The Arabian is the oldest known riding horse in the history of the world.
With roots in the Middle East, Arabian horses developed a lung capacity that contributes to its incredible endurance. Their large nostrils and eyes, small muzzles and wide foreheads are also believed to contribute to their sinus development from their days in the desert. Because of harsh conditions, nomads shared food and water, sometimes even their tents with their Arabian horses, resulting in close relationships. These desert times are believed to have contributed to Arabians’ gentle temperament and familiarity with humans.
Arabians were brought to North America first by the Spanish explorers, and their long U.S. history begins in the colonies, where George Washington himself rode a half-Arabian named “Blueskin” in the American Revolution.
Today, Arabians work in a number of disciplines. A 2003 survey found that 67 percent of purebred Arabian horses are owned for recreational riding. Part 2 of this series will go further into the many different uses and kinds of success Arabians have had, in and outside of the show ring.