HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – A Horse, of Course – Part II

By Kelly Moran

A Horse, of Course – Part II

Bird McIver is a locally famous saddle-maker and horse-rescuer (see “A Horse, of Course – Part I“).  I asked her what it costs to buy a horse on the Big Island.

“There are some very, very good horses here: good looking, with nice attitudes. We have access to good bloodlines here. And right now, it’s a buyer’s market. Prices are down because we’re in a down economy.  A good horse can be had for $2,500, although you’ll pay more like $5,000 or $8,000 for a really great one.”

Bird McIver rides Joe: a young horse being trained for polo.
Bird McIver rides Joe: a young horse being trained for polo.

Another source for horses – at a much lower cost – is a horse-rescuing operation. The Hawaii Humane Society has one, and so do Bird and her husband, Colin; they call it CB Horse Rescue.

“With the economy in the tubes,” she explained, “people are neglecting their horses. We see this especially where the owners are on drugs, or drink too much. We see horses that have been frightened, or starved, or not given enough water. I placed six rescued horses last year, and I charge – though it’s funny to put it this way – fifty cents a pound. That works out to about $500-650, which is really a donation to the cause. But you have to remember that, like any other distressed animal, a rescued horse can have ‘issues,’ and the new owner has to be somebody who’s able to handle them. I always say: You have to be ‘married’ to your livestock!”

Suppose someone already has a horse, and wants to bring it here? “That’s pricy, but not much more so than bringing over a car. By sea – that is: by container-ship and inter-island barge – it’ll take a few weeks, and cost about $1,200. As an alternative, and unlike shipping a car, you can actually fly a horse here! FedEx will fly it in, direct from the Mainland, for about $2,200.”

Bird reminds all prospective owners that horses should not be left entirely out of doors. “Ideally, you want to keep a horse in a pasture, but with shelter from the rain and the sun. “If you don’t have a stable, or can’t put one on your land,” she said, “you may be able to rent a stall. The stalls at the Panaewa Equestrian Center, in Hilo, for instance, have traditionally been inexpensive; but costs have been going up for years, so I expect rental fees will also go up, soon.”

Bird McIver riding sidesaddle on Coosa Lani, at the Hawaii Quarter Horse Association's Fun Day Show.
Bird McIver riding sidesaddle on Coosa Lani, at the Hawaii Quarter Horse Association's Fun Day Show.

But you don’t actually have to own lot of land to ride a horse around here. “The Panaewa Equestrian Center is like a giant park,” said Bird. “You can ride in the rodeo arena, or the track, there’s a dressage arena in the infield, and a cross-country course. For skill-building, the Hawaii Island Dressage and Eventing Association can help you with dressage, stadium jumping, and cross-country jumping. There’s a very active polo contingent here. And there are plenty of public places to ride, including Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.”

And so, Bird has one more piece of advice for the prospective owner: “Before you buy a horse, buy a trailer.”

3 Replies to “HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – A Horse, of Course – Part II”

  1. I was wondering what the need is for equine veterinarians on the Big Island. I am an equine veterinarian specializing in dentistry and reproduction and I interested in moving to Hilo area. Any thoughts on if there would be a need for another vet?

  2. Yes, please Kelleyerin. We have a few good vets here, but the Puna and Hilo districts are very underserved and it is very difficult to get a vet out to a ranch in a timely manner. PLEASE come! A group of horse owners has discussed placing ads in Universities for Veterinarians seeking places to work. We need you! With all due respect to the good vets here, many, many horse owners are frustrated because they cannot get help when they need it.

    Thanks for considering this. And Bird, thanks for all you do for the horse folks and horses on this island.

  3. It took me awhile to make it happen, but … I will be moving to the east side of Hawaii next month to practice veterinary medicine (large animal only). My partner is a farrier and he will be coming as well. I look forward to working with you all and helping out any way I can.

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