Horse Husband FAQs: ‘Are there gaited horses in Asia?’
Lorraine Jackson’s “equine curious” husband has been asking her a lot of questions lately–and she’s on a quest to get him the answers. Here’s his latest random query.
My husband has recently become Equine Curious. This is fun because I get a free pass to speak endlessly on my favorite topic, but also because he’s smart, and has a history degree, which means I’ve really had to step up my game when he starts asking weird things that not even we horse people would think to ask. This is where Google comes in handy. (That’s right, Google, free product placement. Hey! Sponsor Horse Nation!)
This week, my husband started down the rabbit hole of gaited horses. What is it? How did it come to be? I was breezing through these babies until, “Are there gaited horses in Asia?” I can honestly say, I had never asked myself if there are gaited horses in Asia.
The magical answer (from Google): The Marwari. Once I started looking at footage, I recalled having seen the amazing, lanky horses of India and their distinctive curled ears, but I had no idea they possessed a gait known as a revaal.
The horses, their bodies, their ears, their movement, and their story make them one of the most fascinating breeds in the world today. The first records of them being intentionally bred began in the 12th Century by the Rajput Princes of northwestern India. The horses are genetically linked to the modern Arabian, the extinct Turkuman, and various non-distinct local horses over the centuries.
The Marwaris were bred for battle, particularly to fight off the Mughal Empire’s infamous fighting elephants, which they did by placing their front hooves on the elephant’s head and thereby allowing their rider to reach forward and “slay” the enemy (I’ll spare you the details). The horses are fast, enduring, agile, and can spin their spectacular curled ears more than 180 degrees, giving them exceptional hearing in the vast Asian plains and dunes.
The horses were nearly eradicated during the British Empire’s colonization of India in favor of imported European breeds, but since the 1990’s, citizens of what is now the Indian state of Rajasthan have been breeding the horses back into their former glory, and their popularity outside the region is gaining. The horses are shown in halter classes, “dance competitions” that highlight the military and ceremonial maneuvers of their ancestors, and are also raced in short and long distance events. They also compete successfully in the euro-centric sports of Dressage and Show Jumping (they possess all the standard gaits in addition to the revaal). As a true testament to their recent explosion on the scene, this year Breyer unveiled the first Marwari model in their Traditional line of model horses.
This story could never be complete without the amazing Youtube videos of what these horses can do, so take a minute and absorb a collection of the day-to-day life experiences of the Marwari horses and the men who love them:
2011 Pushkar Fair Horse Dancing Competition:
(If you MUST see only the highlights, skip to 3:20. But really, watch the whole thing.)
A Stallion Halter Class in 2012 at the Haldi Ghati Fair:
Clips of the Marwari horse in the revaal gait. Almost all of these clips are taken in city streets by buddies sitting forwards, backwards, or sideways on a motorcycle or scooter, and I can’t help but be overwhelmed by not only how amazing the gait is, but also how surreal the videos are as these horses calmly but energetically pass by the dramatic and noisy backdrop of urban India. There are literally hundreds if not thousands more videos like this on Youtube if this doesn’t give you your fill:
(This is one where the cameraman is traveling backwards on a scooter. I know.)
Also, this (standing and galloping):
And this (one man, two horses, one great recliner):
And my personal favorite, this (vicariously ride a Marwari stallion through a busy market):
If this is where my husband’s horse questions will lead, I think you, me, the Mister, and all of Horse Nation are in for a good ride.
Lorraine Jackson grew up on a ranch in central Utah where she had more chores than friends, but having horses made it all worth it. She learned to ride under the great tutelage of her mother, the United States Pony Club, and her local 4H Horse Program Chapter. When she was 16, she took her BLM adopted mustang Ralphy to the National Wild Horse and Burro All Around Youth Finals. She took time away from horses to get a degree, go to work, and get married, but now enjoys writing about horses as much as riding them. You can follow her bizarre ramblings on horses, places, ideas, and corn dogs at www.lorraineinspain.com.
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