17 February, 2008

A tribute to the Lady in Green

Who was the smiling woman named Barbara Johanson? Do you know her Arabian Horse breeding program? Do you know the horses that she imported from Egypt to her Ghorab Arabian Farm? Do you know what her goals may have been, her dreams, what she believed about her horses? Who was she, really? Betty Keating, purchased a *Tuhotmos daughter named Misty Sue and a grey gelding sired by Mosaad named El Ghorab Sneferu and remembers Barbara fondly:
Barbara Johansen...there's a lady I wish you could have met! She knew pedigrees like no one I ever met. She was a delightful, kind woman who loved her horses more than anything. I wish that her experiences in Egypt had been recorded as they were most entertaining. She always amazed me with her knowledge of individual horses and pedigrees.
Hansi Heck-Melnyk is also another of the fortunate people, who got to meet the woman with "the green fingernails":

Every year, when I had my booth at the EE she would spend hours with me and indeed was a great admirer of dressage. I agree, I wish she would have put into writing all her knowledge and experiences she had in Egypt and with the horses. A great loss I think for all of us. She also taught many people. I adored her and when her husband died, I felt her great pain.

Maya Angelou, who authored the perennial best-seller, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, once said:
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
I never knew Barbara but in listening to the people that did know her, Barbara succeeded in conveying her warmth, her joy, her love of life and the horses that she knew so well and loved.

In 1975, three days into the month of January, when most people are dealing with "post-holiday blues", the Johanson family arrived in Egypt and were looking forward to making this country their home for the next 5 years. Very quickly, Barbara found the Heliopolis Race Course and the riding school that was run by General Yussef Ghorab. Kristin, Barbara's 15-year old daughter was a horse-crazy young girl and Barbara wanted her 15-year old daughter to attend the school. After meeting with the General, Kristin was accepted into the school and was assigned Kaoud, a 16-year old Gassir son out of the super mare, Kateefa. Kristin and Kaoud quickly formed a close relationship and succeeded in achieving many accomplishments in their riding career. It wasn't long before Barbara located El Zahraa, the home of the EAO, where Barbara was able to meet many of the horses that are "legends" to many of us. Hansi Heck Melnyk remembers her friend Barbara:

Barbara Johansen had a good eye for horses, was a delightful
Lady to be with and loved her horses, and a real good friend of mine, and was definitely interested that they were under saddle.
Regarding the chestnut mare, Moniet El Nefous, Barbara Johanson remarked:
"She was so beautiful."

Horses dominated the life of the Johanson's while in Egypt and their daughter Kristin, flourished at the riding school, under the tutelage of General Ghorab. By 1979, Elis Johanson's assignment in Egypt was over and the family returned to America with four stallions from the EAO, building a farm in Conneticut and naming it Ghorab Arabian Farm, in gratitude to the man who had done so much for their daughter:

*GAF Hosam (Sabeel x Mouna)
a 1972 black bay Saqlawi Jidran stallion sired by Sabeel, a Gassir son, out of a Hamdan daughter. Mouna is a Moniet El Nefous daughter, sired by Sid Abouhom. With Kristin Johanson, *GAF Hosam was Egypt's Top Point Dressage winner and showed to first place ribbons in jumping. In America, *GAF Hosam was named Connecticut Reserve Champion Dressage horse and earned an International Achievement Award in Dressage as well as winning Liberty classes with his true trotting ability. Betty Keating remembers:

will always remember watching Hosam flying across the paddock in his HUGE trot and Barbara laughing and saying, "Now THAT's worth a pot of gold!"

Many people still remember *GAF Hosam, in the liberty class at the Egyptian Event, jumping over the out gate and out into the wide open, waiting for all of his people, at the entrance to his stall. Hansi Heck-Melnyk, of the world famous Serenity Arabian Farm in Citra, Florida remembers Hosam at the Egyptian Event:

I saw him many years ago at the stallion presentation at the EE. He truly impressed me, one of three horses in that display I truly liked and appreciated.

The progeny list for *GAF Hosam is as follows:
PRINCETON DHELALL 1982 Stallion Black
HOSAMAH 1982 Mare Black
PRI RAJAH TASAM 1983 Gelding Bay
EL GHORAB HAROUN 1986 Stallion Bay
DW KHASAM 1988 Stallion Bay
MOUNA MONIET 1989 Mare Bay
IH RANA AKBAR 1992 Stallion Grey
HORAM 1992 Stallion Grey
EL GHORAB DINARI 1993 Gelding Bay
BINT SHAMS SSB 1994 Mare Bay
BINT HAFIIDAH 1994 Mare Chestnut
TREFF-HAVEN NASANA 1994 Mare Chestnut
TREFF-HAVEN EMIR 1997 Stallion Chestnut
BINT HOSAM 1998 Mare Bay

*GAF Kandeel (Waseem x Set Abouhom)
A 1975 grey Kuhaylan Rodan stallion. The interesting thing about this pedigree is that both tail female lines trace to Bint Bint Riyala through Malaka. Waseem is a son of Malaka and Set Abouhom, an Alaa El Din daughter, is a Malaka great grand-daughter. Betty Keating shares her opinion of *GAF Kandeel:

Kandeel was a most interesting horse. Also very well built and mesmerizing movement! BUT, Barbara believed him to be sterile. Toward the end of his life (and hers), she sent him to someone in Colorado and there learned that he indeed was NOT sterile.

GAF Kandeel has one recorded foal to his credit and that is a 1995 stallion named Tassan Kandeel out of a mare named Tassan Aisha (Mosry++ X AK Bint Jemla by Moniet El Sharaf).

*GAF Mosaad (Ibn Hamama x Rasmia).

A 1972 chestnut Saqlawi stallion. This pedigree is interesting as this stallion has no Nazeer blood and traces to the famous Saqlawiyah mare, Ghazala through the tail female line of his sire and his dam. Rasmia is an Anter daughter, too. Homer Penniman points out:

GAF Mosaad's tail male line is the rare Sid Abouhom/ El Dere sire line.

Mosaad was ridden in Dressage by Kristin Johanson, with great success. Hansi Heck-Melnyk, recently shared how she felt about the horse:

That year when Mosaad was in the large stallion exhibition at the EE, I only could see three horses, him, Ibn Safinaz (Swidan) and Simeon Shai, nothing else in my eyes came close to it. all three had excellent movement and conformation and Mosaad was already then I think over twenty years old.

After the death of Barbara Johansen, Mosaad was purchased by Homer Penniman of Treff-Haven, who focuses on a breeding program with very little or no Nazeer blood. Mosaad's daughter Bint Lebleba (out of the Kline bred mare, *Lebleba) bred by Barbara Johanson, has continued the legacy of Mosaad, producing horses by the *GAF Hosam son Treff-Haven Emir (out of Naheed by *Zaghloul) : Treff-Haven Labeeb, Treff-Haven Sabeel, Treff-Haven Lamir and Treff-Haven Laleque.

The progeny list for *GAF Mosaad is as follows:
EL GHORAB NIGMA 1986 Mare Grey
EL GHORAB SNEFERU 1987 Gelding Grey
ML SHISAADA 1988 Mare Chestnut
BINT LEBLEBA 1988 Mare Grey
BINT MONTOYA SAMIRA 1990 Mare Chestnut
EL GHORAB WAKIL 1992 Gelding Chestnut
MOSERAH 1992 Mare Chestnut
IBN MOSAAD 1993 Stallion Chestnut
EL GHORAB RAIS 1994 Stallion Chestnut
KHALMI RASAAD 1996 Chestnut gelding

*GAF Wesam (Waseem x Bint Bukra)

A grey 1973 Dahman Shawan stallion. Betty Keating remembers this gorgeous horse:

Wesam was the most beautiful of them all! No other word than 'classic'--just like the Gladys Brown drawing. Big eyes, good conformation.
This is an interesting source of Bukra blood, which is very different from the most widely available source of Bukra, combined with *Anssata Ibn Halima. The cross of Bukra with Waseem, is as interesting as the cross with Sameh (Ansata Bint Misr). I often wonder over the quality horses Wesam would have sired, had he received more opportunities to breed the caliber of mares equivalent to the quality of stallions that Ansata Bint Misr was bred to.

The progeny list for *GAF Wesam is as follows:
SUN EL BUKRA 1982 Stallion Grey
Wesamba 1983 Mare Grey
EL WESAM 1983 Stallion Grey
BALADI HALIMA 1985 Mare Grey
EL GHORAB WAMID 1987 Stallion Grey
EL GHORAB MAREES 1988 Gelding Bay
EL GHORAB WANIS 1990 Gelding Grey
DASHTA 1992 Mare Grey
FIDI-FIDI-AMIN 1992 Mare Bay
REA ARAMETHYA 1993 Mare Grey
REA ALIYYAH AJA 1993 Mare Grey
REA ALAA SHERIF 1993 Stallion Grey
REA HADBAN TALAL 1993 Gelding Grey
MIJAN IBN WESAM 1996 Stallion Grey
EL GHORAB WESAM 1996 Stallion Grey
MIJAN BUKRASAM 1996 Stallion Grey

The picture of Barbara Johanson that begins to form in my mind is one of a devoted Egyptian Arabian Horse owner and a determined believer in the athletic potential of her horses. The move from Conneticut to Kansas, followed by her husband Elis' death, were hard on Barbara and hard on her farm. When Barbara became ill, it became apparent that Ghorab Arabian Farm would not survive. *GAF Wesam was sold to Janet Bazell in Ohio and *GAF Mosaad was sold to Treff-Haven Farm, as was the beautiful grey mare, Bint Lebleba. *GAF Hosam died in Kansas. However, if there is one lesson to be learned from the story of Ghorab Arabian Farm, it is of the fragility of available bloodlines and how little time we have to make a difference, in this case, we all had an opportunity to use the unique combination of bloodlines that each of her 4 stallions represented and for whatever reason, the opportunity was not embraced. I don't believe that anyone has said it better, than Homer Penniman of Treff-Haven Farm:

Understanding the role and importance of diversity is a multi-faceted area which few have been properly introduced to. Raising awareness is a very important step, followed by breeder education is key, at this critical stage. Mare owners can help serve their own interests and that of preserving diversity by recognizing the effectiveness of crossing to the non-Nazeer or low-Nazeer stallions (urgent attention should be directed to low Nazeer lines, which serve the purpose of diversity and still have a greater opportunity for variety in this segment). For all intents and purposes we feel the focus will have to be on replacing as many of these diverse lines as possible not just the non-Nazeer ones (whose viable future may already be gone - so many have been lost in the past 15+ years).
No greater honor to the memory of Barbara Johanson can be made than the accomplishment of a grey gelding by the name of Treff-Haven Lamir, sired by Treff-Haven Emir (a *GAF Hosam son) and out of Bint Lebleba. Lamir was awarded the Desert Horse Challenge Award sponsored by The Institute for the Desert Arabian Horse and Susar Farms, Inc. I am sure that Barbara is smiling over what her horses can still do.

Enjoy your horses,

*This article could not have been written without the help of Betty Keating, Homer Penniman, Hansi Heck-Melnyk and Jill Erisman. I hope that I have captured your appreciation and love for these horses, in a manner that would have made Barbara happy.


north texas gardener said...

Hi Ralph,

Thank you for the kind feature on my horse, Treff Haven Lamir. He is a testament to his breed and bloodlines. At four years old, his good judgement and calm disposition make him exceptional in his peer group and he is already winning in the show ring against much more experienced horses of many breeds. His athleticism and intelligence will see him far in the show ring, but he has just enough silly thrown in to make a lovable and wonderful companion. Every day with him is a day filled with smiles. He has a bright future!


Love to Play Tennis said...


Thank you for the wonderful article. I never had the great pleasure to meet my mother-in-law, but I'm assured by everyone she was the most interesting person I would ever meet. Your article afforded me the opportunity to learn a little more about Barbara. Kristin still tells stories about Egypt and all the wonderful adventures they had with the horses. Thank you for allowing me a rare glimpse at a remarkable woman.

Donna Johanson

Love to Play Tennis said...


Thank you so much for the wonderful article on Barbara. Unfortunately I never had the pleasure of meeting my mother-in-law, but have been told she was quite a character and a wonderful person. Kristin still tells stories of their time in Egypt and her experience with the horses. I am sorry that I never got a chance to meet Barbara, but your article allowed me a glimpse into her life. It is indeed wonderful to find that she made an impact on so many people and the Arabian community.

Donna Johanson

Trude said...

Wow, thank you so much for this amazing article. Barbara is my grandmother and Kristin my mother. I've grown up with photos and stories of Egypt and their precious horses, so I can't say just how much it means to me to read this! Barbara was also an avid photographer, I'd be happy to share the old black & white photos she took of my mother riding and competing.

For now, here's another photo of my grandparents (Elis was often with her at events) - but it looks to be red nail polish this time instead of green. ;-) http://www.flickr.com/photos/trudem/464166771/

trollheim said...

I was so unprepared for the email my niece sent this morning with the link to this site. Talk about an emotional tidal wave. You are all so wonderful to share your memories of Mom, (Dad was always right there with her). Those green finger nails started in Iceland in 1968.
The horses were my life and my heart for so many years, and it is so wonderful to learn how many talented offspring are out there. Wesam was smarter than most humans, Kandeel was "pig pen", Hosam the "leaps tall buildings with a single bound", and Mosaad my best friend.
We have quite a few pictures and articles scanned in, and will find a good location to share them with you all.
Thank you Sarah, for your initiative.
Kristin Johanson Ellingsen

Dan said...

With the events in Egypt happening today, I was reminded of a chapter in my life that I too quickly had moved past. With a random Internet search I stumbled into this posting about my friends and former bosses, Barbara and Ellis Johanson.

Having spent almost four years helping build fences, muck stalls, exercise the stallions and listening to stories and researching blood lines, I could probably write a book about these characters, their spirits and the passion (especially Barbara's) they held for their horses. They were intelligent, worldly, eccentric in their own ways, but always friendly and ready for a good laugh.

With college and career, I moved away from the Johansons and our little Kansas town. Although my parents gave me updates from time to time on Barbara and Ellis, I didn't see them in their latter years. Thank you for this posting, and a little bit of closure.

A note on the stallions:
While each of the "boys" had their own, distinct personalities, Kandeel was my favorite - always happy to see me and willing to please. I respected Mosaad the most; he was the boss and all about business. Hosam was the most handsome and graceful - he always wanted to run. Wesam was a stud an he new it, lot's of attitude. I still have a scar on my arm from when he let me know not to turn my back on him. He and I gained a little respect for each other that day.

Not sure if anyone will read this post, but I had fond memories while writing it.

Dan Stech

Ralph Suarez said...

Hi Dan and thank you, your visit was a surprise and I appreciated your comments, including your insight into the horses. You help me in keeping the memory of these horses alive and relevant, for a whole new generation of Egyptian enthusiasts, born after these horses left the planet. A million thanks for sharing.

Ralph Suarez

Rebecca said...

THANK YOU for this!!! I am SO happy to see this online. I worked on the farm in the late 90's as a teen prior to her passing. I also did some work in the house for her over one summer.

Mrs. Barbara was a lovely lady. She was also my first exposure to a real worldly lady. She just had a way about her. I specifically remember a picture on her mantel of her at some dinner party, smoking a cigar. And all the horse memorabilia.

Her house was a museum to the Egyptian Arabian and I could have spent YEARS reading the material in the front room if I had had the time. I recall her reading a story she'd written, about the journey with the horses from Egypt over to the states. Is that online at all? Would love to re-read that.

I had long worried about what had happened to the horses; what had become of them. I had managed to track down Lebleba via the net (partly because while I knew their names, I had never seen their names written down, so never seen how they were spelled). But never was able to find any info on the others, and had always wondered about where they'd ended up.

There's a few who were still in the barn the few years I was there, that I did not see listed above (unless I missed them). (I can still recall where each one was stalled in the barn).

In particular, there was a dark bay mare, Gorrah? (spelling?) She was stalled down between Kandeel & Hossam across from Rais and another horse I don't see listed - a dark bay stud that was sold I think before her death, Dinari? (sp?)

And there was a young chestnut mare at the front of the barn, first stall, to the left of Bint Shams that I'm struggling to remember her name (Hafiidah was on the other side of Shams).

Again thank you so much for this. I feel so much better knowing they all landed on their feet. And what a trip down memory lane.

Barbara was a legend. And there was not a day that went by that I did not feel honored to be near her and around the horseflesh in that little barn in Andale.