Arabian Horse: A Complete Breed Guide

Arabian Horse: A Complete Breed Guide


Black Arabian horse running in a field


The Arabian horse is one of the oldest and most influential horse breeds in the world. It originated on the Arabian Peninsula and was prized by the nomadic Bedouin people for its speed, stamina, beauty, intelligence, and gentleness. The Arabian horse has contributed its qualities to most of the modern breeds of light horses, such as the Thoroughbred, the Quarter Horse, and the Morgan. The Arabian horse is also one of the most easily recognizable horse breeds, with a distinctive head shape, high tail carriage, and graceful movement.


Breed Overview


Group: Light horse

Height: 14.1 to 15.1 hands (57 to 61 inches)

Weight: 800 to 1,000 pounds

Coat: Bay, black, chestnut, or gray. Occasional dominant white, sabino, or rabicano patterns.

Life Expectancy: 25 to 30 years


Gray Arabian horse jumping over a fence



Arabian Horse History and Origins


The Arabian horse has a long and rich history that dates back to ancient times. According to legend, the Arabian horse was created by Allah from a handful of south wind and given to Ishmael, the son of Abraham. The Bedouin people of Arabia cherished the Arabian horse as a gift from God and a symbol of their culture and identity. They selectively bred the Arabian horse for traits that suited their harsh desert environment and their nomadic lifestyle, such as endurance, courage, loyalty, and intelligence.


The Arabian horse was also used for raiding and warfare by the Bedouin tribes and later by the Islamic armies that conquered much of the Middle East and North Africa. The Arabian horse spread its influence to other regions through trade, diplomacy, and conquest. Many rulers and nobles sought to acquire Arabian horses for their own breeding programs, such as King Solomon of Israel, Alexander the Great of Macedonia, Julius Caesar of Rome, Napoleon Bonaparte of France, and Queen Elizabeth I of England.


The Arabian horse was first introduced to North America by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. Later, more Arabian horses were imported by European colonists and American pioneers. Some of the most famous Arabian horses in American history include Marengo, the warhorse of General George Washington; Lexington, the champion racehorse and sire of many Thoroughbreds; and Justin Morgan, the foundation sire of the Morgan breed.


Today, the Arabian horse is one of the most popular and widely distributed horse breeds in the world. It is recognized by many national and international organizations, such as the Arabian Horse Association (USA), The Arabian Horse Society of Australia, The Arab Horse Society (UK), and the World Arabian Horse Organization.


Arabian Horse Size


The Arabian horse is a compact and relatively small horse breed. It usually stands between 14.1 and 15.1 hands (57 to 61 inches) at the withers. However, some individuals may be taller or shorter than this range. The Arabian horse typically weighs between 800 and 1,000 pounds (360 to 450 kg), depending on its build and condition.


Arabian Horse Breeding and Uses


The Arabian horse is a versatile breed that can excel in many disciplines and activities. It is especially dominant in endurance riding, where it can cover long distances at a steady pace without tiring. It also competes in many other equestrian sports, such as dressage, show jumping, eventing, western pleasure, reining, cutting, trail riding, and driving.


The Arabian horse is also valued for its ability to improve other breeds by adding speed, refinement, endurance, and strong bone. Many modern light horse breeds have some degree of Arabian ancestry, such as the Thoroughbred, the Quarter Horse, the Morgan, the American Saddlebred, the Tennessee Walking Horse, and many others.


The Arabian horse is also used for recreational riding, therapy riding, and as a companion animal. Many people admire the Arabian horse for its beauty, personality, and history.


Colors and Markings


The Arabian horse can come in many colors, but the most common ones are bay, black, chestnut, and gray. Bay is a brown body color with black points (mane, tail, legs, and ears). Black is a solid black body color with no white markings. Chestnut is a reddish-brown body color with no black points. Gray is a mixture of white and black hairs that may change over time from dark to light.


Some Arabian horses may also have dominant white, sabino, or rabicano patterns. Dominant white is a rare genetic mutation that causes an almost entirely white coat with pink skin. Sabino is a pattern that causes white patches on the face, legs, belly, and tail. Rabicano is a pattern that causes white hairs on the flank, tail base, and sometimes mane.


The Arabian horse may also have various markings on its face and legs, such as stars, stripes, snips, blazes, socks, and stockings. These markings are usually white or lighter than the body color.


Unique Characteristics of the Arabian Horse


The Arabian horse has many unique characteristics that distinguish it from other breeds. Some of these characteristics are:


A finely chiseled bone structure with a concave or “dished” profile

A large forehead with a slight bulge between the eyes

Large eyes with an expressive gaze

Large nostrils that can flare when excited or breathing hard

A small muzzle with thin lips

An arched neck with a large and well-set windpipe

A comparatively level croup with a high-carried tail

A short back with strong loins

A deep chest with well-sprung ribs

Strong legs with fine hooves

A smooth and elastic stride with natural balance

A coat of fine and silky hair


Diet and Nutrition


The Arabian horse has evolved to thrive on a diet that is high in fiber and low in starch. It can digest roughage efficiently and does not need large amounts of grain or concentrates. However, depending on its age, activity level, and health condition, the Arabian horse may require some supplementation of vitamins, minerals, protein, and fat.


The basic diet of an Arabian horse should consist of good quality hay or pasture grasses that provide adequate energy and nutrients. The hay should be free of dust, mold, and weeds that could cause respiratory or digestive problems. The pasture should be well-managed and fenced to prevent overgrazing or injury.


The amount of hay or pasture that an Arabian horse needs depends on its weight, body condition score (BCS), and workload. A general rule of thumb is to feed 1.5% to 2% of its body weight in hay or pasture per day. For example, a 900-pound (410 kg) Arabian horse would need about 13.5 to 18 pounds (6 to 8 kg) of hay or pasture per day.


If hay or pasture alone does not meet the nutritional needs of an Arabian horse, it may need some grain or concentrate feed as well. Grain or concentrate feed provides extra calories, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals that may be lacking in hay or pasture. However, grain or concentrate feed should be fed sparingly and carefully to avoid overfeeding or causing digestive disorders such as colic or laminitis.


The amount of grain or concentrate feed that an Arabian horse needs depends on its weight, BCS, workload, and quality of hay or pasture.

A general rule of thumb is to feed no more than 0.5% of its body weight in grain or concentrate feed per day.


For example,


a 900-pound (410 kg) Arabian horse would need no more than 4.5 pounds (2 kg) of grain or concentrate feed per day.


Grain or concentrate feed should be divided into two or more small meals per day, rather than one large meal, to avoid overloading the digestive system. Grain or concentrate feed should also be fed after hay or pasture, not before, to slow down the rate of digestion and absorption. In addition to hay, pasture, and grain or concentrate feed, the Arabian horse may also need some supplements to enhance its health and performance.


Some common supplements for horses include salt, electrolytes, probiotics, joint support, hoof care, coat conditioners, and immune boosters.


However, supplements should be used only as needed and according to label directions, as too much or too little can be harmful.


The best way to determine what supplements an Arabian horse needs is to consult a veterinarian or an equine nutritionist who can assess its individual needs based on blood tests, body condition score, workload, and health history.


Water is another essential component of an Arabian horse’s diet and nutrition.


Common Health and Behavior Problems


The Arabian horse is generally a healthy and hardy breed, but it may be susceptible to some genetic and environmental health problems. Some of the common health problems in Arabians include:


Equine Juvenile Epilepsy: This is a form of epilepsy that causes seizures until 1 or 1.5 years old. It is non-fatal, and horses can live normally past that age. The cause is unknown, but it may be inherited. There is no treatment or prevention for this condition, but owners should monitor their horses for signs of seizures and keep them safe during episodes.


Cerebellar Abiotrophy: This is a neurological disorder that affects the balance and coordination of Arabian horses. It is caused by the degeneration of the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls movement. The symptoms usually appear between 6 months and 2 years of age and include head tremors, wide stance, difficulty turning, and falling. There is no cure or treatment for this condition, and affected horses may need to be euthanized for humane reasons.


Severe Combined Immunodeficiency: This is a fatal disorder that affects the immune system of Arabian foals. Foals born with this disorder have no immune system and die before three months due to infection. It is caused by a recessive gene that can be passed on by both parents. There is a genetic test available to identify carriers of this gene and prevent breeding them together.


Lavender Foal Syndrome: This is a lethal disorder that affects the nervous system of Arabian foals. Foals born with this disorder have a lavender or pinkish coat color and are unable to stand or nurse. They usually die within hours or days of birth. It is caused by a recessive gene that can be passed on by both parents. There is a genetic test available to identify carriers of this gene and prevent breeding them together.


Occipital Atlanto-Axial Malformation: This is a rare disorder that affects the skull and spine of Arabian foals. Foals born with this disorder have a malformed occipital bone at the base of the skull and an abnormal connection between the first two vertebrae of the neck. This causes compression of the spinal cord and brain stem, leading to neurological problems such as weakness, paralysis, pain, and death. It is caused by a recessive gene that can be passed on by both parents. There is a genetic test available to identify carriers of this gene and prevent breeding them together.


Colic: This is a general term for abdominal pain in horses that can have many causes, such as gas, impaction, ulcers, parasites, or torsion. Colic can range from mild to severe and can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. Signs of colic include pawing, rolling, sweating, kicking at the belly, stretching, lying down, or looking at the flank. Colic can be prevented by providing adequate water, hay, and exercise, avoiding sudden changes in diet or management, deworming regularly, and monitoring for signs of distress.


Laminitis: This is a painful inflammation of the laminae, the tissues that connect the hoof wall to the coffin bone. Laminitis can cause lameness, heat, swelling, and separation of the hoof wall from the coffin bone. Laminitis can have many triggers, such as overfeeding, obesity, stress, infection, or injury. Laminitis can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding rich or sugary feeds, providing regular hoof care, and monitoring for signs of discomfort.


Recurrent Airway Obstruction: This is a chronic respiratory condition that affects some horses, especially those kept in stables with poor ventilation or dusty bedding. Recurrent airway obstruction causes coughing, wheezing, nasal discharge, and difficulty breathing. It can reduce performance, quality of life, and lifespan. Recurrent airway obstruction can be managed by improving ventilation, reducing dust exposure, soaking hay, and using medication as prescribed by a veterinarian.


The Arabian horse may also exhibit some behavioral problems due to its high spirit, sensitivity, and intelligence. Some of these problems include:


Spooking: This is a sudden reaction to something that scares or startles the horse, such as a loud noise, a sudden movement, or an unfamiliar object. Spooking can cause the horse to bolt, rear, buck, or spin. Spooking can be reduced by exposing the horse to various stimuli in a calm and controlled manner, rewarding positive responses, and building trust and confidence between horse and rider.


Biting: This is an aggressive or defensive behavior that involves using the teeth to nip or bite another horse or human. Biting can be caused by fear, pain, dominance, or boredom. Biting can be prevented by establishing clear boundaries and respect between horse and handler, providing adequate socialization and stimulation, and correcting unwanted behavior promptly and firmly.


Bucking: This is an evasive or playful behavior that involves kicking up the hind legs while moving forward. Bucking can be caused by excitement, discomfort, disobedience, or lack of training. Bucking can be avoided by ensuring proper saddle fit, warming up gradually, using clear cues and aids, and rewarding good behavior.


Grooming


The Arabian horse has a coat of fine and silky hair that requires regular grooming to keep it clean, shiny, and healthy. Grooming also helps to remove dirt, dust, dead skin cells, and parasites from the horse’s skin and coat.


The basic grooming tools for an Arabian horse include:


A curry comb: A rubber or metal tool with teeth or ridges that loosens dirt and hair from the coat

A dandy brush: A stiff-bristled brush that removes dirt and hair from the coat

A body brush: A soft-bristled brush that smooths and polishes the coat

A mane comb: A metal or plastic tool with teeth that detangles and neatens the mane

A tail brush: A wide-toothed brush that detangles and neatens the tail

A hoof pick: A metal or plastic tool with a hook that removes dirt and stones from the hooves

A sponge: A soft tool that cleans the eyes, nose, mouth, and genitals

A towel: A cloth tool that dries and wipes the horse


The basic grooming steps for an Arabian horse are:


Secure the horse in a safe and comfortable area with cross-ties or a halter and lead rope

Start with the curry comb and work in circular motions over the horse’s body, avoiding sensitive areas such as the face, legs, and genitals

Follow with the dandy brush and work in short strokes over the horse’s body in the direction of hair growth

Use the body brush to smooth out any remaining dust or hair from the coat

Use the mane comb to gently comb out any knots or tangles from the mane

Use the tail brush to gently brush out any knots or tangles from the tail

Use the hoof pick to clean out any dirt or stones from each hoof

Use the sponge to wipe away any dirt or discharge from the eyes, nose, mouth, and genitals

Use the towel to dry off any wet areas on the horse

Grooming should be done before and after riding or exercising, as well as on a regular basis, to keep the horse healthy, happy, and beautiful.


Champion and Celebrity Arabian Horses


The Arabian horse has been admired for its beauty, grace, and athleticism for centuries.


Many Arabian horses have achieved fame, recognition, and success in various fields, such as racing, showing, endurance, and entertainment.


Some examples of champion and celebrity Arabian horses are:


Marengo: The warhorse of Napoleon Bonaparte who carried him through many battles in Europe, Africa, and Asia.

He was captured by British forces after Waterloo, but was later returned to France.

He lived until 38 years old.


Witez II: The Polish Arabian stallion who survived World War II, escaping from Nazi Germany, crossing Europe, and arriving in America.

He became one of America’s most influential sires, producing many champions in racing, showing, and endurance.


Cass Ole: The black Arabian stallion who starred as The Black Stallion in four movies based on Walter Farley’s novels.

He also appeared in other films, such as The Island of Dr. Moreau, Dynasty, and Knight Rider.


Raffles: The Egyptian Arabian stallion who was imported to America in 1932.

He was one of America’s most influential sires, producing many champions in halter, performance, and endurance.

He was known for his refinement, type, and charisma.


Bask: The Polish Arabian stallion who was imported to America in 1963.

He was one of America’s most successful show horses, winning 10 national championships in halter, park, English pleasure, and formal driving.

He was also one of America’s most prolific sires, producing over 100 offspring.


Marwan Al Shaqab: The Qatari Arabian stallion who is one of the most successful show horses and sires in the world. He has won multiple titles in halter, including World Champion, US National Champion, and All Nations Cup Champion. He has also sired many champions in halter and performance.


Is the Arabian Horse Right for You?


The Arabian horse is a breed that can offer many rewards and challenges to its owners and riders. It is a breed that requires respect, understanding, and patience, as well as proper care and training. Before deciding to own or adopt an Arabian horse, you should consider the following factors:


Personality: The Arabian horse is known for its high spirit, sensitivity, and intelligence. It is a horse that can form a strong bond with its human partner, but it also needs clear communication and consistent handling. It is a horse that can be eager to please, but also stubborn or nervous if not treated well. It is a horse that can be playful, curious, and affectionate, but also alert and reactive to its surroundings.


Temperament: The Arabian horse is known for its endurance, courage, and energy. It is a horse that can perform well in many disciplines and activities, but it also needs regular exercise and stimulation. It is a horse that can adapt to different environments and situations, but it also needs adequate socialization and exposure. It is a horse that can thrive on a close relationship with its human partner, but it also needs respect and trust.


Care: The Arabian horse is known for its hardiness, health, and longevity. It is a horse that can survive on a simple diet and minimal shelter, but it also needs regular grooming and veterinary care. It is a horse that can withstand harsh conditions and terrain, but it also needs protection from extreme weather and injury. It is a horse that can live for 25 to 30 years or more, but it also needs commitment and responsibility from its owner.


Chestnut Arabian horse and woman in a barn



How to Adopt or Buy an Arabian Horse


If you have decided that an Arabian horse is right for you, you have several options to find your perfect match. You can adopt or buy an Arabian horse from various sources, such as:


Rescue organizations: There are many rescue organizations that specialize in taking in neglected, abused, or unwanted Arabian horses and finding them new homes. Adopting an Arabian horse from a rescue organization can be a rewarding and cost-effective way to own this breed. You can help save a life and give a second chance to a horse that may have suffered in the past. However, you should also be prepared to deal with any physical or behavioral issues that the horse may have as a result of its previous experience. You should also do your research on the rescue organization’s reputation, policies, and procedures before adopting an Arabian horse from them.


Breeders: There are many breeders who produce purebred or crossbred Arabian horses for various purposes, such as showing, racing, endurance, or pleasure. Buying an Arabian horse from a breeder can be a reliable and convenient way to own this breed. You can choose from a wide range of horses with different pedigrees, bloodlines, colors, and characteristics. You can also get professional advice and support from the breeder regarding the horse’s care and training. However, you should also be prepared to pay a higher price for a breeder’s horse than for a rescue’s horse. You should also do your research on the breeder’s reputation, ethics, and practices before buying an Arabian horse from them.


Auctions: There are many auctions where you can find Arabian horses for sale, such as low-end auctions, online auctions, or specialty auctions. Buying an Arabian horse from an auction can be a risky but rewarding way to own this breed. You can find some hidden gems or bargains among the horses offered for sale, but you can also encounter some problems or pitfalls. You should be aware of the potential health, behavioral, or legal issues that the horse may have, as well as the lack of information or guarantees that the seller may provide. You should also do your research on the auction’s reputation, rules, and procedures before buying an Arabian horse from them.


More Horse Breeds


If you are interested in similar breeds, check out:

Thoroughbred Horse Breed Profile

Quarter Horse Breed Profile

Morgan Horse Breed Profile


FAQs


Here are some frequently asked questions about the Arabian horse:


What is the history of the Arabian horse?


The Arabian horse is one of the oldest breeds of horse in the world. It originated on the Arabian Peninsula and was developed by the nomadic Bedouin people for their harsh desert environment and their nomadic lifestyle. The Arabian horse was used for transportation, hauling loads, and war mounts by the Bedouin tribes and later by the Islamic armies that conquered much of the Middle East and North Africa. The Arabian horse spread its influence to other regions through trade, diplomacy, and conquest. Many rulers and nobles sought to acquire Arabian horses for their own breeding programs, such as King Solomon of Israel, Alexander the Great of Macedonia, Julius Caesar of Rome, Napoleon Bonaparte of France, and Queen Elizabeth I of England. The Arabian horse was first introduced to North America by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. Later, more Arabian horses were imported by European colonists and American pioneers.


What are the characteristics of the Arabian horse?


The Arabian horse is known for its distinctive head shape, high tail carriage, and graceful movement. It has a finely chiseled bone structure with a concave or “dished” profile, a large forehead with a slight bulge between the eyes, large eyes with an expressive gaze, large nostrils that can flare when excited or breathing hard, a small muzzle with thin lips, an arched neck with a large and well-set windpipe, a comparatively level croup with a high-carried tail, a short back with strong loins, a deep chest with well-sprung ribs, strong legs with fine hooves, and a smooth and elastic stride with natural balance. It has a coat of fine and silky hair that can come in many colors, but the most common ones are bay, black, chestnut, and gray.


What is the temperament of the Arabian horse?


The Arabian horse is known for its high spirit, sensitivity, and intelligence. It is a breed that can form a strong bond with its human partner, but it also needs clear communication and consistent handling. It is a breed that can be eager to please, but also stubborn or nervous if not treated well. It is a breed that can be playful, curious, and affectionate, but also alert and reactive to its surroundings.


How tall is an Arabian horse?


The Arabian horse is a compact and relatively small breed of horse. It usually stands between 14.1 and 15.1 hands (57 and 61 inches) at the withers. However, some individuals may be taller or shorter than this range.


What is the Arabian horse used for?


The Arabian horse is a versatile breed that can excel in many disciplines and activities. It is especially dominant in endurance riding, where it can cover long distances at a steady pace without tiring. It also competes in many other equestrian sports, such as dressage, show jumping, eventing, western pleasure, reining, cutting, trail riding, and driving.


The Arabian horse is also valued for its ability to improve other breeds by adding speed, refinement, endurance, and strong bone. Many modern light horse breeds have some degree of Arabian ancestry, such as the Thoroughbred, the Quarter Horse, the Morgan, the American Saddlebred, the Tennessee Walking Horse, and many others.


The Arabian horse is also used for recreational riding, therapy riding, and as a companion animal. Many people admire the Arabian horse for its beauty, personality, and history.


Bay Arabian horse grazing in a pasture



Are Arabian horses expensive?


The price of an Arabian horse can vary depending on factors such as bloodline, age, gender, color, and training. On average, the price ranges from $5,000 to $30,000. However, horses with prized bloodlines, awards, and excellent training can cost more than $100,000. Some top show Arabian stallions can cost between $80,000 to $150,000. In 2015, one of the most expensive Arabians, Pepita, sold for nearly $2 million at a sale in Poland.


Alternatively, adopting an Arabian horse from a rescue organization can be a more affordable and rewarding way to own this breed. Depending on the location and the rescue organization, you could pay as little as $250 for a horse. However, you should also be prepared to deal with any physical or behavioral issues that the horse may have as a result of its previous experience.


Why is the Arabian horse expensive?


The Arabian horse is expensive because of its rarity, quality, and popularity. The Arabian horse is one of the oldest and most influential breeds in the world. It has a long and rich history that dates back to ancient times. It has contributed its qualities to most of the modern breeds of light horses. It has a distinctive and elegant appearance that sets it apart from other breeds. It has a high spirit, sensitivity, and intelligence that make it a loyal and responsive partner. It has endurance, courage, and energy that make it a versatile and competitive performer. All these factors make the Arabian horse highly sought-after and valuable by many owners, riders, and breeders.


Conclusion


The Arabian horse is a breed that can offer many rewards and challenges to its owners and riders. It is a breed that requires respect, understanding, and patience, as well as proper care and training. It is a breed that can adapt to various environments and situations, but it also needs adequate socialization and exposure. It is a breed that can thrive on a close relationship with its human partner, but it also needs respect and trust.


If you are interested in owning or adopting an Arabian horse, you should do your research on its history, characteristics, temperament, care, and price. You should also consider your lifestyle, budget, and goals before making your decision. You should also consult a veterinarian or an equine expert who can help you assess your potential horse’s health and suitability.


The Arabian horse is a breed that can bring you joy, satisfaction, and adventure. It is a breed that can become your friend, companion, and partner for life.

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