WHAT DE­FINES AN ARA­BIAN HEAD?

EQUUS - - Conformati­on Insights -

In 1981, I re­ceived the first of many in­vi­ta­tions to speak to Amer­i­can Ara­bian breed­ers about the re­la­tion­ship of con­for­ma­tion to per­for­mance. One of the things I men­tioned at that first sem­i­nar— and have con­tin­ued to men­tion—is that “Ara­bian type” is not merely a func­tion of the shape of the horse’s head or of the car­riage of the tail, but should in­stead be judged by a bal­anced ex­am­i­na­tion of all the horse’s points. As it hap­pened, that first pre­sen­ta­tion was at­tended by Pesi Gazder, PhD, then Chair­man of the WAHO in­spec­tion com­mit­tee. Dur­ing the morn­ing break, Gazder in­tro­duced him­self to me. Strid­ing up with a huge smile on his face, he wrung my hand say­ing, “You are the first nor­mal Amer­i­can horse­woman I ever met!”

Amer­i­can fanciers tend to de­fine “Ara­bian type” above all by look­ing for a head with bulging jib­bah and a bend in the skull form­ing a dish that falls be­low, rather than be­tween, the level of the horse’s eyes. This, how­ever, is not the Be­douin con­cept; what the orig­i­nal breed­ers of the Ara­bian horse value in­stead is a head that is wide across the fore­head with cheek­bones and bony or­bits well de­fined. The fore­head is flat or with slight to mod­er­ate jib­bah which blends down­ward into the snout with lit­tle or no dis­cernible dish. The nasal bones may be straight or un­du­lat­ing. The muz­zle is of nor­mal depth and is con­sid­ered very faulty if ex­ces­sively small or shal­low; the mean­ing of the leg­endary “teacup muz­zle” is not that the muz­zle it­self be so small that it could be jammed into a demi­tasse but rather that the skin of the horse’s lips be so fine that he could sip from one. The ears are slen­der and of­ten rather long, as be­fits any de­ser­tadapted mam­mal. The skin is thin, drawn tightly over the bone struc­ture; there is no hint of meati­ness. The nos­trils are large and dis­ten­si­ble. The eyes are of nor­mal size but dark; above all, the ex­pres­sion should be alert and lively yet in­tel­li­gent and kind.

Roger Selby in about 1940 with his desert-bred stal­lion *Mirage, foaled 1916. * Raf­fles dis­plays a sharply dished head, bulging jib­bah and short muz­zle that help make the eye ap­pear over­sized. This com­bi­na­tion is paradig­matic of the “cute” or fem­i­nine...

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