Arabian horse history
As the name implies, Arabian horses come from the Arabian Peninsula in the Middle East. They were bred in the desert by the nomadic Bedouin who prized these horses, sometimes more than their family members! The horse of a warlike, desert dwelling nomad needed to be tough and able to cope with deprivation, and the Arabians are superbly suited to this. Their wedge shaped heads, and arched necks allow greater flow of oxygen. Their greater bone density and short backs mean even the smallest Arabians can carry a heavy rider.
Cross bred for speed and agility
They are the ultimate endurance horse, and even today Arabians dominate endurance riding events. Combining their powers of endurance with speed and agility meant they were perfect for warfare in the Middle East, and they were a critical factor in the success of Islamic expansion from the 7th century onwards. The Bedouin kept meticulous oral records of their horses’ lineages, and even kept them in their tents at night to prevent theft or injury. As you can imagine, having a horse sleep in your tent with your family would require one to have extreme confidence in the horse’s temperament. Horses with poor temperament were not allowed to breed, the result of this is that today’s Arabians have an excellent temperament.
Foundation stallions of the modern thoroughbred
Arabians are thought to have first entered Europe as part of the Islamic conquests in Spain and France. Later, many were brought back from the Crusades as spoils of war. Over time, the heavy cavalry of the Middle Ages was replaced by light cavalry. Many European rulers imported Arabians to cross with local stock, thus introducing the Arabians speed and agility into the local horses and providing for the rulers’ their cavalry requirements. Around this time Arabians were also introduced to horse racing, and the foundation stallions of the modern thoroughbred were all Arabians. During the 19th Century, European travellers to the Middle East began to notice that the population of pure breeds in Arabia was dropping, and many made efforts to export Arabians back to Europe to preserve the bloodline.
Arabians were brought to the New World by Spanish Conquistadors. They thrived in the Americas and escaped Arabians became the foundation stock for the American Mustang. George Washington rode a half-Arabian named Blueskin during the War of Independence, and Presidents Van Buren and Grant also owned Arabians. Today the USA has more Arabians than any other country.
Arabians, the perfect Performance Horse breed
Today Arabians compete in many sporting events such as racing, endurance riding, and polo; as well as being used for ranch work and as part of search and rescue teams. Like any performance horse, they can suffer from gastric ulcers. As today, unlike ancient Arabian times, they are now called upon to perform in the arena or endurance racing leading to health issues.
Bloodlines remain strong today
Arabians are beautiful, elegant, and strong horses. They have stood the test of time, and their bloodlines are present in almost every modern breed. It’s no wonder the Bedouin refer to the Arabian breed as The horse is God’s gift to mankind.