Now through October 15, 2010 the Kentucky Horse Park offers a wonderful exhibit highlighting the Arabian horse. For horse enthusiasts getting away to see the World Equestrian Games and the beauty of the lush pastures and environs around Lexington, KY where the abundance of greenery and grazing horses is quite different from the urban sprawl of Los Angeles. There now is the added bonus of viewing A Gift From the Desert, The Art, History and Culture of the Arabian Horse at the International Museum of the Horse. Sponsored by the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation, the exhibition is an extensive look at the history of this elegant and powerful horse and brings together for the first time many incredible artifacts.
This exhibit was put together by Bill Cooke, the Museum’s curator and took 3 years to assemble. The exhibit tells the story of the Arabian horse through over 400 artifacts and paintings lent from museums and private collectors around the world.
Three Galloping Horses, Iran, Safavid, c. 1550 Watercolor on paper.
Photo Courtesy The British Museum.
The Exhibit traces the history of the Arabian horse from it’s beginning to it present day influences on virtually every modern breed of horse. It explains the significant impact horses had on civilization. The show begins approximately 10,000 BCE when the horse almost went extinct due to Global Warming. A term we are all familiar with nowadays. Around 3000 BCE the horse started to reappear more prominently. The early history of the horse’s origins includes the understanding of the onager, donkey, mules, hinnus and how it differs from the horse as it is depicted in art.
Upon entering the show one immediately walks to the magnificent and most valuable piece in the show, the “Standard of Ur, a Sumerian piece dating from 2600-2400 BCE and on loan from the British Museum.
Horsewoman, Juliusz Kossak, Oil on canvas, 1858
Photo Courtesy of the National Museum of Warsaw
As one strolls through the museum one can see that by the late Bronze Age the horse was used mainly for breeding and chariots. The Persian – Nisean breed of horse was Stocky and more muscular. Egyptian horses had a more lightweight frame. As one examines the artifacts it is quite evident the importance of horses warfare.
For the Bedouin their horse must be of pure bloodlines. There was an inscription that described the Bedouin’s connection with the Arabian horse succinctly. “ A Gold jewel cannot be made except from Gold”. To them the horse symbolizes beauty, nobility and pride.
There is a large section of the exhibit devoted to the Arabian horses influence on European art.
A. Keene Richards of Kentucky imported the first Arabian horse to the United States in the 1850’s. How appropriate is it that the first major exhibit of the Arabian horse is also in Kentucky.
To learn more about this marvelous exhibit:
A Gift From The Desert, The Art, History and Culture of the Arabian Horse
The International Museum of the Horse
Kentucky Horse Park
4089 Iron Works Parkway
Lexington, KY 40511