Spalding’s Guide to Horse Breeds: Arabian
The Arabian horse – often referred to as “the Arab” – is one of the best-loved horses of the rich and royal and now one of the most popular breeds in America. Known as the desert horse, the Arab is a descendent of horses who roamed the ancient deserts of the Middle East and is thought to be the oldest-known breed of riding horse. Bred originally for use in the harsh conditions of desert war, the Arab horse lived in desert tribes for thousands of years, adapting to these surroundings with increased lung capacity, speed and endurance.
The Arab is an intelligent and elegant horse. Today, the purebred Arabian varies only slightly from those ridden in ancient Arabia and has become one of the most highly sought after breeds in western cultures. They are popular participants in a wide range of disciplines in the US, from western riding to show jumping, being most renowned for their strengths as endurance horses.
The appearance of an Arabian
Arab horses are solid colored – registered colors permitted by the Arabian Society are bay, chestnut, grey and black in smaller numbers. Roan Arabs can also be found but these are not “classic” roan as this gene does not exist in Arabs; instead, these are normally derivatives of other colors. All Arabians, no matter their coat color, have black skin, except under white markings, an evolutionary advantage which provided protection from the intense desert sun.
Arabs are a very fine breed: they have fine legs and a refined head with a broad forehead, large eyes, large nostrils, and small muzzle. The Arab has an arched neck, a relatively long, level croup and a naturally high tail carriage which gives them the distinctive look of holding the tail high during movement. The USEF breed standard requires Arabians to have solid bone and correct standard equine conformation. Well-bred Arabians have a deep, well-angled hip and well laid-back shoulder. Interestingly, the skeleton of the Arab varies from that of other horse breeds: they have seventeen pairs of ribs instead of eighteen, and five lumbar vertebrae instead of six.
They generally stand between 14.1 and 15.1hh at a weight of 1,000 pounds, and have a lifespan of around 30 years.
Temperament of an Arabian
Often regarded as “hot-blooded”, the Arab is believed to be fiery, sensitive and intelligent, with quick reactions. Their reputation for being difficult is largely a myth: they are extremely trainable, owing to their intelligent and attentive nature, and will become bored and challenging if not stimulated or exercised enough. Similarly, when treated badly or subjected to shouting, an Arab has a tendency to become nervous and anxious, therefore working with rescue Arabs can take significant time and patience. Once you gain their trust, however, you will have a wonderful companion in an Arab, who is always eager to please the humans who care for him.
Arabs have lived co-operatively with humans in the desert for many years – in some circumstances even sharing a tent with their owners, who deemed their horses among their most treasured possessions! Owing to this reverence, a selective breeding process occurred whereby only the most amiable horses displaying the most settled dispositions were able to live this way, and were the only horses allowed to breed. This produced a line of Arabians who display an excellent temperament and are comfortable around humans.
Some amazing Arabian facts!
The first Arabian horses were brought to the USA by Hernán Cortés in 1519.
An Arabian stallion, named Padron, was syndicated in the U.S. in 1984 for $11,000,000.
Despite their popularity in the Middle East, the United States has the largest number of Arabian horses registered in the world.
The Arab is prone to six known genetic diseases: Juvenile Epilepsy (JE), Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), Gutteral Pouch Tympany (GPT), Cerebellar Abiotrophy (CA), Occipito-Atlanto-Axial Malformation (OAAM) and Lavender Foal Syndrome (LFS). Sadly, two of these are fatal (SCID, LFS). Two, while not always fatal, usually result in euthanasia of the affected animal (CA, OAAM). Fortunately, the remaining two conditions are treatable.
Arabs are commonly crossed with other breeds, largely because of the Arab's ability to stamp its conformation, stamina and good nature on its offspring.
During the Crimean War (1851-1854), one Arab horse raced 93 miles without harm, but its rider died from exhaustion.
The world’s longest endurance race, Shahzada Memorial Endurance Test, is named after the Arab stallion Shahzada (born 1913), who won two 300-mile endurance races.
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One of my favorite breeds - thanks for writing about them!
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