The British Museum is to hold an exhibition that pays homage to the history of the horse and its impact on civilisation.
'The horse: from Arabia to Royal Ascot' exhibition, which opens on 24 May, starts with the first domestication of horses in the Middle East, around 3,500BC. It also explores Britain’s long equestrian tradition; from the introduction of Arabs in the 18th century to present day sporting events such as Royal Ascot and the Olympics.
Highlights include items on loan from the Queen, which relate to her love of racing. Interestingly, 95% of all Thoroughbreds are descended from three Arab stallions, which were bred with mares native to Britain. A number of paintings, prints, trophies and other memorabilia take a look at these horses’ influence on sport and society, from early race meets through to modern day equestrian events.
There are also some fascinating insights into early horsemanship from all around the world, including an Arabic manuscript, from 14th century AD. It is a beautifully illustrated manual of horsemanship, including information on how to care for the horse, advanced riding techniques and weapon handling.
Other objects on display come from Persia – such as the mid 16th century painting above – Turkey, the Mughal empire and Saudi Arabia. Faissal Ibn Abdullah Ibn Muhammad Al-Saud, minister of education and chairman of the board of trustees of the Saudi Equestrian Fund said: “It is well known that the horse has played a crucial role in the development of civilization, and that a close bond exists between horses and men. I am very pleased that it has been possible to support this exhibition in London which gives us an opportunity to look at different aspects of the history of the Arabian horse and the context from which it emerged.”