In a rural location such as ours the locals rely heavily on animals – sheep, goats, cows and water buffalo all play a major role in agriculture whilst dogs are useful for ‘garbage disposal’. At the other end of the spectrum many wealthy Indians see the owning of expensive pedigree dogs as a status symbol, although they often have little knowledge of how to care for them properly.
It is similar with horses, and we have recently purchased a Kathiawari horse (which was very thin and unfit) from a local Indian. There was no intentional cruelty or neglect involved in the care of this animal before he came to us, merely a lack of knowledge on the owners part and a lack of skills amongst his employees. So, Raja has come to live with us at Lakeside.
The Kathiawari are an amazing breed of horse which was originally bred in north India for desert warfare, the ideal characteristics being that they could survive on minimal rations during campaigns over long distances and rough terrains. They were bred from a mixture of native horses and imported Arabian stock and ownership was limited to the ruling families, hence the ‘status symbol’ of owning one today. The Kathiawari are not large horses (maximum height around 15 hands) and appear to be rather thin and bony in the leg to the western eye. They are, however, a very sound breed of horse, high-spirited, intelligent and affectionate.
I have no pictures of Raja when he first came to Lakeside, but after six weeks he was beginning to fill out, although lacking in muscle tone.
Now, some five months after I bought Raja, he is a healthy weight and much fitter than before although he still needs to develop a little more muscle tone. I feel very lucky to be able to ride out around the lake or through the coconut groves on this magnificent animal who is so quick to learn and eager to please.
One unusual trait of the Kathiawari is that their ears curve inwards and touch at the tips which gives them a very intelligent look. There is only one other breed of horse (also Indian) which shares this characteristic. The number of Kathiawari horses declined after Indian Independence until there were only a few thousand in existence and they were verging on extinction, but thankfully the numbers are now increasing and these beautiful horses are here to stay.