handle him was too stressful and he wouldn’t tolerate being touched past the wither (sadly, if left untrimmed, he became a welfare issue and was unsound). It took me three years to finally be able to pick up his back hooves for the first time, and from then on I trimmed his hooves myself.

Published by Nelle

I am interested in writing short stories for my pleasure and my family's but although I have published four family books I will not go down that path again but still want what I write out there so I will see how this goes

One thought on “Kelley Wilson

  1. “May he rest in peace knowing that he was loved and that his best interests were always put first, even in his final moments.”

    What more could any animal living with humans desire.

    When passing over, animals can do so in peace, if other animals or humans who respected and loved them, are near them at the time. That is all they desire.

    Going by the photos and your words, Elder did quite well during his (meant to be) time with you.
    Big lessons of value learnt and applied by both, well done Kelley, well done Elder.


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