About Arabian Horses

Arabian horses have been gifts of royalty, the ideal of artists and the subject of highly romantic and imaginative legends. There is something about the small and vital horse of the desert that captures the imagination of riders and dreamers alike, and although all light breeds of horses are descended from the Arabian, only Arabian horses retain the eye-catching qualities that make them so outstanding in the equestrian world.

Three Dominant Characteristics of the Arabian Horse Breed - Leaving all romance aside and approaching this from a practical point of view, there are three dominant characteristics that are the hallmark of Arabian horses. These are the points of conformation desired in any well-bred riding horse. Not every Arabian horse has the three main characteristics, and some have none of them, yet remain excellent saddle-type horses.

The Arabian Horse’s Head - The Arabian horse’s head is truly a distinguishing feature of the type. However, only the more strictly classic examples have this extreme head, with many having no pronounced dish, some too long, others having a very flat forehead, and the least desirable types being boxy of muzzle and ‘meaty’ rather than lean and well-chiseled of features.

Arabian Horses’ Crested Necks - Not all Arabians have the high-crested neck with the much-desired arch, and too many are rather short of neck, but most and nearly all big-time winners approach the ideal in this respect.

Arabian Horse Tail Arch - The high, gay tail carriage is typical of nearly all horses of this breed; only the degree of the height at which it is carried marking the difference. All Arabian horses carry the tail well away from the body. For this feature to look its best the croup should be level or nearly so since a high tail carried from a round steep croup looks not so good. Other types of horses can get by with this bad point much better than an Arabian. The tail is carried in this distinctive arch when the horse is moving or alert, so Arabians photographed with the tail down should not be thought to lack the proper tail carriage.

Secondary characteristics are not usually seen in drawings of horses, but they do include: good spring of rib (curvature of ribs that allows good heart and lung capacity.); the amount of muscling on withers, which should be “high” but not as high or sharp as in some thoroughbreds or saddlebreds, yet neither should they be so heavily muscled as to be termed “mutton-shouldered;” quality, which should be evident throughout, with a look of “breediness” (exhibiting, especially in high degree, the characteristics or qualities that distinguish a breed) that cannot be mistaken.

On the debit side in respect to conformation it is characteristic of the Arabian horse to be somewhat cow-hocked, one that stands plumb being very rare. The coat should be satiny in texture, and on some bays and chestnuts give off an iridescent luster in addition to the coppery and golden highlights. The mane and tail of this breed may seem thin to anyone accustomed to cold-bred horses, and is caused by the finer texture, free from kinkiness.

Judging Arabian Horses - Anyone judging Arab classes sooner or later finds himself forced to choose between a well-conformed horse lacking in breed type, and one top-heavy with type but which is not much of a horse.

An Arabian “looks like an Arabian” whether ridden English at the park trot or at a relaxed walk in a Western trail ride. There are always those whose own horses cannot step over a matchstick who believe that no Arabian can - or what is worse, should be able to - bend its knees, even when properly ridden at a collected square trot. These people have only to refer to photographs of stake-winning Arabians to prove the fallacy of their belief.

Discriminately selected horses of this breed, correctly trained and exhibited, can and do perform well at three gaits, some being equally good at five gaits. Of course they cannot “go on” like a saddle-bred, as they lose form, nor are they expected to step as high, but they can put on an impressive show that earns the respect of even saddle horse enthusiasts.

Photos of Arabian Horses - Except for certain Eastern horses, Arabians seem to be victims of poor action photography, and too often appear like some blowzy little horse which has been snapped at the wrong stride.

The Arabian horse also differs in constitution and temperament. Being compact in conformation, the Arabian is famed for endurance, and could win any equine economy run on a “ton-mile” basis, being able to subsist on much less fuel than rangier horses and noted for ability to carry more than the average “pay load” in ratio to his own weight. The truth of this is borne out by the breed’s excellent record in endurance rides, in which soundness and condition after the severe tests are also a factor.

The breed is noted for its ideal disposition, being both fiery and tractable, a combination that gives style and beauty with trainability and trustworthiness. Even the stallions have this trait and a large percentage of them are handled and ridden by women — some even by children.

Arabian Horse Versatility - Versatility is another feature of the breed—in fact in this respect they can be likened in reputation to that of the Airedale Terrier, which is said to be able to “do anything any other dog can do, and then whip the other dog.” The Arabian is hardly out to “whip” any other horses, but members of this breed, properly selected for the job, can be trained to do anything any specialist breed can do, with the possible exception of the Standardbred. True, he cannot run as fast as the thoroughbred, or trot as high and fast as a Saddlebred, but he averages out very well.

Arabian horses are ridden for racing in the Far East, as hunters and jumpers in some countries, but where he really shines is as a parade horse, in nearly all forms of stock work, and as a pleasure horse. Certain Arabian horses are fine performers in English park classes, and all are ideal as pleasure horses.