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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Arabian Horse

And God took a handful of South wind and from it formed a horse, saying:
"I create thee, Oh Arabian. To thy forelock, I bind Victory in battle.
On thy back, I set a rich spoil And a Treasure in thy loins.
I establish thee as one of the Glories of the Earth...
I give thee flight without wings."
-- from Ancient Bedouin Legend

(Byford, et al. Origination of the Arabian Breed)

Noble, graceful, intelligent and beautiful are just a few of the attributes that can be used to describe this magnificent breed of horses. They have the distinction of being the oldest breed of horses and the ONLY true purebred in existence.  The name Arab or Arabian has nothing to do with nationality but everything to do with the desert.  They were desert horses, nomads, as opposed to being associated with any established village or town. No one knows the origin of the Arabian horse but the lineage does date back about 5000 years. It’s believed the earlier ancestors of the Arabian horse were slightly smaller, but many of their unique physical characteristics still hold true today. Early paintings show the same dished profiles, large nostrils and eyes, arched necks, tiny muzzles and tails lifted and flaring in the breeze that are found in today’s Arabian horse.   

To the Bedouin tribesmen of 1500 BC or so, their horses were essential to their very existence. The Bedouin could recite the lineage of their horses equally as well as the lineage of their families. They were used for work, riding, racing and war. Often the horses were kept within the same tents as the family. Their bond with humans is several thousand years old. The stallions were of prime importance but it was the mares that became war horses. They were brave, courageous and trustworthy. They had stamina, agility and speed.  It was considered a high honor to receive a mare as a gift.

There are several characteristics that seem to be found only in the Arabian horse.  The chiseled face, wide spaced, large eyes, large nostrils, arched neck and tail held high are all qualities found in horses of this breed. They come in a variety of colors such as bay, chestnut, gray, roan and brown. Occasionally there is a black and sometimes you’ll see a white. The white horse may have begun life as a chestnut, which then may have become a dark grey. This color will lighten as the horse ages until it appears nearly pure white. The grays can be dappled or appear as a roan.  Purebred Arabians do not come in Palomino or Paint colors. Horses in those color categories would be registered as half-Arabians.

These nimble steeds soon became known to areas in Europe where they had been breeding massively big horses for centuries.  They needed huge horses to carry a knight and all his armor into battle. The Europeans had no other horse breed similar to the Arabian. They had ponies but nothing even close to the fleet horses of the desert. When the style of war changed, the Europeans no longer had a need for huge horses. These heavy, draft breeds found new work on the farms and canals. In the meantime, they used the Arabian horse to begin streamlining the drafts and produced lighter horses for riding and carriages. 

Because of the Arabian Horses long association with humans, they are known to be affectionate, friendly and willing to work. This breed has been used in all types of competitions, including English show, Western Pleasure, gaming, endurance trials, trail riding, hunter/jumper, dressage, racing and several others. The Native Costume class is impressive with horse and rider decked out in Bedouin attire. These horses have also been used successfully in therapy programs for individuals with a variety of handicapping histories.

Without going into elaborate descriptions of all the famous Arabian Horse farms of the last 100 years, let it be said that Stud farms of significance were established in England (Crabbet for one), Poland (Jaslowski), Russian (Tersk, most were imported from Poland and England) and the USA (Kellogg, Brown, Davenport). Over the last several hundred years, Arabians have been bred with other horse breeds to increase stamina, refine confirmation, improve performance. They are in the breeding background of Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, Percherons, gaited horses, pacers, trotters, Morgans, warm-bloods, Appaloosas and many more.

Over the last 20 years, it’s been my pleasure to have four Arabians in my stable. Sadly, I lost my best friend last Feb. We had spent the last 20 years together. He was 28 and had arthritis and other old age issues. Free Spiritt was a great grandson of the famous Bask***, an imported Polish stallion and on his dam’s side, he had a long history of Egyptian Arabian lines. He personified everything I’ve ever heard about Arabian horses.

Arabian Horses – Drinkers of the Wind

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