Tuesday, February 12, 2008

More on Those Wild and Crazy Arabian Horses

Scary at Scary's West commented in A Day in the Life of an Arabian Horse Breeder - Part 6
You don't really make the case for non-Arabian lovers who prefer "level headed horses". LOL. and she is absolutely right. Looking at the first posts in this series, it could look like Arabian horses are wild squirrelly things without a brain in their heads. But it could also look like these are highly spirited animals (which Arabian horses are indeed known for) who were cooped up way too long so that energy had to come out somewhere, and it did! Any breed of horses coped up under these circumstances would have been on the wild side.

The other side of this coin (had I decided to play it that way) was I could have taken my husband who isn't really a horse person or my brain damaged daughter along. Had either of them worked with any of these horses, it would have been a totally different picture. The horses would have been quiet and attentive wanting to take care of their inexperienced handlers.

That's one of my favorite things about Arabian horses. They are so smart and they care for people so much, they can tell who they can test and who they should baby-sit. That is what makes them my kind of horse. And to prove my point, I have a story to tell.

Back around the time I was just getting into horses, I had just purchased the Arabian gelding, Malachite (barn name Mark), to be my first show horse. The horse was ring sour but had loads of show ring experience and had packed a 13 and under rider around the ring like a perfect gentleman. So while I knew the horse would have problems as a show horse, I also knew he was totally kid safe.When I was ready to move on to the inexperienced horse I really wanted to show, this horse would be perfect for my youngest child.

The first day that Mark was on my farm, my oldest daughter arrived with her youngest at the time, Chris. I think Chris was about three years old and a handful, I might add. Colleen came with Chris specifically to see the new horse. I'm not sure who was more excited Colleen or the toddler.

We went out to the barn to take a look at Mark. All three of us went into the stall for an up close and personal visit. Chris particularly ooohed and awwwed over the horse petting on him and probably wanting to ride. We visited a bit in the stall and then we came out to look at the other horses.

Colleen and I talked for a while and petted horses over the top of stall doors while Chris played in the hay, or so we thought. I'm not sure how long the kid was actually gone. When we realized that Chris was no longer with us we glanced around and he was nowhere inside the barn.

From there we hurried outside searching for the missing child. I spotted the outside door to Mark's stall open. There inside was Chris hanging from Mark's back leg like it was a some kind of pole on a playground. He had one hand wrapped around the horse's hock and his feet planted firmly next to the horse's one hoof. From these anchor points Chris was swinging underneath the horse's belly waving at me. "Hi, Grandma!" pretty darn proud of himself, that kid was.

The horse on the other hand was looking at the kid, then turning his face back and looking at me, then back to looking at the kid. The expression on Mark's face was clearly alternating between "What is that kid doing under there!" and "Please, save me!"

Of course his mother shrieked when she spotted this sight and almost charged into the stall. I grabbed her by the arm stopping her, reminding her to NOT scare the horse. Things were fine as they were. I instructed her to lower her voice, breathe deep and stay right where she was. I would retrieve the child.

I walked into the stall slowly. First I instructed Chris to stop swinging off Mark's leg but to stay right where he was. Then I comforted the horse with my voice. I reached down and grabbed Chris while telling the horse to whoa. Mark didn't budge an inch until Chris was totally out of the stall.

The horse breathed a huge sigh. Mark then shook his head and neck like shaking off a deep shudder and blew lots of snots. Clearly the horse was relieved to have the new appendage removed from his leg but clearly confused about what and why this had even happened in the first place.

Chris, on the other hand, was estatic. His up close, personal and ALONE time with the horse was just what Chris had been hoping for. He was wired tighter than normal and babbling ninty miles an hour in three year old terms about what a great horse Mark was.

We tried to get it through his little pea brain how dangerous a move that had been but Chris was NOT buying it. The boy clearly had not felt the least bit threatened until we got our hands on him. Today, my only regret is that I don't have a picture of this amazing incident. If it doesn't prove my point about Arabian horses, nothing will.

Even today at the barn, when a three year old girl asked to pet on Storm, I had no qualms about stopping this red headed firey beast to let this child stroke his nose. The horse immediately got a soft look in his eye and dropped his head down to her level. This six year old stallion who can't keep his lips off me if he has nothing to do stood there quietly for a long as that child needed his attention. The horse never even wiggled a lip or raised his head until the child walked away. Once she was out of the arena, the horse's head flew back up as high as he could get it and things were back to normal for me. It made me smile.

There is nothing more touching to me than an Arabian horse with a child or a disabled person. They are the best, most sensitive horses ever. As therapy horses they are legendary for healing broken bodies and shattered souls.

The fact that these horses can take care of my husband, daughter and an assortment of grandkids when they would give me a hard time just makes them all the more endearing to me. How come some think that "level headed" doesn't apply to an Arabian horse? It can only be about their spirit and prejudice. I"ve spoken before and probably will write again about the trash talking Arabian horses get. For me, level headed means a horse who can tell when it's the right time to be firey and show off and when it's time to be quiet and soft. Give me a sensitive horse like that any day of the week.

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  1. I'm glad you posted this response to that comment - I hear a lot about Arabians but have no personal experience with them.

    Our natural horsemanship trainer has a herd of 40-some Egyptian Arabians and she talks sometimes about their spirit and intelligence when working with us and giving examples.

    My daughter always points out that all horses have Arabian in them - which is interesting.

    I've seen the same thing you describe (the horses scaling their responses and behaviors to the handlers or nearest-by humans) in our horses. They save the scariest behaviors for me. When working with non-horse people they are as measured a bunch of horses as anyone could find.

  2. I so agree. The least level headed breed I've known is the Thoroughbred. That doesn't mean they all are foolish, but breeding for racing doesn't seem to have much to do with breeding for brains. Arabs have always impressed me with their smarts along with their beauty.

  3. That's a pretty amazing story with your grandchild. My two and a half yr.old granddaughter was at the farm the other day, accompanied by her mom, who will not let her out of her sight. She fed them carrots, petted and told them stories. All of which they stood there for, nuzzling her,licking her hand and where so gentle. I think mostly all horses just love kids and feel non-threatened by the little people.I have been around all breeds of horses and through the years I have seen all of them be kind to children.

  4. Back at the last barn we boarded at all of the horses would be stalled during the day as well as night when it was single digits or below zero. They'd be turned out in small 2-3 horse groups into the arena while we cleaned their stalls. Diago would be turned out with a Quarterhorse gelding (with arthritis no less) and those two would fly around that arena. And Diago wasn't the one who would start the full blown gallops across the arena either...it was his QH buddy! So yeah...any horse can and will expend energy in any way possible when needed. Also...I can't tell you how many times I heard..."he's crazy...he's going to KILL you" and what not. Yet THAT crazy wild killer of a horse absolutely LOVES kids and he's great with my inexperienced husband as well...he never acts up around them the way he does around others who know somewhat of what they're doing...ever...although he will nip at my husband, step on his foot, or bump him with his head but that's the extent of his "killer" behavior with him. If he thinks you know anything he'll strut his stuff and show his more spirited studdish side. With the kids he's an angel...at the last barn we had access to cross ties which we put him in for grooming. Our youngest who was 3-4at the time could walk anywhere around Diago and no matter how naughty he was acting during the grooming he would stop, lower his head, and turn an ear and eye towards Kevin. All three of our boys could groom him, pet him, just be around, and he wouldn't move a muscle. And if Kevin was in front of him he would stretch and pull against those cross ties to "woozle" and love on Kev. Kevin seems to be his favorite...we figure it's either his age or that Diago senses there isn't something "normal" about him. Either way...he's great around kids and less experienced persons...the perfect horse for our family.

  5. Everybody has breed preferences. I for one, am not fond of Appys. .... BUT if I found one that fit what I wanted (including personality), I would buy one, I would just be checking other breeds out first. I agree in the horse world Arabs get the tag for being hot, hot, hot. But they all have their tags QH for being lazy and stupid, friesians for being unwilling, warmbloods for bad manners. It is similar to racial profiling. You see a group of people of a certain ethnic background doing something, and assume they are all that way. And with the horses, I have seen a bonehead of a friesian, but I have also seen hot quarter horses, and lazy arabians. It all boils down to a single horse and that horses capabilities and attitudes. I have seen a lot of Arabs who totally change directions around the vulnerable though.

  6. You have started me thinking about buying an Arabian horse!
    I love the way horses interact with children, mine do the same things. I think horses were put on this earth to teach humans how to connect with other, too bad most people aren't paying attention!

  7. "it could look like Arabian horses are wild squirrelly things without a brain in their heads."

    Ahem! I take offense to this comparison of my wild horses to squirrels without brains. Sure, they both eat the entire barrel of oats given the opportunity. But it's dang near impossible to fit a squirrel with a saddle.

  8. I agree whole heartedly! I have a gelding here who was terrified of us when he first arrrived. My youngest (then 7) was the one that got through to him. He's only 3/4 arabian in pedigree, but 100% Arabian in heart and soul.

    He's a flighty ride for me, but put my youngest up on him and he's calm, attentive and walks extremely carefully, shifting his weight so he stays 'under' her the whole time. It's a sight to see...

  9. neat photo!

    I have never owned an Arab, but Ive showed a lovely grey named Ollie. He was as level headed and calm as any QH Ive ever seen.

    I love that all horses descend from Arabians.....every horse, including the drafts!

    you make me WANT an Arabian horse in my pasture....I wish I could afford one as beautiful as yours.

  10. Thank you MiKael, for this story. It took my head and heart back many years to a wonderful Arabian horse who owned me. We are so lucky when one chooses us to love.

  11. What a lovely story. I never knew that Arabians were maligned, but then again I dont know much about horses either! :-)

    I think I said it a few posts ago, that I loved the spirit of your horses. I like character and it seems like your beloved arabians have heaps of it.

  12. What a wonderful story, I loved it! Yes I do think they have a 6th sense when it comes to little ones. We had an appy years ago when my son was little and he was about 15-3. I looked out one day and my son had a hold of his halter on each side and Smokey was lifting him up and down so gently! I almost croaked but he was fine and they did that many more times.

    Happy Valentines Day!!

  13. Ok so you already know I am an arab lover. They are amazing. When I go home to cowboy land they all shake their heads and say how goofy arabs are. We have been on many a trail ride where it was Abu who was the good boy and the QH and WB threw fits. People at the rated shows always comment how well behaved he is for an "arab"

  14. Your arab is gorgeous. I love the picture with the child.

    I've never owned an arabian because of what I have heard.

    Thanks for your informative posts. You do make a great case for arabs.

  15. That's an amazing story! Wasn't Mark the horse that killed Scandalous? Maybe he just didn't like her. It still makes me wonder what on earth went wrong that day. I still love Arabians more than any other breed and always have. I've read many stories about their kindness and loyalty. They shared the tents of the Bedouins!

  16. billie, they say before you buy a puppy you should know what the characteristics are of the breed and be sure that meshes with how you are as a person. Don't get a needy breed of dog that requires lots of one on one if you don't have that to give.

    I think the same is true with horses. Each breed has it's own unique characteristics including temperment and people should take that into account when they buy instead of just buying because it's pretty, the right price or you happen to stumble across it.

    Arabians are not suited to a lot of people. You have to really want that one on one relationship, as well as the playfulness and spirit in a horse. If that's not important, then it's probably not the right horse for that person. But don't malign the horse because it doesn't fit that persons needs for a horse. It's not the horse's fault an inappropriate match was selected.

    That's my soap box for the day! LOL

    molly, I have a similiar experience with thoroughbreds but they are breed to run. I think part of that includes a heightened flight response, which translates to more spooks in my book. It's not that they're dumb, it's that they run first and think second but that is what they have been breed for, isn't it.

    grey horse matters, I agree that all horses seem to be drawn to children. I just believe that it is heightened in the Arabian. Since they were breed to live in the tents with the Bedouins, that human connection was one of the characteristics breeding selections were made on.

    equinespirit, I know that Diago must be a special horse or you wouldn't love him so.

    lovelee, I think if people were more careful in their selection of a horse to be sure that the personalities gelled etc, there would be a lot less unwanted horses.

    linda, I so agree there are lots not listening! Sad for them.

    tracey, your mustangs aren't wild! They've been trained by a mustang challenge trainer and have gotten beyond that. Well, maybe Fire Cracker isn't there yet, but she will be. Did you ever think with that name that maybe you were asking for trouble??

    lady of chaos, it doesn't surprise me that your 7 year old won over the horse. I've seen that here too with Lindsay and her brain damage breaking through with a traumatized horse. Arabians are so smart but also so giving.

    barn goddess, you ever want an Arabian, you let me know. We'll find you a quality horse you can afford.

    anonymous, yes we really are lucky to be chosen by a horse.

    kahless, Arabians are definitely know for their character! That's part of why they tickle me so.

    midlife mom, that would give you a heart attack. OMG!

    20 meter circle, oh, I have been there on those same kind of rides. It's so much fun to blow them away!

    jolynna, if you want a best friend in your horse, an Arabian is the way to go.

    dj, yes it was Mark. I wondered if anyone would notice. It was totally an instinct thing and something to do with herd dynamics. I have witnessed a stallion savaging a mare, it's the same thing I saw with Mark that day. Why, we'll never know. But it's good to remember just because they are gelded does not take that instinct away.

  17. I'm sure you are right. I've seen two geldings fight over a mare and one of them keep her with "his" other mares and away from the other gelding. He was gelded when he was mature and after he had sired a foal. Don't know if that type of instinct is present if gelded at an early age, but I guess it could be. There's dominance in all types of animals. It might be more of a personality thing or perhaps training. My neutered (at 6 mos.) Lab was as gentle as a lamb unless pestered or "attacked" by another dog. He would bark a warning (without baring teeth) and only fought a dog once to defend himself, but quickly submitted when the larger dog got the upper hand and had him down by the throat. I sure was grateful for that! Not all Labs are gentle and submissive like this. We did puppy obedience training with him at 4 months and continued the training in 4-H for 4 years. He was very well socialized with dogs and people, which also helps. Oops, I rambled on about dogs, but I've been around them more than horses. Sorry :)

  18. I lived with horses for years and the Arabian was my favourite. I trained and showed for a gentleman and his family my first year out of high school -- what a grand experience that was. He had some lovely Arabians (and a few QHs). Our own horses were half Arabs; I only owned one purebred. They're a spirited and delightful breed.

    PS: Where you live, we purchased one of our dogs from a breeder there.

    Alberta Postcards
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  19. I felt like some of those people who didn't care much for Arabs...that was BEFORE I rescued one. My intention was to train the horse up and then sell her in an appropriate market, she was WELL bred (out of national champions!)and at risk of the stock auction!
    My Dad thought I lost my mind! You see, her favorite place to romp was at an elevation about 5 feet above ground, doing all sorts of arial acrobatics! When I presented her to our kids they were about 5 & 7 at the time I was absolutely amazed at her attitude!
    Finally, I trusted her with the kids to ride un-attended and she wouldn't trot for months. She was bred for saddleseat and driving and had a VERY bouncy trot. This mare was between 4 & 5 years old, after owning horses for most of my life I didn't think horses grew a brain till about 10!!! The thing that I learned is this was not so much a brain...this was compassion! I cannot tell you how surprised and impressed I was with her. She won me over and we kept her for years learning how to use her natural ability because she was such a cool horse!
    The truely sad injustice, my daughter showed arabs throughout her 4-H career and found it hard to compete against the stock type horses. Many times her friends (who rode stock horses) came up to her after a class and commented that they were glad she wasn't riding a stock horse, because she would be unbeatable in equitation! A seat and horsemanship she earned with Arabs!
    In the end, my view: Arabs make you a horseman (or horsewoman)- training you will have a hard time duplicating with any stock horse!!!!!!!

  20. Hear hear! My first horses as a kid were Arabians and although I've gotten the warmblood bug temporarily, my warmblood is still a 1/2 Trakehner, 1/2 Arabian cross. Nothing rivals the personality and bond of an Arabian.

  21. I really enjoyed this post and the comments, reminds me of a draft horse we once had that showed me my twin daughters, 4yo at the time, were totally safe anywhere near his feet, although he really enjoyed stepping on adults feet if you were stupid enough to let him do it, lol.
    Then my daughter was boarding an Arabian mare whose owner was a bit afraid of her, and my 9 yo son decided to chase her around the pasture with a whip. He wouldn't listen to me so I just watched, when she was 3 to 4 lengths ahead of him she kicked out, and she was shod. He got the message (that she could take his head off). To this day I am awed that she could communicate with him when I couldn't. And the fact that she got the point across without actually putting him in any danger. I had so much respect for her after that. I doubt that her owner really understood what a cool horse she had.
    Later my daughter owned a QH mare that I never did learn to trust around my kidlets, she never gave me any sign or reason to.
    And then there is Dandy, whom kisses Kim right back when she kisses him on the lips, so she just told me her face was all wet after he got done kissing her with his tongue and all today. Ick!! I just couldn't let my face get that close to his teeth, I would never have her level of trust.