Northeast of mainland Scotland lay the Shetland Isles, where small horses have been kept since the Bronze Age. People who lived on the islands likely crossed the native stock with imported ponies from the Norse settlers and also with Celtic ponies. The harsh climate and food scarcity made the Shetland ponies develop into an extremely hardy breed. Shetlands have small heads, widely spaced eyes, and small and alert ears. A short, broad back and deep girth are universal characteristics of the breed. They are hairy little ponies, with long thick manes and tails and a dense double winter coat. They can be nearly any color, though only crossbreeds can be leopard-spotted or champagne.
Shetland ponies are usually gentle, good-tempered, and highly intelligent. They make very good ponies for children and are sometimes noted for their bravery. Because of their intelligence and size, they are easily spoiled and headstrong unless properly trained. The Shetland is the strongest of all horse and pony breeds in relation to its size, able to pull twice its own weight in comparison to a draft horse that can pull around half its own weight. It is not unusual for a Shetland Pony to live thirty years or more. However, their small size can also predispose some to heart problems.
Shetland ponies were first used for pulling carts, carrying peat and other items, and plowing farm land. As the Industrial Revolution increased the need for coal in the mid-19th century, thousands of Shetland Ponies were sent to mainland Britain to work underground carrying coal for what would likely be their entire – often short – lives. Some coal mines in the Eastern United States also imported Shetland Ponies for work. The last of these pony mines in the U.S. closed in 1971.
Today, the Shetland Pony is ridden by children and are shown by both children and adults at horse shows and in harness driving classes. They can also be found giving pony rides in commercial settings such as fairs and carnivals. Some petting zoos and therapeutic riding programs also use Shetlands in their programs. Miniature Shetlands, as well as other miniature breeds, can also be trained as guide horses.
I had gotten several requests for the Shetland Pony at events and from my on-line fans as well, and I was delighted to find this map that actually has an inset of the Shetland Isles on it! It seemed like fate and I knew that I had to draw the adorable little Shetland on this map. One of my favorite things about drawing horses is manes – I just love long, flowing manes and tails – so drawing a cute hairy little Palomino pony with a long mane was so enjoyable. I think this guy is so cute and I love how this illustration turned out!
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It’s hard to believe that we are over halfway through December already! This year has been so crazy that I can barely believe it’s not still April, to be honest, much less almost Christmas.
In today’s post, I’d like to express gratitude for all the many good things I have to be thankful for in this insane year. Though a lot of bad happened in the past twelve months, a lot of good things happened too, and it’s important to recognize that and to say thank you. So, in no particular order, here are the things I am grateful for this year.
I am grateful for every single person who has purchased a print, notecards, ornament, or anything else from me, whether it was in person, at The Foundry in Chambersburg, PA, or from any of my online shops. (Etsy, lizstaley.com, RedBubble, TeePublic, etc) Those sales helped get me through some tough financial times this year!
I am grateful for every commission that I was given this year. There are five people that are going to get original Liz Staley artworks for Christmas and I’m so excited to find out how they like their pieces. I love doing custom work and creating something special that will be cherished for years to come.
I am grateful for my Patrons! I know I’ve said this a lot, but being a Patron is one of the easiest ways to support my art. Patreon provides me with a monthly income that I can count on while also giving those who support my work perks and exclusive content. Some of my Patreon supporters have been with me for a long time and I appreciate them so much and hope I can continue providing them with content for a long, long time!
I am grateful for the Barefoot Horse Magazine, who featured me in Issue 23 of their publication. I had a blast writing my story for them and putting together the article that ran in their pages. It was such an honor for me, Glory, and my art to be included in the magazine!
I am grateful for my incredible friends from The Foundry Artist Cooperative. I have been there for almost 2 years now and met some amazing artists. One of the best things about the community at The Foundry is that everyone is so helpful and willing to share their expertise. Whenever I have a question or need advice, someone there is willing to help. It’s wonderful to be a part of such a phenomenal group of talented people.
I am so, so grateful for my friends who have stood by me and been the most amazing support system this year! I’ve never been someone who has a lot of friends- usually I have one or two close friends and that’s it. This year I have not only made friends with my fellow artists, but I also have a core group of friends who are the most amazing group of ladies I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, and I could not thank them more for being there for me!
I am extremely grateful to everyone who shares my work on Facebook and Twitter. There are those who share nearly everything I post, and I see and appreciate you! Word of mouth is powerful, and things like the Facebook algorithm like engagement more than anything, so all likes, shares, and comments are appreciated because they mean my posts are more visible!
I am grateful for my husband. It was a rough year for both of us, but we couldn’t have made it through without teamwork. I hope we can get through 2020 with the same tenacity we showed this year!
I am grateful for my family, especially my mom and dad. When things got the roughest, they really helped out. In the same vein, I am so grateful that when they needed help I was in a position that I could provide it. I couldn’t have gotten through the worst parts of this year without my family, so thank you!
And, of course, I am grateful for my horse, Glory, and my best friend’s horse, Raven. Glory rekindled my love of drawing horses and set me down the path to the career I’m cultivating right now. Raven has been a serious blessing in my life as well, either by making me laugh or providing a soft neck for me to cry into when I needed it. Big thank you to my hooved therapists!
That is definitely not a comprehensive list of everything I have to be thankful for this year, but It’s a pretty good list (I think so, anyway!). What are you grateful for this year? Let me know in the comments!
As long as I can remember, I’ve been creating art. Around high school, I developed a love for cartooning, animation, and manga. Up until then, I had drawn mainly realistic things, or at least as close to realistic as I could get at such a young age. It was this shift to cartooning that made me realize how much I loved telling stories with my art. This made sense in hindsight because I was always a prolific writer as well as an artist.
When I was very young, I remember creating “books” out of pads of post-it notes, complete with hand-lettered text and full illustrations. In middle school, I wrote an entire novel in a Marble composition book. Well, it was probably more like a novella, because it was a wide-ruled notebook, but at the time it was much longer than any other story I’d ever written.
Telling stories and creating something beautiful to look at have always been my goals as an artist. If I can combine those two things, then that’s all the better as far as I’m concerned!
My goal with my Horses of the world series is to tell the story of the horse, its contributions throughout history, and how deeply intertwined the history of the horse is with the history of humanity. This way, I can combine the subject I’ve loved to draw since I was very young (horses), with storytelling aspects. I choose both well-known and very popular breeds for my illustrations, as well as less known and less popular breeds. Many of the lesser-known breeds in the series are endangered or have dwindling numbers, like the Misaki and the Akhal-Teke, or are even extinct, like the Quagga. By using these breeds and combining them with world maps, I hope to inspire learning, discussion, and conservation efforts for the breeds that can be saved.
Horses have been part of human history since prehistoric times. They have been used for food, transportation, war, and to help shape civilizations. When someone sees my art and sees a horse breed they have or haven’t heard of, along with a map behind that breed, it opens up a conversation. Children and adults love to learn about horses and especially breeds they don’t know of. I hope that my art encourages giving back to these amazing animals who have given so much of themselves over the centuries to help humans.
My mission as an artist is to bring joy, to start conversations, and to inspire curiosity in those who love these animals as much as I do. I hope that my art and my words will inspire the animal lover in you, and open a dialog with other horse lovers so that we can make sure these beautiful animals don’t disappear.
In North America, a horse with a colorful spotted coat pattern was developed in the Pacific Northwest by the Nez Perce people. Settlers referred to this horse as the “Palouse Horse”, after the Palouse River in the area. Gradually, this breed’s name evolved into “Appaloosa”.
Artwork depicting prehistoric horses with leopard spotting exists in cave paintings in Europe. Images of domesticated horses with the same coloring patterns appear in artwork from Ancient Greece and Han dynasty China through to modern times. The Nez Perce people of the Pacific Northwest United States lost most of their horses after the Nez Perce War in the year 1877. The Appaloosa breed fell into decline for several decades after this. Because of the dedication of a small number of breeders, the Appaloosa was preserved as a distinct breed until the Appaloosa Horse Club (known as the ApHC) was formed in 1938 and acted as a breed registry. The modern breed maintains bloodlines tracing back to the foundation stock of the registry. The breed registry allows some addition of Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, and Arabian blood.
Today, the Appaloosa is one of the most popular breeds in the United States. It was named the official state horse of Idaho in 1975. Appaloosas have been used in movies, as sports team mascots, and as influence to other horse breeds. They are a versatile breed, suitable as a stock horse in western riding disciplines as well as other equestrian activities.
The Appaloosa is best known for its leopard spotted coat, which is the preference in the breed. Aside from spotting, there are three other distinctive core characteristics of the Appaloosa: mottled skin, striped hooves, and white sclera in the eyes. Though all horses show white around the eye if the eye is rolled back, white sclera showing while the eye is in a normal position is a distinctive characteristic seen more in Appaloosas than in other breeds. Occasionally, an Appaloosa horse is born with little or no visible spotting pattern. The ApHC allows for the “regular” registration of horses with mottled skin plus at least one other common characteristic of the breed. There is also a “non-characteristic” registration for horses with two ApHC parents who show no identifiable Appaloosa characteristics.
It is not always easy to predict the color a grown Appaloosa will be when it is born. Patterns sometimes change over the course of the horse’s lifetime, and foals do not always show classic leopard spotting characteristics. Horses with the varnish roan and the snowflake patterns usually show very little of the color pattern at birth, but develop more visible spotting as they age. Appaloosa horses come in several base colors, including bay, black, chestnut, palomino, buckskin, cremello, perlino, roan, gray, dun, and grulla. There are ten different recognized spotting patterns, including spotted, blanket, leopard, snowflake, and mottled markings.
Domestic horses with spotted patterns in artwork have been seen as far back as Ancient Greece, Ancient Persia, and China. Eleventh century France and Twelfth century England paintings also depicted spotted horses. Records indicate that spotted horses were used as coach horses at the court of Louis XIV of France, and in the mid-18th-century there was a huge demand for spotted horses among the nobility and royalty. These horses were used in schools, parades, and other displays. The Spanish obtained spotted horses, likely from trade with Austria and Hungary. These horses then traveled with the Conquistadors and Spanish settlers to the Americas in the early 16th century. A snowflake patterned horse was listed among the 16 horses brought to Mexico by Cortez.
Spotted horses went out of style in Europe in the late 18th century. This caused these horses to be shipped to Mexico, California, and Oregon.
The Nez Perce were living in what is today eastern Washington, Oregon, and north central Idaho. They engaged in horse breeding as well as agriculture. Horses were first obtained by the Nez Perce people in 1730, and they received them from the Shoshone. Because the Nez Perce lived in excellent horse breeding country, and were relatively protected from raids, they took advantage of this and developed strict breeding selection practices. They were one of the few tribes that actively gelded inferior male horses and traded away poor stock to remove unsuitable animals from the gene pool. They were notable horse breeders by the early 19th century.
Nez Perce horses were known to be of the highest quality, and even Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark Expedition wrote in his journal about the excellence of their horses. He also mentioned the horses being “pied”, noting the spotted patterns of the modern Appaloosa horse. At this time, however, many of the Nez Perce horses were solid colored, as they had not yet begun to breed for color until after Lewis and Clark’s visit. As settlers moved into the Nez Perce lands, the successful trade of their horses enriched the tribe. In 1861, the Nez Perce horses were said to be “elegant chargers, fit to mount a prince.” Ordinary horses at the time could be purchased for $15. Settlers and non-Natives who owned Appaloosa horses from the Nez Perce turned down offers as high as $600 for their animals.
The encroachment of gold miners in the 1860’s and settlers in the 1870’s put pressure on the Nez Perce people. A treaty in 1863 reduced the lands allotted to the Nez Perce people by ninety percent. Some of the Nez Perce refused to give up their lands under this treaty, including a band living in the Wallowa Valley of Oregon. Tensions rose, and in May of 1877, General Oliver Otis Howard called a council and ordered the bands to move to the reservation. The leader of the bands, known as Chief Joseph, felt that military resistance would ultimately be futile. But, on the day that the Chief had gathered 600 people in Idaho, a small group of warriors staged an attack on nearby settlers. After several small battles in Idaho, 800 Nez Perce took 2000 head of livestock and fled into Montana before heading southeast and into Yellowstone National Park.
A small number of the Nez Perce warriors held off larger U.S. Army forces in several skirmishes, including a two-day battle in southwestern Montana. After being rebuffed by the Crow Nation when they sought safety there, the Nez Perce headed for Canada. The journey was around 1,400 miles, and all throughout it, the Nez Perce relied on their fast, agile, and hard Appaloosa horses. They stopped to rest near the Bears Paw Mountains in Montana, around 40 miles from the Canadian border. Unknown to them, Colonel Nelson A. Miles had led an infantry-cavalry from Fort Keough in pursuit. After a five day fight, Chief Joseph surrendered. The Nez Perce war was over on October 5, 1877. Most of the war chiefs were dead, and the noncombatants were cold and starving.
The U.S. 7th Cavalry immediately took more than 1,000 of the tribe’s horses when they accepted Chief Joseph’s surrender. They sold what they could and then shot the rest. A significant population of horses were left behind in the Wallowa Valley when the Nez Perce began their retreat, and additional horses escaped or were abandoned on the way. When the Nez Perce were relocated to reservations in north central Idaho, they were allowed to keep few horses and were forced to crossbreed with draft horses in an attempt to create farm horses.
A remnant population of the Appaloosa horses remained after 1877, but they were nearly forgotten as a distinct breed for nearly 60 years. A few of the best horses continued to be bred and used as working ranch horses. Others were used in circuses and shows, such as Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. The name “Appaloosa” came from the Palouse River that ran through the Nez Perce territories. There were several other spellings of the breed’s name, including “Appalucy”, “Opelousa”, and “Apalousey”. By the 1950’s, “Appaloosa” was considered the correct spelling of the name.
Western Horseman magazine published an article in 1937 describing the Appaloosa breed’s history and urging the preservation of the horses. This was when the Appaloosa came to the attention of the general public. The author of the article, Francis D. Haines, had performed extensive research, including traveling with a friend to various Nez Perce villages to collect history and take photographs. The article generated interest in the breed, and was responsible for the founding of the Appaloosa Horse Club by Claude Thompson in 1938. The Appaloosa Museum Foundation was formed in 1975 to preserve the history of the Nez Perce horse. Western Horseman magazine continued to support and promote the breed in subsequent issues.
The Arabian horse played a huge part in the revitalization of the Appaloosa horse, as evidenced by early registration lists that show Arabian-Appaloosa crossbreeds as ten of the first fifteen horses registered with the ApHC. Later, Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse lines were added, as well as crosses from breeds such as the Morgan and Standardbreds. In 1983 the ApHC reduced the number of allowable crosses to three main breeds: Arabian, American Quarter Horse, and the Thoroughbred.
By 1978, the ApHC was the third largest horse registry of light horse breeds. By 2007, more than 670,000 Appaloosas were registered. They are an international organization, with affiliates in Europe, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, and Israel. The ApHC has 33,000 members as of 2010.
The American Appaloosa Association was founded in 1983 by members of the ApHC who opposed the registration of solid colored horses. Based in Missouri, the AAA had a membership of more than 2,000 as of 2008. Other registries have been created for horses with leopard complex genetics that are not affiliated with ApHC. The ApHC is, by far, the largest Appaloosa horse registry, and it hosts one of the largest breed shows in the world.
The ApHC does not accept horses with draft, pony, Pinto, or Paint breeding. Mature horses must stand at least 14hh while unshod. If a horse has excessive white markings that are not associated with the recognized Appaloosa patterns, it cannot be registered unless a DNA test reveals that both the horse’s parents have ApHC registration.
Unfortunately, Appaloosas have an eightfold greater risk of developing Equine Recurrent Uveitis than all other breeds combined. Up to 25 percent of all horses with ERU may be Appaloosas. If not treated, ERU can lead to blindness. Appaloosas with roan or light colored patterns, little pigment around the eyelids and sparse hair in the mane and tail mark the most at-risk horses for this condition. Researchers believe they have identified a gene region in the Appaloosa that makes the breed more susceptible to the disease.
Some Appaloosas are also at risk for congenital stationary night blindness. CSNB is a disorder that causes a lack of night vision, though day vision is normal. It is an inherited disorder, present from birth, and does not progress over time.
Appaloosas are a versatile and hardy breed. They are used for both Western and English riding disciplines. Western competitors use the Appaloosa for cutting, reining, roping, barrel racing, and pole bending. Barrel racing is known as the Camas Prairie Stump Race in Appaloosa-only competitions, and pole bending is called Nez Perce Stake Race at breed shows. English riding disciplines use Appaloosas for competitions such as eventing, show jumping, and fox hunting. They are common in endurance riding competitions and casual trail riding. Appaloosas are also bred for horse racing and have an active breed racing association promoting the sport. Generally, they are used for middle-distance racing. An Appaloosa holds the all-breed record for the 4.5 furlongs distance, which was set in 1989.
The Arabian horse is one of the oldest horse breeds in the world. Archaeological evidence of horses resembling the Arabian have been found in the Middle East dating back 4,500 years. It is one of the most easily recognizable horses in the world. Throughout history, the Arabian has spread around the world thanks to both war and trade. The breed has been used to improve other horse breeds by adding speed, endurance, and strong bone. The Arabian horse bloodline is found in almost every modern breed of riding horse.
The nomadic Bedouin people of the area where the Arabian developed prized the horses so much that they would often bring them inside the family tent for shelter and to protect the horses from theft. Arabian horses are quick learners, good-natured, and eager to please, with the high spirit and alertness required for war. Arabian horses are the masters of endurance, dominating the sport of endurance riding because of their soundness, strength, and superior stamina. Romantic myths are often told of the Arabian breed, giving them nearly divine characteristics and powers.
There are several myths of the origin of the Arabian horse. One origin myth tells of how Muhammed gave his mares a test of their loyalty and courage by turning them loose after a long journey through the desert and let them race toward an oasis for a desperately needed drink of water. Before the herd reached the oasis, Muhammed called the herd back to him. Only five mares returned to their master, becoming his favorites and being named Al Khamsa– “The Five”. These mares became the legendary foundation mares of the five strains of Arabian horses.
Another version says that Solomon gave a stallion to the Banu Azd people when they came to pay tribute to him. It was said that every hunt with this stallion was successful, and when he was put to stud he founded the Arabian breed. Several other origin myths claim that the Arabian was created from the wind and stormclouds, including one where Allah says to the South Wind, “I want to make a creature of you. Condense.” The material condensed from the South Wind became the horse.
Arabians are one of the oldest human-developed breeds in the world. Horses with characteristics similar to the modern Arabian have been depicted in rock paintings and inscriptions in the Arabian Peninsula dating back 3,500 years. Ancient Egyptian art as far back as the 16th Century B.C. depicted horses with refined heads and tails with a high carriage. Horses with similar characteristics to the Arabian include the Marwari horse of India, the Barb of North Africa, and the Akhal-Teke of Turkmenistan.
The desert climate and culture greatly influenced the development of the Arabian breed. The desert environment needed a domesticated horse who would cooperate with humans to survive. Humans were the only source of food and water in some areas. Even hardy Arabian horses require more water than camels in order to live. If there was no water or pasture, the Bedouin would feed their horses camel’s milk and dates. A desert horse needs the ability to survive with little food, and must have anatomical traits that would compensate for the dry climate and extreme shifts of temperature between day and night. Arabians were bred to be war horses with speed, intelligence, and endurance. Mares were often preferred over stallions for raids requiring stealth, because they were quieter and less likely to give away the position of the raiding party. Because the prized horses were often brought inside the family tents at night to protect them from the weather, theft, and predators, a good disposition was necessary. Appearance was not required for the breed’s survival, but the Bedouin bred for refinement and beauty in their horses’ features as well as for their more practical traits. The Bedouin people knew the pedigrees of their best war mares in detail, including their accomplishments and victories, down through the maternal lines.
There is a misconception that because the Arabian is a small, refined breed of horse, that they are not strong. The Arabian has more dense bone than other breeds, short cannon bones, sound hooves, and a short, broad back, all of which give the horse a physical strength comparable to larger horses. Even a small Arabian can carry a heavier rider. In areas such as farm work, where a heavier horse is an advantage, the Arabian is not suitable because of their lighter weight and smaller stature. For most purposes, the Arabian is a strong and hardy light horse with the capability of carrying any type of rider in most equestrian sports.
Arabians are one of the few breeds where the United States Equestrian Federation rules allow children to show stallions in nearly all show ring classes. This is because of the Arabian’s naturally good disposition. For centuries, only horses with a good nature were allowed to reproduce, resulting in a breed with an overall good and willing disposition. Though the Arabian is considered a “hot-blooded” horse, unlike other high spirited breeds their intelligence enables quick learning and greater communication with their riders. The downside of this is that it is just as easy for the Arabian to learn bad habits as it is good ones, and they do not tolerate inept handlers or abusive training practices. Most Arabians are naturally inclined to cooperate with humans. When treated badly, however, they can become as nervous and anxious as any other horse, but they seldom become vicious unless severely abused.
The earliest horses with Arabian bloodlines to come to Europe probably did so indirectly, through Spain and France. Other Arabians arrived as spoils of war with knights returning from the Crusades. As heavily armored knights and their heavy war horses became obsolete, the Arabian horses and their descendants were used to develop faster and more agile light cavalry horses. Arabian horses also came to Europe when the Ottoman Turks sent 300,000 horsemen into Hungary in 1522, many of whom were riding pure-blooded Arabians. The Ottomans reached Vienna before they were stopped by the Polish and Hungarian armies. The horses were captured from the defeated Ottoman cavalry, and some of these animals provided foundation bloodstock for the major studs of eastern Europe.
As the use of light cavalry in warfare began to rise, the stamina and agility of Arabian horses gave an advantage to any army that had them. European monarchs began to support large breeding programs that crossed local stock with Arabian horses. European horse breeders also began to acquire Arabians through direct trade with the desert. By the late 1800’s, the Arabian as a pure breed of horse was under threat due to modern warfare, inbreeding, importing to Europe, and other problems that were reducing the horse population in the Bedouin tribes. Some Europeans began to collect the finest Arabian horses they could find in order to preserve the blood of the desert horse for future generations. The most famous collector of Arabians for the future was Lady Anne Blunt, the daughter of Ada Lovelace and granddaughter of Lord Byron.
World War I, the Russian Revolution, and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire destroyed many historic European stud farms. The Spanish Civil War and World War II also had a devastating impact on horse breeding throughout Europe. Many studs, and most records of breeding, were entirely lost. The Soviet Union and the United States obtained valuable Arabian horses as spoils of war. The Soviets had taken steps to protect their breeding stock, and using horses captured from Poland they were able to re-establish their breeding program soon after the end of World War II. Horses captured in Europe were brought to the United States, mostly to the Pomona U.S. Army Remount Station in California.
In America, the earliest Arabian horses arrived with Hernan Cortes in 1519. More horses followed with each Conquistador, missionary, and settler. Many horses escaped or were stolen and became the foundation stock for the American Mustang. Colonists from England brought horses of Arabian breeding to the Eastern Seaboard. One of George Washington’s horses during the American Revolutionary War was a gray half-Arabian named Blueskin. Other presidents also owned Arabian horses, including President Ulysses S. Grant, who obtained an Arabian stallion named Leopard and a Barb as gifts from the Sultan of Turkey.
One of the earliest American breeders of Arabian horses was A. Keene Richard. He crossed his Arabians with Thoroughbreds, but also bred pure Arabian horses. Unfortunately, his horses were lost during the Civil War and have no known purebred Arabian descendants today. Leopard is the only known stallion imported before 1888 who has known purebred descendants in America.
In 1908, the Arabian Horse Registry of America was established and recorded 71 animals. By 1994, the number of animals registered was half a million. There are more Arabian horses registered in North America today than in the rest of the world combined.
In the 1980’s, the Arabian horse became a popular status symbol. The horses were marketed in a similar fashion as fine art. Prices for Arabians went through the roof, with some people using the horses as tax shelters. A record-setting auction had a mare sell for 2.55 million dollars in 1984. A stallion sold at the same auction for 11 million dollars. The potential for profit on the horses led to over-breeding, and when the tax law was changed in 1986, the Arabian market was particularly vulnerable to over-saturation and inflated prices. The market soon collapsed, forcing many breeders into bankruptcy. Many pure-bred Arabians were sent to slaughter in the aftermath. The prices for Arabians recovered slowly after many breeders moved away from creating “living art” and began producing horses suited toward amateur owners and a variety of riding disciplines. As of 2013, there are more than 660,000 registered Arabians in the United States, the largest number of Arabians in any nation in the world. The second largest registry in the world is the Australian Arabian Horse Registry.
The genetic strength of the desert-bred Arabian horse has led to the bloodlines having a hand in the development of almost every modern light horse breed. This includes the Thoroughbred, Orlov Trotter, Morgan, American Saddlebred, Quarter Horse, Trakehner, Welsh Pony, Australian Stock Horse, Percheron, Appaloosa, and the Colorado Ranger Horse. Arabians are crossed with other breeds to add refinement, agility, beauty, and endurance. Some half-Arabian crosses, such as the Morab (Morgan-Arabian) are even popular enough to have their own breed registries.
There is some debate over the role the Arabian played in the development of other light horse breeds. DNA studies of multiple horse breeds suggest that, after the domestication of the horse, the location of the Middle East as the crossroads of the ancient world allowed the Oriental horse to spread through Europe and Asia. There is little doubt that humans crossed “oriental” blood to create other breeds of light riding horses. The only questions are at what point the “oriental” type horse could be called an “Arabian”, how much Arabian blood was mixed with local animals, and at what point in history. For some breeds of horse, such as the Thoroughbred, Arabian influence is documented in written stud books. For older breeds, the date of Arabian influx of breeding is more difficult to determine.
Arabians are intelligent, willing, and versatile horses that compete today in many equestrian disciplines. Horse racing, saddle seat, Western pleasure, hunt seat, dressage, show jumping, cutting, reining, endurance riding, eventing, and youth events all see Arabian participants. They are used for pleasure riding, trail riding, and working horses. The Arabian dominates the sport of Endurance riding thanks to their superior stamina. They are the leading breeds in competitions such as the Tevis Cup, where they can cover up to 100 miles in a day.
Series of horse shows specifically for Arabians and half-Arabians exist in America, Canada, Great Britain, France, Spain, Poland, and the United Arab Emirates. In North America, the Arabian Horse Association’s “sport horse” events draw up to 2000 entries. This competition sees Arabian and part-Arabian horses performing in hunter, jumper, dressage, combined driving, and sport horse under saddle and in hand classes.
Purebred Arabians have also excelled in open events against other breeds. They have won against other breeds in Refined Cow Horse, cutting horse, show jumping, and show hunter competitions. A purebred Arabian competed on the Brazilian eventing team in the 2004 Athens Olympics. Arabians have won Olympic medals in dressage and show jumping as well.
Arabians have been popular in movies dating back to the silent film era when Rudolph Valentino rode the Arabian stallion Jadaan in 1926’s “Son of the Sheik”. They have been seen in many films, including The Black Stallion, as well as Hidalgo and Ben-Hur. They are popular mascots for sports teams. Arabians are also used in search and rescue teams and for police work, as polo horses, in circuses, therapeutic horse riding programs, and on guest ranches.
The Arabian is a breed that has had influence all over the world. From the tents of the Bedouin people who fed their prized mares dates and camel’s milk, to the personal mounts of kings and Presidents, to the Olympic games. They are truly a versatile breed with intelligence and a willing disposition.
Find out more about the Arabian breed at the Arabian Horse Association’s website at https://www.arabianhorses.org/
Video of me working on the Marwari Horse drawing. In this video I use a lightpadto trace the sketch onto the map page with Copic Multiliner pens. Then the large areas of base color are added with Copic Markers. I use Fantasia Artist Premium Colored Pencils to add additional shading and highlights over the marker. The real-time on this drawing was about 90 minutes (not including the initial sketching of the horse, which I didn’t film).