Horse in the Australian War Memorial collection
The Australian War Memorial's collection includes the mounted hide of a chestnut gelding, typical of the Walers used by light horsemen in the campaign in the Middle East during the First World War.
Walers invariably had a full mane and tail, which helped to deter flies and insects. The horse on display at the Memorial has had his mane cut off with clippers, or "hogged", which was fashionable from the 1930s to the late 1960s. Similarly, the horse's tail has been "banged" (cut off in a straight line just below the line of the hocks – a peacetime military and civil fashion) and "pulled" (the long hairs along each side of the tail pulled out to give a neat, elegant line when the horse moves).
The Memorial's horse was born in Australia c. 1925 and cast for age in 1937. At the time, horses were usually disposed of or "cast for age" at 12 years old, deemed to be of no further use to the army for riding. Pulling horses were cast at 15 years of age. By contrast, a horse today is considered to be in its prime between the ages of 12 and 15. However, horses did far more work a century ago than they do now and, as veterinary treatment was not as advanced, simply wore out. In the past a horse was old at 19 or 20 years; today, horses live to around 30 years.
The centre front of each hoof on this horse has been branded. It is possible to read the combination of numbers and letters to tell the horse's unit, squadron or troop, and age. Australians adopted this method of identification in the First World War.
This horse and rider are equipped for the period 1916–17. In 1918 rifle buckets were introduced in some units: the rifle sat in a leather bucket attached to the saddle instead of being slung over the rider's back. Near the end of the war swords were issued to a small number of light horse regiments.