In Praise of the Riding Horse
by Rick Synowski © 1992
(Reprinted with permission from CMK Heritage Catalogue III. Photos
are of three Crabbet Arabians imported to the United States around 1900.)
The Arabian horse evolved these past thousands of years as the
supreme riding horse and progenitor of all modern riding horses.
Every aspect of conformation and breed type related to his
function as a riding horse. The Arabian evolved ont only to
serve its purpose with wondrous efficiency, but with beauty and
grace to please the eye and thrill the soul.
Just what has made the Arabian "suitable for riding?" Trainers
of world-class hunters and jumpers look initially to the mind of the
horse. According to Davenport, the Bedouin looked first to the horse's
face, judging him as they would a man. Not only had the Arabian been
gifted with a kindly, gentle disposition and great intelligence, but with
a unique capacity to communicate with his human friend. I stress
"friend" as the Arabian is selective as to whom he is willing to
have this special communication with. Many are the stories one hears of an
Arabian's ability to "read the mind" of his human companion, of
the quickness to learn and eagerness to perform in these instances.
The Arabian was bred to possess a natural balance under saddle. This is
observable in watching an Arabian being ridden (properly), the impression
being that of an efficient movement with artistic style ~ an athlete performing
with the beauty of a ballet dancer. Astride such a horse there is the feel
of power executive effortlessly. Agile and responsive to a light touch,
the horse responds in seeming oneness of mind and body with the rider.
Structure is likewise important to suitability as a riding horse.
Paramount should certainly be leg structure: joints and feet of ample
size, relative proportion of length of bone, slope of pasterns,
development and placement of tendons ~ each of these factors determines
the horse's ability to perform efficiently, gracefully and without
discomfort or pain. Length and angulation of shoulders and hindquarters determine
length and power of stride; the purpose being to cover the most ground
with the greatest efficiency and least effort, and again with the style of
a classical dancer. The neck of the Arabian, with its natural arch and cleanness
of throatlatch, with windpipe of good size, aids the horse to breathe
efficiently while maintaining a relatively high carriage of the forehand
to maintain proper balance for both horse and rider.
A glance at the cover of one of the slick magazines a couple of years ago
made an indelible impression on me; pictured was the National Champion
Stallion, and the image was startlingly like that of a toy dog. The breed
would seem to be rapidly moving in such a direction, like many dog breeds,
evolved as working animals but now suitable only for the show bench.
Popular representatives of the Arabian appear to be unsuitable for riding,
whether because of structure, disposition, intelligence or all of the
above. Those that are ridden in the shows make an "unsuitable"
impression, because of crippling training practices, including shoeing,
which directly conflict with the horse's natural structure, balance and
One wonders whether the Arabian as the supreme riding horse is
coming to rapid extinction. I've recently had the opportunity to view
Arabians in Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Idaho and California.
Arabian horses are still being bred and raised, properly trained and
ridden, as the riding horses they were meant to be. One doesn't see them
much in the magazines or at shows, but you will find them on CMK breeding
THE CMK HERITAGE CATALOGUES
Winter, 2004-2005): We thank Rick Synowski
for his generous sharing of this inspiring article with us. To see today's
CMK riding horses in action, please visit our Southern
California CMK breeding farms. For more information, articles and
photos of the CMK riding horses on a world-wide
basis, please take advantage of the offer available to you to purchase
your own personal copies of the CMK
Heritage Catalogues. ~spm)