Although pedigree research seems to have fallen out of favor in the "new age" of model horses (where some may view it as "playing horsies"), knowing the variations in type found within a breed can be beneficial even to those not involved in pedigree assignment. Instead of having your Arabian entry penalized for appearing "ponyish," you may gain points with a note on the back of the photo stating that the horse is "linebred Raffles". Being Crabbet-bred could explain the horse having more white than is commonly expected on an Arab. Assuming the judge is knowledgeable, designating a bloodline can help justify seemingly unusual characteristics.
If you didn't squander your youth filling stocks of 3-ring binders full of scribbled sire-line charts (as I did), the idea of Arabians being "pure Polish" or "straight Egyptian" is probably a bit confusing. But even if you don't have the desire to study pedigrees, there are some basic differences that are pretty easy to identify. Remember that the following are only generalities, not to mention biased by my own personal preferences! They aren't iron clad rules, since there will always be individual animals that don't seem to fit the stereotype for their breeding. The groups presented are also quite broad -- there are many subgroups found within the various nationalities, not all of which are mentioned.
Crabbets get their name from Crabbet Park, the stud owned by Wildfred and Lady Ann Blunt (and later by Lady Wentworth). The Blunts were among the first westerners to export and breed Arabian horses and did a great deal to publicize them. For this reason, and because Crabbet horses were utilized as root stock for many other countries (particularly the United States and Australia), they are probably the most common bloodline group.
Crabbets can be grouped into three distinct types, each of which is linked to a particular color. The first, and most common, is often referred to as the Mesaoud or Rodania type. These are the chestnuts with extensive white (sometimes in irregular patches on their legs and belly) that a lot of people associate with Crabbet-bred horses. The second type is the Sobha or Skowronek type, which are grey (usually near-white). The Sobha horses are very rounded and "smooth" in appearance. The third is the Dajana type, and is bay or brown. The Dajanas are totally different in outline than the first two -- more refined and harder in appearance, much like the Egyptian Arabians. They were also known for particularly beautiful heads with prominent eyes, though their profiles tended to be straight rather then dished.
The original type the Blunts sought to produce was the Dajana type. When Lady Wentworth took over the stud, she sold most of these horses and concentrated on the Rodania type (she had a preference for chestnuts with white, and liked bays the least), and later on the blood of the stallion Skowronek. It also didn't help that both the Rodania and Sobha types were very prepotent! When the bays were bred to either, the "old" type was invariably lost. Because of this, the bay type is extremely rare within pure Crabbet horses. It is easier to find within the Egyptian lines, where the Old Crabbet stallion Kazmeen was exported and had a fair bit of influence.
Probably the most noticeable trait common to all Crabbets are beautiful heads. For this reason they are often used as outcrosses. They also tend to have well-shaped necks and naturally high tail carriage. As mentioned before, both the chestnuts and the greys tend to have a pleasant "smoothness" and balance. They don't have the best conformation however, particularly in their withers which tend to be low.
Egyptians are probably the most popular strains right now, in both the real horse world and in models, and looking at them, it is no surprise! They are easily the some of the most exotic, extremely typey individuals around. Some of them do not even look real since they are so delicate and ethereal.
There are two types of Egyptians, "old" and "new." The Old Egyptians are those early imports from Egypt to this country, most notably those of Henry Babson and W.R. Brown. In some cases, there really isn't much difference between old and new lines, since the root stock in many cases is the same. However, some of the Old Egyptians were a bit more coarse then the newer imports. The newer Egyptians tend to be finer and a bit more elegant, though in some cases they weren't as structurally sound. Some of the new Egyptians are somewhat long in the face (especially those linebred to *Morafic, who had this fault), though their faces are beautiful and dry nonetheless. Others have what some refer to as the "camel face," which was probably most noticeable on the famous mare Moniet El Nefous. Thus type of face has a prominent jibbah and dish, and a tiny muzzle which looks a little flat. I personally find this kind of face extreme to the point of appearing deformed, but Moniet El Nefous was famed for her beautiful head, so it does appeal to some!
The Old Egyptians are a great source for some of the less common colors in Arabians. One of the early Babson imports (*Bint Bint Sabbah) was a dark bay mare with roaning on her flanks and white hairs at the dock (rabicano). Many of her offspring inherited this trait, including one son that was flecked with white throughout his coat. Black horses were also found in the Babson herd. Most of the new Egyptians are some shade of grey, and rabicanos are occasionally found in those lines as well.
This is also a very old breeding group. The long and difficult history of Arabian breeding in Poland, along with its many wars and invasions, is probably part of their romantic appeal.
Polish horses are one of the easiest types to pick out, if only because they don't look much like any of the other breeding groups. Most Polish Arabians are big, well-built horses. Because of the emphasis on racing in Poland, they tend to have really good legs and remain sound. They are renown for their athletic ability and trainable temperaments. Unfortunately, they do not tend to be particularly typey (though there are exceptions, notably the offspring of the stallion Comet). Probably their worst trait is their head, which is often long and straight with a boxy muzzle.
The most common color in Polish Arabians is bay, especially in this country where the bay stallion *Bask had such a strong influence. Darkly flea-bitten greys are also common. Markings tend to be minimal.
This is the most recent bloodline to become popular in the United States. Although the original lines in Spain were primarily Polish and Crabbet, they have been bred in isolation from the other groups long enough to look quite unique.
Most Spanish Arabians look rather angular and fine-boned. A lot of them have necks that are long, but unarched, and their tails can tend to be a bit low. Their best trait is their huge dark eyes, which are particularly noticeable on the white-greys common to the bloodlines. Some grey Spanish Arabians also have an unusual pattern of white splashing on their bodies resembling large reverse-leopard spots (chubari). Since it is usually found with the grey color, it disappears with age.
Because all lines have their faults as well as their strong points, some of the best individuals come from programs that blend the lines. Russia used a base of Polish horses and added Egyptian and Crabbet. American domestic-breds are a combination of Crabbets and the early imports from Egypt. If your model doesn't fit well into a specific group, you might make him a blend of several groups.
The subject of type variation in Arabians is really too large to cover completely in this space, but hopefully this has made choosing a bloodline a little less confusing.