The Caspian Horse

SIRHOWY STUD, Farnham, Surrey

owner Naomi Thomas.

I first heard about the Caspian Horse when I was working for Mr Joseph Allen the remarkable owner of the Horsemans’s Bookshop and a publishing business dedicated to horses. I was employed by him as his antiquarian equestrian book specialist and basically sold old books.

In my tiny office on the first floor with its typwriter and shuttered windows and rows of books on rickerty old bookcases I found a copy of Equus Persilus, a paper written by the now late Louise Firouz about the rediscovery of a very small horse she called the Caspian. I gather one had wandered into her stud in Ghara Tepe Sheik in Iran, one day and recognizing an unusual phynotype decided to try and breed from it. Louise had a sense a horse sense, which she employed on an instinctive level, she knew this was a very special find.

The mare bred but despite the sire being larger the foal was tiny, it was a perfect reprint. She was working with Dr Gus Cothran to establish the origin and descendant of the Turkoman horse and threw in the Caspian for good measure. What came out was a shock to everyone in the horse world, this little horse with its fine legs and neat trim conformation not unlike a thoroughbred was ancestral to most breeds of horse, including it turns out the Wilbur Cruce, from North America for which I have spent many years describing. Another story really but it turns out that they have DNA tracing back to these charming little creatures. But how?

So recently I visited Naomi Thomas who has a herd of about 50 Caspians. The sad tales is that there were many brought over to this country and given to Prince Philip and other such people and a large herd of them was recently put down because no one wanted them. Louise would have been horrified.

Caspian Foal

It now turns out that Louise rediscovered a horse that is not only ancestral to a great many breeds but is also exceptional. It lives on almost nothing, existing in the Kopek Dag both in Iran and Turkmenistan. We should now consider the distinct possibility that these were the horses used to pull the chariots of the Hitties and the Mitanni thousands of years ago. They are not wild horses at all they are feral. They can be trained for work in four days, On the first day you put a halter on them, on the second day you long rein them on the third day you put a saddle on their backs and on the forth day you ride them.

Caspian Head

These horses are depicted in the British Museum’s collection of early Central Asian artifacts, like the golden chariot. These are the horses you can see on the bas reliefs in Persepolis. These are the horses that Kikkuli wrote about in his treatise found in cuniform blocks preserved through fire in Nineveh, on the training of horses presumably for war.

Naomi, Mother and foal

They are very different from our native breeds. Firstly their hooves are oval back and front. The modern Equus has hooves rounder in the front the hind hooves are more oval. However I was told by Naomi that the Australian Caspians have round shaped hooves back and front. the odd thing is that their hooves are different to the modern horse. One simply has to wonder at just where these little creatures came from which line of now extinct early equus? I prefer not to believe that all horses are descended from Eohippus. I have my doubt about our knowledge of the evolution of the horse. But that is another chapter/book.

The Caspian’s hooves are hard and grow slowly, they need to be trimmed twice a year whereas a normal horse must be trimmed every 6 to 8 weeks. Their coats have a metallic sheen to them and are very fine. Their legs are fine like pins but incredibly strong and they can carry a twelve stone person all day without fatigue. The canon bone is not circular but oval in shape. Their best colours are bay and black with various dun or paler coat colours. To the best of my knowledge, there are no coloured Caspians.

Louise Firouz was a passionate horse breeder and also a woman with the knowledge to recognize breed variations. Living in Iran she was able to find, barter for and rescue horses she knew to be phyotypes of importance, so she gathered, Gatman’s and Tekes, Yomuds and Turkoman horses and helped to set a stud up In Jagalan with Dr Jiadi.

Her efforts saved the little Caspian Horse for posterity and now a few breeders in the UK still work hard to keep the breed as it was, not easy in today’s climate. They need support and Naomi Thomas is one of those.

She has a stud of nearly 50 horses just outside Farnham, Surrey. The horses are carefully selected for breeding and live in groups depending on sex and age. She has a foundation stallion she acquired from Louise Firouz.

These exceptional horses can be seen there and believe me they are worth a visit.


Caroline Baldock.  © 2017