It was a harsh region that gave birth to these horses. Constant bloody conflicts, hard work, poor treatment, hard winters, drought, hot summers. Only the best and toughest survived. The Karachai horse is not the most beautiful horse in the world, but it is an excellent work horse. Modest, intelligent, brave, tenacious and fast. Karachai horses are black or black-brown, usually without any white marks, and grow to a withers height of about 160 cm.
They have a long head, often with a Roman nose, as well as agile, alert ears and well-developed whiskers. They have a medium long, well-muscled neck, relatively straight shoulders and low withers. The body is strong and straight-backed and the limbs are also strong with generally good joints, bones and short, strong hocks; they occasionally have a tendency to be sickle-hocked, which is typical for mountain breeds. Their hooves are strong and hard and do not need shoeing if bred and worked properly. The mane and tail are long and thick.
The Karachai horse is the most important mountain breed. It has been bred for centuries in the climatic and geographical conditions of the North Caucasus. In 1943 Stalin deported the Karachai people to Central Asia for alleged collaboration with the Nazis and the Karachai breed was renamed as the Kabarda breed and the two breeds were combined. This continued until 1983, when the lines were separated again and each was listed in the breed registry separately. During the years of their shared history, 90 Karachai stallions and only three Kabarda stallions were used as studs. This means that currently the amount of Karachai blood in Kabarda horses is more than 15%, but the amount of Kabarda blood in Karachai horses is less than 2%.
Karachai breeding has focused on creating a breed that is not only fast, but also hardy, obedient, low-maintenance, and able to withstand varied, even mountainous terrain year-round. All these traits were determined by their use in the military and special use in border protection.
These horses can put in an outstanding performance in passing difficult, sometimes almost impassable places. Several examples serve to illustrate their legendary agility, courage and endurance.
After the Russo-Japanese war ended in 1905, three soldiers traveled more than 10,000 kilometers home riding Karachais. A 3000-kilometer endurance race was organized in the harshest winter conditions in 1935-1936 on the main Caucasus ridge. The horses ran through deep snow in the Kluchor mountain pass (2781 meters above sea level). This 100-kilometer stretch was completed in five hours, seven minutes (at night!).
In 1999, riders on two Karachais and one Anglo-Karachai conquered Mt. Elbrus, the highest peaks in Europe, scaling the east summit at 5633 meters above sea level and the west summit (5644 meters above sea level) the following year. This demonstrates the unprecedented performance of these horses in the mountains. A pair of geldings harnessed with a total load of 2 tons covered 50 kilometers in the mountains in 6 hours and 4 minutes.