Waler horse to join light troop
LIKE a barrel on toothpicks, the “waler” was bred to be big on top and light below. It earned “legend” status in World War I, but did not enjoy a dignified death afterwards.
Some 300 Southern Downs Australian Light Horse men took their own waler horses overseas into battle – a total of 160,000 altogether – but only 12,000 survived to the end of the war. Those survivors were either shot or sold, as the cost to bring them back was too great and quarantine issues meant the government of the day would not allow them to return.
Fast-forward almost 100 years and “waler Phantasia” enjoys a tranquil life on Trish and Ray Kuhn's Warwick property, re-enacting the life of her ancestors.
“We're a part of the Lockyer Light Horse Troop and have been invited to participate in the Returned Soldiers Parade in Brisbane on November 20,” Mrs Kuhn said.
“Ray has spent hours polishing the leather and brass to make sure everything is in top condition.
“We are breeding walers; the horse played such an important role during World War I and if we don't actively remember, the legacy could be lost forever.”
The Kuhns have collected authentic uniforms, gear and equipment and plan to turn a room at their home into a museum. Mr Kuhn said he hoped a Warwick Light Horse Troop would soon take shape.
“There's such a wealth of history here,” said.
“Major-General Harry Chauval (Australian Light Horse Commander in Palestine) – who managed Warwick's Canning Downs for about three years – was horrified the walers couldn't come home.
“Only one horse did return – General William Bridges's Sandy. Its head is now at the Australian War Memorial.
“The name ‘waler' came about because the type originally came from New South Wales.
“ The waler was a popular type, but after the first World War, they weren't worth much, so they were let loose.”