The Marwari is a rare and ancient breed of horse that originated in the Marwar region of western India. The breed is easily recognizable due to its inwardly curved ears. The Marwari is believed to be descended from the warhorses of the Rajput warriors of the Marwar region.
The origins of the Marwari horse are uncertain, but the breed is likely to have been influenced by Turkoman type horses brought to the area by Mughul invaders, as well as the Arabian horse. There is an Indian legend that seven Arabian horses of good breeding were shipwrecked off the shore of the Kachchh District and were taken to the Marwar region to be used as foundation bloodstock for the Marwari. Like the Arabian, the Marwari is know for its hardiness and also like the Arabian they were bred as warhorses. They were renowned for their courage in battle and loyalty to their riders. It was said that a Marwari horse would only leave a battle under three conditions; victory, death, or carrying its master to safety.
Chetak was a legendary Marwari horse. The grey stallion purportedly carried Maharana Pratap to safety after he slayed the last of the Moghuls in the battle of Haldighati. The courageous stallion was said to have been brave enough to take on an elephant and reared so that Pretap was able to kill the Moghul who sat atop the war elephant. Chetak was mortally wounded by the elephant’s tusks, but he carried his master to safety, traveling many miles before dying near a river.
The Marwari were almost eliminated during the British rule of India during the early 1900s. The British preferred their thoroughbreds and polo ponies and ridiculed the horses with the inward turning ears. Even after independence from Britain, the Marwari horse was still endangered because war horses were no longer needed and many of the Indian nobleman who bred them had lost their land.
The Marwari horse was on the verge of extinction until Maharaja Umaid Singhji stepped in to save them and his work was continued by his grandson, Maharaja Gaj Singh II.
Later in 1995 a British horsewoman named Francesca Kelly founded the group, Marwari Bloodlines. Then, along with her husband, Raghuvendra Singh Dundlod, they led a group in 1999 that founded the Indigenous Horse Society of India which helps promote and preserve the breed.
Ashwarya who is named after a Bollywood actress is currently residing at The Kentucky Horse Park and she was donated to the park by Francesca Kelly. She’s the only Marwari horse in the U.S. presently as far as I can tell due to the fact that India does not allow the export of the breed at this time. According to my research, Francesca Kelly has since moved the rest of her Marwari brood to the UK. If anyone is aware of others in the U.S. I’d love to hear from you.