New Breed: Walers
The Waler horse, or Australian Waler, is an Australian heritage breed originating as early as the late 1700s. Originally bred as a working mount for transportation, pulling carriages and stockwork, the Waler saw its greatest use as a mount in the first and second world wars. This took a great toll on the breed however, with the lack in demand following the end of WWII and the rise in mechanisation almost causing their extinction. A few heroic efforts to save remaining populations in the 1980s saw the resurgence of the breed, and a select number of Waler studs now exist, preserving this historic Australian horse. At the height of their success, over 200,000 Walers were shipped to the war effort, however today only around 700 recognised individuals remain.
The Waler Horse Society was established in 1968, giving rise to the Waler Horse Society of Australia (WHSA) and its studbook, the Australian Waler Horse Studbook, in 1988. The Waler Horse Owners and Breeders Association Australia established a studbook in 2005, and has similar aims and regulations as the WHSA, if slightly more stringent and up to date.
The Waler comes from a combination of hot and coldblood stock, as well as native ponies. Breeds include Clydesdale, Percheron, Suffolk Punch, English Cart Horse (Shire), Cleveland Bay, Yorkshire Coacher, Norfolk Roadster, Lincolnshire Trotter, Timor Pony, Native British Ponies, most numerously the Welsh Pony; early Thoroughbreds, strongly influenced by Galloway and Hobie blood, Arabians, Barbs, the Cape Horses of South Africa.
Type and Conformation
The WHSA recognises four waler types:
- Pony (Scout horse or Officers sport horse)
10 - 14hh, the Pony type, also known as a Scout type or a Mounted Games pony. Pony type Walers are the smallest type, the most rare, and are the only type distinguished by height (14hh or under). They should show a significant amount of pony influence, namely the Timor, and boast a soft, long and elastic stride.
- Light (Officer’s mount)
14.2hh - 15.2hh, the Officer type is a Light type, often also referred to as Chargers or Officer's Chargers. Officer type Walers are of a finer build than the others, but still should have more bone and tendon than other light breeds, and have a distinct presence about them - after all, an Officer was judged first by the cut of his horse. A good Charger kept his rider safe throughout the gruelling days of war, and he looked fabulous doing so.
- Medium (Trooper’s mount)
14.2hh - 16hh, desirably the height of a soldier's mount, as any taller was too tiresome to throw gear onto, Trooper's mounts would be classed as the Medium type. They are arguably the most common type. Trooper's mounts are built strongly for utility rather than presence and looks like the Officer. Nevertheless, they are a handsome horse and have a charismatic look of strength and nobility about them. They should have a long, elastic stride, a good forward walk and a comfortable canter.
- Heavy (Artillery horse)
16hh +, Artillery or Gun Horses are the Heaviest type of Walers, and usually also the tallest, but such is not strictly the case. Artillery types are more strongly influenced by Draught horses, yet are more active and agile - not front-heavy like that of a plough horse. Their action is generally not Draught style, but is more forward and elastic, better suited to riding.
The overall average height range is 13hh - 17hh.
“Regardless of type, Waler horses should show remarkable bone and robustness. Their jumping ability can be seen in the length of gaskin, splendid hindquarters and well-formed hocks. Their comfort as a riding horse shows in their long ground-covering walk coming from a well sloped shoulder, strong back, powerful legs, big clean joints and correctly sloped pasterns, at an angle corresponding to the shoulder. The chest is well spaced for plenty of heart and lung room, the girth deep through and ribs well sprung. The tail is set medium to low, giving a sweeping refined appearance. The head is alert, broad between kindly eyes and well set onto a graceful but strong neck that gives a good length of rein as befitting a cavalry horse.” (WHSA)
All Walers must descent from original remount stock, with foundation horses being pulled off old stations where they may have been running wild for a number of years. This is ensured by DNA typing upon registration to exclude the influence of modern horse breeds. No outcrosses are recorded to ensure the purity of remaining individuals.
Walers come in black, bay (plain, seal, wild), and chestnut. The breed has grey, cream, roan, silver, flaxen, sooty, pangare, tobiano, and dominant white spotting. Dun is mentioned by the WHOBAA however no photographic evidence can confirm this.
Walers are noted especially for their endurance and stockwork capabilities, including cutting, campdrafting and roping. Their gaits make them useful as dressage mounts in the modern show ring, and they have also successfully competed in open show jumping and eventing. Other uses include harness, polocrosse, pony club and pleasure riding (hacks).
- Pony (Scout horse or Officers sport horse)
We'll definitely be adding this breed... I actually thought we already had!