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Unsung soldiers of war to be honoured this Anzac Day

JENNA LYNCH
Last updated 13:26 24/04/2013
Noeline Jeffries
Ben Curran/FAIRFAX NZ
Old horse, new ribbon: Waikato Combined Equestrian Group secretary Noeline Jeffries gives 25-year-old Ritchie a ribbon to commemorate the horses lost in war. The ribbons will be given to those who enter in the dressage prectice day tomorrow.

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Every year on April 25th, people gather across New Zealand to remember, mourn and celebrate the lives of the brave men who lost their lives fighting for our country.

But at most ceremonies, there is little mention of some very special soldiers - many of which boarded a boat and never saw the green grass of New Zealand ever again. These unsung soldiers were the horses that went to war.

The Waikato Combined Equestrian Groups secretary and North Island Vice President of the NZ riding Club, Noeline Jeffries said 10,000 horses left New Zealand to serve in the wars, with only four returning home.

''The troopers had to shoot their horses because they couldn't bring them home. They were devastated,'' she said.

This year to remember the horses the Waikato Combined Equestrian Group has organised a fundraising dressage practice day, with all proceeds going to the RSA in the hope of raising enough for a memorial for the horses that lost their lives.

Every competitor in tomorrows event will  pay an entry fee and receive a "War Memorial Ribbon".

A former Mounted Rifleman has backed the move, saying he believes the horses should be recognised as they served just as the men did.

98-year-old war veteran Dudley Loriner was trained on horses as a volunteer before serving with the 21st battalion in a two-year-stint in the Second World War.

''I think it's a good idea for the very good reason that they served and they were shot. There was a lot of grief among the mounted riflemen,'' he said.

Although he didn't serve on horseback, he remembers the love he felt and continues to feel for the horses.

Mrs Jeffries said a lot of people have registered their interest in the event, with organisers needing to open more arenas, get more judges and order a lot more ribbons.

''Hopefully it will be an annual event amd I'd like to challenge all the equestrian clubs of New Zealand to do something similar,'' she said. 

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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