It was cold and raining, and the mare's coat was weird and fluffy in the way it goes during winter. Her mane was absurdly thick and her demure absurdly calm given what the vet was doing to her. The fact that I got to meet her was astounding. Fifty years ago, her kind was thought to be extinct.
In 1957 Louise Laylin, an American, married Narcy Firouz, a fellow student at Cornell. Louise went with him back to his native country, Iran, where she had three children with him, and also established the Norouzabad Equestrian Center for children living in Tehran. However, she struck the issue of finding horses appropriate for young riders. Arabs can often be a handful, especially for a beginning rider, and so she began her quest to find the small horses of rumors living in the villages above the Caspian Sea.
She rode on horseback with several other women to the villages in 1965 and soon discovered the small horse that was subject of ancient carvings, such as those that adorned the palace of the ancient Persian capital, Persepolis. The horses were worked under appalling conditions, with little or no attention to health or proper nutrition. After her discovery and consequent rescue of some of the horses she built several foundation herds, which got confiscated during the 1979 revolution, and Louise was imprisoned several times. To gain release, she went on hunger strikes.
She continued to be heavily involved in the development of the Caspian Horses until her death on May 25, 2008. Due to Louise's dedication in the breed the number of Caspian Horses in existence has rocketed. In 2006, less than 2000 were thought to be alive, and 60 or 70 years before that, they were considered to be extinct.
Despite their short stature, which is between 10 and 13 hands, they are classed as horses, and without something to gauge their height by they do look like horses. They also have the proportions and gaits worthy of a horse, not a pony. On the whole, they look somewhat like miniature Arabians due to their light bone structure and head shape, but some look too stocky for this comparison to be made. Caspian Horses are most often chestnut, brown or gray in color, though occasionally there will be a buckskin or black horse. Grays, as with all breeds, tend to change in color with age and typically will end up as a pale gray or white color.
Their skeletal structure is interesting, as their scapula is wider than other breeds of horses, the metacarpal and metatarsal bones are longer and slimmer than expected given the height of the horse. The skull has a pronounced elevation of the interparietal bones, and they have no parietal crest. The first six vertebrae are longer than usual, making them appear to have a high wither and a flat back. They have hard, narrow oval-shaped hooves which, except in cases of extreme work rarely need to be shod. The frog is also less pronounced.
Their behavior is also interesting. When put out into a herd of horses, the Caspians will band together, and the stallions will be more willing to cover another Caspian than any other breed. Doubtless this has enable them to survive this long.
They make excellent riding horses for children as they are amiable, trainable and extremely friendly. However, their rarity makes them rather expensive. The mountainous region in which they survived has given them an agility making them perfect for jumping, however their size is a natural limiter. They are mostly used as mounts for children or as show horses, including hand held classes and driving. They are also bred and exported across the world to keep the bloodlines alive.
Back to Horse Breeds.
Resources used, and for more information