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What is a Shagya?

From: Susan

Dear Jessica, I love your newsletter and I really did go through the archives before sending you this question. Please can you tell me what is a Shagya? I was on a trip in Missouri with my family last summer, and we stopped at a horse show because my daughter and I are both horse lovers and my husband and son will put up with us if we don't insist on stopping at every single horse-related place we see.

One of the classes we watched was a hunter on the flat class, and there was the most beautiful horse I have ever seen in all my life. It was a dapple grey with the most beautiful face and a lovely mane and tail and movement that just took my breath away. I borrowed a program and the riders were listed but not the horse breeds. Before we left, I found the horse's rider and asked her what he was, and she said "he is a Shagya" and spelled it for me, but she had to get ready for the next class and my husband was hungry, so we left. I haven't been able to stop thinking about that horse. I've found out that a Shagya is some kind of an Arabian, but I can't find out if it is Polish or Egyptian, since those seem to be the two kinds of arabians, or maybe there's another kind? I feel so ignorant! Is "Shagya" a place in the Middle East? We have a good atlas, but I haven't been able to find it.

Can you help me, please? In a few years when my daughter and son are in college, I'm going to start looking for a horse at last, and now I know what I want, if I can only find one. Nobody in my area seems to even know what one is! Help!

Your fan, Susan

Hi Susan! I know what you mean, they really are beautiful horses, aren't they? And yes, I can tell you something about them, and help you find more information.

Don't feel ignorant -- a lot of people have never heard of Shagyas, and have never had a chance to see one. It's an Arabian, but a very specialized, rare version developed for the Austro-Hungarian military, some 200 years ago. The breed was developed from desert Arabians, and it's always more difficult to find accurate pedigree information about the earliest desert Arabiana -- Polish Arabians tend to have longer and more accurate pedigrees. Shagyas have more complicated and very long pedigrees, because the original Arabian stallions brought to the studs were crossed on local Arabian mares and mares with a lot of Arabian blood (all of this was very much like the process of developing the Thoroughbred in England). If you ever have the chance to look closely at a Shagya pedigree, you may find, amongst the Arabians, an occasional Thoroughbred and an occasional Lipizzan.

The breed has been carefully and consistently developed, and Shagya Arabians tend to breed true to type, so the one you saw was probably very much like the others you may see if you can find a breeding farm to visit. They're lovely horses: taller and more substantial than their desert forbears, but still very typey and elegant, with great energy. They're also very good movers (dressage, anyone?) and jumpers (eventing, anyone?) -- wonderful sport horses, which is no surprise as they were originally bred to be wonderful cavalry horses. If you're interested in endurance riding or carriage driving or just about anything else, you're in luck. ;-)

The name of the breed is the name of a highly prepotent stallion, Shagya, whose name appears in most of the Shagya pedigrees. He was a grey stallion, from all accounts a superb horse and obviously a superb herd sire.

You've chosen a very interesting horse -- and now, here's the information you need. You didn't say where you live, but if you're in Montana, you may be in luck. ;-) This is how you can reach the North American Shagya Society:

North American Shagya Society

Star Route

Hall, MT 59837

Telephone: 406-859-3380

Good luck finding your horse -- send me a photo when you do!


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