The Spanish horse which was derived, probably, to a considerable extent from eastern blood, and which was esteemed beyond all others for the saddle, and was yet so fleet as to be used for racing, may be considered as the progenitor of the English saddlehorse.
The Spanish breed was introduced very largely into England; for we find that Edward III imported fifty Spanish horses, at a cost equal to 160 Pounds Sterling, each of our present money.
The Spanish horse was celebrated for his beauty and the grandeur of his action; and as he was used as a war-horse, he most have been an animal of some strength. The effect of the humid pastures of England was, no doubt, to enlarge his size. Edward II imported thirty Lombardy war horses and twelve heavy draught-horses, thus accounting, very easily for the source of our, heavy cart breeds.
Extensive importations were also, from time to time, received from Flanders. Indeed, during the century, it was customary for the wealthier gentry to drive to the metropolis behind six Flanders mares. Those of a gray color were preferred, and hence the origin of the proverb, "The gray mare is the better horse."
The Barb and Arabian horses are separate varieties of the same original breed, modified by different climate, food, and treatment. The Barb is the origin of the English thoroughbred horse; for we find that when the Duke of Newcastle wrote they were considered superior in point of speed to any other horses in England, the Arabian at that period not having been introduced.
Good as the Barb horses might have been, it is unquestionably the fact that the breed in England was vastly improved by the introduction of the Darley Arabian, toward the close of the seventeenth century. This horse, the sire of the celebrated Childers, and the great great grandfather of the still more celebrated Eclipse, was also the sire of the most celebrated horses of his time, and may be considered as one of the principal foundation stallions of this noble breed of race horses, which may thus be considered to inherit the peculiar excellence of the Barb, Arabian, and the Turk, still further improved and enlarged by English feeding and careful selection.
In tracing the history of English racehorses, we may at once go back to Eclipse, in reference to whose pedigree we find that he was fourth in descent from the Darley Arabian, and the sixth from the Leeds Arabian, the seventh in descent from the Barb mare, the third from the Godolphin Arabian (supposed to be a Barb) the fifth from Hutton's gray Barb, and the sixth from the Sister Turk, in four several and different lines.
Thus it appears that the Barb, the Turk, and the Arabian horses all contributed to the production of this peerless animal, the Spanish horse, alike extraordinary both for speed and endurance.