The Kabardin horse is the most significant and useful from the various types of breeds bred around the Kavkaz (Caucasus). He got his name after Kabarda region by the northern Kavkaz Mountains. He came to existence on the foundation of the Mongolian horses, which came after the Golden Horde break up with some Mongolian tribes to the Kavkaz steppes. Through the trade and religious contacts of the Kavkaz people with the Muslims of the near east, there came into this regions the Oriental horses, and not only the Arabian but also the Teke, Persian and Turk, with whom the Mongolian horse was refined on the entire Kabarda region. From the XVIII century the import of horses for most part came to a halt and the indigenous horses on Kabarda were bred in the “purebred” form.
Due to the influence of various breeding conditions, feeding and lifestyle of these horses, there are recognized three types of the Kabardin horse:
- The Oriental Type – the riding type, very harmonious, with light, dry head, dry fundament.
- The Original – the mountain type riding horse with dry shapes.
- The Ordinary (common) type – characteristically longer and more massive body with well-developed bones, nearing in his form the light draft horses.
The Kabardin horse is bred in several lines, from which the most important were/are: Bonje (Boniie), Dansuza, Utchinari, Zaruba and Atlase.
In the less crossbred form are dominant the characteristics of the Mongolian horses showing in the relatively heavier body, lightly “Roman” heads with small eyes, short and backward (elk) neck decorated with short and thick mane; strong back tied well in the loins with the hind-quarters, deep but not too wide chest, strong legs with tough hoofs that remain mostly unshod. As most mountain horses the Kabardin hind stand is cow-hocked, which is very helpful when traveling down the steep mountains terrains, especial when they are carrying heavy burden/load, they must break with the front legs while getting wider support (balance) with the hind. The influence of the Oriental and the Oriental purebred horses is evident in the larger/taller size, high withers, somewhat longer and slant shoulder blade, shorter back, longer and flatter/straighter hind-quarters, roomy ribcage but thinner legs.
The Kabardin of the Mongolian type is somewhat smaller and the height in the withers fluctuate around 140 cm.
The color of the Kabardin is bay or dark bay and mostly without any markings. One of the special characteristics of these horses is their pacer-gait that is commonly inborn in many horses of this breed; their gallop is fast and sure/safe. The Kabardin is very athletic when climbing the steep mountain trails and very carefully steps down the usurious and rocky mountain terrains above the gorges and ravines, courageously crossing the fast and strong currents of the mountain rivers and streams.
With the rider or as a packhorse (soumar) carrying 120 kg he can easily walk 7 to 8 km in one hour and 45 to 50 km in one day. In the year 1936 was conducted a race around the peaks of Kavkaz to test their mountain horse abilities. The horses had to climb on the slippery paths all the way through a mountain pass that was during the winter considered uncrossable. The entire length of the track was 3000 km and was covered in 47 days. In one month the same horses finished a race from Rostov to Piatigorsk, distance of 600 km in five days over very muddy roads/trails. The Kabardins also managed good time over sorter distances, for example a mare Aza covered 100 km in 4 hours and 25 min. The time record of 1 minute and 16 second over 1000 meters (about five furlongs) belonged once to a filly named Schaliushka on the Piatigorsk racetrack.
The Kabardins crossbred with the English Thoroughbred or the Arabian proved themselves as excellent military/cavalry horses. Also in light draft the Kabardin serves well in his homeland. From the biological perspective it should be mentioned that the Kabardin matures relatively late, in fifth or sixth year, and that the mares are very fertile. The average pregnancy rate is about 85% to 90%. The actual breeding is done on the “kazaj/kazai” where about 15 to 20 mares fall on one stallion. The best month for breeding is May and June. Besides the high fertility, to the extraordinary characteristics of the Kabardin also belong the tough constitution, hence solid health. In their homeland they are best off in the heights of 800 to 1200 meters above the sea level and in the summer 1800 to 2500 meters and by temperatures not lower than -15’ C in the winter and not higher than 35’ C in the summer. This horse does best if he is raised/kept outside in the summer and winter alike, when one has to insure during the winter the addition of hay to his diet. In the stables are born only the first foals, the rest then outside on the pastures; they are left under mother for 8 months. The best for the Kabardins are large mountain meadows with wide slopes not steeper than 50’ with Alpine flower. The Kabardin is raised in free herds and is very flighty and difficult to handle, but in the hands of good riders like the Kabards, Karachairs and Tcherkes becomes good willed, quick learner, interested in work and in time becomes a “one-man” horse.