Kicking off the Years of the Horse in New Zealand
It's 31 January, and much of the world's attention is drawn to the beginning of the Chinese Astrological Year of the Horse. However, 2014-2015 marks two New Zealand anniversaries that were much more significant in the creation of our nation and culture. 2014 will see us mark the centenary of WWI, and also the bicentenary of the arrival of the horse in New Zealand.
On 16 October of 1914 we will commemorate the departure of the 'main body' of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (as the ANZACs were originally called). As well as the 8454 soldiers, about 3000 horses depart ed Wellington on the first 10 troopships. Of these first 3000, only Bess was returned to our shores, and out of the total 10,000 horses sent during WWI only 4 horses were returned home. Yet, in New Zealand unlike other countries we have few memorials to the thousands of horses sent to their deaths in this war.Surely it is time that this should be corrected.
On top of the WWI commemorations we will also be able to celebrate 200 years since the first arrival of the horse in New Zealand. 22 December 1814 the first horses (and other livestock) arrive in the Bay of Islands, on the brig 'Active'. The horse has contributed enormously to the creation, and success of this country and to its culture. It's ubiquity has perhaps contributed to its lack of official recognition. We hope that over the next two years these important commemorations will remind the population of New Zealand about of the contributions of the horse, both past and present.