The Lydian now called The Caspian Horse
These small horses and indeed they are horses were originally called Lydian Horses and were bred in Iran for speific uses thousands of years ago. It was only because of competition from bigger horses that they faded from concious thought around 7th century A.D. and in fact were even believed to have become extinct around 1000 years ago.
However they were bought back into view by an American born breeder of Iranian horses called Louise Firouz around 1965, she sadly died in 2008.
They were first bred in Persia(Iran) as transport and courier animals, being both strong for their size but also very fast and hardy. King Darius the Great trusted his life to these little horses, using them to pull his chariot and when going lion-hunting. In fact he honoured them on his Trilingual Seal of 500BC.
After the absence of any mention of them for those 1000yrs Louise Firouz came across them in a small village , Amol at the Edge of the caspian Sea, she was in fact looking for suitable ponies for her children.
She first acquired one stallion and then bought in a further 7 mares and 6 stallions and because of where they were found the Lydian became The Caspian.
Not only did she breed from these remarkable little horses but she also used them to teach ,
noting that their kind , willing and intelligent natures even in the Stallions meant that they could be handled and used for children.
In 1966 Louise Firouz started the Iranian Stud Book for the Caspian Horse and in 1973 she sold the stud to the Then Shah of Persia who established the Royal Horse Society at the Nourouzabad Stud.
The Caspian today.
In appearance it has a fine head , pronounced forehead, short ears and large eyes. The muzzle is small and the nostrils large and low on the head.
The body is slim and graceful with good withers and sloping shoulders, this would account for their great jumping ability. They have high-set tails strong legs and hooves.
They are a very hardy animal and in fact do not need shoeing unless they are consistently working on stony or hard ground.The bone which goes from hip to hock is extremely long for such a small horse..... their size is around 12.2hh.
Colours are bay,black,grey , dun or chestnut and maybe a white marking or two.
An unusual anatomical feature is that some of these little horses are missing their chestnuts* and ergots*.
*Chestnuts are callous on the inside of the legs, above the knee on the foreleg and below the hock on the hind.
*Ergots are the again callous which are at the back of the fetlock joint (the joint between the leg and foot).
They are what is believed to remain of the ancestral foot. Horses were not always single-toed.
To this day they are still used in Iran as either pack animalsfor riding and competeing or for pulling carts.
They have also beem proven in other countries where there are small successful herds that they are a "jack of all trades".
Their paces have proven them to be successful in Dressage and eventing, they have incredible jumping abilities, are great in mounted games and gymkhanaring and pony racing. They are in fact a great all rounder even being successful in driving events.
What is also a relief is that slowly and surely they are making a return from near extinction and at the present time there are now 1600 worldwide. And all thanks to one American women and her quest to find the perfect child's pony.