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THE IDEAL ARABIAN - Fact or Fiction?

Once unleased, the `Ideal Arabian´concept became an ideology that grew out of proportion. It is now virtually unchallenged and has become widely accepted by most breeders.  


                                                                Philippe Paraskevas

Reem El Bediya (Mashour Halim/Rua El Bediya)

Many western authorities of the breed claim that there is and has always been an ideal or classic Arabian. Prominent present time advocates of this thesis are Judith Forbis or Dr. Hans Joachim Nagel, and in the past Carl Raswan, Lady Anne Blunt and her daughter Lady Wentworth, or Roger Upton. On the other hand many voices from the Orient speak vehemently against such an ideal horse, most prominent is Philippe Paraskevas in his book THE EGYTIAN ALTERNATIVE. Let us look closer on both standpoints and try to find answers. But first we will look at some photos of different Arabian horses.

The mare Reem El Bediya, (photo above) comes close to the author´s ideal of a classic Arabian mare. But comparing her to the so called desert bred horses of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, or Syria, it becomes obvious that those original horses in the home countries of the Arabian Peninsula show a different phenotype, especially when comparing the structure of the heads.

The mare from the Royal Stables of Bahrain, Jellabieh Ghabra, is of the same age of 7 years, showing a straight profile. Much more pronounced is the difference if we compare stallions. Obeyan Shamet in Bahrain  and nearly all the other stallions that were shown during the WAHO presentation in 2017 had a more or less concave profile. At Nejd Stud in Saudi Arabia a pure Saudi stallion was shown to us with a straight profile: Nabeh, an Obeyan Saif. A third stallion, a modern Straight Egyptian, shall show how different a stallion´s head can be in modern lines: GWS Mashari. Those examples clearly show: there are at least three different kinds of heads in the Arabian breed: convex, straight and concave profiles.

Nabeh ( Haleem/Nabuka), an Obeyan Saifi at Nejd Stud, Saudi Arabia, above, and GWS Mashari (Ansiba Mujalli/Munifah), a modern Straight Egyptian stallion at Seidlitz Arabians, Germany.

Jellabieh Ghabra (Shawaf Al Betaar/Jellabieh Soroog) at the Royal Stables of Bahrain

Obeyaan Shamet (Kuheilaan Aafas Falaah/Obeyah Karaeb)

Three historic stallions from El Zahraa: Nazeer , Sid Abouhom and Morafic. 70 years ago, Tibor von Pettkö-Szandtner used Nazeer and Sid Abouhom as main stallions - with such different head structure - and their combination gave Morafic, who electrified all who saw him.

Sid Abouhom (El Deree/Layla), Nazeer (Mansour/Bint Samiha), photos Ekkehard Frielinghaus, and Morafic (Nazeer/Mabrouka by Sid Abouhom), photo Polly Knoll, all three head sires at the Egyptian state stud El Zahraa,

The Ideal Arabian

Judith Forbis has coined a concept of the Arabian horse resulting in the evolution of the modern show horse: an "ideal Arabian" or "classic Arabian" of overwhelming beauty. She accomplished this both through her many publications and also by her breeding program. Forbis did not invent the ideal Arabian, as it has already been in existence before, both in the flesh, like incomparable Morafic, and in the imagery of many artists, or influential author´s on the breed (see above). One of the most fierce opponents of this concept, author and breeder Phillipe Paraskevas from Egypt, holds against it, "such creatures cannot equal the authentic desert horse simply because of the narrowness of selection criteria." That argument seems convincing, but by looking at the example of Morafic, this epitome of an "ideal" Arabian, we see that he was an exceptional performance horse at the same time. Under the capable hands of trainer Tom McNair he won both performance and halter championships, as did his sons and daughters in many countries.

Arabian horses are much more than heads. (For a deeper insight into the head of the Arabian horse click here for an excerpt from the book BEDOUIN HERITAGE). The modern show type Arabian with its ultra refinded doll-like appearance and the dished face is worlds apart from the horses of the desert. Arabians have been riding horses, war horses. Functional aspects were predominant and beauty was cast behind. The ideal Arabian of the Bedouin existed, but it was defined less by morphologigal aspects than by functionality. 

Wilfred Blunt has put it this way: "The single object for which the Kehilan is bred by the Bedouins is service in their wars. - The sole practical test is in the raid (ghazu). - What is of at least equal importance with speed, inasmuch as all fighting is done with the lance, is perfect shoulder action, facility in turning, a light mouth, intelligence and courage."

In other words the Arabian horse is a riding horse for all purpose without extreme specialization. Its perfect temperament and character is proverbial. But coming back on morphological aspects of the breed, one property catches the eye: tail carriage, especially in movement and when excited. This makes the difference to all other breeds worldwide. 


Obeyaan Shamet (Kuheilaan Aafas Falaah/Obeyah Karaeb) in Bahrain and Montasar (Madkour/Maymoonah), photo Carola Toischel, in Germany.

Al Fatih (Al Bashir/Al Sayida), main stallion at Nedschd Stud, Saudi Arabia, and the author´s Rakeeb El Bediya (Khuwey El Bediya/Reem El Bediya) in Germany, a Straight Egyptian from the sire line of Morafic, a grandson of Montasar.

Worlds Apart

How does the "ideal" Arabian of the Western understanding look like? 


From Forbis: The Classic Arabian Horse. This sketch shows the "ideal" Arabian according to many Western authorities of the breed. Compare it with the logo of WAHO which shows an even more refined and even extreme picture!


The "ideal" Arabian of Western or modern understanding is characterized by refinement, doll-like facial profile, long lines, even feminine expression in stallions. Morafic may count as one of its most prominent historic examples. He is the starting point of the most successful sire line in show competitions with such representatives as Ghazal Al Shaqab and his son Marwan Al Shaqab, or one of the superstars of today, Dubai´s stud FA El Rasheem. If we compare Morafic and his sire Nazeer or his grandsire Sid Abouhom with those ultra-refined show horses of today, we have to state:


They are worlds apart. And how much more the indigenous desert bred horses of Saudi Arabia, Syria, Bahrain and all other original sources of Arabia and beyond.

Morafic (Nazeer/Mabrouka),Erika Schiele photo, his sire Nazeer (Mansour/Bint Samiha) and maternal grandsire Sid Abouhom (El Deree/Layla) at El Zahraa (photos Ekkehard Frielinghaus).

Rabdan Alawsaj 2001 (Jellaby Sultan/Rabda Salha) at Prince Mohammed Bin Salman al Khalifah in Bahrain and Al Fatih (Al Bashir/Sayida) at Nedschd Stud, Saudi Arabia.

No Man´s Land

Ideals have positive and negative aspects. The "Ideal Arabian" concept and the resulting influence of the show horse industry has already become a serious threat to the "old" bloodlines, both in East and West (the Polish state studs for example). Every breeder has his right to breed according to his ideals, but he has to keep in mind, that the modern concept of the "Ideal Arabian" may lead on a path into a no man´s land. 

Let us not forget the glorious past of the Bedouin horse and the roots of our horses!


Messaoud (Madkour/Maymonnah) and the Rudolph family at the Asil World Cup 2000 in Hannover, photo Martin Kubat, and Ghazal El Bediya (Montasar/Marqueesa) in Dressage competition under Sylvia Linzert. Arabian horses should be horses for all purpose and beautiful at a time.

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