Major General W. Tweedie, 1894 England

from the Khamsat Volume Seven Number Two Apr/June 199?

“up to this point we have been chiefly occupied with the Arabian Horse in countries where he is regarded as the work and gift of Allah, which neither needs nor admits of improvement. But the time has arrived to consider another series of facts. The same breed commands almost an equal degree of admiration wherever it is known. The horse of nations with whom the world, if ever it was young, still is so, and for whom the “long results of time” are traditional and unwritten, is sought out by the most civilized Government for the improvement of their studs and the expansion of their empire and resources. Several of the greatest generals of modern Europe have shown a strong preference for Arab horses as chargers. In the courtly circles of Persia and India, this is the horse which is prized above all others. The point is, what do these familiar facts imply? Is the Arabian abroad a genuine good thing or an illusion? Is it is merits that have thus distinguished him, or chiefly his oriental associations, and he the circumstance that no one knows exactly where he comes from? Such are the questions which next await us; but first, it may be well to notice what has been said by others, both in favour of the Arabian breed and in depreciation of it.

The praises of Arabians by their owners which occur in popular books require to be received with abatement. Not only does admiration come more naturally than fault-finding, but the authors of Such passages have frequently been literary persons, without any very wide experience of horses. This applies to one of the prettiest and most frequently quoted references of the class alluded to — that in which, in his Narrative of a Journey through the Upper Provinces of India in 1824-5, the amiable Bishop Heber commended his Arab riding-horse.

No ancient or modern Church can bear comparison with the Church of England in the power of producing excellent preachers and parsons, who are also horsemen; but the author of “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains” represented a different phase of clerical life. There can be no question that, for one whose seat is not well down into the saddle, the Arabian is the pleasantest and the safest of all the chevaux de luxe of the world. No one can be called a coachmen who has never handled rougher teams than gentlemen’s ones, — never worked a coach, stage after stage, and grappled with them as they came — bolters, bo-kickers, and all sorts of reprobates. And neither should one whose equestrian experiences have been confined to Arabs make too sure that he is a horseman. While noting this, we would not be thought to suggest that the clientéle of the Arabian is in any considerable degree, formed of men who are not exactly centaurs. A far larger class of his admirers, in which are many of the strongest riders in the world, consists of those who, when they are in the saddle, have other things to think of than horsebreaking. An adjutant-general or an aide de-camp, whose charger is given to “sticking up,” as it is called, under saddle cannot perform his duty. We know as well as any one that Arabs also are sometimes difficult to ride. Even the gentlest have their little ways, especially with the timid; and we have known a few which would give any man an uneasy half hour, when it was inconvenient to treat them to all that they required to sober them — a right good gallop. But, as a rule, horses of this breed, when asked to go in one direction, do not insist on going in another direction, or fix themselves on their forelegs and curl up like hedgehogs. Their worst tantrums, compared, for example, with the sullen humours of the Australian buckjumper, remind us of the “Amaryllidis Iras.” If one or two of the many splendid Arabs which the late Emperor of the French collected had been preserved for his ill-starred son, the Prince Imperial, the fateful moment in Zululand would not have found him struggling with his charger.

It should also be remembered that, ever since Great Britain took charge of India, the Arabian horse has enjoyed extraordinary opportunities of shining in the public service. India has been surveyed and settled, not by the Englishman alone, but by the Englishman and his horse. Important divisions of its cavalry armament — notably the Lancers of the Nizam’s country and the Central India Horse — obtain a large number of remounts from the Arab horse-marts of Bombay. In the brief but difficult campaign of 1856 in Persia, the straight swords and Arab horses of the Bombay Light Calvary demoralized the Shah’s forces. Chargers from the Euphrates have carried our soldiers to Candahar and Cabul, to Pekin and to Magdala. More recently, in Burma, where it is extremely difficult to keep foreign horses healthy, the cavalry of the Hyderabad Contingent added to the high reputation which it inherits.”

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