It was a public holiday here in Australia today, because of ANZAC day. Across the country we remembered the men and women who went to war, particularly the men who fought at Gallipoli during World War 1.
Noeline Franklin (from Brindabella and the Miles Franklin family) emailed me exactly a year ago asking that on ANZAC day we might also remember the horses that went to war.
About 160,000 horses from Australia went to WWI.
Australia’s mounted soldiers included stockmen from the High Country – mostly volunteers who took their own horses.
The story goes, that at war’s end, many of these men were asked to shoot their horses. The horses could not come home.
For Noeline, the brumbies that now roam the High Country are their descendants and represent “the free spirit of our people and the horses who never returned”.
Many of the horses that went to war from Australia were known as ‘walers’. According to Michael Keenan’s ‘In Search of a Wild Brumby’: “The initial breed was English thoroughbred stallions joined to mares with genetic links to the draught horse. Over the decades the genetic pool was deliberately widened to produce a hardy horse, suitable for the unpredictable stresses in a battle environment. Such breeds as the Welsh pony, Timor pony and the wild brumby were introduced to refine what became known as the ‘classic waler’, with fine clean legs and bone, wide barrel-like chest, short back and a broad head. Unlike the thoroughbreds, the waler could hump weights for long distances, endure searing heat, survive on any available grass and, if called upon, unleash bursts of speed only marginally slower than their big cousins.”
There are now plans in place to rid most National parks of brumbies including horses identifed as ‘classic walers’ because they are considered ‘exotics’ and not a natural part of the Australian bush. The above picture is from the savethebrumbies.org website which describes the slaughter of over 600 brumbies in the Guy Fawkes River National Park six years ago.