During WW1 Australia sent 39,348 Walers overseas to the AIF. Many Light Horsemen enlisted with their horses with a government promise that they would be able to bring their horses home with them. On the outbreak of peace, costs became important and it was deemed too costly to have horses repatriated to Australia - except for one horse, "Sandy", owned by General W T Bridges who died at Gallipoli in 1915
Quarantine was offered as a reason for not permitting the walers to return to Australia. However, the horses would have had a long sea voyage, giving time for problems to emerge.
Many of the fit horses were sold to the Indian Army
Framed print of poem "The Horses Stay behind".
In days to come we'll wander west and cross the range again;
We'll hear the bush birds singing in the green trees after rain;
We'll canter through the Mitchell grass and breast the bracing wind:
But we'll have other horses. Our chargers stay behind.
Around the fire at night we'll yarn about old Sinai;
We'll fight our battles o'er again; and as the days go by
There'll be old mates to greet us. The bush girls will be kind.
Still our thoughts will often wander to the horses left.
I don't think I could stand the thought of my old fancy hack
Just crawling round 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.
No; I'd better shoot him and tell a little lie:
"He floundered in a wombat hole and then lay down to die"
May be I'll be court-martialled; but I'm damned if I'm inclined
To go back to Australia and leave my horse behind.