Anzac Day. Parade time. Look smart. Stand tall. Eyes front. Ears forward.
Alison Green didn't need instructions from a sergeant major when she stepped in to save the day at the Anzac Day commemoration service at Matakohe.
Earlier that morning, Craig Linton had ridden his own horse in the Maungaturoto Dawn Service and planned to do the same at Matakohe. But a stone bruise put paid to that.
Local farmer Mike Smales, who'd been at the service, heard about Craig's horse and an idea grew. At the Maungaturoto RSA he told Craig of his plan and then rushed home.
As always, Allison Green came to his call.
Time was short and she was dirty. He threw a cover on her and they set off. A grandson jumped into the ute as well.
By the time they arrived, she'd worked up a light sweat. A quick brush and the liver chestnut mare was shining.
So far, so routine. But then Craig tacked her up with a traditional World War I saddle and bridle.
"She'd never seen a bit like that before," said Mike, who turned out to be more surprised than his trusty mare.
On that day she had more important things to care about, although it's quite possible she was fascinated by the large crowd at the Kauri Museum. This wasn't a normal day by any measure.
No worries for Alison Green though. She can turn a hoof to just about anything. She's trekked and hunted all over New Zealand, though mostly in the South Island – and has had fun getting there.
A dip in Cook Strait while waiting for the ferry refreshed her for that journey. Right now she's teaching an 8-year-old boy to ride.
Mike says he felt proud of his horse as she led the Anzac parade with her head held high and ears pricked forward. She didn't put a foot – or anything else - wrong.
She led the parade from the museum to the flagpole then waited while people laid wreaths at the grave of our first New Zealand-born Prime Minister Gordon Coates. Then she led the procession back to the Kauri Museum where formalities ended.
"She did an important job, representing the 10,000 or so horses that served in WWI," says Mike.
"A wreath was laid in their honour at the Maungaturoto service."
Her job held extra status because most of the war horses died; about 300 en route to the other side of the world. During the war, many died of illness and injury and, afterwards, most who'd made it through were shot by the soldiers they'd served alongside who feared their precious companions would be consigned to a life of neglect and abuse.
Some went on to serve in the British Army, but due to limited transport and quarantine conditions only four returned home after spending a year in quarantine in England.
All belonged to officers: Captain Richard Riddiford owned Beauty; Captain Charles Powles had Bess; General Sir Andrew Russell – Dolly; and Lieutenant-Colonel George King – Nigger. They arrived home in July 1920.
If you're in Bulls, you'll find Nigger's saddle and a display on all four horses at the local museum.
Bess, the only horse to serve throughout the war, lived nearby and died in a paddock at Flock House in 1934. Captain Charles Powels had his black thoroughbred buried there and built a memorial in her honour.
Each Anzac Day, Friends of Bess meet at Flock House then proceed, both on foot and horseback, to the memorial for a service which remembers the horses which have served our country at war. Like many Anzac services, it grows in size each year.