India, the world’s second most populous and seventh-largest country, has left an unmistakable mark in horse breedingThe Marwari horse is an ancient breed of horses from the Marwar region in the state of Rajasthan, in the northwest of India. The Marwari was the warrior mount of the belligerent Rathores rulers of the region.
By traditional accounts, this horse has been bred since at least the 12th century AD. In 1193, the Rathores lost their original kingdom and withdrew to the remote areas of western India – the Great Indian and Thar deserts – where their horses were vital.
Selective breeding produced a horse with speed and stamina. The Marwari was also bred and trained to behave courageously. It would not collapse, even when seriously injured, until it had carried its rider out of danger. It would stand near its wounded rider, biting and kicking at those who attempted to approach.
The head of the Marwari horse is refined, wide between the eyes and usually with a straight profile. The most distinguishing features are the lyre-shaped ears, which curve inward and often appear to meet at the tips. The neck is clean at the throatlatch, slightly arched and of medium length. They have well-pronounced withers and the back is short and strong. The croup is gently sloped and hindquarters are muscular and strong, the tail is set high, the shoulders are well sloped and muscular, the legs are long with smooth muscling, well-angled pasterns, and strong joints. The hooves are extremely hard.
The average height of Marwari horses is between 154 and 164cm.
The Marwari is a gaited horse. Marwari horses are born with a “rehwal” or “revaal” gait, a quick, four-beat lateral gait, which is smoother and more comfortable than a trot, used in the desert to cover long distances with greater comfort.
In rural Rajasthan, the Marwari is commonly trained for “dancing” at the many festivals and marriages that occur throughout the year. This dancing is an Indian form of haute ecole and goes all the way back to the combat manoeuvres of previous centuries, in a manner similar to the classical dressage performances of the Lipizzans at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.
Because of their association with the caste system, which forbade most people from riding Marwaris, the number of horses declined significantly during the British rule; the tendency continued after Independence. By the early 1990s a government survey estimated that only 500 to 600 specimens remained. Their exportation from India was briefly prohibited under a 1992 biological conservation pact, and restoration efforts began.
The Marwari Horse Breeding and Research Institute in Chopasni, Jodhpur was established. This institute works to save the breed from extinction and to build respect for the horse breeders of the area. It registers horses and conducts educational programs to maintain and improve the breed. The Institute receives financial support from the government of India.