The ancestors of the Australian Stock Horse arrived in Australia on the First Fleet in January 1788. The end of the 18th century saw horses imported into Botany Bay in small numbers, believed to be of Arabian and Barb blood. The Barb, developed on the Barbary Coast of North Africa, was a desert horse with great hardiness and stamina. Eventually more horses where imported, these were of English Thoroughbred and Spanish stock. Later importations included more Thoroughbreds, Arabs, Timor and Welsh Mountain Ponies. All horses sent to the Colony needed strength and stamina - not only to survive the long sea journey, but also to work in the foreign, untamed environment that had become their home.
In the 1830's, knowledgeable horse breeders imported a steady stream of Thoroughbreds to improve the local horse strains. The settlers had a keen interest in horse racing, so Thoroughbreds became very popular at the beginning of the 19th century. The use of Thoroughbred stallions over the condition-hardened local mares produced the beautiful strain of tough but stylish animals.
How the Breed Evolved
Australian horses had been selectively bred for strength and stamina, reliability and versatility. The strongest were retained for breeding and despite their mixed origins they developed into a strong and handsome type. The horses that developed had a good temperament, were tough and reliable, able to work under saddle and in harness. They were used to clear timber, plough the land and herd sheep and cattle. From this base the breed was refined and developed, using the outstanding sires of the day. Thoroughbreds had a considerable influence, even though the breed carried bloodlines from other breeds.
Explorers, stockmen, settlers, bushrangers and troopers all relied on horses that could travel long distances, day after day. Weak horses were culled; the stronger types were used to breed sturdy saddle horses that were essential for the Colony's settlement. Exploits of the explorers and stockmen and their reliable horses in the Australian bush became Australian folklore, and stories such as The Man from Snowy River and Clancy of the Overflow depict the character of these pioneers and their horses.
Many Australians refer to their horses as stock horses or station horses. When purchased by a cavalry exporter, the horse became known as a remount horse. Originally all Australian horses came from New South Wales (thus the name Waler), but as the settlers spread throughout the continent, they took their horses with them. It was in 1846 that the term Waler was coined by the British. The hardiness of the Waler made him a natural mount for the cavalry. The Australian Army used the Waler in the First World War.
The origins of the Waler date back to 1840 and during the Boer War and World War I the Australian Horse received worldwide recognition through the success of the Australian Light Horse regiments, a quite significant achievement for horses in Australia's history. The Waler was considered to be the finest cavalry horse in the world, winning International acclaim for its endurance, reliability and hardiness during the Indian Mutiny, the Boer War and the First World War. In the Boer War, the Waler served in such regiments as the Lancers, Commonwealth Horse, Mounted Rifles and Bushmen's Troop.
Around 160,000 Australian horses served in World War I and their performance was best summed up by the English cavalryman, Lt Col RMP Preston DSO, in his book, The Desert Mounted Corps. He described the stamina and spirit of the Australian Light Horse, "… Cavalry Division had covered nearly 170 miles…and their horses had been watered on an average of once in every 36 hours…. The heat, too, had been intense and the short rations, 9½ lb of grain per day without bulk food, had weakened them considerably. Indeed, the hardship endured by some horses was almost incredible. One of the batteries of the Australian Mounted Division had only been able to water its horses three times in the last nine days - the actual intervals being 68, 72 and 76 hours respectively, yet this battery on its arrival had lost only eight horses from exhaustion…. The majority of horses in the Corps were Walers and there is no doubt that these hardy Australian horses make the finest cavalry mounts in the world…."
Although many good breeding stock left Australia never to return, the huge shipments did not seem to affect the horse population at home. In 1906 Australia had 1,765,186 horses and in 1918 when the human census was 5,030,479 there were 2,527,149 horses. As a result, a small group of horsemen deemed it important to establish the Society so that these great horses would not be lost genetically and future generations could be recognized and officially recorded.
After the First World War, despite the recognition Australian Horses had won and although the Waler was known as a distinctive type, there was no Stud Book or Registry. Mechanization of primary industries reduced the need for working horses and it was not until the 1960's that an interest in horses was revived due to the increasing leisure time available to society.
In June 1971, the Australian Horse was given the recognition and formal organization it deserved with The Australian Stock Horse Society being established. The procedure to register horses was established. All horses were required to be inspected by a panel of three classifiers who judged each horse on its merits and classified it as follows:
Mares and stallions attaining over 50 points at the inspection were admitted for registration into the Society's Stud Book, whilst those gaining between 40 and 50 points, or geldings gaining over 50 points were admitted into the appendix. Appendix mares and stallions could be upgraded into the stud book providing a twelve month period had lapsed and the horse had reached the required standard.
At the AGM in 1976, by a strong majority, it was decided to give the required formal notice that the Stud Book would be closing in two years. When the Stud Book closed, only foal recorded horses were accepted into the Stud Book. Other horses were accepted into the registry or accepted under the Special Entry regulations. The Classifier's point score system continued with a change in the number of points required for acceptance.
By 1979, eight years into the Society's existence, the classifiers had accepted more than 40,000 horses for registration. The registry section of the Stud Book was closed on 31st July 1988, and all horses registered were automatically upgraded to the Stud Book. From 1st August 1988 and onwards, horses which were accepted for registration were required to have satisfied the Society's breeding requirements and did not require inspection. The only exceptions were Australian Stud Book (Thoroughbred) mares and stallions. On 1st January 1993, the Society introduced the registration of First Cross and Special Merit horses to better cater for the Breeders' needs.
In 1996, the Society's Silver Jubilee year, 130,000 horses had been registered or recorded with the Society. Since the closure of the Society's Stud Book, only horses that comply with the Society's regulations have been accepted for registration. In the last decade the Society has experienced unprecedented growth as the demand for Australian Stock Horses and recognition of their many attributes has increased. In the last ten years the Membership of the Society has doubled to over 9,500 and in excess of 170,000 horses have been registered or recorded in our Stud Book.
The object of The Australian Stock Horse Society Limited was to preserve the identity and breeding records of the Stock Horse through registration and to promote their attributes through exhibitions and performance.
Australian Stock Horses are used for general riding and stock work on rural properties, as well as equestrian competitions. With its versatility, the Australian Stock Horse has achieved outstanding success in a wide variety of sports including: campdrafting, show jumping, dressage, eventing, pony club events, harness, polo and polocross.
The Australian Stock Horse is intelligent, with courage, toughness and stamina, and has a good temperament. The Australian Stock Horse is considered possibly the world's most versatile horse, the horse evolved through selective breeding in response to the demands of the environment.
The basic pre-requisites of a high performance horse are a quiet temperament, intelligence and athletic ability. These qualities are essential for a brilliant performance whatever the event.
CAMPDRAFTING, a truly Australian sport, requires agility, intelligence and strength of both horse and rider. The horse must also have speed and 'cattle sense' which is required when the competitor selects a beast from the 'camp' or yard and separates it from the remaining cattle. After 'cutting-out' the beast, the rider has to work it with his horse around an outside course. DRESSAGE is the most elegant of equine sports. A dressage horse must have intelligence, suppleness, obedience and smoothness of movement to produce a flowing and disciplined performance. POLO and POLOCROSS require fast, strong horses with stamina and a 'love of the game.' Called ponies in both games, these horses must demonstrate intelligence, agility and control at speed.
SHOWJUMPING and EVENTING horses are indeed athletes and need to be obedient, intelligent and bold with obvious strength and soundness. PONY CLUB horses need a quiet temperament, and the ability to perform capably in a variety of events. They need intelligence, athletic ability and the ability to adapt to their rider's standard of horsemanship.
The Society's Head Office was established in Scone in regional New South Wales, which promotes itself as the Horse Capital of Australia. Scone is appropriate for the headquarters, as it is in the heart of one of Australia's top horse breeding areas and is in an area where many notable Stock Horse bloodlines originate.
The Society is the largest breed organization for pleasure horses in Australia. The Society enjoys a loyal and growing membership of more than 9,500 individuals and they have in excess of 180,000 horses registered or foal recorded.
This website contains a wealth of information for current owners of the horse, which is considered The Breed for Every Need, as well as for those who wish to learn more about this great Australian Icon. The Society's Online Stud Book provides details of the registered horses and their pedigrees.
On many occasions the Board has contemplated the acceptance of other breeds' bloodlines within the breed. It has always been important that other breeds do not dominate the traditional and heritage lines, change the type, temperament or versatility of the breed. At times, infusion of other breeds has been allowed. Although the Stud Book is closed, members have the right to select breeding stock of their choice; First Cross registration was introduced for breeders over ten years ago. After a trial period with First Cross registration, it was decided that only Second Cross and Stud Book stallions could be registered as sires, due to the possibility that First Cross stallions could significantly impact within the Stud Book.
The Board has always endeavored to restrict or allow registration of horses within the Society to best preserve the identity and heritage of the breed's origins and to retain the versatility and temperament for which the breed is renowned.
There was a tribute to the Australian Stock Horse during the 2000 Sydney Olympics Opening Ceremony when an Australian Stock Horse reared and then a further 120 Stock Horses were ridden into the Stadium and performed intricate formations to music including forming the five Olympic Rings and re-enacting part of the 'ride' of the poem "The Man From Snowy River". The music was an especially written Olympics version of the main theme of "The Man From Snowy River" by Australian composer Bruce Rowland.
Today, the Society has 60 Branches throughout Australia and 1 Branch in the United States of America. The Branches conduct competitions and activities for members in their area and assist in promoting the breed within the horse industry. The successful performance of the Australian Stock Horse has not only been recognized throughout Australia, but exports to United Kingdom, United States of America, Africa, New Zealand and Asia have given them worldwide recognition. The Society conducts a National Championships on a yearly basis to emphasize, highlight and record the success of the breed in the competition area.
The Society aims to preserve and promote the bloodlines of the Australian Stock Horse, recognized for its versatility and superior performance amongst work and leisure breeds. The Board endeavors to ensure that the history and identity of the Australian Stock Horse remains clearly identified and for the Australian Stock Horse to continue for many years to come.