The empire of the great Mughals
„The horses in the royal stables also played an important role: Akbar was said to own 12,ooo steeds, The best horses bred in India came from Kuch, as they had same Arab blood, but best of all were those from Iraq, the thoroughbred Arabians. Strong, swift post horses came from the Turcoman steppe — in fact, more than 75 percent of Mughal horses were imported, by far the majority from Central Asia. They were given romantic names such as Sumer, ‘Gold Colour’, Lai-i bi-baha, ‘Priceless Rubies’, Sabaraftar, ‘Runs Like Zephyr’, Khushkharam, Prancing Beautifully’, and Padshah-pasand, ‘Pleasing to the Ruler’.
In Akbar’s time there a special area of the capital city for the horse dealers, so that they could be watched to ensure that they treated the animals well. The best dealers were awarded the honorary title Tijarat Khan, ‘Sir Dealer’. Akbar’s private stables were supposed to have six stalls with forty horses in each. Like the elephants, these were fed according to their worth, and their feed included everything from cooked peas, grass or hay and legumes. to sugar, ghee, molasses and corn. Just as there was the ‘Chief’ among the imperial elephants. Jahangir refers to a dun, which was supreme among his horses.
A veterinary doctor tended to the health of the animals – handbooks of equine medicine were in existence by the early middle ages in Europe and the Islamic world. The Wellcome Museum in London has an abundantly illustrated manuscript from the seventeenth century on horses and equine medicine, which was translated from Sanskrit and Arabic sources into Persian. There was a superintendent in charge of each stall, and a finance official responsible for payment and punishment. The Master of the Imperial Horses, atbegi, was one of the highest nobles. The condition of the animals was inspected regularly. There was a whole class of servants who were responsible for the saddles and bridles (akhtaji). and an ahadi to measure the speed of the horses. Horse races were held from time to time. races were held from time to time, with young Rajputs as jockeys. Palfreys were also among the valuable breeds. There were lowly stable boys whose job it was to muck out the stalk. Just how valuable the horses were can be seen from the fact that sipand, wild rue, was burned at the entrance to the stables to ward off the evil eye.
Every six months the horses were given new tack, which was allocated according to the value of each animal, as was the case of the elephants. Each one had its own saddlecloth of padded chintz as well as a yalpus, a mane covering, which was flocked on festive occasions. Particularly noble horses sometimes wore ornamental headgear. Their festive caparisons were often embroidered with gold, or made of embroidered leather. The horses sometimes had bell-shaped metal rings placed around their fetlocks, and their legs. even their whole lower bodies. might be hennaed. In battle, the horses, at least the leader, wore chamfrons and harnesses, as can be seen in many miniatures, particularly in the Baburnmah.
On arrival in the stable, a new horse had its price branded on its left cheek, The cavalry mansabdars also had to brand their horses to prevent any deception. As the climate in Bengal was so unhealthy for horses, the cavalry stationed there received a higher salary to enable them take good care of their animals, which represented the bulk of their wealth.“