The Australian Stock Horse

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The breed for every need!

Around 3.5 billions television viewers were eagerly awaiting the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, wondering what we Aussies would come up with. The lights dimmed and a single spot-lit horse and rider galloped into the centre of the arena and reared up, the rider’s Drizabone flapping, his stock whip cracking. What better start than a dinky-di Australian Stock Horse opening one of the biggest events in the world!

There was barely a dry eye among horse-lovers world-wide as more Stock Horses filed in and performed their routine with their usual no-nonsense attitude.

The hero of that opening ceremony was Steve Jefferys riding a Stock Horse named Woomera, one of 140 registered Stock Horses and their riders recruited by the opening ceremony organiser (who, by the way, was allergic to horses!) Australian Stock Horse Society members from around the country took part in the selection process and spent months rehearsing for their role in this spectacular event that helped raise the profile of the breed world wide.

The Stock Horse is uniquely Australian, but as horses weren’t native to Australia….how did they come about?

There were no horses in Australia until the First Fleet landed in 1788. On board were one stallion, three mares, one colt and two fillies of thoroughbred and Spanish bloodlines.

As Australia was colonised, more and more horses were shipped across, including Arabians, Welsh Mountain and Timor ponies. The horses had to be strong, not only to last the four to five month sea voyage, but also endure the harsh Australian environment.

As people ventured into central Australia to settle, horses were needed for transport and they had to be strong enough to travel long distances, day after day. The weaker horses weren’t up to the task and either perished or weren’t used for breeding. Horses were so scarce during Australia’s early days that their death was often reported in the newspapers so settlers made do with what they had by breeding the different types together.

From this evolved a horses that was strong and handsome and was eventually named the ‘Waler’ after the colony of New South Wales. The Waler was very hardy which made him a natural mount for cavalry and by the end of 1858, almost 3,000 Waler horses had been sent to India. They continued to be used during various wars, including World War 1, where roughly 16,000 Aussie horses served. Sadly, only one returned home.

The Waler was established as a distinctive type but there was no structured breeding program in place to keep the horse true to type, and in 1971 a group of enthusiasts got together and formed the Australian Stock Horse Society. The Society classified horses into the studbook, based on their type and breeding. Fifteen thoroughbred foundation sired emerged and most Australian Stock Horses trace back to one of these:

• Bobbie Bruce

• Buisson Ardent

• Carbine

• Cecil

• Chan

• Commandant

• Cyllene

• Dimray

• Gainsborough

• Gibbergunyah

• Morefield

• Pantheon

• Radium

• Rivoli

• Saladin

The demand for horses tracing from any of these lines is high.

What makes Stock Horses so special?

Stock Horses are strong, hardy and versatile, exceeding at pretty much most horse sports including polo, polocrosse, dressage, campdrafting, and even show events. A Stock Horse named Crown Law represented Australia at Olympic and World Championship Dressage.

Stock Horses are renowned for their intelligence…they can rise to the task at hand, then calm right down again in a short time. They are ideal for station/cattle work…hence the term ‘stock’ horse.


Average size is 15-15.2hh, broad forehead, nostrils the same distance apart as the eyes. Sloping shoulder, neck a good length of rein. Well defined body, wither slightly higher than the group ad a strong medium-length back. Well developed forearms, slightly flat pasterns not too long and slightly sloping. Clean legs, hard, straight hooves. Powerful quarters, well-muscled and rounded.

When moving, a Stock Horse’s canter should be relaxed and the gallop low to the ground. Effortless walk (said to be the best of any breed!) Agile, able to do quick burst of speed when required.

For breed classes, Stock Horses are often shown with the rider/handler in traditional Australian dress of oilskins and RM Williams boots. The horse has a hogged or pulled mane, with the tail left natural. Ring bridles and stock saddles are traditional Stock Horse tack, but English riding gear (and plaited mane and tail) are also acceptable.

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