By Carol Lyons Copyright All Rights Reserved
Used by permission of Carol Lyons.
“The eye is peculiarly soft and intelligent, yet when it light up with excitement it does not have the strained wild look and pained staring expression often seen in European breeds.”
Thus wrote Homer Davenport in 1909 when describing the eyes of the authentic Arabian horse.
The Arabian Horse Registry describes the ideal eyes as
“large, lustrous,” “placed far apart” and “set more nearly in the middle of the head, with plenty of brain capacity above them …. the distance from the top of the eyes is often within one inch of the distance from the lower eyelid to the top of the nostril.”
In a breed famous for its eyes, the horses of straight Davenport bloodlines are particularly well noted for placement, size and expression of their wonderful eyes.
In fact, Davenports usually exceed the registry standard since their eyes are frequently located equidistant from the top of the head and the top of the nostril.
That such eye placement provides for plenty of brain capacity is amply born out in the collection of horse skulls at Craver farms in Illinois.
One may well ask why these wonderful Arabian eyes are such a consistent feature in Davenport Arabians while appearing far less frequently in Arabians of other bloodlines, where even large-sized eyes don’t assure low placement.
The answer probably lies in the unique heritage of Davenport Arabians as compared with other breeding groups.
Davenport Arabians are the only group of Arabians anywhere in the world that are totally descended from foundation stock obtained by one man directly from the desert.
Perhaps even more important, those original animals were approved by an Anezeh sheikh as suitable for use as breeding stock by Bedouins and not merely as suitable for use by Americans or Europeans.
The selection was made at a time when the Bedouins were still using their horses in their daily lives.
All other breeding groups descend from foundation animals selected over a long period of time by a variety of people for a wide variety of purposes. Some were chosen for their suitability for racing or cavalry usage or even because of individual similarity to the various part-Arabian breeds.
(How many people today are selecting Arabian breeding stock based on similarity to Saddlebreds rather than for similarity to the ancient, original Arabian?)
The Bedouins told Davenport that if they were going to trust someone with their purses or with their lives, they would look long into his face and eyes, and they applied the same principle to their horses.
The Davenport eyes are truly the windows of their souls, revealing their remarkable intelligence and trustworthy nature.
Unlike other horses, Davenport Arabians will seek eye contact with humans. This is true of both the mares and the stallions.
There is nothing challenging, defiant or belligerent in their attitude any more than when two or more people meet as equals for a friendly chat.
This is sometimes disconcerting to newcomers who do not expect to be greeted as an equal by a horse.
Davenports will approach people with their heads at about eye level with a basically calm but alert self-assurance and open curiosity as they gaze into their eyes.
Having completed their frank appraisal of the situation, they may turn away or lower their heads to be scratched on the neck or withers.
Like most Arabians, they can be real pests when it comes to getting attention It is also common for Davenports to welcome their owners, and some visitors, by offering to breath into their nostrils, much as they would do with another horse that is a close companion and that has been absent for a while.
Sometimes they will look intently at a person then raise their eyes to look off in the distance as though to signify their superiority, or possibly it’s because there are more important sights or sounds attracting their attention.
Sometimes, the truly fortunate and discerning person will see an especially inquiring and attentive expression in the wonderful Davenport eyes and an attitude that seems to say,
“Come, let me be your partner, I will provide you with my speed, power and companionship. Together we will do all the things you want to do. I’ll let you be my equal if you will be my partner, my friend.”
I wonder if the wonderful Arabian eyes of the long-gone Bedouin war mare conveyed such thoughts to her partner, her friend. I think they did.