The Arabian horse breed is one of the oldest breeds ever, Its striking beauty and balanced temperament have made it a very popular breeding horse throughout the ages. With their elegance, spirit, and intelligence, Arabians have contributed to almost every light horse breed that exists. Many pony and warmblood breeds also count the athletic Arabian as one of their ancestors.
History and Origins of the Arabian Horse
Although the beginnings of the Arabian horse lie in the ancient desert sands, most experts agree that the Arabian originated near the Arabian Peninsula. Bedouin tribes have traced their shared history with these horses back to 3000 BC and maintain meticulous ancestral lists or pedigrees. The hardiness of the modern breed is the result of the harsh desert climate and terrain in which it evolved.
The horses were used for transportation, pulling loads, and as war horses. These horses were so valuable that some owners brought them into their families’ tents at night to keep them warm and protected.
Over time, Arabian horses spread throughout Europe and beyond, both for war and trade. Genghis Khan, Napoleon Bonaparte, George Washington, and Alexander the Great are just a few of the many historical figures who owned and rode Arabian horses. And the Prophet Mohammed urged his followers to treat their Arabian horses with kindness and respect.
They came to the United States in the 18th century, and in 1908 the Arabian Horse Registry of America was established.
Size of the Arabian horse
Compared to many other riding horses, Arabians are small in stature, measuring between 14 and 16 inches on average. They are fine- to medium-boned and weigh between 800 and 1,000 pounds. Selective breeding has resulted in more robustly built Arabians, but all share the breed’s general appearance and grace.
Arabian horse breeding and use
Arabian horses have been bred primarily for their endurance and athleticism, even under adverse conditions. Their compact bodies give them balance and strength. As a result, Arabians excel in almost all equestrian sports.
They are the preferred horses for long-distance competitions and can cover long distances over difficult terrain in hot conditions. They are also elegant dressage horses, providing comparable thrills to any thoroughbred on the track and impressing on the show field. They are also used for recreational riding and as work horses on ranches.
Colors and markings
The Arabian Horse Association recognizes brown, gray, chestnut, black, and roan coat colors. Arabians may also have white markings on their faces and socks or stockings on their legs. Some bloodlines are known for their specific appearances, such as the high white socks and white faces of the Crabbet bloodline.
Arabians are never dun, cremello, palomino or buckskin because Thoroughbreds do not carry dilution genes. Sabino, a type of white pattern on the skin and coat, is the only speckled pattern found in purebred Arabian lines today.
The Arabian horse’s skin is black, except for the lower white markings. This dark pigmentation protected the horses from the harsh desert sun.
Unique characteristics of the Arabian horse
Although they are the ancestors of many of today’s horses, Arabians differ from other breeds in many characteristics. Arabians are known for their long, arched necks, curved facial profiles, and high tails. They have floaty gaits and are easy to ride for their size. They are also known for their endurance, which makes them competitive in equestrian sports.
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Diet and nutrition
Arabian horses need a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, vitamins, and water in their diet. Like most horses, they eat fresh grass, high-quality hay, cereals, and some fruits and vegetables as a reward. Because their ancestors came from deserts where food was scarce, Arabians may need slightly less feed than other breeds their size to maintain a healthy weight. But just as it is important not to overfeed a horse, it is also important to make sure it is given enough food.
Common health and behavioral problems
Arabians are prone to several genetic disorders ranging from treatable to fatal. Among them are:
- Severe combined immunodeficiency: A disorder in which the foal is born without an immune system and usually dies quickly from an infection.
- Lavender foal syndrome: A disorder in which the foal has multiple neurological problems that are often fatal.
- Cerebellar abiotrophy: an often fatal neurological disorder that affects the foal’s balance and coordination.
Behaviorally, Arabians are generally very social with people. But they are also very intelligent and sensitive and can easily develop bad habits with the wrong person. Although they are often uncooperative with unskilled training, they are usually easy for experienced riders to work with.
Arabians need the usual care to keep their coat and skin healthy. Regular brushing, especially after exercise, ensures the distribution of sweat and oils. And using a detangler can help keep the mane and tail supple. It is also ideal to clean the hooves daily and check for any injuries.
- Easily bored
- Needs an experienced handler
Champion and Famous Arabian Horses
Arabians have played a prominent role in history, transporting important people in war, winning races, and landing starring roles in movies and books. Here are a few examples:
- Marengo: Napoleon Bonaparte’s favorite mount.
- Skowronek: Passed on his genes to generations of North American Arabian horses.
- Cass Ole: starred in the 1979 movie « The Black Stallion » (based on the novel of the same name by Walter Farley), starring Mickey Rooney.
Is the Arabian horse right for you?
Arabian horses can be loving, loyal, and outgoing companions. But they are hot-blooded, highly intelligent horses that need someone with horse experience to train them. Some older, well-trained Arabians – as well as Arabian crosses – are suitable for a person with limited horse knowledge, although Arabians tend to stay active into old age.
Arabians tend to be more people-oriented than many other horse breeds and enjoy the companionship of their human family. They are generally a healthy, hardy breed that can adapt well to different environments.
How to buy an Arabian horse
The average price of an Arabian horse ranges from $5,000 to $20,000, with horses from valuable bloodlines sometimes costing significantly more. Since Arabians are a popular breed, they are relatively easy to find at horse rescue centers or reputable breeders.
Make sure the organization can give you enough information about the horse’s health, temperament, and history. It is strongly recommended that a veterinarian thoroughly examine the horse before taking it home or buying or adopting it. Also, spend time with the horse and have the organization show you how it has been trained. If you feel that the organization is not transparent or rushes you through the process, you should look for another horse.