The second International Caspian Conference takes place in Rutland next week, continuing the work in promoting and developing the Caspian Horse.
The Caspian Horse is an ancient breed of small horse, rediscovered on the banks of the Caspian Sea as recently as 1965 before which the breed was virtually unknown. Evidence of its existence found in writing and artefacts suggests that it populated Persian shores as early as 3000 B.C.
The Caspian stands at a mere 9-13Hh and is considered to be a possible prototype of the Arab. In spite of its small stature, it has the conformation and temperament of a horse, with deceptive strength in its slender shoulders.
They are believed to be the original chariot horses, and take well to driving, according to Pat Bowles, who runs the Bytham Caspian Stud.
“They also make fabulous lead rein ponies, as they can easily keep up with thoroughbreds and other larger breeds,” she adds.
The conference, which is to be followed by a breed show, celebrates the breed, and the success that breeders have enjoyed in promulgating the horse. For attempts to develop the Caspian Horse in its homeland of Iran in the 1970s were beset by political problems.
To the delight of the breed’s fans, the Duke of Edinburgh was presented with three Caspian Horses by the Shah when he visited Iran in the 1970s, prompting the importation of a further number to the UK. A small nucleus of breeders have since produced a population of at least 1300 in twelve countries.
“A lot of care and focus has ensured that we have managed to keep the breed well-spaced, so there aren’t any problems with inbreeding,” says Pat Bowles, adding that “even the Thoroughbred originated from one stallion.”
Representatives from all twelve countries are expected at the conference, at which Louise Firouz, who rediscovered the breed and was largely responsible for its export to the UK, will be speaking.
“It’s all about promoting the breed”, says Ms Bowles. “Personally, I think it would be absolutely fantastic if it were involved in the new concept of Pony Club racing. They could knock spots off their pony counterparts.
“My 11.3Hh Caspian beat our 16.1Hh Thoroughbred hands down, and they’ll jump anything,” she added.