Saudi Arabia and its Arabian Horses

 

arabian-horse

thanks to Sue Deutscher for the magnificent artwork.  http://www.suedeutscher.com

The Arabian horse is one of the most majestic and at the same time delicate of God’s creations.It is difficult to find the appropriate words to describe the Arabian horse in motion, seeing the fluidity of the horse and the strong connection between the horse and its owner.The Arabian horse evolved from the desert as one of the known breeds of riding horse and in addition to retaining its popularity in the Middle East, it is also among the most popular horses in the United States as well.The Arabian horse is characterized as having incredible energy, intelligence and gentle disposition which allow its riders to excel in most equine sports and activities.

The Arabian Horse Association provides excellent information on the background and history of the Arabian horse.Select excerpts are provided below which capture pertinent details on the evolution of this magnificent creature leading to its continued popularity in today’s modern world.

For thousands of years, Arabians lived among the desert tribes of the Arabian arabian-horsespeninsula, 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.

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.

When we first encounter the Arabian, or the prototype of what is known today as the Arabian, he is somewhat smaller than his counterpart today. Otherwise he has essentially remained unchanged throughout the centuries.

Neither sacred nor profane history tells us the country where the horse was first domesticated, or whether he was first used for work or riding. He probably was used for both purposes in very early times and in various parts of the world. We know that by 1500 B.C. the people of the east had obtained great mastery over their hot-blooded horses which were the forerunners of the breed which eventually became known as “Arabian.”

“An Arabian will take care of its owner as no other horse will, for it has not only been raised to physical perfection, but has been instilled with a spirit of loyalty unparalleled by that of any other breed.”

To the Islamic people, he was considered a gift from Allah, to be revered, cherished and almost worshipped. Long before Europeans were to become aware of his existence, the horse of the desert had established himself as a necessity for survival of the Bedouin people. The head men of the tribes could relate the verbal histories of each family of horse in his tribe as well as he could each family of Bedouin. The mythology and romance of the breed grew with each passing century as stories of courage, endurance and wealth intermingled with the genealogies.

The very nature of the breed, its shape as well as its color, was influenced by religious belief, superstition and tradition. It was believed that the bulging forehead held the blessings of Allah. Therefore the greater the “Jibbah” the greater the blessings carried by the horse. The great arching neck with a high crest, the “Mitbah” was a sign of courage, while a gaily carried tail showed pride. These traits were held in high esteem and selectively bred for.

Due in part to the religious significance attached to the Arabian horse, as well as the contribution it made to the wealth and security of the tribe, the breed flourished in near isolation. Traditions of breeding and purity were established to keep the breed “Asil” or pure, in the form intended by Allah. Any mixture of foreign blood from the mountains or the cities surrounding the desert was strictly forbidden. While other, desert type breeds developed in North Africa and the periphery of the Great Desert, they were definitely not of the same blood as Arabians and were disdained by the proud Bedouin.

arabian-horses-2-with-beduThe Bedouins have generally been credited with the beginning of selective pure breeding of Arabian horses. These tribes, although their breeding records were kept by memory and passed down through the ages verbally, are also credited as the first to keep breeding records and maintaining the purity of the Arabian breed. To this date, many Arabian pedigrees can be traced to desert breeding meaning there is no written record but because of the importance of purity to the Bedouins, “desert bred” is accepted as an authentic verification of pure blood for those early imports.

Today the Arabian horse exists in far greater numbers outside of its land of origin than it ever did in the Great Desert. In the early part of the last century; greed, ambition, desire for prestige, as well as an honest interest in saving the breed from extinction was the driving force behind governments, royal families and adventuring private citizens alike in the acquisition and propagation of this great prize of the Bedouin people–the Arabian horse.

Where can one go in and around Riyadh to see firsthand the intelligence, beauty and power of the Arabian horse?Among the most well-known include the King Abdul Aziz Arabian Horse Center which serves as the Kingdom’s official authority for registration of Arabian horses and issued its inaugural stud book in December of 1991.This Center is home to over 200 purebred Arabian horses, the Center operates under the auspices of the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Agriculture, and became home to the government stud of the Kingdom in 1964.The 750-acre facility is located in Dirab, an agricultural valley thirty-five kilometers outside the capital of Riyadh.

While not everyone may be able to easily access and view the horses at the King Abdul Aziz Arabian Horse Center, another place which is closer to the city center of Riyadh is the Equestrian Center of Riyadh.This is where, in season, one can see the magnificent Arabian horses in action.Due to the intense heat of Riyadh, the racing season is from late September until April.After April the racing is shifted to another track in Taif where the climate is more cooler.The King Abdulaziz Track, is located at Janadriyah 40Km. north east of Riyadh close to the King Khalid International Airport. This track has been recently completed and the facilities are to international standards with a grandstand accommodating 5,000 racegoers.

This post would not be complete however without concluding with two of my favorite videos of the Arabian horse in action.The first video in particular clearly illustrates the close bond that develops between an Arabian horse and its trainer.The video will allow you to see for yourself the closeness between the horse and its trainer as well as the distinctive and at times perhaps mischievous personality that the horse has as well!


51 Responses

  1. I have had several Arabians and Arabian crosses during
    my lifetime. I agree they are great horses and would definitely
    consider getting another, they are also definitely not for
    beginning riders.

  2. Both videos are impressive–but I prefer the second, the Desert Queens have more opportunity to show their spontaneous movements. :)

  3. The Horse is mentioned more than a few times in The Qur’an. Along with archery and swimming, one of the things all Muslims are supposed to know how to do is to ride.

    I love Arabians, their personalities are very fiery making them a lot of fun to ride. However, since they are so small, under 16HH often, I dont really ride them too much. Being 6’2″ I feel like my feet are dragging the ground.

    Another interesting note about the Arabian is the lore behind the “Prophets Thumb Mark” on them. Link about it is below:

    http://www.arabianbreeders.net/Forums/Prophet-s-Thumb-Mark-t12261.html

  4. My father was a horribly abusive anti social man that no human liked…and in which animals avoided at all costs (no lie). From all our pets and farm animals etc we had over the years only one ever came willingly to him…that was our Arabian filly Sheena. She followed him around like a dog and came running whenever he entered the field. He never so much as smiled at her or gave her an affectionate pat (as far as I know) but still she pranced and whinnied when she seen him….till this day my family and I could never understand her devotion and affection for this tyrant. Maybe she seen something we couldnt?

    Arabians are beautiful graceful creatures…when your day is blue and life seems a burden…go sit and watch them…it will cure you of what ails you.

  5. We worked with handicapped children here in Jeddah on horseback….just walking them around the track. It was amazing to see the transformation of these children once on the horse.

  6. I shared an Arabian horse with my cousin years back and I loved it! I think traning with Arabians are the best method of good horsemanship. As you know, horses have a very good intuition and work best with someone who employs a calm demeaner.

    ( I do sure do miss Alegra–my Arabian horse)

  7. During my first year in Riyadh, I had an opportunity to ride an Arabian horse. At the time, I was an accomplished rider, but that horse took me for a ride I’ll never forget, trotting and cantering all over the place.

    At the end of it, I slid off weak-kneed, but the horse had barely broken a sweat.

    I wish I could have continued riding there, but circumstances precluded it at the time. I often repeat that ride in my mind.

  8. Miriam Mac–was your experience with Riding for the Disabled? That organization seems to do so much good for the disabled (and expat wives LOL :D ).

  9. @Mariam,

    When I was in England I used to do the same thing at my stables. I didnt walk the horses so much as I’d come in just to tack up a couple of dozen horses and get them ready for the kids.

    I am thinking about getting involved with that here again in DC. My oldest son has autism and I think he’d love it.

  10. Abu Sinan–I think your comment was meant for Miriam Mac, but in any case it sounds like a great idea to get your son involved, and having someone like yourself who actually knows about riding and horses would be an asset. (Riding for the Disabled graciously trains volunteers with no horse experience).

  11. #coolred. it may well be the animal’s sixth sense that found your dad to be kind and gentle.

  12. @Chiara,

    Thanks!

    @Aamer and Coolred,

    Horses are also herd animals and as such will often try to curry favour with those they feel are dominate to them.

    On the other hand, if you are around horses and are scared and timid, they’ll take you for a ride, often literally!

  13. @ Abu Sinan. I had a chance to ride a horse /lesson last year, and that is what I was told by the trainer.

    Control the horse rather than horse controlling you.

    For a first time rider, there is a sense of carefulness that the horse is going to panic and start hopping and galloping but you have to learn to control them in a controlled manner.

  14. I rode an Arabian horse while in Bahrain. What fun! But I am not an advanced rider and that horse sure figured that out quick haha!

    I loooooove horses!

    I’ve been to beautiful Saudi Arabia ~ I’d love to go back some day!

  15. Abu Sinan–you’re welcome! and your statement about horses could well apply to groups of men–I think I’ll make a poster out of it! LOL :D :D :D

  16. Horses are very aware of ur emotional state and will either take advantage of it or compensate for it depending on the temperment of the horse.

  17. @coolred – you remind me of many years ago and living in Virginia next
    to an Arabian horse farm and how much I did enjoy just taking a walk
    and then sitting along the fence watching these magnificent creatures.
    Yes, they can certainly lighten the heaviest of moods.

  18. @Miriam Mac – that is beautiful…but these were not with Arabian
    horses, were they?

  19. @Marahm – I’m happy to hear that you had the opportunity as an expat
    to ride an Arabian in Saudi! By the way…would love to chat with you
    while i’m here in the States!

  20. Although not an Arabian by any means, I am so glad I was on a
    sure-footed Pakistani mountain horse when my husband and I took a
    horseback ride in Kashmir. We were going to a natural mountain lake
    and the only way to get there was either on horseback or a very long
    and precarious walk! Sadly this area no longer exists after the
    October 2005 earthquake. ):

    On Sat, May 9, 2009 at 2:37 AM, Carol Fleming wrote:
    > @Marahm – I’m happy to hear that you had the opportunity as an expat
    > to ride an Arabian in Saudi!  By the way…would love to chat with you
    > while i’m here in the States!
    >

  21. Hmmm….
    A post about Arabian horses, and Aafke’s comments are no where to be seen?? Hmm.. sure hope she’s ok! ;)

  22. @Nader – she is more than okay!! Just wait till you hear from her and
    learn what she’s been up to! (secret smile)

  23. [...] for the usual things that come to mind are probably oil and gold.  Saudi also has its exquisite Arabian horses.  And among other things, Saudi is known for the Haroof Nejdi.  Haroof meaning sheep and Nejdi, [...]

  24. Arabian Horses are so amazing. They are the most gental horse the you will ever encounter.

  25. Welcome Brianna! You are quite right — Arabian horses are gentle, intelligent and magnificent!

  26. Arabians are the true fairy tale horses, without the arabian influence some breeds would not be as good as they are today, like the thoroubred, and the percheron, and the friesian, and the morgan horse and so on. anyone who says otherwise has obviously never seen true beauty.

  27. @Rebecca – I like your comparison of the Arabian to the fairy tale horse…how many Unicorn photos in actuality look like a white Arabian? They are such gorgeous creatures.

  28. I’m learning about Islam right now in my world history class!!

  29. I have a cross breed horse, not sure but it has a lot of the characteristics described here. Beauty, endurance, loyalty. I’ve been told it looked like it had some Arab in it. I wish I knew for sure.
    Can anyone give me more info to help determine?

  30. Welcome Barbara!

    I think Aafke will have to respond to your query as she is our resident horse expert.

    Regards, Bedu

  31. Thank you for providing everyone with a lovely spiritual post such as this.

    I am lucky enough to live in Jeddah, KSA and train Arabian horses here.

    It is not often that we hear the entire story of the Arabian horse as we have here. My entire life has been centered around Arabian horses both showing and breeding them. My parents started breeding Arabians in 1982 and I have continued in the business to this day. Everyday upon arriving at the stables I walk the entire barn to make sure every animal is in good health and spirits. It is at this time I am always reminded of what an amazing opportunity of a lifetime I have had.

    Anyone wishing to learn more about the Arabian horse, his history and breeding is more than welcome to contact me. I can be reached at championfarm@yahoo.com.

    May everyone have the chance to view this amazing creature in person and enjoy his beauty. Inshaallah.

  32. Welcome Krista and thank you for your lovely comment. I’d love to hear more about your farm and the Arabian horses which you raise. They are such a lovely and spirited creature.

  33. I’m a bit late here I think….
    Barbara, the influence of the Arab characteristics are very strong and will show even in the offspring of a crossbred. Almost all breeds have been crossed with Arabians in the past to improve the breeds.

    Krista, Waw! You do seem to have the absolute dream job!
    I would love to be in contact with you.
    I have had two Arab horses.
    I have written about my horse Rabhar here:

    http://clouddragon.wordpress.com/2008/02/24/rabhar-history-and-arabian-adventures-1/

    Rabhar has been reserve world champion, and is the son of world champion Amal, and grandson of world champion Abdullah.
    He was almost pure Crabbet Park.
    You can see his portrait here:

    http://aafke-art.com/paintings/design/

    My horse Tarq is mostly Russian bred but of course also with Crabbet Park ancestry.

    http://clouddragon.wordpress.com/2010/06/20/whats-in-a-name/

  34. Hello Bedu and Aafke,

    We have several horses imported from the US, as well as, race/Desert bred KSA horses.

    The stallion Kholton TS imported from the states is a product of Egyptian and Crabbet breeding. He is 7/8 brother to World/US Ch Stallion Dahkaro. Here is a link to his pictures:

    http://www.timestonearabians.com/KholtonTS.html

    We also have his full sister who was bred to a local stallion last year and produced a lovely colt for us.

    The stables are located at the Jeddah Equestrian Club were we have approximatley 17 Arabians currently.

    We also have Thoroughbred racehorses taking our total headcount worldwide to 81 in a short period of two years since concept.

    We are in the process of moving horses from Tiaf to Jeddah and Riyadh for the next season of racing. The highest grade horses will go to Riyadh to our Janadriya stables and the others will arrive here in Jeddah following Eid. There are also 5 in Brazil and 1 in the USA currently.

    The showing season for me starts in January and runs through April, but the racehorses keep me busy with vet work, chiropractics and massage therapy all year long.

    Our next project is a riding school with show trained horses mainly Arabian schooled in the traditional American way. We will have english, western and sidesaddle lessons available. This school will be geared for women and children with a men’s facility to follow shortly after.

    I have to run for now, but will update you on the happenings as racing is about to start here in Jeddah.

    Best regards,
    Krista

  35. Krista, What a magnificent horse!
    Thank you for sharing!
    You must be very busy! I really appreciate your sharing here.

    I train my Tarq in Italian classical dressage, I train with maestro Giorgio Mereu Pez, and I ride sidesaddle as well.
    Besides being an artist I have also trained as a western saddle maker and fitter and my horse has about 8 saddles! :oops;
    I am working on an endurance saddle now, and I have a Champion and Wilton which fits the broad back of my horse, and an American Park saddle which doesn’t fit, so I am going to sell it.

  36. Krista,

    I am so sorry I did not “meet” you earlier. My late husband and I spent so many weekends at the races in Riyadh. His cousin is the managing director at the Equestrian Centre.

  37. rather amazing website , who drew the pics??

  38. There is no animal more beautiful than a fine horse – Arabians, thorougbreds, especially (of course, Ts are a cross bred from Arabians).

    And on the other hand, the last domestic animal I would want is a horse. I have had them, and they are work, lots of work, almost unending work (it seemed) and some fun. That is the voice of experience.

    A reoccurring nightmare is to wake up on Christmas and find a full-grown clydesdale under the tree. Might as well have an elephant.

    .

  39. It is such a picture of pure beauty and grace when you see the Arabian with the desert man astride galloping across the desert sands!

  40. Jay, enjoy!

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  42. its nice web site that i have …. and i hope you will make this page in urdu language too..
    0092 345 5317449

  43. I have 2 beautiful Arabian mares with Khemosabi, Bask, etc, in their bloodlines. They are extremely intelligent and are the best rides you could ask for, even for beginners. It all depends on how they are trained. If the trainer is good and knows what he/she is doing, the horse will be a perfect riding partner for anyone. Arabians, in particular, act the way they are treated. They must be respectfully treated in order to receive respect back from them. I had a quarter horse once that a person could beat him about his head and he would look at that person as if to say, “what are ya doin that for, I didn’t do nothin”. My Arabian girls, on the other hand, would respond to abuse with a look that says, “do that again and I’ll kill you”. They don’t take crap from anyone but if treated right with dignity and respect, they will do anything for you. This is true of all horses, but is especially true with Arabians. I would choose to buy Arabians over any other horse in the future because of their high intelligence, cooperation and devotion they give to you.

  44. Fascinating. I heard that these horses were introduced in Spain, and the Spanish, finding them useful, brought them to the Americas during colonization.

  45. The Spanish horses have Berber blood, rather than Arab blood in their horses. And they did take their horses to America.

  46. Just some corrections to this post:

    1- Muslims only worship Allah, nothing else. We’re instructed to care of the horses as Allah’s creation, but not treating them as if they’re something to be exalted. The same to camels, cats, dogs and every other creature. If you got that idea from seeing kings or princes treating their stable better than other creatures or even human, that’s only because they’re scum.

    2- (to a previous comment) We don’t have to be taught how to ride, but it’s something more akin to advice rather than an instruction. For fathers to teach their sons to ride, to swim and to arch, or whatever the verb from of archery is.

  47. I love arabian horses

  48. I’ve ridden for the most part of my life and I certiantly had my favorites, but the best horse I ever had i received for my 18th birthday. She was a little chestnut Arabian out of SA Jeb Stuart. Wild-eyed and wary of people, we learned what made us tick. She was 13 at the time. I had her 14 years. Many a day all I had to do was whistle and she’d come galloping to me. So many memories i can’t even convey the bond we had… my beloved mare passed away this past Christmas (2011). I’m still heartbroken. Because of her, my love of the Arabian breed has grown. I have much respect for the history of this horse and the animal itself.

  49. Hoi everybody, i have a quarter horse Mare for sale. she is white in colour, her height is 16.1hh. that is just a little information on her i will give you details fully when you back to me via my email address (keyshiaveloria@hotmail.com) thanks and best regards

  50. Carol, you should delete the above comment as spam.

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