A social and cultural history of the New Zealand horse : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in History, Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
Both in the present and the past, horses have a strong presence in New Zealand society
and culture. The country’s temperate climate and colonial environment allowed
horses to flourish and accordingly became accessible to a wide range of people.
Horses acted as an agent of colonisation for their role in shaping the landscape and
fostering relationships between coloniser and colonised. Imported horses and the
traditions associated with them, served to maintain a cultural link between Great
Britain and her colony, a characteristic that continued well into the twentieth century.
Not all of these transplanted readily to the colonial frontier and so they were modified
to suit the land and its people. There are a number of horses that have meaning to this
country. The journey horse, sport horse, work horse, warhorse, wild horse, pony and
Maori horse have all contributed to the creation of ideas about community and
nationhood. How these horses are represented in history, literature and imagery reveal
much of the attitudes, values, aspirations and anxieties of the times. Yet despite the
clear significance of horses to this country, no one breed of horse has emerged to
represent the country as a whole. Unlike many other modern nations, New Zealand
has not identified a national horse. Close allegiance to the British heritage as well as a
strong sense of local and regional identity has meant that there is no New Zealand
Horse to take its place beside the Australian Stockhorse, the Canadian Horse or any of
the other national horses.