ANZAC Day is the anniversary of the first major military action by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. It is also a time to commemorate all our other servicemen and women, both past and present, who have served our country.

Horses have always played a central part in our country’s history – from farming and building, from the legendary Man from Snowy River story to their partnership with us in sport. Their strength, loyalty, reliability and character reflects that of the Australian spirit. 

More than 130,000 Australian horses were sent overseas to support our troops in WW1. At the end of the war, the Government imposed strict quarantine laws to stop the spread of disease, meaning our remaining 13,000 horses were unable to return home to Australia.

The horses that were sent were a mix of breeds, including the thoroughbred, however the most used horses were Walers. The Waler is an Australian breed developed from horses brought to the Australian colonies in the 19th century, including Thoroughbreds, Arabs and Timor Ponies. The name comes from their breeding origins in New South Wales.

One famous Waler to assist our troops is Major-General W.T Bridges’ mount, Sandy, the only Waler to be returned home after the war. Another, Bill The Bastard, was the winner of the inaugural ANZAC led Jericho Cup. This race has be honoured with the re-creation of The Jericho Cup, first run at Warrnambool Race Club last December.

After the war, there was a decline in the demand for Walers. In May 2013, 10,000 Walers were culled at the Northern Territory’s Tempe Downs Station. They are now unfortunately a dying breed, however Jess Liston, daughter of Pauline from Three Bridges Thoroughbreds, is doing something to change that. She tells her story: 

The Waler is an amazing breed of horse – they are uniquely Australian and played such an important role in our nation’s history as a war horse. Over the last twelve months I have been working with old blood line Walers in my Equine Assisted Coaching business Inner Rhythm. I have been astounded at their temperament, confirmation and ability to work with my clients who come from all walks of life, from three year old children to business leaders, health professional, local sporting teams and other community groups.

These are incredibly loyal animals that have a temperament more like a family dog than other horses you may be familiar with – but sadly they are close to extinction.

We sent 136,000 Walers to war and thousands more to colonial outposts, today, less than 400 remain in Australia – soon they could be lost forever.

Research into this breed has been occurring over the last 40 years. We have identified a small group of around 300 Walers on an outback property in the Northern Territory. In 2019 I am heading there with a small group of horse enthusiasts to save 20 of them. We are getting good media interest to help spread the word. My mother Pauline Liston and good friend Angela Tiede (who owns old blood line Walers) and I will be there before Easter. We will be hosted by local people and the traditional land owners as we explore the logistics of selecting and transporting horses back to Victoria.

We are fund raising to pay for the horse related expense of the trip and the transport of the horses back to my property in Victoria. From there we will handle and re-home them. We are looking for great horse homes, so if you would love your very own old blood line Waler and have the experience and facilities to manage a wild horse then please get in touch and e-mail jess@innerrhythm.com.au

To donate to this cause, please click here – https://www.gofundme.com/f/save-the-waler

These horses saved so many Australian lives at war, now it’s time for us to save them. Thank you for your support!

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