On a recent episode of Discovery channel's hit TV show, "Auction Kings," I was asked to review, authenticate and appraise an Arabian saddle. It wasn't just any old saddle, it was an Arabian saddle commissioned by the royal court of Morocco.
The Arabian horse is the original work horses. The Arabian is the oldest known breed of riding horse. They are a breed of incredible energy and intelligence, with a gentle disposition. Their backs are short in order to carry heavy loads and they have been the horse of choice for some of history's heroes such as George Washington, Alexander the Great and Napoleon.
Of course, these historical figures rode other breeds of horses, too.
When compared to other breeds, the Arabians have large chests to compensate for their large lungs, an identifying characteristic. Arabians are marked by a distinctive dished profile: large, lustrous, wide-set eyes on a broad forehead, small, curved ears and large, efficient nostrils.
The Arabians were bred by the Bedouins as war horses in the vast Arabian desert and these horses could withstand travel over long distances. They could travel for long periods of time because of their large lung capacity and endurance under pressure. Arabian horses are still seen as the undisputed champion of endurance events. They are the marathon runners of the equine world.
The saddle itself was easy to identify as a saddle made for an Arabian horse. The saddle had a cantle or very high back and a pommel or front that was characteristic in size to those made specifically for Arabian horses. The saddle in question was a 20th century saddle because earlier saddles would have used goat skin or camel skin to support the stirrups and this saddle used rope.
This saddle featured a unique set of stirrups. The stirrup was one of the milestones in saddle development. The first stirrup-like object was invented in in the 2nd century B.C. Back then, the stirrup consisted of a simple leather strap in which the rider's toe was placed.
It offered very little support to the rider. The nomadic tribes in northern China are thought to have been the inventors of the modern stirrup, but the first known representation of a rider with paired stirrups was found in China in a Jin Dynasty tomb from around 300 A.D. The stirrup appeared to be in widespread use across China by 475 A.D. After circa 475 A.D., the horse stirrup spread throughout Europe. This invention gave great support to the rider and quickly became of essential use in .
The "Auction Kings' " saddle had a relationship with the Arabian Horse breeders alliance, according to the auction seller. It was made on commission from HRH Mohammed VI, King of Morocco.
The King has been a great patron of the Arabian Breeders World Cup for years. The saddle was said to have been commissioned as an award for a race winner with all of the trailings attached. Such saddles typically bring $500 to $900 at auction but are far more valuable as trophies.
In addition to King Mohammed, many other celebrities rode Arabians. One noted Arabian horse enthusiast was American actor Patrick Swayze ("Dirty Dancing").
Today, many horse lovers choose Arabians as their pet of choice. They are wonderful, impressive animals with a fascinating legacy dating back to the ancient times.
Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori presents appraisal events to audiences worldwide.