to colonise the world as the agents and servants of empires, small and large, in warfare, transport and agriculture …
who could have guessed their world expansion would end just 200 years ago in New Zealand – the last major landmass to receive horses.
On the 24th December, 1814, a stallion and two mares * were landed on the beach below Rangihoua Pa (fort) from the Rev. Samuel Marsden’s brig, Active, in front of local Maori – descendants of New Zealand’s first colonists from Polynesia.
“Mr Marsden, mounting the horse, rode up and down the beach, exciting their wonder in a tenfold degree. To see a man seated on the back of such an animal, they thought the strangest thing in nature; and following him with staring eyes, they believed at the moment that he was more than mortal.” – John Liddiard Nicholas .
First horses were not gifts to Maori
The first horses were not gifts of goodwill made years earlier by Major-General Lachlan Macquarie, the Governor of New South Wales, Australia, to local Maori chiefs, perhaps Ruatara – an often repeated story  even in late-20th century texts [10, 11].
There is, however, no reference to horses being sent before 1814 in earlier texts  and no mention of horses in earlier correspondence from Samuel Marsden to Ruatara, only “seed wheat and with implements of husbandry to cultivate the soil” .
In her excellent PhD thesis on the history of the horse in New Zealand , Dr. Carolyn Mincham could also find no evidence for ‘horses as gifts’. Rather, the written evidence suggests that the
horses were intended for the new mission station, Oihi. They were listed with a value of £80 in the Active’s expense accounts amongst the ‘necessaries for forming the settlement of New Zealand’ and accompanied by a saddle and bridle worth £5 .
Dr. Mincham thought them probably utility horses for pack, saddle and carriage work, perhaps even from the Rev. Marsden’s own stud in New South Wales. The Rev. Marsden was a major landowner and stock breeder in New South Wales. He sourced mares from other colonies and crossed them with his Thoroughbred stallion Champion.
So the colonisation of the world by horses ended, and their colonisation of New Zealand began, on a small beach in the Bay of Islands when a new mission station was frunished with three horses –
a pedestrian beginning for the transformation of this small nation by horse-power that was to come.
*A horse aboard the Active is also recorded by Richard Taylor (1855)  but reference to only one horse is made.
8. Nicolas, J. (1971) Narrative of a Voyage to New Zealand, Performed in the Years 1814 and 1815 in Company with the Rev. Samuel Marsden, J. Black 1817. Auckland: Wilson & Horton [Author’s citation notes: p172].
14. Taylor, R. (1855) Te Ika a Maui, or, New Zealand and its Inhabitants: illustrating the origin, manners, customs, mythology, religion, rites, songs, proverbs, fables, and language of the natives; together with the geology, natural history, productions, and climate of the country, its state as regards Christianity, sketches of the principal chiefs, and their present position. Wertheim and Macintosh.