The Arabian Horse in Motion… An Anthology of Glimpses

221 Baker Street: “The Arabian Horse In Motion… An Anthology Of Glimpses”   Compiled by Robert J. Cadranell from ARABIAN VISIONS Jan ’91 used by permission of RJ Cadranell  

        Below are some descriptions of the Arab horse in motion written by people who knew the breed well and who also happened to publish books about it. These statements were made prior to 1945. The advantage to the early dates, is that all of the writers were familiar with foundation stock of Arabian breeding in the English speaking world and can tell us about those horses. The disadvantage is that some of the statements are likely to be out of date and might not apply to our modern Arabians. Additionally, the writers were more or less limited to those Arabians of which they have personal knowledge, what they say might not reflect the breed as a whole. Nonetheless, a reader gets the impression of graceful, agile horses, which one hopes Arabians will always be.

        ”The Arabian in his purity is a horse… with elastic and graceful movement.” (1) [page 446]

        ”No other breed has such harmony of motion, giving the rider a delightful sense of riding over the ground on wings and springs.” (11) [page 27]

        ”The natural Kehilan gallops easily and trots with the freest shoulder and hock action. Knee action, however, is not a characteristic of the breed nor should it be sought for.” (8) (W.S.Blunt quoted, page 225)

        ”In action, the Arabian gives the impression of daintiness in the handling of his feet, — a certain dwelling of the feet just before being placed on the ground, with a light and airy tread,” (7) (page 59).

        ”At the walk, the powerful hindquarters come prominently into play, sending this small horse along at a great pace, far beyond expectation, the hind foot often overstepping the fore foot from two to three feet, and giving him a speed of close to five miles an hour. It is considered a point of breeding among the Arabs that a horse should look about him to right and left as he walks… ” (7) (page 78).           ”…Queen of Shea made a sudden rush, tail curved over back and neck arched, snorting proudly.” (9) (page 203)

        ”The shoulder… should have… the freest possible action, and there is no better test of quality than to turn a colt loose in a paddock and take note of how he moves his shoulders and forearms. There should be little high knee-action, but the whole limb should be thrown forward and the hoof ‘dwell’ a second in the air before it is put down. This, with corresponding action behind, like that of a deer trotting through fern, is most important in a sire and a great test of quality.” (5) (W.S.Blunt quoted, page 221).

        ”…her action was beautiful in the extreme; she had a long sweeping stride, and great reach; her movements were most springy and elastic, and full of force, power, and energy.” (4) (page 346)

        ”His action should be from the shoulder and not from the knee, and he should bend his hocks like a deer.” (5) (WSBlunt quoted, page 226).

        ”Generally the men rode up four or five at a time in line, and it was a pleasant sight to watch their mares coming towards us, with their long striding walk and the slightly swinging motion of their hindquarters and tails, their graceful necks bent as they turned their heads to look from side to side, their riders sitting easily on them, swinging in their hand the end of the halter rope, until, as not infrequently happened, one mare would make a snatch at her neighbour’s neck or shoulder, causing the other to spring to one side from the aggressor, when the men would rate them with a peculiar sound, which ‘Yach–k!’ might express to some extent, but indifferently; and we were constantly reminded of the Arab description, that mares resemble well-formed and beautiful women, distinguished by their swinging walk, and looking from side to side at objects as they pass.” (4) (page 260)

        ”Myself [mounted] on Siwa who goes up and down hill with catlike agility.” (9) (page 282)

        ”The Barb is held to have more knee action than the pure Arabian, who has shoulder action. The Arabian gait is pendulous, forward and ahead, and he dwells without much bending or lifting of the knee.” (7) (page 121).           ”Trotting is discouraged by the Bedouin colt-breakers, who, riding on an almost impossible pad, and without stirrups, find that pace inconvenient; but with a little patience the deficiency can be remedied, and good shoulder action given. No purebred Arabian, however, is a high stepper.” (5) (page 422).

        ”Trotting action should be smart and free and darting from the shoulders, the forefeet dwelling a moment before touching the ground with a semi-floating dancing movement, which suggests treading on air and springs and recalls a deer trotting in fern. The hock action powerful, and the hocks well lifted and brought forwards with a swinging stride… The knee action is rather higher perhaps than that of the Thoroughbred, but it is the shoulder action which matters.” (2) (page 227).

        ”…Mutlak[rode] the strange mare that we might be able to see her properly. One glance was enough, her going was heavy, as Mutlak said adding ‘but galloping is of the Arab horses,’ as saying she was not of them.” (9) (page 216)

        ”The Arab… is an easy horse to sit on. His gaits are so smooth and elastic one does not grow fatigued. This, no doubt, is accounted for by the fact that he does not lift his feet high or pound the ground. He is a good walking horse and has a nice trot, at which he merely lifts his feet high enough to clear the ground, and his canter, or gallop, is low, but smooth and graceful.

        ”…His trot is smooth and easy to sit, as are all his gaits, but he is not a fast trotting horse, nor a high stepper” (6)

        ”As to the action of the Arabian, it is very well described by the writer of an able article who signed himself ‘Picador.’ ‘Sit easily and flexibly on him, put your hands down, and set him going, and then you will experience a sensation delightful to the man who really can ride; he will bound along with you with a stride and movement that gives you the idea of riding over India-rubber.” (10) (page 151).

Abbreviations refer to the following works:

1) Arab Horse, by Homer Davenport. (Article appeared in the Cyclopedia of American Agriculture).

2) The Authentic Arabian Horse, by Lady Wentworth.

3) The Bedouin Tribes of the Euphrates, by the Blunts.

4) Gleanings from the Desert of Arabia, by R.D.Upton.

5) Greely, Arabian Exodus, 2nd ed.

6) The Arabian Horse, by Albert Harris. (Reprinted in volume V of The Arabian Stud Book).

7) The Horse of the Desert, by W.R.Brown, 2nd ed.

8) The Crabbet Arabian Stud, Its History and Influence, by Archer, Pearson, and Covey

9) Lady Anne Blunt, Journals and Correspondence, edited by Archer and Fleming.

10) Newmarket & Arabia, by R.D.Upton.

11) Arabian Type and Standard, by Lady Wentworth.