The Kabarda breed is also known as the Kabardin or the Karbardinskya. It is unknown just how old this breed is, but it is thought that local tribes developed the breed in the 1500s. The tribes and their horses are native to the Kabardino-Balkar Autonomous Republic, once part of the Soviet Union.
This is a mountainous area that still uses horses as a means of transportation and carrying supplies. Roads have cut through the Republic in recent years, but even in a Land Rover can run out of gas or not be able to handle the steep, rock-strewn parts of the country. Kabardas and the related breed the Anglo-Kabarda, are also used in the tourist industry, which is one of the main industries of the country. They also were used to help develop the Malpolska breed of Poland.
The main horse breed in the area before the 1500s was thought to be the Turkmenian, which later became extinct, although the Turkoman breed is the closest surviving breed “relative”. And then with invading peoples and those eager for trade arrived to the area on Persian Arabians, Russian steppe breeds like the Karabakh and another extinct breed, the Nogai.
Many equines were eager to swim in this gene pool and the result was the Kabarda. They became the dominant breed of the Caucasus Mountain area and were used for everything, from riding to packing to harness. They were thought to be about 14 hands high then and built more lightly than the modern Kabardas.
But then came the Revolution and two devastating World Wars. There weren’t enough pureblooded Kabardas left in order to keep the bred going. Demand was for a taller, stronger horse, so the surviving Kabardas were probably crossed with other Russian breeds such as the Karabakh and the Orlov Trotter as well as Arabians and Thoroughbreds. Many Kabardas were also used in the creation of the Anglo-Kabarda starting in 1921.
Karbardas are still raised in the traditional way in “taboons” or herds left outdoors in all weather. Although there are some times the horses are kept indoors, that is unusual. Many also have to make do on whatever they can forage and do not get supplemental hay and grain.
The Kabarda is a tough yet slim, agile horse with no wasted fat. There is a great variety in the breed, but many have long ears, blocky heads and rock-solid legs. But there also are Karbardas with surprising grace and foxy-ears. They come in a variety of colors, including pinto patterns, but various shades of bay and chestnut predominate. White markings are acceptable.
The modern Kabarda is about 15 hands high and sometimes a little taller. Although slim, they are strong and can carry an adult rider all day. The backs are level and the tail set low. They have deep chests and usually are very healthy. They would have to in the tough climate that they live. Depending on who you talk to, Kabardas can be phlegmatic or temperamental.
“International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds.” Bonnie Hendricks; University of Oklahoma Press; 1995.
Stablemade.com. “The Karbardin Horse.” Lee Stanek. http://www.stablemade.com/horsecare/horsebreeds/kabardin.htm
Kabardins.com. “Basic Information About Karabin Horses.” http://kabardians.com/content/basic-information-about-kabardian-horses