—Gerald O’Brien, professional horse trainer & Equestrian Federation of Australia Coach

Breed History

The Australian Stock Horse, possibly the world’s most versatile horse, evolved through selective breeding in response to the demands of the environment. The history of the breed began with the arrival of the First Fleet which brought the first horses to Australia in 1788. These were of English Thoroughbred & Spanish stock.

Later importations included more Thoroughbreds, Arabs, Timor and Welsh Mountain Ponies. All horses sent to the Colony needed strength and stamina – not only to survive the long sea journey, but also to work in the foreign, untamed environment that had become their home. After Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson crossed the Blue Mountains in 1813, settlers ventured inland and strong reliable horses became a necessity.

Explorers, stockmen, settlers, bushrangers & troopers all relied on horses that could travel long distances, day after day. Weak horses were culled but the stronger types were used to breed sturdy saddle horses which were essential for the Colony’s settlement. Despite the mixed origins of these horses, they developed into a strong and handsome type which was eventually called the Waler after the Colony of New South Wales. The hardiness of the Waler made him a natural mount for the cavalry and when the British found themselves under- mounted at the time of the Indian Mutiny the Waler came to the rescue.

By the end of 1858, nearly 3000 had been sent to India and had proved themselves far superior to the local breeds. In the Boer War, the Waler was exported in even greater numbers and from 1899 to 1902 nearly 16,000 horses served in such regiments as the Lancers, Commonwealth Horse, Mounted Rifles and Bushmen’s Troop.

Later in the Middle East during the First World War, generals & cavalrymen from 20 nations, fighting on both sides, saw that the Australian horses were again more reliable and showed greater endurance than the other breeds. About 160,000 Australian horses served in World War 1 and their performance was best summed up by R.M. Preston D.S.O. in his book “The Desert Mounted Corps” – “The majority of horses in the Corps were Walers and there is no doubt that these hardy Australian horses make the finest cavalry mounts in the world”. After the First World War, despite the recognition Australian Horses had won and although the Waler was known as a distinctive type, there was no Stud Book or Registry.

Mechanization of primary industries reduced the need for working horses and it was not until the 1960’s that an interest in horses was revived due to the increasing leisure time available to society. Mr. Alex Braid of Wellington invited Mr. John Kenneth Mackay, from Dungog, to chair the Inaugural Meeting on 28th April 1971 at the Cole Dudgeon Hall, Sydney. Mr. Herbert Griffith of Scone, and Alex Braid gathered together a group of enthusiasts to discuss the formation of the Society at the Inaugural Meeting. Ken Mackay’s opening address spoke of the Waler in the Boer War and the War of 1914 – 1918 as well as Stock Horses in general. On 15th June 1971, a General Meeting was called at the Tamworth RSL Club to launch The Australian Stock Horse Society.

For more information about Australian Stock Horses, please visit the website of the Australian Stock Horse Society.