Floods wreak havoc for Hawke’s Bay trainer

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  • February 21, 2023
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Amid the devastation and destruction to her property which has decimated her business, Hawke’s Bay trainer Vicki Wilson is counting herself lucky.

Wilson’s Kahuranaki farm, south of Hastings, suffered extensive damage from flooding resulting from Cyclone Gabrielle but despite the heartbreak she is still looking on the bright side and prioritising the care of 180 horses on the property.

“We’re incredibly lucky. All the people are safe, all the horses are safe,” Wilson said.

“I know there are people in the region who have lost horses and we haven’t lost any so in that regard, we’re lucky. We moved everything early.

“We’ve got excessive damage. It’s been destructive. We’ve lost paddocks for 45 horses. They told us the floods two years ago were the biggest the area had ever seen but this was 3m higher. We’ve got debris halfway up trees on the farm.”

Wilson has no power or water on the property and now faces a monumental task of salvaging what’s left of her farm.

“All my main fences are gone. We’ve lost 20 paddocks that had all my horses in work and we’ve lost our two 40-acre paddocks that had all our broodmare and turn-out ones on,” she said.

“The hay paddocks are gone, the starting gates are gone – it’s fences, it’s trees down and then there are slips. We’ve lost our track and starting gates so we’ve got nowhere to work the horses now. I’ve never had so many horses in such a small space before in my life.”

Wilson has been forced to curtail the preparations of not only her racing team but also her showjumpers.

“We’re out for a while. All we’ll be doing now is clean up,” she said.

“It will be a slow clean-up of debris from fencelines, fixing fences and water troughs. We’re still in trouble for feed and water for the horses but we’ll solve that,” she said.

“I did have a few major colic cases from horses struggling with the water but we’ve been able to treat them. Our water is the problem. How do we get water to 180 horses?

“We’re lucky that we were ready early. Our house is high, our stables are high. But the rest is just ugly and now we’re facing the clean-up. We’re very practical though. You get on and begin the clean-up.

“We’ve got four-wheel drive access to our road but we couldn’t get a float or a truck in.”

Stable apprentice Lily Sutherland has already relocated to Wanganui trainer Kevin Myers so she can continue to ride trackwork.

Wilson said the damage of the cyclone was widespread in the area and she felt for everyone affected by it.

“It’s devastating,” she said. “We drove to town yesterday and saw the damage to the apple crops and onions floating. It’s just carnage everywhere.”

Other Hawke’s Bay trainers that were able to be contacted said they were able to work their horses at the Hastings racetrack this week as normal though regular training had been disrupted.

John Bary was facing an anxious wait to see if the Napier-Taupo road can open soon so he can avoid travel disruptions for his team heading north.

He has Low Flying aiming for Saturday week’s Gr.2 J Swap Contractors Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) as well as his Gr.1 Auckland Thoroughbred Racing New Zealand Derby (2400m) hopeful Rockburn headed to the same meeting.

“We’ve got off quite lightly considering the damage around us. We just got the power back on Thursday morning,” Bary said.

“There’s a lot of water lying around and a few trees have come down but we were able to work our horses at the Hastings track this morning. There are a lot of people much worse off than us so we’re counting ourselves pretty lucky.”

Hawke’s Bay Racing has done its part in providing for the Hastings community, providing soup, power and showers to the public, as well as looking after pets affected by the floods.

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