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War Horse Statue to Be Officially Unveiled in Hamilton

War Horse Statue of National Significance to Be Officially Unveiled in Hamilton, 11 November, 2017

Waikato Combined Equestrian Group and TOTI

A commemorative war horse statue commissioned by Waikato Combined Equestrian Group will be officially unveiled in Hamilton’s Memorial Park on Saturday, 11 November, 2017.

Former Defence Force artist, Matt Gauldie created the 300kg life-size statue, to honour the 8,000 horses sent to the South Africa War (1899-1902), and the 10,000 sent to the First World War. Only one horse ever returned from South Africa, and only four from the First World War.

Noeline Jeffries, Waikato Combined Equestrian Group President says “the statue completion is a dream come true. I’m overwhelmed and truly grateful to everyone who has supported and assisted with this project. These noble creatures suffered along with our soldiers, hardships that we could never imagine and we owe it to them, as a nation to remember their sacrifice”

Matt Gauldie affectionately refers to the statue as the “big, awesome, bronze War Horse” and says "I have sculpted this War Horse searching for his fallen rider. Moments earlier, it would have been charging through machine gun bullets at Beersheba. This would have been the most important and distressing time of this horse’s life and what the horse and rider trained for, for months. Sadly, many of these heroic animals would be destroyed just months after this famous cavalry charge, their purpose in the War over." The battle of Beersheba was fought by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, a century ago, on 31 October, 1917. This was the biggest charge of WW1 and the Australian and New Zealand horsemen’s victory over the Ottoman army allowed the Allies to capture Jerusalem. They then went on to the Jordan Valley to take Amman. The majority of New Zealand horses were sent to the Sinai and Palestine.

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The special public unveiling will follow on from this year’s Armistice Day Service, also to be held in Memorial Park. A march led by six Clydesdale horses pulling a one and a half ton, WW1 artillery gun, followed by three armoured army vehicles, the Waikato Mounted Rifles and eight War Horse March Riders will leave Brooklyn Road, Claudelands to make its way through town to Memorial Drive to attend the official unveiling at Memorial Park.

Major (Rtd) Simon Marriott, DSD, ED. - President, Waikato Mounted Rifles Regimental Association, and former Squadron Commander, Waikato Mounted Rifles says the “Waikato Mounted Rifles’ history will always be linked with the employment of horses in war, and the great service they rendered to our men during the South African War and the First World War, particularly during the desert campaigns in Sinai, Palestine and Syria. The horse gave the mounted trooper the priceless advantage of mobility, and with this came the ability to manoeuvre rapidly on the battlefield. Sadly, the cost was severe. Horses played a vital military role during both the previous two centuries and it is right that we should recall the hardship and losses they suffered on our behalf.”

TOTI Trust managed the project. Trust Chair Dr Bill McArthur says “the statue’s site in the equine centre of the nation is fitting”

Waikato Equestrians and TOTI will also present a free, one-off horse variety show called ‘The Mane Event’, on the afternoon of the unveiling. Its purpose is “to celebrate the love of the horse and its importance in our culture and history– not just in war.”” says Noeline Jeffries.
To be held at the Oval, Claudelands Events Centre from 1 pm until 4 pm, the show is free and suitable for the whole family. Performances include jousting, vaulting and six-bar competition.

The show will begin with the re-enactment of the arrival of the first horse in New Zealand, a gift delivered to Ngapuhi chief Ruatara by missionary Samuel Marsden, who also introduced Christianity to New Zealand, among other things. Noeline Jeffries has been giving riding lessons to The Very Reverend Peter Rickman, Dean of Waikato who is to star as Reverend Samuel Marsden.

A grand parade of horses will showcase the variety of breeds prevalent in New Zealand. There will also be food stalls, displays and wagon and pony rides.

Several limited-edition bronze collectable maquettes of both 'Hamilton Warhorse' and ‘Leaping Horse' created by Matt Gauldie will be available following the War Horse unveiling. A percentage of proceeds from the maquettes will go to the Waikato Combined Equestrian Centre Group and also towards the installation of a NZ War Horse statue at the International War Animals Memorial Garden, at Pozieres in northern France.

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