From the ancient deserts of the Middle East evolved the oldest known breed of riding horse, the Arabian. Now one of the most popular breeds in America, the Arabians’ incredible energy, intelligence and gentle disposition allow riders to excel in most equine sports and activities. Today, Arabian horses spend as much time on the trail as they do at horse shows and other competitive events.
For thousands of years, Arabians lived among the desert tribes of the Arabian peninsula, bred by the Bedouins as war mounts for long treks and quick forays into enemy camps. In these harsh desert conditions evolved the Arabian with its large lung capacity and incredible endurance.
Historical figures like Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Alexander The Great and George Washington rode Arabians. Even today, one finds descendants from the earliest Arabian horses of antiquity. Then, a man’s wealth was measured in his holdings of these fine animals. Given that the Arabian was the original source of quality and speed, and remains foremost in the fields of endurance and soundness, he still either directly or indirectly contributed to the formation of virtually all the modern breeds of horses.
The prophet Mohammed, in the seventh century AD, was instrumental in spreading the Arabian’s influence around the world. He instructed his followers to look after Arabians and treat them with kindness. He instructed that special attentions should be paid to the mares because they insure the continuity of the breed. He also proclaimed that Allah had created the Arabian, and that those who treated the horse well would be rewarded in the afterlife.
The severe climate required the nomads to share food and water, and sometimes even their tents with their horses. As a result, Arabians developed a close affinity to man and a high intelligence.
Over the centuries, the Bedouin tribes zealously maintained the purity of the breed. Because of their limited resources, breeding practices were extremely selective. Such practices, which eventually helped the Arabian become a prized possession throughout the world, have led to the beautiful athletic breed we know today, which is marked by a distinctive dished profile; large, lustrous, wide-set eyes on a broad forehead; small, curved ears; and large, efficient nostrils.
Even today the purebred Arabian is virtually the same as that ridden in ancient Arabia. Arabians now display their athletic talents in a variety of disciplines from English to Western, with the Arabian positioned as the undisputed champion of endurance events.