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Use and characteristics of the Australian Stock Horse
Australian Stock Horses are the result of nearly two centuries of breeding for performance as a working horse in the toughest and most demanding of environments. With the emphasis on function, there has always been variation in size and type, which means there’s plenty of choice for equestrians who want to buy an Australian Stock Horse. Whether pony-sized or around the average of 16 hands (64 inches/163 cm) high, the common factors when vendors sell an Australian Stock Horse are the agility, toughness and endurance of the individual. They are also intelligent and hard-working horses, with plenty of genuine horse sense!
Origin and history of breeding Australian Stock Horses
The first horses arrived in Australia in the late 1780s. Even by 1810, there were only about 1100 horses in the whole continent, mostly on the east coast in New South Wales. This number had tripled by the early 1820s, and after this, different types of horse began to be imported for riding, to work the land or draw commercial vehicles in the expanding settlements. From all these imports, the Australian Waler, named for New South Wales, was developed as the country’s own versatile horse. During this period, many experts believed that there was no better all-round riding horse in the world than the Australian Waler. With further input from Thoroughbred and Arab horses, ponies and several other breeds, a distinctive type emerged. By the early twentieth century, the Waler was one of the finest breeds for light cavalry as well as for working on Australia’s remote stations where cattle and sheep were reared. Walers were also used as polo ponies and many of them were sent to India during the late nineteenth century. WWI brought disaster for Walers; 120,000 of them died or were abandoned during WWI in Palestine, North Africa, Europe and India. By the 1970s, it was clear that there was a need to try to preserve Australia’s working horse and its traditions, and the Australian Stock Horse Society was formed to do this. Since the 1950s, American Quarter Horses have been influential on the Australian Stock Horse, particularly those bred by the King Ranch in Texas, which imported four stallions into Australia in 1953.
Australian Stock Horses in equestrianism
The term Australian Stock Horse encompasses many different sizes and types of horse. This means it is possible to find examples of the breed that look like elegant riding horses for equitation classes, as well as compact, powerful horses that can cut cows with ease. Australian Stock Horses show their skills in the popular sport of Campdrafting, where a steer is cut from a “camp” and driven through a course. It demands a very skilful horse with “cow sense”, an ability inherited from both the Australian and American lineages of the Australian Stock Horse.