Ideal horses and the physical characteristics of different types of horses are subjects that invite interested study, not only on the part of intelligent horse lovers, but from many not informed about horse lineage. The ideal horse has never been fashioned in marble and generally accepted as an ideal.
What is an equine Venus or an equine Apollo like? Comparatively little attention is given to the physical proportions of the horse from either an artistic or a scientific point of view. The horse, which, next to man, is the noblest work of creation, is worthy of attention on other lines than those of records, of purses won, of progeny begotten, of pedigrees that determine the quality of blood and of methods of breeding best calculated to result in new records on the race track. These and related topics are the texts of the columns of turf gossip that daily assail all eyes and seem to prove that the equine is next to the human population of the world in its importance.
The world can agree on but few ideals, and no sculptor or painter ever portrayed in a masterpiece a horse that would not be severely criticized as an ideal. The question of the ideal may readily extend from the type of a horse to the proportions of a type.
A draught horse and a racehorse may each be handsome and perfect in his way. It may be said that the ideal horse is the one that produces the most agreeable impressions, and this rule may both apply to the type of horse and to the proportions of any type. As far as proportions go, a horse should in a general way be well and handsomely formed and have correct and beautiful lines. There is a wide range for the application of this rule, and many horsemen will see beauty in adaptation to needs which others will not consider.
A noted French writer on the horse says; "What, then are the qualities which impress the laity - (that is to say, the mass of the people? Elegance of equine form, gracefulness of attitude and movement, rounding of the lines, indicating an easy, graceful and implying the absence of effort in the movements; vivacity, mobility, a certain gentle look of distinction in the physiognomy, which admits the predominance of moral perfection over the purely physical instincts.
"A round croup, flattened haunches, a sway back, thick withers, an arched neck, slim cannons, small feet and a slender head will give more pleasure to the majority of inexperienced eyes than long, projecting lines, even a little roughly so, well-marked muscles, strong members, a spacious chest, broad articulations, larger nostrils, etc. All eyes do not see in the same way, nor even appreciate forcibly what is simply agreeable about a breed of horse.
"The horsemen are rare who are capable of appreciating the useful beauty, which should be understood as synonymous with fitness, and which consists essentially in the adaptation of the organs to their functions. This beauty, to be appreciated, demands a certain intuition, much culture, study, acute observation and judgment."
In this the difficulty of agreeing on an ideal horse is illustrated. No man may say what the measurements or proportions of a horse may be and be believed. Many famous veterinary surgeons and turf authorities have tried it, only to be disputed by other authorities equally great. Abou-Bekr, early in the fourteenth century, included measurements and proportions in a work on the science of the Arabian horse, and was the first one to do so.
Others tried it and in more recent times Bourgelat, a Frenchman, worked out an elaborate system and a theoretical type. St. Bel, another noted authority, took that famous and extraordinary horse Eclipse as the best type of the beautiful horse, and a number of others have added to the clashing tables. But little attention to measurement is given by breeders in California and elsewhere. Young men and women are being measured by the thousands these days that scientific generalizations may be made and composite figures drawn and modeled, but they are yet doing everything else for the speedy horse but comparing him with an average.
In the absence of standard measurements and proportions the characteristics of the most important types of horses invite discussion. It is not known to everybody outside of horse circles that the Arabian horse, which has been kept so pure of blood that pedigrees may be traced into centuries before Christ, has given to the thoroughbred, or running horse, of the modern turf, his chief physical characteristics, his nature, powers of endurance, energy and tendency to speed.
The Arabian horse is the greyhound of the equines. He is slender and graceful. His most noticeable characteristics are a long, small neck, delicate head, with rather pointed nose, depth from withers to chest, giving lung power; powerful haunches and comparative smallness of growth around the loins.
The Arabian horse is built for speed. His head is small and bony like the greyhound and his muzzle delicate. His joints are large, clean and bony. His bones are rather small in size on the whole, but they are very dense, and hence strong and heavy. It is calculated by Roger B. Upton that the bones of an Arabian horse 14 1/2 hands high will weigh as much as those of an English thoroughbred fifteen hands high. The fore ribs of the Arabian are long and the hinder ones short.
The paunch is hollow, the croup rounded, the upper part of the legs long, with powerful solid muscles. The hoofs are black, the skin delicate, the hair fine and abundant, the nostrils wide. The Arabian stallion is wide between the eyes, showing intelligence, with ears that are small and active. The Arabian horse has great powers of endurance. The eyes are full, black and sparkling. In disposition the Arabian equine has great energy, courage and yet gentleness.
The Arabian horse breeders
have the rule of proportion in constant use. They measure the number of hands from the root of the mane at the middle of the withers backward to the end of the dock, or tailbones, and then forward between the ears to the upper lip. If the latter distance is greater he has great qualities, if it is less he is an ordinary horse.
Such is the horse which for so many centuries the Arabians have cherished while subjecting him to wonderful feats of effort and endurance, and such is the horse which, through sires imported into Europe during the last two centuries, has transmitted to the thoroughbred of today the qualities that distinguish him.
Among horses, the Barb, a native of Barbary, Morocco, and Tripoli and the Turk or Turkish horse, both of which resemble the Arabian horse in all important characteristics, have joined with the Arabian breed of horses in producing the thoroughbred, which to be of undoubted quality, must have a lineage traced back to the Godolphin Arabian horse, the Byerly Turk or some other sire of pure blood and great qualities that made him famous.
Two famous sires brought to England, the Darley and the Leedes Arabian horses, were asserted to have had undoubted pedigrees extending back 4000 years, and it has been contended that these two were the only Arabian stallions of undoubted pure Arabian blood ever brought to England.
The thoroughbred equines of today have thus a stain of the royal blood of the Arabian, Barb and Turk, mixed with the blood of the English charger, horses of all degrees of common blood, horses with pedigrees and without, and horses that have been fast and slow.
The pedigree of a horse thus becomes of great significance, for "blood will tell" in horses as well as men, and the study of pedigrees in which the majority of horsemen are fairly well advanced, is one that many revel in for years, and in which no one ever graduates. As a result of the mixture described, the modern thoroughbreds possess the characteristics of the Arabian horse in greatly varying degrees. Salvator, shown in an accompanying cut, has these characteristics in a marked degree. The "Chaban" Arabian shown was a celebrated stallion imported for the stud of the King of Wurttemberg, and fairly shows the Arabian horse type.
The Arabian breed type has undoubtedly been conserved in the thoroughbred horse by the training and work he has been given through each generation and which would tend toward the very characteristics by which nature adapted the Arabian to its conditions and environment.
The characteristics of the typical modern thoroughbred horse which not everybody can tell on sight like the greyhound and is in perfect physical condition. This equine is tall, slim, long coupled, has a small paunch, a long, slim neck, depth from shoulders to chest, small muzzle, large nostrils and wide forehead. The thoroughbred's muscles stand out in bold relief, the coat is silky and the skin fine.
Thoroughbred horses are intelligent, nervous in disposition and have great endurance. They are short lived, as a rule, partly perhaps because they are worked hard early in life. These horses are at their prime at four years and at six are generally ready to be retired.
The trotting horse is shorter coupled, is heavier through the flank and has a heavier paunch and wider chest. The neck is heavier and shorter, the limbs are heavier and the pasterns shorter. He needs and receives twice as much care as the thoroughbred. His conformation is necessarily different, for he uses a different set of muscles.
Trotting is an unnatural and cultivated gait for a horse at high speed, and he needs a strong frame to stand the shock of the 10,000-pound blows which the hooves and feet give every time they strike the race track.
So the draught horse has still different characteristics, and other types might be discussed. Sir Modred, the $10,000 stallion imported from Australia by J.B. Haggin, is a thoroughbred with far less of the Arabian in his form than Salvator, as may be seen from the picture of Salvator taken from a painting for Outing. He is a beauty though, and is by many horsemen said to be the handsomest horse in the state. Stamboul may be taken as a fine illustration of the trotting type.
The proportions of the famous Sunol are interesting because she is a trotter with very marked thoroughbred horse characteristics and is the most notable illustration of Senator Stanford's original plan of breeding thoroughbreds to trotters to give the latter the endurance, energy, 'gamey' spirit of the former, a theory not yet generally accepted by equine breeders. Sunol's very strong strain of the thoroughbred is marked in nearly every point.
The thoroughbred horse, as a result of long and careful breeding and training, is undoubtedly today the finest horse the world has seen, and in the equine the best qualities of the Oriental ancestors have been developed far beyond those of the Arabian, Barb or Turk, though the beauty of the horse breed's type may have suffered.