A Word About Types

There are four types of Waler, and no height restriction although those under 14 hands would be classed as ponies.

One only needs to think of Thoroughbreds to think of breeds where the type varies considerably. We have these four types, as this is how the horses were originally bred, for specific markets, and they have survived to this day.

Newspaper article about Waler Types
Warwick Examiner and Times, 24th November, 1900. Extract from letter by Hutton.
In 1894, Major-General E.T.H. Hutton C.B. A.D.C. to the Queen, Commanding military forces, sent a letter with several photos to Australian newspapers, demonstrating the types of horses wanted in India and in Europe and urging us to breed more.

© Janet Lane. All rights reserved. Image: Mare Faith.

There are four types of Waler, and no height restriction although those under 14 hands would be classed as ponies. Welsh ponies come in four types, and one only needs to think of Thoroughbreds which range from 14 to 17.2 hands, with tall lanky stayers and heavy nuggety sprinters, to think of breeds where the type varies considerably. We have these four types, as this is how the horses were originally bred, for specific markets, and they have survived to this day.

Pony – should all show Timor Pony influence. 10 to 14 hands would be the height range. They should have a true pony head (not large); small, slightly incurved ears, upright neck carriage, good Waler conformation (bone, tendon, rump etc) and have a good “saddle back” – not barreled (round body) or dumped in the shoulder/wither area. They should have some feather, although some may have the fetlock tuft only. The action should be softly elastic and long, not jarring nor short – so they are a comfortable ride. Some are lighter build such as the little mare Ros Sexton had at Badgery Creek from the Finniss River in the Territory, some heavier such as the little stallion Sergeant Small, mine who came off the Gardens Station. Ponies are rare unless we can source more, the most recent example we have is mare Hale captured on Todd River Downs Station in 2019. They are facing immediate extinction.

They got good prices, sometimes a lot, at Kidman’s horse sales. Polo, due to the rules back then, had to be played on ponies of 13.2 or under, in 1899 the height went up officially to a maximum of 14.2; in 1916 it became an open height. It was prestigious to own a good polo pony in India – there, and in the Boer War they were used for polo, racing, hunting game and the officers’ military mount – so these tough ponies got a lot of hard work. Waler ponies are plenty strong enough to carry an adult (as originally they did), or carry a loaded packsaddle through mountains or desert, and should be sensible and trustworthy enough for children. They are active and willing, fast, surefooted, and good at ridden games.

Trooper (medium) – desirably the height of a soldier’s horse being 14.2 to 16 hands, any higher is too tiresome to throw gear up onto. They are strongly built like a weight carrying hunter, with plenty of bone and tendon, and some feather -–ideally a quill or more on the back of the cannon as well as the fetlock. Good rump, shoulder, upright neck carriage. Good canter and walk. Slight variation in looks/action may be seen due to ancestral influence/area of origin. Head should be strong and in proportion, not large (the Thoroughbred long nosed, large cheek-jaw look should not be seen).

The most numerous in the old days, and now although true medium is now more undefined. Some, such as the Waler gelding Pindarri Rhythm, (Ken Wright, Tas, second generation) have a noticeable draught action – high knee action and flicking the fetlocks extravagantly, this horse however is borderline Artillery, a classic case of crossing a Trooper to an Artillery and getting the size of a Trooper, with the build and action of a heavy. Not bred for looks but utility, Troopers nevertheless have a charismatic look of power, strength, wisdom. Plenty of ability and a good safe, willing ride. These were the biggest sellers, the breeders’ bread-and-butter horse, at Kidman’s horse sales, mostly sold for the Armies in India. They got good prices. If you like a strong, useful, steady horse then they are the way to go! They can carry weight, pack loads or pull weight. Handsome is as handsome does. I think they are better looking than other breeds anyway!

Artillery (heavy) – may be comfortably 16 hands and over as they were primarily for heavy harness work (not ploughing but carts, coaches and gun carriages) and had to be powerful and active – more active than a full draught. The power should be equally in the front and the back end – not all front like a plough horse. They look like a half draught, called in the old days “light delivery”. The action is not usually the draught style, more suited to riding – long, elastic, straight – and should not be short. Knee action in some may be higher than Troopers, these may also throw their feet – more like draught action, fewer seem to have this. Needless to say, as a warmblood they are also suited to riding, being far more athletic than a heavy horse. Feather should be seen, more than just a fetlock tuft – enough to be part of the profile. Heads may be large – in keeping with the size of the horse. Nostrils big. Necks upright. Backs may not always be a “saddle back”. Shoulders should be defined, rumps broad, bone and tendon abundant.

Artillerys are rare and facing extinction. The Waler stallion Billjim (Peter Fischer’s in Victoria from the Territory) was an excellent Artillery with terrific dressage type action, the Waler mare Federation (mine in Tas from the Gardens) likewise. Billjim shows Percheron-Thoroughbred, Federation Shire-Thoroughbred ancestry. The mare Pandora (Tasmania, from the Gardens, whereabouts now unknown), showed a lot of Suffolk Punch and was harness broken – she had the ideal build and action for this. Artillerys brought by far the highest prices at Kidman’s horse sales, being used for the Army and also for coaches, wheat and wool wagons and such work. Artillerys smack you in the face with a majestic look of tremendous size, power, athleticism and massive good conformation.

Officer – were generally 14.2 to 15.2 hands. A light type. Often called in the old days Chargers, or Officers Chargers. Necks upright, rumps generous, well-defined shoulder, a good saddle back (no dumped wither nor round barrel). Legs usually clean (little or no feather, maybe a fetlock tuft). Alert looking, active and fast; good walk, trot, canter and gallop; quick and sure at turning. Ears may be pony type (small); or in some slightly bigger – in keeping with the size of the horse. A quality head – clean, not chunky, not the Thoroughbred or Suffolk Punch look. Straight or Roman nose. Many have a Cape Horse or Norfolk Roadster (Hackney) head, this is good. Some such as the mare Rose of Picardy and the gelding Carbine (both Walers brought to Tasmania from the Territory, but both tragically killed) were the spit of the Norfolk Roadster – stylish, fine but strong, with a spanking trot where the forearms came horizontal yet the action long, reaching and fast. They preferred to speed about at this speedy trot – in full flight all four feet are off the ground, the moment of suspension. Very hard hooves. This type of Officers would make excellent light harness horses.

Others such as the Waler mare Sarie Marais (mine, Tas from Wilpena Station) go from walk to canter as an Australian military horse and stockhorse should, and the trot is ordinary. This is also perfectly fine as Walers were expected, even the Artillerys, to walk or canter when working. The legs are finer than the other types but should be well conformed and have more bone and tendon than other light breeds such as the Arab. The Waler stallions Kimberley King Leopold (Ian and Ros Hutchins, from GoGo Station), and Brigadier (Ros Sexton, ACT, from the Territory) are excellent types of Officers. We have reasonable numbers of this type now. They actually bought lower prices in the old days at Kidman’s horse sales, as the taste and need then was for a stronger horse like the Trooper. Army officers were far less numerous than troopers anyway, and many preferred ponies due to the polo rules! Plenty of lighter horses were coming from the Cape to India, there may have been an over-supply.

Officer’s chargers should have plenty of presence – a look-at-me quality – that on the parade ground or leading out troops, an officer would be proud to be seen on (Cordillo stallion Dardanelle) was an example). An officer was judged by the cut of his horse. He was representing his men, his army, his country. In battles like Waterloo, where cavalry played a part and officers needed to dash about with orders and to rally troops, officers from the different countries knew which horses would take the work and which wouldn’t. A good charger kept his rider safe and stood the gruelling, dangerous days, and looked superb doing it – an edge in every way.

My hints for Classifiers

When classifying, if a horse does not appear to fall into one category, use for example Officer-Trooper, even a sliding scale if it helps to determine the type, just put a mark where you think the horse’s type lies. Don’t be too fussy. We all have slightly different ideas and it may take a while to determine type accurately if this ever happens. I tend to err on the side of wanting them heavy so will put “light” where another would put “medium”! It’s all a bit personal maybe. Just write how you see it.

Due to lack of numbers with Pony and Artillerys, some breeders are crossing the types. Some are crossing deliberately to get a uniform type, but it is preferable we keep lines of the four types to preserve what the Waler was originally bred for, these four types. Crossing, to me, can be hit and miss with some characteristics not in keeping with the type coming out. Unable to get a Waler Pony mare, I eventually crossed my Pony stallion to an Officer mare. The result – a bonny mare and my riding mare – is really a big pony, about 14.3, probably she’d be classed an Officer but I would say Pony-Officer. An Officer should have the appearance of a small horse, not a large pony. Some of us have slightly different ideas about if a horse is, say, an Officer or a Trooper. Once we breed on, then we can see what a horse throws consistently, and that should give a better assessment of that horse’s type too. To me, a Trooper is heavy but not high. An Artillery is heavy and high. An Officer is light and not high, a pony should be under 14 hands. That’s me. You may disagree!

Posted by Janet Lane

Rare breeds advocate, and Waler researcher and owner/advocate since the 1980s.