Lambert depicted this Australian troop horse with convincing naturalism, showing it wearing official saddlery, including bridle, water bucket, nosebag, rolled blanket and greatcoat wrapped in a groundsheet. He portrayed the dark horse in stark contrast against a light background; a simple study of a horse in solitude, not enlivened – or distracted – by a landscape or any human presence such as a groom or rider. It is one of seven oil studies of horses that Lambert painted during the war. He was importuned with offers from all sides, and particularly from Light Horse officers, who wanted pictures of their horses painted (MacDonald, p.27).
Major M.F. Bruxner wrote in 1924 that what had appealed to him and his fellow officers about Lambert ‘more than anything’ was ‘his knowledge of horses’:
A magnificent horseman himself, he was at home among the best riders of Australia and New Zealand, and no one ever objected to lending his charger to our guest ... The first day he went out [January 1918] I lent him a little bay of my own, and my groom, Farley, rode another stout black that I had taken with me from Australia. On their return George got pencil and paper, and over a cool drink leisurely drew a horse’s nose and nostrils, then pushing it towards me said: ‘Do you know that nose?’ There was something familiar about it to me,
but the nostril was of peculiar shape and
I drew his attention to it, saying: ‘Only for that it would belong to my black pony’.
After some discussion they went to the lines and looked at the horse; Bruxner admitted Lambert was right and knew the horse better than he, even though ‘I had been with that pony every day almost since 1914’ (Lambert 1924, p.27).
When Lambert exhibited this painting in London in 1918, on 15 December the Observer critic, P.G. Konody, described it as ‘a study of the rarest perfection, which will delight every lover of horseflesh’ and adding that he found it ‘full of nervous life’.