Kelt Capital Horse of the Year - A celebration of all things equestrian - New Zealand


The Arabian

Whilst the origin of the Arabian horse is something of a mystery, and in his original form he was somewhat smaller than the modern Arabian, his early history goes back around 5000 years, making the Arabian the oldest breed of horse in existence. Other than size, the Arabian horse is relatively unchanged since the earliest of times.
The skin of the Arabian is sleek and supple, the jaws and legs clean of long hair and the mane and tail are soft. Whilst Arabians have virtually covered the colour palette, the most common colours are bay, chestnut, grey and brown. The height of the Arabian is traditionally within the limits of 14.1hh to 15.1hh although it is no penalty to be outside these guides. Perhaps the best hallmark of the Arabian is the head. Short and tapered, jowls deep, with eyes that are dark and large. In profile, the characteristic “dish” is best represented and the small, finely shaped ears are often tipped slightly forward. Arabians represent speed and lightness in their movement. The walk should be fast and free with the hind feet overstepping the front track by some eight to 12 inches. The trot is free with the feet reaching out to float at full stretch before touching the ground and the canter is smooth and elastic, followed by the gallop which is free and ground covering.

The Arabian in New Zealand

Early records show that the first “Arabs” arrived in the South Island of New Zealand, imported from Australia, along with a shipment of Merino sheep. In 1840, the first thoroughbred mare arrived in New Zealand. Following this arrival, a Captain Hunter purchased an Arab mare, “Medora” at a dispersal sale in Australia and she is credited as being probably the first Arabian to reach our shores. Around the same date, however, the colourful and noteworthy pastoralist George Moore arrived to establish the 100,000 Glenmark Station in the South Island. His partiality for Arabians stemmed from time in India and it was from that country that he imported “Sultan”. Later to Canterbury in 1875, came “Hadji Baba” and “Arab Child” to Hawkes Bay around 1878. None of these horses are found in today’s modern pedigrees.

Australia has always been a great source for New Zealand breeders, riders and enthusiasts of purebred and Arabian derivative bloodlines. The advent of reliable airfreight and sea travel has seen buyers sourcing new horses from our near neighbours, who represent the second biggest registry in the world. A few have come in from the United States and the United Kingdom and it is to the credit of these importers who have shared their new bloodlines with others in New Zealand to further broaden the gene pool. Fresh and frozen semen has also opened new channels for dedicated breeders, and whilst the costs require careful calculation, the pleasure of seeing new international bloodlines in your paddock, or being able to breed a precious mare to bloodlines in a distant location, is even more possible thanks to skilled veterinary technicians and local or international courier companies.

Up until 1970, New Zealand bred Arabians were registered with either the Australian or English Arab Societies. Australia had only formed their Arab Horse Society of Australasia in 1957 and in 1960; they published the first Australasian Stud Book which included New Zealand-bred purebred Arabian horses. When New Zealand became a stand-lone operation in 1970, instituting the Constitution of the New Zealand Arab Horse Breeders Society (Inc) to take effect from 16 September of that same year, the governing body was AR Ayliffe (MRCVS) President, RM Gubb, K. Cholmondeley-Smith and MC Flintoff. The newly formed executive decided that it’s most important function was to preserve the purity of the breed and with this cornerstone, set in place provision to in future record all matings and foalings, ensuring the provenance of purity was maintained. This cornerstone, set all those years ago, remains the constant that the Society follows today, moving to accommodate non-negotiable requirements such as parent verification and DNA in order to meet World Arabian Horse Organisation (WAHO) parameters of registration. New Zealand is a member nation of this international body and to ignore or short-cut WAHO regulations would result in, at best, suspension or at worst, cancellation of our membership. The NZAHBS published its first stand-alone stud book in 1971 and has subsequently printed a further eight volumes. Regulations also exist to enable the registration of Anglo Arabians (Purebred Arabian and Thoroughbred) and Partbreds (at least 25% Arabian blood) and this information is contained within separate publications.

Copyright: Jacquie Webby 2008

Contact information for the New Zealand Arab Horse Breeders Society:

Office Fiona McLachlan – National Secretary
PO Box 80, Cust 7444
Phone: 03 312 5998
Fax: 03 312 5996
Email: [email protected]

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