The Arabian horse breed goes back thousands of years. Its striking beauty and even temperament have made it a popular breeding horse throughout the ages. Arabians have contributed their elegance, spirit, and intelligence to almost every light horse breed that exists. Many pony and warmblood breeds also count the athletic Arabian among their ancestors.
Weight: 800 to 1,000 pounds
Height: 14 hands (56 inches) to 16 hands (64 inches)
Body Type: Lithe, compact body; small, wedge-shaped head; long, arched neck
Best For: Experienced owners and riders
Life Expectancy: 30 years
Arabian Horse History and Origins
While the very beginnings of the Arabian horse are hidden in the ancient desert sands, most experts agree Arabians originated in the vicinity of the Arabian Peninsula. The Bedouin tribes have traced their common history with these horses back to 3000 B.C., keeping meticulous ancestral records, or pedigrees. The modern breed's hardiness is a result of the harsh desert climate and terrain from which it evolved.
The horses were used for transportation, hauling loads, and war mounts. So prized were these horses that some keepers brought them into their families' tents at night for warmth and protection.
Eventually, Arabian horses spread throughout Europe and beyond due to both war and trade. Genghis Khan, Napoleon Bonaparte, George Washington, and Alexander the Great are among the many historical figures who owned and rode Arabians. And the prophet Mohammed urged his followers to treat their Arabian horses with kindness and respect.
They arrived in the United States in the 1700s. And in 1908, the Arabian Horse Registry of America was founded.
Arabian Horse Size
Arabians are small in stature compared to many riding horses, standing between 14 hands (56 inches) and 16 hands (64 inches) on average. They are fine- to medium-boned and weigh from 800 to 1,000 pounds. Selective breeding has produced more robustly built Arabians, but all share the breed's general appearance and grace.
Arabian Horse Breeding and Uses
Arabian horses largely were bred for their endurance and athleticism, even in harsh conditions. Their compact bodies give them both balance and strength. And because of this, Arabians excel in almost every horse sport.
They are the horses of choice for long-distance trail competitions and are capable of traveling long distances over challenging terrain in intense heat. They also make elegant dressage horses, provide thrills comparable to any thoroughbred on the racetrack, and are impressive in the show ring. Plus, they're used for pleasure riding and as working ranch horses.
Colors and Markings
The Arabian Horse Association recognizes the coat colors of bay, gray, chestnut, black, and roan. Arabians also can have white facial markings and socks or stockings on their legs. Some bloodlines are known for their specific appearance, such as the high white socks and white faces of the Crabbet bloodline.
Arabians are never dun, cremello, palomino, or buckskin because purebreds don't carry dilutions genes. Sabino, a type of white pattern on the skin and coat, is the only spotted pattern now carried in pure Arabian lines.
The skin of the Arabian horse is black, except for under white markings. The dark pigmentation protected the horses against the harsh desert sun.
Unique Characteristics of the Arabian Horse
While they're ancestors of many modern-day horses, many traits set Arabians apart from other breeds. Arabians are known for their long, arched necks and high tail carriage. They have floating gaits and are smooth to ride for their size. They're also renowned for their endurance, which makes them competitive in equestrian sports.
Diet and Nutrition
Arabian horses require a healthy balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, vitamins, and water in their diet. Like most horses, they eat fresh grass, quality hay, grains, and some fruits and veggies. Because their ancestors came from deserts with scarce food, Arabians actually might require a little less feed than other breeds their size to maintain a healthy weight. But just as it’s crucial not to overfeed a horse, it’s also important to ensure you’re providing enough nutrition.
Common Health and Behavior Problems
Arabians are prone to several genetic disorders, ranging in seriousness from treatable to fatal. They include:
- Severe combined immunodeficiency: A disorder in which a foal is born with no immune system and generally dies quickly from infection
- Lavender foal syndrome: A disease in which a foal has several neurological issues that usually are fatal
- Cerebellar abiotrophy: An often fatal neurological disorder that affects balance and coordination in foals
In terms of behavior, Arabians are generally very sociable with people. But they’re also quite intelligent and sensitive, and they can easily develop bad habits with the wrong handler. While they often won’t cooperate with inept training, they’re typically easy to work with for experienced riders.
Arabian horses need standard equine grooming to keep their coat and skin healthy. Regular brushing, especially after exercise, will distribute sweat and oils. And using a detangler can help keep their mane and tail smooth. Moreover, it’s ideal to clean their hooves daily and check for any injuries.
Becomes bored easily
Needs an experienced handler
Champion and Celebrity Arabian Horses
Arabians have played prominent roles in history, carrying important people in war, winning races, and garnering starring roles in movies and books. A few examples include:
- Marengo: The favored mount of Napoleon Bonaparte
- Skowronek: Passed down his genes to generations of North American Arabian horses
- Cass Ole: Starred in the 1979 movie The Black Stallion (based on the novel of the same name by Walter Farley) that starred Mickey Rooney
Is the Arabian Horse Right for You?
Arabian horses can be loving, loyal, and responsive companions. But they are hot-blooded and highly intelligent horses that need someone with equine experience to train them. Some older and well-trained Arabians—as well as Arabian crossbreeds—might work for a person with limited horse knowledge, though Arabians do typically remain active well into their golden years.
Arabians tend to be more people-oriented than many other horse breeds, and they enjoy the company of their human families. They're generally a healthy and hardy breed, and they adapt well to a range of environments.
How to Adopt or Buy an Arabian Horse
The average price for an Arabian horse ranges from around $5,000 to $20,000, with horses from prized bloodlines sometimes costing considerably more. Because Arabians are a popular breed, they are fairly easy to find at reputable horse rescues or breeders.
Make sure the organization can give you adequate information on the horse’s health, temperament, and history. And if possible, have your own vet check out the horse before you decide to bring it home. Also, spend time with the horse, and have the organization show you how it has been trained. If you ever feel the organization is not being transparent or rushing you through this process, you might consider looking elsewhere for your horse.
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