In the course of the 19th century, a new cultural breed – the Shagya Arabian – was created by skillful selection using desert-bred Arabians and special damlines. This breed needs to be preserved with the help of a pure breeding program.
The preservation of the purebred Shagya-Arabian on a high level has top priority. In doing so, his special practical use as an enduring, unpretentious riding horse with excellent balance and special attachment to humans are of crucial importance. It has been these characteristics that made this breed unique compared to other horse breeds, and they have to be respected, today more than ever, if the Shagya-Arabian shall have an economic chance. These assets are mostly true for any other Oriental breeds, which were heavily influenced by purebred Arabians (such as the Shagya-Arabian) or have been created under similar conditions over the course of centuries or millennia as an independent population. That’s why their preservation for the future is so important.
Purebred Breeding in the Shagya-Arabian Breed
Fresh blood is needed by any pure breed, if the variation of characteristics is to be enlarged on a high level or certain characteristics / properties are to be strengthened. Fresh blood is usually introduced through stallions of the same breed or breed group, because – due to their higher proliferation – they are more effective than mares. As an example, one can refer to the import of desert-bred stallions for purebred Arabian breeding outside the Arabian peninsula. For Shagya-Arabian breeding, we have the provisions in the international breeding program for maintaining a genetic balance between the damlines and sire strains of the original k.k. Arabian breed on the one side, and the purebred Arabian breed on the other side, which says: Of the 16 ancestors (in the fourth generation), not more than nine ancestors may be purebred Arabians.
Only due to the combination of optimal environmental conditions (rearing, stable, nutrition, etc.) including riding and/or driving performance as well as the excellent genetic conditions, that have been selected over centuries, can size, agility, endurance, reliability and – not least – also beauty and grace of the Shagya Arabian be preserved and furthered. If you look at the past, from which we have paintings, drawings or photos, it is confirmed that the external features, as well as the inner properties of the purebred Arabian in major high-quality breeding areas, have hardly changed. A change in appearance did not happen. Balance, as well as movements, including a powerful acceleration, are basically the same as in the 18th century.
Only the shape of the head has changed from a – until then – straight profile, especially with stallions, to a more concave nose line. In this respect, the horses bred in Egypt were optimal. Since the foundation of the EAO, or rather El Zahraa stud in 1898, the movements also became more “European”, for example with regards to the quality of the trot (regular, ground covering, etc.).
Effects on today’s Breeding Work
Due to pure breeding , which was consistently maintained over many centuries, the desert-bred Arabian belonged to the most thoroughly bred horse breeds on earth. Its features and characteristics are very firmly fixed in its genetic potential. By using Arabian stallions, one can expect that they pass on their constitutional and psychological characteristics, health, longevity, unpretentiousness, motivation, ability to learn, balance, attachment to humans etc., as well as their phenotypical characteristics. The use of “Oriental” stallions, high in Arabian blood, has contributed decisively to the creation of all the “Barock horse breeds”, of the Barb horse, as well as our modern warmblood breeds and contributed to the preservation of their quality parameters. This way, the “Arabian” also gave the genetic base for the English Thoroughbred, which was formed by the consequential selection on racing over the last 200 years, and developed into a performance breed of its own, which achieved irreplaceable importance in the amelioration of our riding horse breeds.
Improver stallions of only the Highest Quality
For the use of Arabian stallions outside pure breeding, the biological principles of crossbreeding apply. However, depending on the goal to be achieved, almost only improving and combination crossings to introduce fresh blood are being used. It is always recommended, that the respective breed association gives exact guidelines, as, for example, done by the International Shagya-Arabian Society (ISG). This can also determine the amount of purebred Arabian blood, as done in Shagya-Arabian breeding. Always of highest importance is the genetic starting position of the mares, for which reason the damlines are of fundamental importance. They are the preserving element of each breed, while the stallions in use have the task to advance the desired change. But in order to get the desired effect, i.e. the amelioration of the respective population, their selection, and use needs to be very carefully planned – sweet, but soulful. The generally high phenotypical level (genetics and environment) in Shagya-Arabian breeding makes this task especially difficult because to improve the good it needs individuals of the highest quality. This, of course, also applies to stallions of the same breed, that are used to maintain the standard. Only those breeders, who have accepted this and acted accordingly, can achieve any progress in a 200-year-old breed.