October 3, 2023

Watch: Hawke’s Bay woman details emotional moment her horse was found

"It's just heartbreaking."

Stories of reunion and heartbreak are emerging in the equestrian community after Cyclone Gabrielle wreaked havoc across the North Island. 

Hawke’s Bay resident Jenna Marsh told AM her mum has “lost everything” following the flooding. Her mother feared she’d lost her horses too.

“There was probably an hour max window between texting my mum to see ‘if you guys are okay’ and her messaging me to say ‘we’re on the roof, it’s not okay’ and from their roof, they couldn’t see the horses,” Marsh said.

“She texted to say the horses have drowned, ‘we can’t see them, we don’t know where they are. They’re gone’.”

But a glimmer of hope came in the middle of the night when Marsh’s friend rang to say she may have spotted Marsh’s mother’s horse, Polly. 

“That gave us hope that we could find Polly.”

The following morning, Marsh drove to the location her friend had spotted Polly but couldn’t find her.

“At that stage, we couldn’t, we were helpless.”

But later that afternoon someone else texted to say Polly had been found and was at a property, but it was no easy task getting there, Marsh had to “drive through terrible roads and everything like that to get to where Polly was”.

Marsh told AM while in tears: “As we drove up the driveway I knew it was her and my parents have lost everything, so to find mum’s horse, it was just overwhelming, obviously amazing.”

And standing on Marsh’s boat was her goat, but retrieving it proved difficult thanks to the high floodwaters. 

“We managed to get her out using a bridge that was floating around and wade her out through chest-deep water,” Marsh said. 

“She and Polly have been reunited at our place.”

But Marsh told AM scenes of reunion are only half the story, she says other horse owners still haven’t found theirs.

“It’s just heartbreaking.”

In a Facebook post, Pakowhai-based riding school, Stable Hearts, said all of their “treasured horses” died together at their Stable Hearts home.

“The Stable Hearts family will navigate the immeasurable grief. We will turn this tragedy into story of love, hope and survival. Cry with us, but not for too long.” 

And the tragedy is felt across Aotearoa’s equestrian community. 

Christchurch-based Maddi Thompson Equestrian is calling for Cantabrians to help source rugs and horse food for flood victims with horses. 

“Anything will make a difference in these tough times. It’s heartbreaking and we can only do a little bit, but they are going through extremely tough times,” they said on Facebook.

Drop off centres for horse-related items: 

  • Thompson horses
  • Melwood Haig Equestrian 
  • CJs Equestrian 
  • Clip Clop Equestrian 
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