Jessica Liston is travelling to the Northern Territory to rehome the Waler horse (Jessica Liston)
Time after time
We rode through shot and shell
We rode in and out of Hell
On their strong backs
Time after time
They brought us safely through
By their swift sure hooves
And their brave hearts
Tomorrow we will form up ranks and march down to the quay
And sail back to our loved ones in that dear land across the sea
While our loyal and true companions
Who asked so little and gave so much
Will lie dead in the dust
– Eric Bogle “As If He Knows”
The Waler breed has never received the same kind of press as its illustrious cousin, the thoroughbred, but its hoofhold on Australian history is every bit of equal import.
Hailing from a combination of breeds – thoroughbred, Arab, Timor Pony and Cape horse, with perhaps a dash of Clydesdale or Percheron – the Waler originated from the then colony of New South Wales (hence the ‘Waler’ moniker).
Largely designed as a work horse, we bred them in the thousands … millions … but they really got their ‘name’ as war horses: think the light horse charges. Think Bill The Bastard.
Over 16,000 were sent to South Africa for the Boer War, while an estimated 121,324 ‘served’ overseas during World War 1. Sadly, so many of those Walers would be disposed of rather than be repatriated to Australia and, if you can listen to Eric Bogle’s “As If He Knows” without shedding a tear, you’d better check to see you have a pulse.
But enough of history, it’s today and tomorrow that concern us now: when once there were vast numbers, the breed has become rare.
Fortunately, the actions of a few may well save an important slice of our heritage with Jess Liston, her mum Pauline and good mate, Angela Tiede getting on the front foot in an attempt to ‘re-home’ 20 of the Walers throughout Victoria.
“There are around 300 Walers on traditional land in the Northern Territory and we’re up there at the moment working through the logistics of transporting the horses back to my property in Victoria,” Jess Liston explains. “We will then place them with various properties covering a wide range of disciplines.
“The reason why the Walers were so popular in the past, and should be again!, is because they are so versatile. They could be used as clerks of the course, as lead ponies, for camp drafting, eventing, dressage, show jumping … you name it.
“Because of their incredible temperament they are also terrific for leadership and team-building: brilliant for therapy, particularly around the elderly and young children.”
If you love the horse and genuinely appreciate what he/she has done to help build this country, ‘Save The Waler’ is a worthy cause.
So, when you take a moment to reflect on this Anzac Day, think also of our four legged heroes. We can’t do anything about bringing back those old diggers, but we can do something about resurrecting the breed that served them so well.
A gofundme page has been set up and you can do your bit by contributing at: https://www.gofundme.com/save-the-waler
Jess Liston can also be contacted through email: email@example.com