The modern Arabian horse is hardy, intelligent, and well-traveled. Though the breed has changed over the years, today’s Arabian horse is still as prized as it ever was. An Arabian stallion or mare comes from a rich history, and it’s no surprise that those who breed and sell Arabian horses spread a lot of enchantment for the breed.
- There are more Arabian breed horses in America than anywhere else in the world.
- Arabians are kindle, gentle horses.
- A beginner would be able to ride an Arabian and benefit from a smooth ride while learning.
- The breed has been around for thousands of years, since at least the time of the Bedouin tribes.
- They’re great at endurance sports and trail riding.
Arabian Horse Breed Overview
|57 to 61 inches||800 to 1000 pounds||Transportation, load hailing, war mounts, competitions||Middle East||Calm, personable, intelligent|
Arabian Horse History
The history of the Arabian breed can be traced back to around 3000 B.C.E, thanks to the records from the Bedouin horse breeders and the rest of the tribes keeping the pedigrees of their horses written down. While the very beginnings of this breed are hidden away and lost to time, experts have agreed that they most likely originated somewhere around the Arabian Peninsula.
Arabian Horse Origin: Arabian Peninsula
Geographically, Arabian Peninsula covers Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Yemen, among a few other areas. Though it’s said that the Arabian horse originated here, we don’t know exactly where in Peninsula they came from.
What we do know is the Bedouin tribes bred these horses and used them as war mounts and general traveling horses. The tribes would ride Arabian horses into enemy camps to do battle. Thanks to the Arabian’s large lung capacity and impressive endurance, they were extremely suitable breeds for these tasks.
The Bedouins developed five branches of the Arabian breed. These were the Keheilan, Abeyan, Seglawi, Hamdani, and Headband. Each version of the Arabian had unique traits and could be told apart by these and their body type.
Famous Figures Who Rode Arabians
As well to Alexander the Great and George Washington, there were several other notable historical figures who chose an Arabian horse as their mount. They weren’t all great military tacticians – in fact, several singers have owned Arabians in recent years.
- Genghis Khan
- The Duke of Wellington (who rode a horse that was a Thoroughbred and Arabian crossbreed)
- Patrick Swayze
- Wayne Newton
- Lady Gaga
Arabians as War Horses
The Arabian breed has been used as a warhorse for thousands of years. In Medieval times, they were among the most common choice for a war mount.
Thanks to their stamina, strength, and intelligence, Arabians have had a solid and continuous place in historical events. They were traded for work and war and were noted for their courage on the battlefield.
Arabian horses would have had many tasks during wartime. These included hunting with their riders, carrying fighters into battle, and pulling chariots. They were used throughout the Ancient empire world, and Arabian horses appeared in a number of artworks discovered from Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, and Mesopotamia. In these artworks, Arabian horses are depicted serving in wars.
Did you know that three foundation stallions made up the genetics for the Thoroughbred breed? One was known as Darley Arabian, an Arabian horse bought by Thomas Darley in 1704 as a present for his brother. 95% of today’s Thoroughbred racehorses can be traced back to Darley Arabian through their Y Chromosome. He was the leading sire in Great Britain and Ireland back in 1722 and sired several famous and great horses. The other two foundation horses responsible for the Thoroughbred racing bloodstock were Godolphin Arabian and Byerley Turk, who was also said to be an Arabian horse (though some accounts just say he was a horse of unknown breeding).
Arabian Horse Characteristics and Personality
When this hot-blooded horse is pictured, horse lovers can easily see their long, arching neck, chiseled features, and strong, proud expression. The Arabian breed is an elegant example of a horse, and any horse with Arabian blood carries their long history with them. Old horse breeds like the Arabian are sought-after in breeding and competition circles for a number of reasons and looking at the Arabian, it’s clear why.
They are noble animals, known for their courage and intelligence. They have a famous walk, called the “floating trot”, which is one of the most graceful movements in the horse world. The Arabian horse industry is full of energetic, competitive horses. They’re smooth to ride, despite their size, and even good for beginners to learn on.
As for their personality, you can expect a patient, loving horse. They are rarely aggressive, unless provoked or scared. Of all the horse breeds you could choose, the Arabian is known for being gentle and kind.
What do Arabian Horses Look Like?
Arabian horses are recognized by their dished faces and high-carried tails. They have a distinctive wedge-shaped head, with a broad forehead, large eyes, large nostrils, and a small muzzle. Their shoulders are laid back, and they have a level croup.
The breed can grow up to 15.1 hands in height. Despite that, they are compact horses and aren’t the tallest around.
Most Arabians are shown as brown horses with black hair for their mane and tail, but this is not the only color combination for the Arabian breed, though it is the most coom.
Coat Colors and Patterns
Purebred Arabian horses have slightly different coloration to non-purebred Arabian horses. When an Arabian horse isn’t purebred, they may be Dun, Cremello, Palomino, or Buckskin, but these coat colors aren’t registered as official purebred Arabian horse colors.
Purebred Arabians have these registered colors:
In terms of patterns, it’s possible for purebred Arabians to have a spotting pattern known as sabino. Sabino spotting on a horse is characterized by visible white patches of hair on their face, lower legs, or stomach. There may also be occasional white hairs on their midsection.
Arabian Horse Health and Care
Caring for an Arabian horse means having the correct amount of space, giving them quality food, and ensuring that they have fresh water each day. Horses also need in-depth grooming, the same as any other breed.
Like most horses, those from Arabian bloodlines will need fresh grass, quality hay, grains, and fruits and vegetables. Because these horses originated in Middle East desert regions where food was scarce, they don’t require quite as much food as other modern breeds to maintain their weight.
An interesting thing about Arabians is that they get more excitable and hot-blooded when given too much sugar.
Adult horses need 10 to 12 percent of their diet to be protein-based. For horses, that means grass hay, alfalfa, or a complete feed that has a guaranteed protein content. Your horse should always have hay to munch on, and freshwater should be easily accessible.
If you’re using your Arabian as an endurance horse, their protein content should be more than 12%. Endurance horses are used for races and competitions where having a light, the fast horse is needed. Arabian breeders often tried to bring out these qualities in their Arabian bloodstock horses.
Suitable fruits and vegetables for horses:
What not to feed your Arabian horses:
- Bran products
- Bread products
- Dairy products
- Meat (of any kind)
- Stone fruits
A horse who is being cared for by a trained professional will be groomed twice a day. A well-groomed Arabian will have a sleek, shiny coat and smooth, untangled hair.
Grooming an Arabian horse is no different from grooming any other breed. Having more Arabian horses doesn’t mean that you can cut corners on caring for each individual one, either. Arabian owners understand that these hot-blooded horses need to be looked after if they’re going to win prizes in the show ring or entice a buyer looking for a horse from one of their breeding farms.
Arabians have very fine coats, so daily grooming is important to keep their hair looking nice. You’ll need to start with a rubber brush to remove dirt build-up before moving on to a bristle brush to add shine to your horse’s coat. A tail brush will also be needed.
To protect your horse’s mane and tail, you can try braiding it.
Hoof care is a little more complex, but even novice riders learn how to pick dirt and debris from their horse’s hooves. What a novice won’t be able to do is replace a horseshoe. Leave that to the professionals.
Common Health Conditions
The health of your Arabian horse will only be at its best if they are regularly attending veterinary appointments and check-ups.
Routine health care should include vaccinations, dental care, grooming, hoof care, and parasite control. Your horse should be going to a vet at least once a year, though older horses (20 years and over) should attend twice a year.
There are, unfortunately, some genetic conditions that exist in the ancestral Arabian line.
Cerebellar Abiotrophy (CA)
A neurological disease found in Arabian horses and other breeds with Arabian ancestors (for example, if you crossed an Arabian and a Thoroughbred breed, the foal could still have CA).
Though Cerebellar Abiotrophy isn’t always lethal, it causes a horse to lose their sense of space and distance, which affects its coordination and balance. The condition will be noticed before the horse is 6 months old in most cases, though it is possible for it to progress slow enough to go undetected for some time.
Lavender Foal Syndrome (LFS)
Also known as “Coat Color Dilution Lethal”, Lavender Foals are born with coat color dilution that lightens the tips of their hair or sometimes the entire hair shaft. The color is usually a dull pinkish-gray and can look silver-toned. Their skin tends to have an unhealthy pink color, too. In some cases, foals may be born with almost iridescent silver or lavender-blue hair. Not all affected foals will have obvious color deficiencies, though they will be noticeably lighter than they should be.
Accompanying the striking coat color is neurological dysfunction that leaves the foal unable to stand. That means that they will be unable to nurse and will also suffer from seizures. If they don’t pass naturally shortly after being born, most breeders will euthanize them on humane grounds because the horse will suffer all of its life.
It’s a rare but notable condition.
Occipital Atlanto-Axial Malformation (OAAM1)
A developmental defect that compresses the upper cervical cord and causes neurological damage to the horse, OAAM is assumed to be an inherited recessive condition in Arabian horses.
The condition is rare and appears to have several mutations, but there have been studies on the defect to better understand it. In foals affected by Occipita-Atlanto-Axial Malformation, the first and second cervical vertebra are malformed, which causes compression of the upper spinal cord. This compression leads to neurological damage, which may cause anything from mild incoordination to complete paralysis of the horse’s legs.
Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Disorder (SCID)
An inherited genetic condition that can be responsible for the death of young foals of this breed. Thankfully, there are now DNA tests for this condition, to stop people who breed Arabians from choosing horses with ill health that can be passed on.
A foal with SCID will be born with a badly impaired immune system, and are at severe risk of infectious diseases. They may not recover quickly or at all when infected, and general die of an illness like pneumonia before their sixth month.
This is a recessive disease, so it’s safe to breed two non-carriers, and a non-carrier and carrier together.
Breeding Arabian Horses
Arabian horses typically have relatively high inbreeding levels because breeders like to focus on certain characteristics in their breeding stock and try and create foals with those traits.
In our modern world, there are six types of Arabian pedigrees that are sought-after. The six purebred Arabian horses are Crabbet, Egyptian, Polish, Russian, Shagya, and Spanish. Crabbet Arabians are considered the most gorgeous horses in the world, but any Arabian horse of good stock can cost in the region of $5,000 to $30,000 USD.
Purebred Arabian Breeding Program
Top show Arabian stallions can go for up to $150,000. These purebred horses are looked at as prized possessions and are as beautiful as the vision of any wild horse running run across natural wild pastures.
There have been plenty of breeding farms for the Arabian mare and stallion to do their thing over the years, and this eventually led to the first studbook and the Arabian Horse Club of America Registry in 1908.
Before then, though, there was the first purebred Arabian breeding program back in 1888. This was headed by Randolph Huntington in the United States. During the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, 45 Arabian horses were showcased, which led to further interest in the breed in America. That breeding program and its subsequent horses were what gave the world the Arabian Horse Association.
The Arabian Horse Association
Once known as the Arabian Horse Club of America Registry, this association has existed in some form since 1908. The AHA as it is today only formed in 2003, but that was the result of a merger of the original registry club and the International Arabian Horse Association, which was founded in the 1950s.
The purpose of the Arabian Horse Association is to have an organization of like-minded individuals who are enthusiastic about Arabian horses. AHA is the official Arabian horse registry for the United States and Canada.
They offer 344 events and competitions, have the largest online marketplace for Arabians, and maintain official programs that promote breeding and ownership of Arabian horses.
Arabian Horse Registry
With over 16,000 members and thousands upon thousands of registered horses of Arabian breeds, the Arabian horse registry has been going since the original Arabian Horse Club started up in the early 1900s.
Horse breeding is a huge industry, and horse shows are a popular source of Western pleasure and entertainment. It’s no wonder that there are so many Arabian horses out in the world, no to mention all of the other horse breeds, such as European horses.
Although Arabians used to run alongside the Bedouins or the “Nomadic Desert dwellers” in their harsh desert environment, today their place is largely in the show circuit, being led around and shown off by their human owners. It’s not unusual to see new horses enter the circuit every year, Arabians with their high tail carriage, and Warmbloods trained to perform tricks with their riders.
Buying an Arabian Horse
Having already covered the extraordinary cost of buying a horse of this breed, we’ll move straight onto buyer safety and where to purchase your Arabian.
Tips for Staying Safe as a Buyer
- Don’t view a horse alone, always take a friend or another professional.
- Try to view the same horse more than once so you can get a good feel for their personality and spend some time with them.
- Ask to see the horse’s health records, especially from their recent veterinary visits.
- Never pay a deposit before seeing the horse and always get a record or receipt of any deposit that is made.
- Ask to view the parents of any foal you’re looking to buy.
- Ask for the horse’s pedigree and history, where available.
Where to Buy an Arabian Horse
The best place to start is always an organization that caters to the specific animal you’re looking at. In this case, the AHA has a section of their marketplace for horses for sale. You can search by breed, age, gender, color, price, and select a state you’d like to buy from if you want to stay closer to home.
When buying a horse, be open-minded about certain aspects like the color because using too many filters often means that you’ll get little to no results from your search. The AHA also lets you search by sire and dam name, just in case you’re looking for foals from a particular horse registered with their association.
You don’t have to be a member to search, but you do have to be a member to list your horse for sale because the horse has to be registered with the association.
Alternatively, you could try other online marketplaces but they aren’t going to be as safe as purchasing from a member of the Arabian Horse Association. You could also check out horse shows and other horse events to see which breeders and owners have horses for sale.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Because Arabians have such great personalities and offer smooth rides, they are an excellent mount for a beginner to try. They can be pricey to buy, though, so it might be better to have lessons with a school that has Arabians while you're still learning how to ride.
The average Arabian horse will grow to approximately 15 hands, which is around 152cm. That's the average horse of this breed, though - some grow slightly taller, and some can be smaller. In terms of weight, the Arabian will be anywhere between 800 and 1000 pounds. That may seem like a lot, but horses are very heavy creatures.
Arabians do well in any horse sport that requires endurance. They're excellent racers, great at jumping and dressage, and can also win competitions for their looks and build. It's not unusual to see an Arabian or a horse that is part Arabian at a show of any kind, as breeders often cross them with other horses to improve various breeds. Other disciplines that are ideal for Arabians and English and Western pleasure, cutting, reining, and driving.
The harsh desert environment ensured that only the best war mares and stallions made it. The keenest horse survived, and the rest were left to perish. From breeding these strong horses in such distant lands, the Arabian bloodline became hardy and proud. They produced horses that could withstand scarce food and harsh weather.
The noble Arabian can mostly be found in America, where almost 700,000 of them as registered. Next would be Canada, with a significantly smaller amount that lies around 48,000. More than 1 million Arabians are spread across 62 of the world's countries, and they are one of the most common horses found in the world.