Horsezone News

Breed of the Moment: The Caspian Horse

Published on Thursday, October 6, 2011 in Feature Horses
Jasenna Kowl Melakah showing the beautiful Caspian movement.
Shachar Mattan at three months making friends with Sienna Timbs

Caspian Stallion - Jasenna Meshek

View his Horsezone Stallions at Stud listing

Jasenna Shenayim Halak

Jasenna Sheteph Lebab - yearling Caspian colt - currently for sale

view his listing on Horsezone

Caspians - Rostam and Maroun - in harness being driven by Royal Coachman at Smiths Lawn, UK

Over 2500 years ago the well known Persian King, Darius the Great, used Caspians as chariot horses during lion hunts.  His seal (pictured left), which now resides in the British Museum, depicts just such a scene. A remnant survived until the present day, living in Iran amongst the remote Alborz mountains and the adjacent southern shores of the Caspian sea, making Caspians the oldest domesticated breed of horse in the world.   Studies have shown that they are ancestral to the Arab horse and thus their genetics form a part of many modern breeds.

They were rediscovered and introduced to the world at large, in 1965 when Louise Firouz, an American living in Iran, went in search of rumoured, small, narrow horses for her daughters to ride.  She spent the rest of her life (died 2008) battling the political and environmental forces that at times destroyed the small numbers of Caspians she found and bred. Due to her untiring efforts, the breed is now classified as Iran’s Living National Treasure.  In 1971 H.R.H. Prince Philip opened the way for Caspians to be sent to England, where dedicated studs were set up, in all likelihood saving the breed. 1976 saw the first studs established in South Australia and Western Australia.

Though the history surrounding the Caspian horse is fascinating, it is the horses themselves that capture the hearts of many who come into contact with them.  I have often been captivated by the personal stories people have shared with me, and as a breeder, am steadily collecting my own.

Caspians tend to be great communicators, for example: this year when we had Jasenna Meshek in the Horse Breeds Expo at the Brisbane Royal (Ekka), he came to his window that looked into our display booth and whinnied, he then picked up the corner of his hanging hay feeder and shook it at me and just in case I hadn’t got the message he pawed the stable wall, once only.  Needless to say I rewarded his polite efforts to tell me that he had run out of hay with another biscuit.

Marshall Steer, one of the original South Australian breeders, tells of a herd of Caspians who kept running down to a man who was fencing in their paddock., they would circle him a few times and then run back up the hill.  The horses repeated this until he decided he should follow them up to a large hole he had been digging for a strainer post.  There he found a small foal who had fallen into the hole.  He promptly rescued the foal, who was thankfully no worse for wear.

Finally, Shauna Mills-Swart of South Australia tells of a mare who called her when she was about to foal and waited for her to make it down to the stable at 3:15am on a freezing spring night.  Throughout the pregnancy Shauna, who was also pregnant, had repeatedly rubbed the mare’s belly and whispered into her ear “Molly, call me when you have your baby.” And she did!  The resulting filly foal became Shauna’s little shadow and when Shauna sat on the edge of her verandah, the filly would sit her rump down into Shauna’s lap.   This continued up until the filly was sold to the USA at the age of two, somewhat heavy to be sitting in a human lap, wouldn’t you say?

Caspians are generally affectionate, curious, spirited and kind, thus making them great children’s horses. They excel in harness and are regular winners at the pony trots in South Australia.  Their exceptional jumping ability, speed and great agility makes them highly desirable for gymkhanas, barrel racing, jumping and racing. 

 They also exhibit a long low action in the show ring and have smooth gaits for dressage.  The Caspian’s stamina suits endurance riding, and they are able to keep up with a large horse in all gaits except a full gallop. 

The height range of the Caspian is generally from 10.2 –12.2 hands (105cm-125cm).  The foals grow very rapidly reaching most of their height in the first 18 months. Being a horse, not a pony, a Caspian should give the overall impression of a well-bred, elegant horse in miniature.  They come in solid colours only: bay, chestnut, grey, black, brown and dun.  Interestingly, Caspians differ from most other breeds in the following ways: their forehead has a different parietal bone structure, their shoulder blades are narrower at the top and wider at the base, from stifle to hock they are exceptionally long, the first 6 vertebrae are longer, and their blood has unique haemoglobin.

These ancient horses are still classified as critically endangered with less than 1700 existing world wide (only 866 females).  Australia has 174 registered individuals of which only 91 are females. For the on-going preservation of the breed in Australia, we desperately need new breeders, sponsors, and patrons.  Also critical are people from the various equine disciplines who can promote the Caspians’ extensive abilities.  The cross breeding potential is enormous and to date has remained largely untapped. Cross breeding usually results in offspring that inherit the Caspian agility, paces, temperament and appearance to an astounding extent.  Those involved with the breed are average people with one thing in common, they all agree that these ancient horses deserve a long and happy future.

If you would like to become involved or would simply like more information please contact:

Jenne Timbs of Jasenna Stud, Chambers Flat, Queensland.

Phone: 07 5547 0224   Mob: 0427 115 464  email: jasennastud@bigpond.com

To see a Caspian Horse in the flesh, visit the Horse Breeds Expo pavilion at the Brisbane Ekka and also Sydney Equitana 10-13 November 2011.

The Caspians have a truly fascinating and sometimes harrowing history, much of which we haven't had space to include here, so if you are keen to find out more, Jenne would be more than happy to fill you in!

Jasenna Stud currently has the yearling colt pictured and a selection of other stock that are for sale to a home that is keen to breed.  Jenne is also expecting two foals any day now - stay tuned to the Foal Frolics Gallery for pictures of these little cuties!


Ostad - the first Caspian discovered by Louise Firouz in Iran , 1965

Ostad - living his new life with one of Louise's daughters


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Story & Photos:  Thank you to Jenne Timbs of Jasenna Stud

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