The title prettiest is totally subjective, and most of us have met a horse that we’ve fallen in love with that is far from pretty. But there are some horses that are the supermodels and the stunners of the equine world.
Best known for their colourful leopard spotted coat, the Appaloosa breed has a rich history. The Nez Perce people who lived along the Palouse River developed the breed, although they lost most of their horses in the Nez Perce war in 1877. Gradually the name morphed from the Palouse horse into Appaloosa.
The Nez Perce Horse the ancestor of the Appaloosa is being redeveloped with the breeding of Appaloosa horses with the Akhal-Teke of central Asia.
The Black Forest Horse stands between 14.2 and 15.3 hands and has a short head, a strong neck, well laid back shoulders and wide hide quarters. Over all a strong compact breed the striking features are their dark chestnut coat and the contrasting flaxen mane.
The name itself means fine step, and as a blend of the Barb, Spanish Jennet and Andalusian horse the breed itself is bound up in the history of the Caribbean and American interaction with Europe. When Christopher Columbus arrived from Spain in 1493 he disembarked 20 horse sand 5 mares on the island of Borinquen. In May 1509 the first governor of the island brought horses to Puerto Rico. Here the plantation owners bred the horses to be comfortable to ride for hours, leading to the famed Paso Fino gait, a short dance like state that were all four hooves move one at a time, but so quickly it seems that they float over the ground. Andres Pedro Ledru a visitor to the islands, was watching a horse race between a number of local indigenous horses wrote, "they have no trot or gallop, but a type of pace (Andadura). A gait so precipitated that the eye can't follow the movement of the legs."
Possibly brought to Britain by the Romans the Friesian is a light draft horse that was in great demand during the Middle Ages as a nimble graceful horse that was able to carry a knight and his armour. Standing between 14.2 and 17 hands they are probably most well-known for their luxurious black coats, although some can be chestnut, and thick black wavy mane and feathers. There are two body types, the baroque body type that is the more robust type that would have been more familiar in the Middle Ages, and the modern finer boned sport type.
Known for their high trot, elegant movements and noble carriage the Friesian is a solid horse that still holds all the classical beauty of their history.
The national emblem of Turkmenistan the Akhal-Teke is the breed of horse that has been appearing on social media sites as a golden supermodel. Many think that the finely boned slightly dished face, with their long delicately pointed ears, almond eyes and golden metallic coats must be the result of photo editing, but no, this breed is as beautiful as the photographs show.
Nick named Golden Horses the Akhal-Teke is adapted to the severe weather of their home lands, and are well known for their endurance and intelligence. It is thought that the golden colour may have provided camouflage in the desert where they were bred to be the mounts for raiding parties. The breed’s endurance was immortalised when in 1935 when a group of riders rode 2500 miles from Ashgabat to Moscow in 84 days. To make this journey they had to cross 235 miles of desert without water, a journey which alone took 3 days.
The dish shaped head, the way they carry their tail high and those wonderful expressive ears, pretty eyes normally framed by long lashes, and the overall delicate poise that hides a tough little horse that was highly prized by the Bedouin people, make the Arabian a prized horse, both in terms of looks and abilities.
Bred not only for the speed, endurance, good strong healthy bones and ability to survive the harsh climate of the desert, the Arabian was also selected to have a bond with humans. Often brought in to the tents of a night to protect them from the harshest weather and to protect them from theft they need to have a strong bond with their owner, and the sensitivity to understand what was required.
All Thoroughbreds have some Arabian blood in them as do most modern breeds, and the Arabian has been bred with numerous other breeds to produce some stunning horses that are now considered breeds in their own right.
A cross between a Thoroughbred and Arabian the Anglo Arab is a respected breed in its own right. The breed standard tends to favour the Arabian Features, these horses compete in most forms of horse sports and are well known in eventing.
Part exotic Arabian with their delicate features and prized endurance and part Welsh Mountain Pony with their solid compact bodies and their nature that allows them to tackle all that the Welsh weather and mountains can throw at them the Welara.
Most of us who grew up in the UK riding ponies in riding school and on hacks on holiday will have come across more than one Welsh Mountain Pony, normally grey and with a fine head that tell of their history where Arabian blood was introduced to the tough native ponies. There are 4 types of Sections of Welsh Mountain or Cob, with Section A being the smallest, through to Section D the largest.
Native ponies roamed the Welsh hills and valleys prior to 1600 BC and it is these hardy if feral ponies that have been breed over the past 3600 years to produce a hardy, reliable pony with a good range of gait, and on occasion a stubbornness that is without equal. Over the years Hackney, Thoroughbred and Arabian blood has been introduced, and it’s likely that Welsh Mountain, Dartmoor and Exmoor ponies all share a common ancestor, and so share a lot of the characteristics. Mining for coal and the height limit needed for ponies to work underground taking the coal tubs after the Shetlands had taken them through the very low levels mean that they were bred for this hard work. Now a common sight as a riding pony Welsh Mountains compete in most riding disciplines, and as much a symbol of their Welsh Heritage as the leek and the dragon.