Australian Waler horses in the ANZAC commemoration ceremony held in the Mounting Yard on ANZAC Day Raceday at Flemington,

War Horse: The Story of The Australian Waler

These courageous and intelligent horses are considered the unsung heroes of service.

Carrying our courageous troops through battles and wars, were the unsung equine heroes, whose loyalty and companionship will be forever cherished by their riders.

The Australian Waler horse gained fame for its courage, endurance and versatility in WWI and it’s estimated that 160,000 were exported from Australia.

Originating from a diverse mix of horse breeds, including the Thoroughbred and Arab, the Waler possesses the qualities of hardiness, stamina and speed combined with natural courage and intelligence. The breed was regarded by the British as ‘the finest cavalry horse in the world’ (source).

The horses were given the name ‘Waler’ as the breed originated in the colony of New South Wales.

Sergeant C.A. Masters, after his return from Gallipoli meets his father in Egypt, c. 1915-16. Source: State Library of Victoria.
Sergeant C.A. Masters, after his return from Gallipoli meets his father in Egypt, c. 1915-16. Source: State Library of Victoria.

In telling of the courage and endurance of the Walers, war correspondent Sir Henry (Harry) Gullett captured the imagination of Australians. His widely-read articles at the end of the war told of ‘thoroughbred triumphs’ and of the affection of the Light Horsemen towards their mounts. 

In the early part of WWI, Australian Waler horses were specifically bred from thoroughbred sires and mares. Gullett believed that "the ‘great horses’ of the regiments… are in every case horses which might have been metropolitan hurdle racers or steeplechasers". 

Other writers noted that sons and grandsons of Cups and classics winners were among the Australian Walers in Palestine and the Western Front. 

Sergeant C.A. Masters, with two other sergeants, taken at the end of their lines in Tel-el-Ribu, Egypt, c. 1914-16. Source: State Library of Victoria.
Sergeant C.A. Masters, with two other sergeants, taken at the end of their lines in Tel-el-Ribu, Egypt, c. 1914-16. Source: State Library of Victoria.

On ANZAC Day Raceday at Flemington, Australian Waler horses will form part of a commemorative ceremony held in the Mounting Yard at 2:55pm. The Moonee Valley Brass Band will perform the Last Post and Rouse and a special guest will perform the Australian National Anthem. Current and returned servicemen and women are invited to participate in the formal proceedings. 

More info on ANZAC Day Raceday here.