How this Journey Began
If you have read Pedro, the Wedding Horse on this website you will know that on his plaque is the words, ‘Pedro, the Wedding Horse, Lest we forget’ as he died on the Anzac Day week.
This was the beginning of another unexpected journey and a gift that came from the grief of the death of my beautiful white Andalucian, Pedro, that is one of the major experiences that has changed me and my perspective on life from then on. Pedro’s spirit lives on, the same as the Light Horse do, in our hearts and in our lives, we sometimes just do not remember where we have come from and how these heavy horses carried us to fight for our freedom.
Who would have thought that I would represent the Light Horse leading the Anzac Parades and other ceremonies where the Light Horse were remembered. I was never a horseman and only connected with the horses at 40 years of age when I moved to my new home on 43 acres at Eumund. This was the start of an amazing love affair with horses and what they represent, their gifts, their teachings and how we can connect, communicate and learn so much from them. They are an energetic soul that has so much love to give and for us to give back.
I was 50 years old when my friend and colleague Chad asked if I would be interested in riding in the local Anzac Day Parade as the other rider was not able to do it. Of course I was excited and accepted, always loving a new adventure and experience. I was the first women allowed to ride in the Eumundi, Cooroy precinct as a Light Horseman. What an honour.
This adventure went over two days and we ended up performing in five services including the Cooroy Dawn Service, Eumundi Service, meet the Cooroy Troop Train with the Premier and other important guests on board, canter across the oval of the Cooroy Christian College towards the whole school standing on parade. The kids are always so intrigued with the horses and their eyes light up, makes me smile.
The horse I rode was very experienced at Anzac days and his owner, John, was loyal year after year riding on Anzac day at the local services. The horse was not well and at one stage I thought he was going to drop under me. One week after the parade he passed away. This was his last role to play in this world for the Light Horsemen and Horses.
After that experience it was not a question of whether to do it again, how could I not pause life for a moment to and have the honour of representing such brave men and horses. I believe the emotions I felt captured the essence of the Lighthorse and their bravery, such unexpected feelings, I thought I was just going to ride a horse down the street. That first Anzac experience was many things but humbling and appreciative of our men and horses come to mind, and most of all stopping life to think about how it felt for the men and horses at that time. Life gets busy and we do forget to stop and remember how we got to this point and feel grateful for the sacrifices that was made for us to enjoy this life now.
There is more to come, watch this space for the next chapter.
Below is an extract from the Light Horse Website
“The Horses Stay Behind“
Victory had a sour note for the men of the Light Horse. Many had planned to buy their horses from the army. They dreamt of the good times they and their beloved walers could enjoy back home.
But the word quickly spread. “The horses stay behind.” Because of quarantine regulations, it was impractical to take tens of thousands of army horses back to Australia.
Major Oliver Hogue of the 14th Regiment, who wrote as “Trooper Bluegum”, summed up the feelings of many men in one of his poems.
“I don’t think I could stand the thought of my old fancy hack
Just crawling around 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.”
Then an order was issued that all walers were to be classified A, B, C and D, according to their condition and age. All C and D horses were to be shot.
They were first to have their shoes removed and their manes and tails cut off. Iron and horse hair were saleable.
Worse, the horses were to be skinned after being shot. Seven pounds of salt was allowed for the salting of each hide, to be sold as leather.
Horrible as these orders seemed, many men thought that this would be better than leaving their horses to be cruelly treated. Some tried to have their walers included in the C and D group.
Others asked permission to take their horse for a last ride and returned carrying saddle and bridle, with the explanation: “He put his foot in a hole and I had to shoot him”.
Hundreds of the walers who had charged Beersheba or endured the Sinai or carried their Billjim on the last great advance, were taken to olive groves outside Tripoli and tethered in picket lines.
They were then given a last nosebag of fodder and shot. Without panic. To the last they trusted the familiar uniformed figures. And gunfire held no fear for them.
Soon after, the men prepared to return to Australia. But most would be delayed for months, helping suppress a rebellion in Egypt. Some were killed.
Before the Light Horse left for Australia, Allenby wrote a remarkable tribute to them. It concluded: “The Australian lighthorseman combines with a splendid physique a restless activity of mind. This mental quality renders him somewhat impatient of rigid and formal discipline, but it confers upon him the gift of adaptability, and this is the secret of much of his success mounted or on foot. In this dual role . . . The Australian lighthorseman has proved himself equal to the best. He has earned the gratitude of the Empire and the admiration of the world.”
Eventually, late in 1919, the last of the Light Horse were back in Australia. The regiments broke up. The men returned to homes and families and farms and jobs.
The Light Horse of the 1st AIF had existed for five remarkable years.
For more info on the Light Horse press here