17 April, 2007

Con Te Partiro

When I'm alone I dream of the horizon and words fail me. There is no light in a room where there is no sun and there is no sun if you're not here with me. From every window unfurls my heart, the heart that you have won.
Lyrics (English translation) from the Andrea Bocelli/Sarah Brightman duet, Con Te Partiro

It was a beautiful day, well over 70 degrees, sunny, blue skies, a cold bottle of Corona in my hand, with a lime wedge stuck in the neck of the bottle, a warm breeze was blowing across the porch…a picture perfect Florida day….a Jimmy Buffet song playing soft and sweet in the background….life could not get any better than this. A “perfect” moment in a “perfect” life. Ahhhh…PERFECT…and yet, while I sat there, on the Porch of Indecision, life as I had known, was really changing and life didn’t seem to be so perfect…or was it?

At the end of February, I learned that Imperial Egyptian Stud had decided to close its world famous breeding farm and while not a complete surprise (I was afraid that this was going to happen when *Orashan was offered for sale) this is a bitter-sweet moment in my life, as some of the most wonderful horses that I have ever met, called Imperial home. The thought that Imperial, as I have known it, will no longer exist, is painful. It brings a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes.

There has always been an Imperial and there have always been the horses that made the mere mention of the name “Maryland” sound like magic. Over the years, these horses created memories that I continue to hold very close to my heart and have had a profound effect on me as an individual and all that I have learned about the Egyptian Arabian Horse. Imperial afforded the opportunity to see in real life, the horses and the breeding philosophies that created them, right before my eyes. If it were not for Imperial, I would have never met any of these horses. If it were not for these horses, my dreams would not be as big. The possibilities would not be endless.

Barbara Griffith once said, “There is something about working with horses that encourages one to dream.” I have dreamed of horses for as long as my mind can remember. As a matter of fact, it seems that the one aspect of my life that has remained constant, has been the ability to dream about horses. Imperial was always the origin of my dreams, wishes, hopes..."the what-if's", the possibilities, the desires, the "if only's"....These dreams are my inspiration and encouragement, a bright light of hope in what often times appears to be a very dark and indifferent world to the beauty that is all around us. I wonder if Barbara knows the continuing influence that her dreams have upon the dreams of others? I think of a horse like Gelgelah AlBadeia (Imperial Madori is her sire) and her influence in two countries: Egypt and England, and if it were not for Imperial, she would not exist.

People new to straight Egyptian Arabian Horses are not aware of how far back Imperial goes…..all the way back…to…the…late sixties. Imperial started like many farms of this time period started, with a purebred gelding who provided the means for a wholesome outdoor activity, full of fresh air and sunshine, involving the entire family. The farm grew from this one-horse start and became a nationally recognized Arabian Horse farm and the home of two national top ten mares: Cedardell Cameo in 1971 and Gypsy Dancer in 1972. A bit of trivia regarding Cedardell Cameo's Top Ten win: she competed against *Serenity Sonbolah, who in that time period was responsible for inspiring many people and leading them to the world of Egyptian Arabian Horse breeding. Whether it was the Babson Egyptian blood present in the pedigree of Cedardell Cameo or the beauty and charisma of a top show mare like *Serenity Sonbolah, the Griffiths altered the focus of their Arabian program, paving the way for the significant impact that the farm would eventually have on the straight Egyptian community. Shortly after *Serenity Sonbolah's national champion win, she came to Maryland and called Imperial her home, for the rest of her life.

The breeding formula at Imperial was to combine the blood of Nazeer and Sameh, with the blood of Halima and Moniet El Nefous. Additional bloodlines were added, along the way but these 4 horses were the primary influence, the "glue" that held the pedigrees together and gave the horses "common ground". Many of the Imperial horses boast multiple lines to Nazeer in their pedigree, through a variety of sources. For example, I found Imperial Baarez’s pedigree amazing, in that all but 2 horses in the first four generations (16 ancestors) trace to Nazeer.
In the very early days of the farm, the Griffiths purchased a collection of legendary horses, to form the foundation of the program. It was quite a collection of mares. Walking through the barn aisles of Imperial was like walking through the halls of an enormous club, where all of your favorite Hollywood actors and actresses would be gathered together for you to meet.

So many wonderful horses in one place.

So many.

To have witnessed Imperial’s growth over the last 30 years has been a phenomenal experience. To have known the foundation horses individually and then to know the resulting horses that the foundation horses produced and then to see these horses impact the breeding program is very fulfilling and a far greater pedigree lesson than any book could provide. To have known the Imperial horses in Imperial Baarez’s pedigree like Ansata Imperial, like Dalia and their son, Imperial Imdal, as well as *Orashan and his daughter, BB Ora Kalilah is just too good to be called fortunate.

In a recent interview with Arabian Horse World, Barbara said, “…Baarez comes closest to the ideal horse I have striven to produce for the past 35 years. He is classically beautiful, combining size and athletic ability with the exotic type that is so important to my vision of what the Arabian Horse should be.” For me, a horse like Baarez is a study of the influences that all these great horses contributed, in creating the ultimate Arabian Horse. The horses that were bred by Imperial are consistent for their undeniably Arabian type, for their overall balance and smoothness, for their classic movement, for their functional conformation and for their good minds. I can still remember Eileen Verdieck, in one of the first open houses that I attended, verbalizing the attributes for which she hoped at the time, that the Imperial breeding program will be remembered for producing.
Eileen’s words are underscored many years later in an Arabian Horse World article about Imperial Baarez, where Beverly Sziraky is quoted as saying, “Most people are first drawn to Baarez because of his extreme type and beauty, but then when you’ve been around him for a while, you begin to also appreciate a very correct conformation with good bone, a wonderful laid-back shoulder, a good saddle back, perfect topline, and a long elegant neck that bridles effortlessly.”

Over the years, I have watched some of the very best Imperial horses sold and I often wondered how the farm would keep going without some of these outstanding horses. And again, this was another lesson that Barbara provided, as she continued her journey to produce her ideal horse. She was a firm believer in selling her best and cautioned would-be Arabian breeders not to fall in love with their horses, in order to make the sacrifice to sell your best. I am sure that parting with treasured horses was challenging, if not extremely painful. I think of top Imperial horses like Imperial Imdal and Imperial Phanilah. How would the farm continue without them? And yet, just when you thought that Imperial had produced it’s best horse, along came another to prove how wrong you were.

The strength of Imperial was found in their broodmare band. While Imperial has been the home to some of the very finest Egyptian stallions we have known in the community: Hossny, Ansata Imperial, Moniet El Nafis, *Orashan, *Imperial Madheen, *Ibn Safinaz, Imperial Al Kamar, Imperial Baarez, it is the mares that have heavily influenced the breeding program with great consistency. When you stop to think about the mares that Imperial owned over the years, it is really overwhelming. It was an "all-star cast". There were the three Sameh daughters: *Serenity Sonbolah, *Serenity Sabra,*Fawkia and the chestnut Sameh grand-daughter, Imperial Fanniya (out of *Deena). There was the Farag daughter, *Pharrah (pictured). There was the Antar daughter, *Serenity Shahra and the Antar grand-daughter, *Wadeea. There was the full sister to El Hilal, Negmaa. There was one of my favorite mares, *Malekat El Gamal, who had the most enchanting eyes. Gosh, I will never forget her and the influence she has had on our breed, through Al Adeed Al Shaqab. There was *Serenity Bint Bint Mamlouka and the *Morafic daughter, *Dalia. There was Ansata Nile Mist, the Mowaffac daughter, Amalaa. There were the Babson-influenced mares, AK Monareena, Maar Bilaahh and PH Safina. WOW!
The Imperial program has been successful and consistent in producing top horses, because of the great mares that were a crucial part of the program. Without them, Imperial would not have been able to breed the kind of horses they produced over the years. Honi Roberts of Arabian Horse World interviewed Barbara Griffith in the December 2001 Arabian Horse world. Relevant to this discussion, Barbara shared the following about her mares, “In truth, every one of Imperial’s leading ladies have been hand-picked and held to the highest standards-a necessity in breeding programs, large or small. I believe the mare’s contribution to her foal to be at least 60 percent, so she is extremely important. Many of our mares were successful show mares before entering our broodmare band. I’ve bred or purchased mares that I felt would be good crosses with Imperial stallions and I’ve bred or purchased stallions specifically for select mares.” I was studying the pedigrees of the mares that were part of Imperial's contemporary broodmare band, to learn which of the foundation mares had the most influence. It was surprising to learn that 4 of the foundation mares like *Pharrah, *Fawkia, Ansata Nile Mist and PH Safina have the most influence upon the broodmare group. I was also surprised to learn that the mares that are the most prolific, most influential, in the Imperial program are daughters of stallions, who over time, have earned the reputation for siring excellent broodmares. That's my observation and most humble opinion: Powerful daughters, building powerful family dynasties, heavily influenced from the mare's side of the pedigree. I think of the stallions Sameh (the sire of *Fawkia),*Orashan (when bred to PH Safina, sired BB Ora Kalilah) and *Jamil (when bred to Ansata Nile Mist, sired Imperial Mistilll).

My last visit to Imperial was also the last time that I would ever see Imperial Mistilll alive, in late winter 2004. To this day, I have not forgotten the quiet moments spent looking at her, touching her and basking in her presence. Thank you Beverly, for letting me go back to the mare barn to see her. She was kind, she was gentle and she was everything that I expected a people-loving horse breed to be. Ansata Nile Mist, pictured at right, the daughter of Ansata Ibn Sudan, when bred to Dr. Nagel's *Jamilll, produced this lovely mare, Imperial Mistilll. Without Ansata Nile Mist, there would not have been Imperial Mistilll, without Mistilll, there would be no Imperial Kamilll, an extremely popular young stallion, now owned by Donald Duke of England. When I walked the broodmare barn at Imperial, I discovered the young grey mare, Imperial Baarillla, by Imperial Baarez and out of Imperial Mistilll. I was "head over heels" in love with this young mare. She is stunning and I knew, in the moment that I found Baarillla, that Imperial Mistilll and Imperial Egyptian Stud will live on. Her children will carry the memory of a great place of dreams, a perfect place in an imperfect world, forward into the future, well beyond the lush, green pastures in Parkton.

Enjoy your horses,

1 comment:

Susan said...

Hello Ralph!

What a wonderful blog. I LOVED your tribute to Imperial and I share your deep fondness and appreciation for Imperial's breeding program. Sadly, as we all must face, our time on this earth is limited and Barbara knew when it was time to pass the torch. Isn't it just incredible to have lived during the heydays of the top Egyptian breeding farms, Gleannloch, Bentwood, Ansata and Imperial? I feel a tinge of sadness for all the newcomers who never had a chance to see such magnificent creatures like Ansata Imperial, Hossny, Sonbolah, Orashaan, Madheen and so many others.

These great creatures will forever be indelibly imprinted in my mind (and heart!) and be sources of inspiration for as long as I live.

I visited Imperial in the summer of 1986, one of several visits but the one I most vividly remember. My Uncle Bill and a good friend came with me. Bill was suffering from lymphoma at that time. He had undergone two years of intensive chemotherapy and had reached a point where it was in remission. He remarked that he'd always wanted to see these horses in the flesh and thanks be to God, to this day he is still in remission and STILL talks of his visit with great enthusiasm. He loved Orashaan. Eileen turned him lose for us in the big indoor arena. I watched Bill intently and I could clearly see that this magnificent stallion had him totally mesmerized. God knew exactly what our reactions would be--that's why He chose to bless us with this creature!

Thankfully, due to great insight and steadfast dedication to the highest standards of horse breeding, Barbara has insured for many years into the future that the vitality, beauty, and incredible charisma of the Straight Egyptian horse will be firmly established because of the horses she helped to create.

Your writings and quotes are a breath of fresh air. It is clearly evident you find beauty all around you and are moved by sights and sounds that escape far too many of us. Your love and appreciation of so many of the same horses that set my pulse racing suggest that we are truly "kindred spirits". I have always adored that special photo of Abbas Pasha--he possessed one of the most beautiful, expressive heads in the breed.

Please do continue to write on your blog. I hope some of the other SE members visit and enjoy your writings.

Beauty is not caused. It is. (Emily Dicksinson)

Truth exists for the wise, beauty for the feeling heart. (Johann von Schiller)

I hope you are well and enjoying life to the fullest. You bet I'm enjoying my horses!

Take care, Dear Friend!