WHAT DEFINES AN ARABIAN HEAD?
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...