War horse tribute earns Gallipoli art gong

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A painting that pays tribute to the famously sturdy Waler horses used by Australian light horsemen during the First World War has claimed this year's Gallipoli Art Prize.

Sydney artist Geoff Harvey won his second Gallipoli Art Prize gong for the canvas painting, Forgotten Heroes, which depicts six Waler horses being ridden along the shore.

Waler horses were bred in Australia, with more than 120,000 sent overseas to the allied armies in Africa, Europe, India and Palestine. They were prized for their ability to travel long distances and tolerate heat.

Only one Waler horse returned to Australia after participating in the war effort, with most culled or redeployed.

"So special and deep was the bond between rider and horse that many of the soldiers were traumatised by the realisation that their faithful 'mate' was not coming home with them," Mr Harvey said.

"These trusty steeds did everything expected of them and more. Their bravery on the battlefields was legendary and their loyalty unsurpassed."

The annual $20,000 prize invites artists to create works in response to the themes of loyalty, respect, love of country, courage and comradeship - qualities embodied in the creed of Sydney's Gallipoli Memorial Club.

Forgotten Heroes and 33 Gallipoli Art Prize finalist works will be on exhibition at Merrylands RSL in western Sydney from April 15 to May 17.