Neesha Khan_Marwari Indian Horse_Oil_28”x39”_2022_© Neesha Khan
This painting is inspired by the five breeds, indigenous to India, Marwari, Kathiawari, Manipuri, Spiti and Zanskari. These breeds can only be found in India as they are restricted by the Indian Government to export them. Each breed has distinct characteristics.
This painting shows the Marwari horse breed, an indigenous breed descended from the Indian Warhorse, with ‘curly’ ears touching at the tips. This breed goes back to 2000BC and was nearly extinct in the mid-20th century but has been revived by activists like the Indigenous Horse Society of India. The breed’s prospects to survive has improved due to an increase in promotion of the breed and awareness of horse welfare. My painting shows the spirited commanding presence of the Marwari horse standing proudly in Indian stone walled ruins with its recognisable upright carriage, elegant long neck and expressive eyes, strong hooves, curved ears set high and unique to this fearless historic warhorse.
One of my earliest memories of riding is of this fine breed during trips to India, where I first learnt to ride horses as a child. I remember asking the Indian handlers ‘I want to ride the horse with the curly ears’, not knowing it’s profound impact on me and significance later in my life and artwork.
The Marwari’s inward-curved ears are its distinct feature, they can be rotated by 180 degrees to avoid sand entering. The ears are the first characteristic to be lost when crossed with another breed.
The Marwari horses are used for safaris, tourism and ceremonial duties, such as parades and weddings as well as riding schools. They are known to be versatile and suitable for hacking, endurance riding as they have great stamina, are hot-blooded, intelligent, nimble, loyal and brave.
In South Mumbai, the Victorian-era of horse drawn carriages remained uptil 2015 when they were banned by the government for cruelty and neglect for their welfare. Luckily, I had experienced these beautiful, elegant carriages and their majestic horses when they were used for tourist sightseeing for years. Maybe with education in horse welfare and taught skills in horse husbandry, this tradition spanning over 150 years, can be seen again.