- A poem by “Trooper Bluegum” sums up the men’s sentiment at leaving their beloved Walers behind in war:
- “I don’t think I could stand the thought of my old fancy hack
- Just crawling round old Cairo with a ‘Gyppo on his back.
- Perhaps some English tourist out in Palestine may find
- My broken-hearted Waler with a wooden plough behind.
- No: I think I’d better shoot him and tell a little lie:–
- “He floundered in a wombat hole and then lay down to die.”
- May be I’ll get court-martialled; but I’m damned if I’m inclined
- To go back to Australia and leave my horse behind.”
- From Australia in Palestine, 1919
“Waler” was a term used for all horses sent initially from New South Wales, and then from throughout Australia, to serve as military mounts in India between 1836 and 1940.
The Waler emerged in Australia from selective breeding of Thoroughbred, Persian and South African Cape horses. A broad type was developed and the Waler became the primary Australian working horse. Like all horses used for cavalry activities, Walers were typically sturdy, hardy horses able to travel long distances in hot weather with little water and poor forage. Today, Walers are found in all equestrian pursuits and makes a great endurance horse, stockhorse, serious eventing horse or pleasurable companion.
Zorro was a new arrival to Home Valley Station, freshly arrived from New South Wales and had never done any cattle work before, his history was that of a pleasure horse……however in Home Valley he would have to learn the ropes quickly! He had passed the first test, that of survival. Often horses that are transferred to the Kimberley from out-of-state can fall victim to poison from consumption of plants that are known to be poisonous to native horses, but are unfamiliar to these horses. Unfortunately this happened to a horse whilst I was at Home Valley, the sound of the shot-gun echoing through the barn heralded his fate.
Zorro became my horse whilst I was at Home Valley, I was pretty much given free rein to ride him whenever I wanted and work with him as much as I pleased which I greatly appreciated. The time we did spend together was so paramount in cementing a trusting and respectful relationship that when it was time to begin cattle work, we had a strong foundation to begin the education. When a horse trusts you he will do anything for you and Zorro learned quickly. He began to follow the cattle meandering side to side, pushing them on from behind during his first muster. After a few not so succesful attempts at cattle cutting, (not entirely his fault as I hadn’t a clue!), the penny dropped for us both and he began to really lock onto the cow, full concentration on keeping it separate from the herd. To learn a new skill together as horse and rider is probably the greatest expression of that deep relationship that can exist between human and animal.
Helping Zorro on his journey to become a cattle horse and conquer those cows was so much fun, and I am forever grateful for that privilege and the expression of trust, faith and loyalty that Zorro placed in me.
Zorro – Australian Waler – Home Valley Station, Gibb River Road, Western Australia. June 2011.
Author: Janine Whyte (Indiananeeners Globetrotting Cowgirl.)