QUESTION-Name three to five Arabian horses that have had the greatest impact on you.
ANSWER-The straight Egyptian mare *Serenity Sonbolah represented so well the Poles’ description, “of perfect harmonious build.” Her make and shape were so pleasing to the eye.
I saw *Serenity Sonbolah on two occasions at Imperial Egyptian Stud. The first time that I saw her; I didn't recognize her. I had arrived late for the open house and was quickly walking over to the indoor arena, as it was raining. As I approached the building, I saw a young girl leading a chestnut mare in from the field. The mare was having a difficult time walking and the girl was very sensitive to her, taking it slowly too, matching the pace of the mare's steps. I was looking at her body and she was a substantial horse. Her hindquarter was generous in size, round and balancing her powerfully-built shoulder. She was not the slight-looking, narrower, elongated in the middle kind of horse that seems to be all the rage today.
She was compact and she had muscles. She had a darker chestnut coat, not bright red but the kind of chestnut color that is deeper, with a hint of purple. She was dirty and she had not fully shed her winter coat (this was in early May). Where were the beautiful horses pictured in the magazines? Gosh, I didn't think this mare was attractive, as she did not have, from a distance, any of the chiseled features that I had seen pictured. In my haste and arrogance, I had decided that she was definitely not Egyptian and not like the horses that were waiting for me, inside the building. Imagine my surprise, when later in the day, this mare reappeared in the outside ring (the weather had cleared by then and the sun was shining). I recognized her by her walk, as she was led up to the ring.
Someone must have made a mistake. Or so I thought, I am embarrassed to say. When the young girl unclipped the lead line and Barbara Griffith had shared some of her story, she asked and encouraged the audience assembled outside of the ring, to share their enthusiasm and appreciation, as the mare really liked to show off.
I thought, "she must be kidding."
I saw a transformation slowly take place...a miracle, you might even call it that. There was no way this mare could move like that. I had just seen her walking to the barn, with a lot of difficulty. With every clap, with every holler, this mare became a "trotting machine", her tail curled over her back, her nostrils dilated; making this huge snorting sound, as if she was grabbing every bit of air in her body and pushing it out, from as far down as her toes. She floated this way and she floated that way. She extended her trot in ways that a dressage champion would envy. With every stride, the float lifted her body and she was suspended in the air longer and longer and longer. She was curvy and she was graceful. Her body was like a song, playing tribute to harmony and to....JOY. She danced gracefully all over the ring. She was a prima ballerina, showing off her best moves. BRAVO!! I was so unfair in my early appraisal of this beautiful mare. She was more beautiful than any horse I had ever seen. She "flew" around the arena, swallowing every form of appreciation we gave her and was obviously enjoying herself. How did I miss this?
I was so confused.
I looked around me and saw the faces of the people. Some were smiling, some had tears in their eyes and some, were too stunned to even show a look. It was obvious that they were feeling what I was feeling too. I wondered how? How did this mare do this? The look on *Sonbolah's face was not that of a horse in pain. It was of a horse that was free and joyful and just happy to be alive. She was here, present in all her glory, in this moment and grateful for it. "What must it feel like to ride this horse?", I thought in passing. I remember a conversation, recently, that I had with a friend over how he had missed "that special something" in Ansata Iemhotep, preferring his brother, Ansata Sinan over him and I understood exactly what he was saying, as I had initially missed the special something in *Sonbolah that day. Seeing her walking from the field, I dismissed her. She was not like the horse I remembered in the pictures. However, watching her move, I knew that the most beautiful horse of all, was right in front of me and I had almost missed her. How many wonders occur in every second of life and how many do we actually witness? I dare not even contemplate my answer. As many beautiful horses as I have seen over the years, no one can ever be as beautiful as *Serenity Sonbolah. She is unforgettable...still, to this day. She gave us everything she had, that special day in May. She gave me more, lots more. She taught me a powerful lesson about raw courage and joy, while helping me to get past my shallow self. She taught me how to recognize true beauty, to savor it, to really appreciate it, so I wouldn't miss it the next time. I'll always be grateful to Barbara Griffith for sharing these beautiful horses with everyone and in the process, help me to make some bold, new steps towards a more joyful life.
Enjoy your horses,
PS I would like to give credit to the photographers Jerry Sparagowski and Johnny Johnston for the lovely pictures of *Serenity Sonbolah. Little did they know, when they took these pictures, how many people would fall in love with this mare, as a result of the pictures.