Frequently referred to as the “breed for all needs,” the Australian Stock Horse is a versatile animal, used the world over for its invaluable strength.
Famous for its sturdiness, agility, and stamina, it is a comparatively friendly horse with a steady temperament. In its native Australia, stockmen still hold it in high regard as a workhorse. The animal is also known as a “Stockhorse.” It has a calm way of going about its work, is responsive and compliant with its rider.
Origins of this horse breed are dated as far back as 1788 when nine horses reached Botany Bay as part of the first British Colonial fleet. Horse breeds such as Cape of Good Hope Horse, Arabian, English Thoroughbred, and Timor Pony were among the earliest horse imports into Australia. Others included the Welsh Mountain Pony, a Celtic breed.
All these horses had innate stamina and were robust enough to endure the rigorous journey across the high seas. Furthermore, they could adapt to the wilderness of the Australian continent, living and working there while maintaining good health and a fine demeanor.
In those initial days, it was the survival of the fittest horses that mattered. They were bred well, and the rest, deemed unfit, were culled.
In the 1830s, some more Thoroughbreds were brought to Australia. This was undertaken to strengthen the resilience and energy of the local genus. In the middle of the 20th century, some breeds of the American Quarter Horse were imported into the continent for the purpose of enhancing the strain.
The Australian Stock Horse and the Waler Horse stem from roots resembling each other, although today, they are considered different breeds. An ancestor of both breeds, the Station Horse, served the Australian Army in World War I, commended for its robust ways and stability. This is where Australian Stock Horses of today get their genes of sturdiness from.
In 1971, when several breeders created the Australian Stock Horse Society, these horses were finally recognized as breeds to contend with. This society founded in New South Wales saw early registrations that included horses bred from ancestors excellent at farming work. These horses were adept at camp drafting activities and cattle work in the rugged terrain of the Australian outback.
Bearing the challenging weather of the Australian bush, horses showed immense fortitude. Tested for their abilities, namely athletic qualities, breeding, and confirmation, admittance into the society was not easy. The Stud Book had only the strongest and most worthy of the lot, meeting stringent registration criteria. The Australian Stock Horse Society today has a registered amount of 190,000 stock horses and foals in current times.
A calm, intelligent and courageous animal, this is among the few horse breeds that exhibit a responsive nature and is loyal, showing compliance to any rider. A friendly horse, gaining favor with any owner almost spontaneously, the Australian Stock Horse has a typical muscular build. With a conformation that portrays a deep chest, a broad and wide sturdy back, the horse has a frame with robust hindquarters.
This horse’s slender legs could fool you, but they hide a dynamic ability to steadfastly tide over any ground. The hooves are well-oriented and the gait is comfortably sure-footed and smooth.
The Australian Stock Horse’s desirable traits include a refined broad forehead with expressive large eyes. Defined withers and an arched and long neck set this horse apart for its looks.
This horse breed can sustain itself on a diet of roughage which consists of grass, hay, and chaff. A warm-blooded animal, it can thrive on oats, corn, wheat, and barley. Energy foods like these provide the horse with enough power to be a great working horse.
As much as it needs a heavy nutrient diet, it also requires adequate exercise to retain its musculature, and horses shouldn’t tend to get bulky. Per day, Australian Stock Horses need approximately 20 liters.
Breeding And Uses
Holding its own with strength and stamina, this horse is anything but lazy.
It is a showstopper in competitive sports including showjumping and dressage. Eventing, camp drafting, and polo are some activities that this horse excels itself at.
In stock work and stock man challenges, the horse is always a top performer. At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, around 120 Stock Horses performed to a title tune adapted from the Australian film, “The Man From Snowy River.” Executing some fantastic maneuvers, these horses show that they are not only smart horses for the farm but superb horses for the stage.
From 2013 To 2017, the Perth Mint issued silver and gold coins that have the insignia of the Australian Stock Horse engraved on the face of coins. Australians particularly pay tribute to the horse, almost worshiping it as a national animal of the continent.
Growing to heights of 14 – 16.2 hands, horses may weigh 1,200 pounds (0.54 tons). Weight must be kept in check, and these horses need a lot of working out.
What Breeds Make Up The Australian Stock Horse
Ancestry of the Australian Stock Horse is an eclectic mix of the finest horse breeds in the world. Its genetics can be traced back to the Thoroughbred, Timor Pony, American Quarter Horse, Welsh mountain Pony, Cape of Good Hope Horse, and Arabian Horse. As a result, the horse has the unique traits of all, composed and lively enough to take on any task given.
Famed horses that have sired this horse include Spanish horses from colonial times such as Bobbie Bruce, Cecil, and Radium. A popular Australian Stock Horse called “Crown Law” took part in various Olympic dressage events, representing Australia in many world championships.
All colors constitute colors of these horses, and bay and chestnut are usually seen. Buckskin and blue roan are rare, but in demand. So are pinto and dun shades.
What Do They Look Like?
These horses look elegant, but have a strength about them, portrayed by a muscular body, without any hint of stoutness. These horses are not bulky, though they may weigh a lot. They have graceful arched necks and deep chests, above ribs that are well-sprung.
With athletic ability at the core of this horse, it has an overpowering appearance, but is friendly and drawn to human contact. Most stock horses of today look uncannily like their Thoroughbred ancestors, but their legs are not as sleek.
What Are They Used For?
The Australian Stock Horse, used as a workhorse on ranches as well as a horse for showmanship, horses are great in performance-based activities. These could be in competitions or events. In show jumping, dressage and polocrosse, these horses are winners every time.
Where Do They Live?
Although most of these horses reside in Australia and are actively used in outback activities and Pony Clubs alike, they mainly reside in Australia. They are hardy, used by British troops. Several horses live in the United Kingdom too. You may find them in parts of Europe and even some in the USA.
The horses are referred to as “natives” of Australia as the large majority of them were brought to the continent. They have survived here due to selective breeding and primarily as they have the tough qualities of ancestral horses.
How Long Do They Live?
A lifespan of 2- – 30 years defines this horse’s existence. Generally, a healthy horse may suffer from navicular syndrome, arthritis, and laminitis. They shouldn’t get too bulky since they tend to eat a lot, as they are power-packed animals.
How Fast Are They?
A Stock Horse’s hindquarters are agile and powerhouses of speed. In the showjumping arena, they cover ground very quickly.
How Much Do They Cost?
The maintenance of this horse is high according to standards of pet rearing. Nonetheless, depending on a horse’s genealogy, horses can cost anywhere from $1500 – $30,000.
The cost of a horse also is reflective of the way the horse has been trained. A gelding of good quality can be bought for $3,000. A well-bred animal with credentials will cost you around $20,000 – $30,000.
Are They Good For Beginners?
Horse experts suggest that these stock horses are good for any horse enthusiast. They take to beginners and training is easy on them. They are very obedient, responding to commands quickly.
During the First World War, alongside the Allies, Light Horse regiments partook in memorable battle exploits and the Australian Stock Horse made outstanding achievements. As horses go, regarded as the bravest cavalry mounts the world has witnessed, these horses travel without water longer than camels in the desert. In battle, starved and watered every 36 hours, they thrived without wear and tear. At Beersheba, during a grave conflict, the horses went without water for a record 52 hours.
From the times of Australian settlers, Stock Horses have withstood all kinds of environments, from heat to freezing, and have proved their “stock”. Still used actively in sheep and cattle stations in the Australian outback, these horses with big and intelligent eyes and wide nostrils are comfortable anywhere.