The Arabian horse breed is one of the oldest breed of horse originating in the Arabian Peninsula and dating back to 7th century CE. They are among the top 10 most popular breed of horse in existence today, with most modern breed of riding horses today having an Arabian bloodline. This horse breed is valued for its stamina, gentleness, beauty, speed, and intelligence.
In our detailed guide on this modern breed, you’ll find out everything you need to know about the Arabian horse, including its origin, grooming and dietary requirements, size, and a lot more.
Dive in for a thorough understanding of this amazing horse. Whether you want information on its origin, size, or grooming, we’ve got everything you need to know about the breed.
Originating in the Arabian Peninsula, the Bedouin tribes have traced a common history with the Arabian horse back to 3000 BC. They valued this breed over all their other possessions, protecting them in their tents and preventing them from being stolen.
Originally war horses, this breed developed a sense of hardiness as a result of the harsh desert climate of its evolution.
The Arabian horse was regarded as sacred by Islamic Prophet Mohammed and with the growth of Islam, the breed began gaining popularity in Spain, North Africa, and France. Impressed by the speed and hardiness of the breed, Christian crusaders imported it to England. In the 1700s, the breed arrived in the United States.
In the United States, George Washington hoped to strengthen the military by crossbreeding cavalry mounts with his Arabian stallion. The popularity of the breed increased due to its introduction at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Today, most of the sought-after Arabian horses are bred in the United States.
Among the historical figures that owned and rode these magnificent horses are Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, and Napoleon Bonaparte.
The Arabian Horse Registry of America was established in 1908 to register Purebred Arabians but the International Arabian Horse Association permits the registration of Half and Anglo-Arabian horse breeds.
One of the most recognizable breeds, the Arabian horse is known for its arched neck, chiseled head, high tail carriage, and floating gait, making them smooth for riding. They’re a highly intelligent, noble, energetic, and graceful breed. They seem to have perfect symmetry and balance, with strong, dense legs, a short, straight back, sprung ribs, and a deep chest. They are friendly and have a desire to please, having bonded with humans for a long time.
They’re also easy to train and have remarkable memory, resourcefulness, and comprehension. They’re also extremely alert to the environment. While their high intelligence makes training a lot easier and allows for better communication with their riders, they’re not a submissive breed and will not respond well to inept training methods.
Not only do they have high endurance, having been used for war in the past, but they’re also one of the most stunning breeds to look at, making owning them something to be proud of for their owners.
They’re a hot-blooded breed, renowned for their speed and their friendly nature, which makes them one of the few breeds that children can exhibit in show ring classes (according to the United States Equestrian Federation).
This horse breed needs a healthy, well-balanced diet full of carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, proteins, minerals, and water.
If you’re wondering what foods can help meet their nutritional requirements, you’ll be happy to know that like other horses, they eat quality hay, fruits, vegetables, fresh grass, and grains such as barley, corn, and oats.
Clean and fresh water is also required to prevent kidney diseases, weight loss, dehydration, and other life-threatening illnesses.
Historically, they were dependent on non-typical foods for horses such as dates and camel’s milk because the harsh conditions in the desert meant scarce pasture and uncertainty of their next meal. This resulted in the breed being dependent on a lesser daily intake of food in comparison to horses of a similar size.
Even today, this breed has far lesser feed requirements than other horses when it comes to their ability to maintain a steady weight. Typically, an Arabian horse of 1000 pounds will need 15 to 20 lbs of hay on a daily basis. It’s important to pay attention to the quantity of food being given to them, as well as the type of food given. Pay attention if you want to ensure you’re meeting their nutritional needs and keeping them in the best health possible.
There are some feeding mistakes that you need to avoid when it comes to planning your horse’s diet and nutrition. While it’s important not to underfeed them, it’s just as important to avoid overfeeding them or feeding them poor quality food as this can lead to serious health complications for them.
Arabian Breeding And Uses
Having been close companions of the Bedouin tribes since 3000 BC, Arabian horses were bred to withstand harsh desert conditions and for use in war. They became known for their athleticism, endurance, strength, and balance, making them excellent for use in almost any horse sport. Although initially bred for the purpose of war and trade, today they’re used for long-distance trail competitions, pleasure riding, horse racing, in the show ring and to work as ranch horses.
Their physical characteristics make such uses possible. They can intake maximum oxygen through their flared nostrils and have higher lung capacity due to their large trachea. The bulge in the middle of their eyes permits higher brain capacity and their long, arched neck maintains a clear windpipe so that air can be carried to the lungs. Lighter muscles allow for more dissipation of lactic acid and heat. High bone density frees them from a lot of lameness struggles.
Breeding programs have focused on several modern light horse breeds with the Arabian horse as the foundation, due to their strength and agility. This includes the English Thoroughbred, Morgan, American Quarter, Colorado Ranger, Appaloosa, and many more.
There are many pros to owning an Arabian horse when it comes to their health. The breed has adapted over the years to suit the environment and evolutionary requirements.
Their sturdy build, strong bones, and elegant appearance does more than just offer a stunning sight for onlookers. It increases the breed’s functionality and performance in a wide range of activities for which it is used, making it one of the most popular horse breeds to exist today.
Despite this, however, the breed does suffer from some health issues such as:
- Lavender foal syndrome – this is a serious disease where a foal has many neurological issues that generally tend to be fatal.
- Occipital Atlanto-Axial Malformation – this is a cervical spinal cord disease occurring in horses less than 1-month-old. In this condition, the occiput, axis, and atlas vertebrae of the neck and base of the skull become fused, leading to paralysis the front and rear legs. This makes it difficult for foals to stand when nursing.
- Severe combined immunodeficiency – this is fatal disorder in which a foal is usually born without an immune system, making it more prone to infections. Horses suffering from this typically die soon after birth.
- Cerebellar abiotrophy – this is a neurological disorder affecting coordination and balance in foals. Although not always, this disorder can be fatal in certain situations.
While a good diet and proper grooming can help prevent several issues in Arabian horses, the bad news with some of these common disorders is that there’s very little that can be done to prevent them or reduce the rate of their progression.
This horse breed requires attentive care and grooming to maintain its beauty and health. Some important grooming tools you’ll need to keep around are:
- Shedding brush
- Mane and tail brush
- Curry comb
- Dandy brush
- Hoof pick
- Body finishing brush
For your horse’s coat, use a rubber currying brush in circular motions and then adopt a flicking hand movement making short strokes to see good results. A natural bristle brush will help you give the coat some shine. You should also move the brush over the tail in a downward direction to keep it flowing. Regular currying is needed to get rid of dust, debris, and dirt from the coat’s surface. Apart from this, it also helps to distribute oil and sweat.
For hoof care, pick up the hoof and move it to the rear end so that the weight is shifted from hind legs. Using a hoof pick, get rid of debris and dirt from the bottom of the hoof. This needs to be done at least once or twice every day, especially after going for a ride. It’s also important to trim your horse’s hooves every few weeks to keep them in good condition.
What Size Are They?
The Arabian horse breed is usually of small stature in comparison to other riding horses, standing at 15 hands (152 cm or 60”) on average and weighing anywhere between 800 and 1000 pounds. They typically have long, sloping shoulders.
While most other breeds have 6 lumbar vertebrae, this horse breed has 5. They also have 17 pairs of ribs instead of the usual 18 pairs. Their excellent agility and impulsion are a result of their hip depth and good croup length.
While they may have a compact, lithe body, there’s no compromise on their strength. In fact, when compared to other horse breeds, their high bone density, sound feet, short back & cannons more than make up for what they lack in height.
They can also carry heavier riders due to their high bone density, a task that would prove to be difficult for any other light horse breed. This hardy and strong light horse breed won’t let you down in your equestrian pursuits. Several robust Arabian horse breeds may be seen today as a result of selective breeding, but they all usually maintain the natural grace and normal appearance of the Arabian horse.
What Breeds Make Up An Arabian Horse?
Historically, the Bedouin tribes created several strains or sub-types of the Arabian horse, which could be traced back through the maternal line.
According to the Arabian Horse Association, 5 primary strains exist:
There are 6 main types of purebred Arabians in existence today, classified based on their nation of origin. These are as follows:
This type makes up less than 0.1% of the breed. They’re mostly gray colored and meant for endurance rides, not quick runs. They have a more curved tail and a calmer disposition.
This type makes up about 2% of the breed and is usually smaller in stature.
This type of Arabian horse was created by the Czars and nobility in the 17th century, who took a fancy to the breed. Standing at 15 hands tall, these horses are mostly colored in shades of brown. Historically used for war and racing, today, they make excellent family horses.
In the 16th century, Polish Arabian horses were introduced by the Turks to Poland and seized by locals as ruins from war. Although their population was reduced to a mere 25 horses after the First World War, Poland’s Arabian Horse Breeding Society was established in the 1920s and the Arabian breeding program started. There are 2 varieties of Polish Arabian horses: Seglawi and Kuhialan. While the Seglawi is renowned for its beauty, the Kuhialan is known for its athleticism.
This type derives its name from its foundational breeding farm in England. They’re the tallest Arabian horse breed to exist and are prized for their elegance, temperament, athleticism, and endurance. They’re perfect for long-distance riding, show jumping, and dressage.
The origin of this breed of horse can be traced back to the Austro-Hungarian Empire more than 200 years ago. Taller than other Arabian horses, Shagya Arabians are mostly gray colored and were originally used to carry more load as well as pull carriages and carts.
What Colors Are They?
The Arabian Horse Association recognizes the following coat colors for purebred Arabians: gray, roan, chestnut, bay, and black, although black Arabian horses are rare to come across. The most common colors seen are bay, chestnut, and gray. About 60% to 70% of purebred Arabians are gray.
Regardless of their coat color, purebred Arabians have black skin, which helped to protect them from the harsh desert sun. They have under white markings and can also have white facial markings, stockings or socks on their legs. Certain bloodlines have high white socks or white faces, as is the case with the Crabbet bloodline.
Some purebred Arabians also exhibit a spotting pattern called sabino. This is characterized by white markings above the hocks and knees, as well as irregular spotting on the belly, face, and legs. Purebred Arabians appearing as roan may in fact be displaying activity of rabicano genetics.
Purebred Arabians don’t carry any dilution genes, which means that they can never appear to be the following colors: dun, palomino, buckskin, or cremello. While many spotting patterns may have existed in Arabian horses in the past, sabino seems to be the only pattern of spotting seen in Arabian horses today. Any other colors are a result of cross-breeding with other horse breeds.
What Do They Look Like?
Standing at 15 hands on average and weighing between 800 and 1000 pounds, it isn’t the tallest of breeds. But what it lacks in height, it makes up for in strength and endurance.
This horse looks stunning and can easily be recognized. It has several distinguishing features that make it a beautiful sight for all to enjoy.
It has a short back with a long arched neck that runs well back into its high withers. Its croup is comparatively horizontal and its tail carriage is naturally high. When viewed from the rear, the tail is usually carried straight.
The head of an Arabian horse is relatively small, with large nostrils that become extended when they’re in action. Eyes are dark, round, large, and expressive, set well apart. A relatively short distance exists between the muzzle and the eyes. Ears are generally small but Arabian stallions have smaller ears when compared to mares. Their ears are usually well-shaped and thin, curving slighting inward, and they’ve got deep jowls.
What Are They Used For?
The earliest use of these horses was for war and trade. Their strong bones, speed, and endurance made them ideal choices for the conditions of the harsh desert. Their strong hooves could help them withstand the rocks and sand of the desert.
Today, they’re used in a variety of situations, including racing, endurance riding, show rings, and more. When used in distance riding, they’re capable of completing 100-mile races in under 10 hours.
According to The American Endurance Ride Conference, more than 70% of members ride purebred Arabians and the figure jumps to 90% when part-Arabian horses are also taken into consideration. They’re ideal choices for almost any horse sport.
Apart from their use in competitive horse sports, they’re also well suited for English and western disciplines such as:
- Show jumping
In several situations, they’re also used to perform work on ranches and are also excellent for pleasure trail riding. Apart from this, they are also showcased at parades, fairs, circuses, and movies like “The Young Black Stallion”, “Hidalgo”, and Ben-Hur (1959 version).
They have also served as mascots for many football teams and are used for polo in Europe and the United States. Occasionally, they have also been used by the police in search and rescue operations.
Where Do They Live?
Today, they can be found all over the world, including Canada, the United States, Australia, South America (particular in Brazil), United Kingdom, continental Europe, as well as the Middle East. While Saudi Arabia’s Najd region has the most popular stud farm, Arabian breeding programs exist all over the world today.
The Arabian Horse Association in the United States is the single breed registry for Arabian horses, which authorizes and issues permits for horse shows. In North America, the largest breeder of the Egyptian Arabian horse is Arabians Ltd.
What may have started out as a desert horse has become one of the most popular and recognizable breeds today, dominating the horse racing scene and having usage in multiple activities.
How Long Do They Live For?
The normal life expectancy for the Arabian horse breed is 30 years.
How Fast Are They?
While not the fastest breed in existence, the Arabian horse can run at 40 miles per hour, which is still pretty fast. When compared to the English Thoroughbred and Quarter horses, they fall behind in speed but more than make up when it comes to endurance. They’re definitely faster than draft horses and cold-blooded horses.
Due to their desert origin, they’ve adapted to have higher stamina, which enabled them to cover more distances in the desert landscape. This makes them great for endurance racing and long-distance trails.
How Much Do They Cost?
Arabian horses approximately cost between $5,000 and $20,000, with horses from more prized bloodlines being more expensive.
Due to the popularity of the breed, finding a reputed Arabian breeder is easy.
Are They Good For Beginners?
The Arabian horse breed is well suited for beginners due to their friendly nature and high level of intelligence. Their intelligence makes it easy to train them, which is why there are many riding opportunities for young and amateur riders.
It’s worth mentioning though that they don’t take well to inept training, so it’s always better to have an experienced rider and horse owner to train them.
Conclusion / Summary
The Arabian horse breed has come a long way from its desert origins. It continues to gain popularity today due to its friendly nature, strength, endurance, and stunning looks.
They make great family horses and are also used for pleasure riding, racing, and in the show ring. If you’re looking to get one for yourself, make sure you cater to their nutritional requirements and engage in regular grooming to keep them healthy.