Use and characteristics of the Shagya Arabian
Standing mostly between 15 hands (60 inches/152 cm) and 16 hands (64 inches/163 cm) high, the modern Shagya Arabian is not only taller but also stronger than the purebred Arabian. It is sometimes considered to be a subset of the purebred Arabian, or alternatively categorised as a part bred Arabian. They are extremely athletic horses with an impressive capacity for jumping, meaning many equestrians buy a Shagya Arabian for show jumping, eventing, or cross country. Their qualities of endurance and courage make them a good choice for distance riding. They make very attractive harness horses, too. Trainers who sell a Shagya Arabian for carriage driving always find plenty of interest from enthusiasts. Grey is one of the most popular coat colours.
Origin and history of breeding Shagya Arabians
Hungary’s contribution to equestrianism is renowned across the globe. The country mainly consists of grassy plains that have always been a meeting and crossing point for many cultures in Europe. Hungarian horsemanship reflects these diverse influences, from those of the Central Asian steppe to those of western Europe. From 1526 to 1686, Hungary was under Turkish rule, and many horses of broadly Oriental type (chiefly Turkoman and Arabian) were introduced to the region. By the eighteenth century, the stud farm at Bábolna was noted particularly for the quality of its purebred Arabians, as well as other horses termed of “Arabian Race”, or “Araberrasse”. These were Arabian crosses with mares of diverse types including Lippizaners and Spanish horses. These horses, carefully selected and matched by experts, were some of the foundation stock for the Shagya Arabian. However, disease threatened the stud in the 1830s and mares and stallions of desert stock were imported to reinvigorate it.
Among these was the stallion Shagya. At this time, Hungary was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and famous for the quality of its stud farms and the horses that were raised there. Shagya Arabians gained a reputation as cavalry horses of high quality, the type that light horsemen of the empire would find invaluable. Their beauty and presence also made them an appropriate horse for the imperial guards. In the twentieth century, concerns arose over possible confusion between Shagya Arabians, which were not considered to be purebred, and horses of purebred Arabian descent. As a result, Shagya Arabians are now viewed as a separate breed with their own studbook, and its breeders are associates of the World Arabian Horse Association (WAHO).
Shagya Arabians in equestrianism
Bred to be working horses with athleticism and stamina, it is not surprising that Shagya Arabians perform well across all equestrian disciplines. A Bábolna-bred Shagya Arabian won the FEI Endurance World Championship in 2006. The breed remains popular in Hungary, Austria, Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic as well as the Balkan countries. A breeding programme began in the USA in 1986.