Everything You Need to Know About Arabian Horses
The Arabian is one of the most recognizable horse breeds in the world. It is also one of the most popular breeds in the world, with its refined beauty, incredible stamina, and spirited temperament.
What are the characteristics of an Arabian horse? Arabians are beautiful horses with uniquely dished profiles, high-set tails, and a lean and refined frame. They are spirited and considered a hot-blooded breed, but with a friendly enough disposition that when treated well, even stallions are considered manageable for children.
If you’re interested in owning an Arabian horse someday, then this article is for you! I will share everything you need to know about caring for and owning an Arabian.
The Arabian Horse: Physical Characteristics
The Arabian is considered to have a refined and elegant appearance. On average, they stand between 14.1 and 15.1 hh, and having a greater bone density than any other horse breed. Arabians are known for a physical strength that matches a much taller breed. They are also known for their strong hoof walls and the well-angled hips and pelvises that are unique to breeds known for their speed, like Thoroughbreds. Aside from these distinctions, there are several areas in which the Arabian is physically unique among other horses:
The Arabian’s dished profile:
Perhaps the single characteristic that makes the Arabian more recognizable than any other horse breed is their dished or concave profile. This creates a head that slopes downward after the forehead, unlike the seemingly straight line that typically runs from a horse’s forehead to his muzzle. To add to this, many Arabians have what is called a jibbah, a slight forehead bulge between the eyes. This allows greater capacity within the sinus cavities, which is believed to have helped the breed survive in its native desert climate.
The Arabian’s high-set tail:
The Arabian has a naturally high-set tail, almost appearing as if to be set at the level of the top of the rump, and this is usually obvious to the eye when compared to other horse breeds. The Bedouin people bred the Arabian to thrive under the harsh native conditions, but they also bred for physical appeal. The Arabian is known as a beautiful horse, and the native Bedouin tribes were proud of their animals.
The Arabian’s skeletal structure:
Horses naturally have six lumbar vertebrae and 18 pairs of ribs. Many Arabians have only five lumbar vertebrae and 17 pairs of ribs. While it is not known exactly why the Arabian’s skeletal structure evolved in this way, the shorter back does aid in the horse’s ability to carry heavy loads when compared to its height and weight.
The Arabian’s coloring:
Like most horse breeds, Arabians can come in various colors and color patterns, including gray, bay, chestnut, black, and roan. However, while many horse breeds also come in various pinto patterns, the purebred Arabian only comes in one spotting pattern: sabino. All other spotting or pinto patterns will not be found in a purebred Arabian. In addition, Arabians do not carry any dilution genes; unlike many other breeds, you will never find an Arabian in diluted colors like palomino, dun, buckskin, or cremello.
The Arabian Horse’s Temperament
While Arabians are known for their spirited and “hot-blooded” temperaments, they are also uniquely cooperative, intelligent, and friendly. In fact, they are one of the only breeds in which children are allowed to show stallions in almost all shows by the United States Equestrian Federation. There are a few reasons for their unique temperaments:
Arabians are spirited and courageous.
After the primary goal of creating a horse that was able to survive in the desert’s harsh conditions, the Bedouin people needed a courageous horse that was able to assist them in raiding and war. They accomplished this by developing the brave, proud, and spirited Arabian. This temperament helps give them the motivation that partners perfectly with their agility and speed, allowing them great success in endurance competitions today.
Arabians are sensitive.
Because of their beginnings as war and raiding horses and their natural intelligence, Arabians can also be quite sensitive. I would never advocate harsh training methods to be used for any horse, but this is especially true for Arabians. Arabians not only won’t respond well to negative training methods, but like horses in general, they also have long memories. You may find with this breed that only the slightest cue is required to get them moving in the direction you are asking, and more than that may result in a frustrated horse.
Arabians are generally friendly.
Let’s again look at the Arabian’s beginnings to understand this temperament trait. In the desert, where raiding was commonplace, horses were one of the most attractive targets for theft. To protect their horses, especially their beloved war mares, the Bedouin people would often keep their horses in their family tents at night. This meant that the horses slept and lived close to the families, and a horse with an ill temperament would not have been tolerated. Therefore, only Arabians with the best dispositions were allowed to procreate. While there aren’t many of us who sleep with our horses now, this trait has fortunately lived on with most modern Arabians.
Arabians are cooperative with people.
The desert is not always a kind environment, and most domesticated animals will not survive long in it without human intervention. The same was true in the history of the Arabian horse. Throughout their travels, food and even water were often scarce and sometimes not found at all. Without a human providing food and water to the family horse, the horse would not eat or drink.
While Arabians are remarkably thrifty with their resources, even they cannot go more than 2-3 days without water. When resources were nonexistent, the Bedouin people were known to feed their Arabians dates and give them camel milk to drink. The Arabians have learned to rely on and cooperate with their humans as they did during their early days.
How Much Does an Arabian Horse Cost?
The average trained Arabian horse in the United States will cost $5,000. That being said, you can easily find un-trained or young Arabians for under $1,000. Unfortunately, many of them end up in kill lots and auction houses.
On the other end of that, a prize show horse of stud can easily be over $30,000. The most expensive Arabian on record was sold for 11 million dollars.
There was an Arabian breeding boom in the 1980s across America. With movie stars like Patrick Swayze sporting these amazing horses, they were soon on the Christmas list for every household in America. They signified wealth and elegance. This boom in demand went on to create the second-largest horse breed registry in America, only behind the American Quarter Horse Association.
Nowadays, Arabians are one of the most populous horse breeds in the country; however, there isn’t a demand like there used to be. This has caused the purchasing price of Arabian horses to drop dramatically.
To learn more about where to find cheap Arabian horses, visit my article How Much Does an Arabian Horse Cost? 2023 Pricing Guide.
What Disciplines Do Arabians Excel In?
Due to their speed, endurance, agility, and temperament, Arabians excel in a wide range of disciplines in both English and Western riding. They may be best known for their dominance in endurance riding, and the breed excels in competitions like the Tevis Cup, the toughest endurance race in America, spanning 100 miles and is usually completed in one day.
Arabians are also seen frequently in racing, Western pleasure, dressage, cutting, reining, show jumping, eventing, trail riding, and saddle seat. It is also not uncommon to see them working on ranches. The Arabian is one of the most versatile horse breeds in the world, as evidenced by their participation in just about every type of show and competition.
That being said, some disciplines can be discriminatory toward Arabians, mainly in English hunt seat competitions like Equitation and Hunters.
The History of the Arabian Horse
The Arabian is one of the oldest horse breeds in the world, with archaeological evidence revealing horses strikingly similar to the Arabian existing 4,500 years ago. The breed was developed in the Arabian Peninsula by the Bedouin tribes. Arabians were used for various tasks but are perhaps most well-known for their participation in war and raiding practices, which were prevalent in the culture.
Arabians were bred to be able to survive the harsh climate. They required the ability to thrive on fewer calories than horses of other breeds, and their bodies developed to withstand the extreme highs and lows of desert weather. Once the Bedouin people had successfully developed a horse that would thrive in the environment, they further refined the horses in warfare, breeding only those that were stealthy, brave, and willing. Mares were primarily used for raiding and for war, as they were both quieter and more controllable than stallions; for this reason, very few colts were kept by the Bedouins.
The Bedouins closely tracked the ancestry of their horses, and according to the Arabian Horse Association, five separate strains, or bloodlines, were created: the Keheilan, the Seglawi, the Abeyan, the Hamdani, and the Hadban. While these strains are no longer a significant factor in most modern breeding programs, they were so important to the Bedouin people that some tribes refused to allow a mare ever to breed again if she had previously been bred to a stallion of a different strain.
The Arabian Is Both Unique And Attainable
You might expect to have a hard time finding a horse that is as unique and versatile as the Arabian. You may be surprised to find that this breed is attainable for just about everyone. With more than 650,000 registered Arabians around the world, you can find the breed in shows, in lesson barns, on trails, and in backyards. This means that whether you are looking for a trail partner, a ranch horse, a show jumper, or a lesson horse, it is more than worth it to take a look at the proud and beautiful Arabian.
To learn more about other cheap horse breeds, visit my article Cheap Horses: 10 Cheap Breeds & Where to Get Them.