23 November, 2010


The old man looked at me carefully, his "Superman-like x-ray eyes" burning through me, as if he were checking the very root of my soul. "I don't think this man likes me very much" I thought in my head. A burning cigarette butt loosely hung out of the corner of his mouth, looking like it would drop to the ground at any second. The old man scratched his forehead, pushing back the weathered and dirty hat on his head. "So how much horse experience you got son?" he asked me but it seemed less like a question and more like an affirmation of what he already knew. I had no horse experience. The fact was that I was basically a city-raised kid and the closest I had ever gotten to any horse was in the pages of the books I had read. "I know a lot about horses sir, I read about them all the time and all I want is to be near them," I answered and added, "I'm a real fast learner. I just need a chance. You can teach me." The old man let out a long and very loud sigh, maybe in exasperation. Truth is, the last thing he wanted was a kid on the place, getting into places he didn't belong and touching things he shouldn't be touching. He liked his routine and there was no room for some horse-crazy kid getting on his last nerve. He suddenly thought of his daughter, Marie, and the estranged relationship he had with her. Fact is, he didn't even know his two grand-children. Ever since his wife had died, things had changed. It didn't take a whole lot to irritate him. How he missed hearing the soft, reassuring, comforting voice of his wife. "It's going to be okay Ivan. Give it time and you will see that things will work out. They always do." she would say. His daughter refused to have anything to do with her father. "You have become a mean and bitter man!" she shouted over the phone, "When Mom died, you changed. You are not the same man I once knew. You have shut everyone else out of your world, including me. I don't want anything to do with you...EVER!" and suddenly, all he heard was the loud dial tone, underscoring the fact that she was gone...maybe, forever. The horses saved him and kept him whole, even when so much of his heart was broken. When he thought of Marie, he softened. He really missed his daughter. Here was another chance to start righting the wrongs, unexpectedly delivered right to his doorstep, in the form of this kid. "Okay son, here's what I'm gonna do. I am going to give you a chance, a 'try-out' but if you don't measure up, that's it, you'll have to find something else." he said firmly. "This ain't like the books son, this is real hard work, in all kinds of weather, good and bad. It ain't always comfortable. If you are thinking this is like the horsey set that those book people write about, filling up young people's heads with big dreams, then you've come to the wrong place." he added. I looked at him and I wasn't really sure what he was trying to tell me, because I stopped listening when he said "that he would try me out". At that moment, I promised myself that I would be the best worker the old man had ever known, insuring that I would have a job, long after the try-out had ended.

He walked me to the barn and led me to a polished wood stall with a nervous but extremely beautiful chestnut horse inside. The horse was a little edgy but he was so pretty. I had never seen a horse quite like him before. His face seemed unreal, as if his head had been chiseled by a "world famous artist" who had paid every bit of attention to all the details, that is, to the bumps, the dents and the veins that make a gorgeous horse even more dramatic in his appearance. He had the smallest ears and on the other end of the size scale, his nostrils were gigantic; I could even see the reddish colored membrane from deep inside his nose. His eyes were huge and so black, really black, soft and well, filled with kindness. It betrayed the nervous energy that he was transmitting with his body. I longed to touch this horse, to wrap my hands around his neck and bury my face in his mane, inhaling his scent, so that I would remember him, long after I had left the farm. The old man noticed how much the kid liked the horse and said, "See this horse over here?" I nodded my head. "Well this horse is crazy, absolutely ding-dong nuts. I don't want you anywhere near this horse. Understand? If you try to touch him or do anything with him and you live through it, I'll fire you...on the spot." and there was no doubt in my mind that he meant every word he said, as he spoke in the toughest voice he had used all morning.

So, the old man got busy and showed me where all of the necessary tools were to do my job, that is, the manure fork, the shovel, the wheelbarrow and the bucket of lime powder. He showed me how to scoop up the manure and throw it in the wheelbarrow. He showed me how to look for the urine spot and how to remove the soiled bedding. He showed me the shed, where he stored the fresh, new bedding and he showed me the manure pile located behind the barn, where I would dump my wheelbarrow loads. "When you get done son, we'll work a couple horses and then, it'll be time for you to go on home." he stated.

The work took all of my strength and I concentrated on doing the very best job I could do. I wanted nothing more than to be a horseman, just like the old man. It seemed like I had only worked a few minutes, when the old man poked his head into the stall and asked me if I was done...yet. "You've been in here for a couple of hours son. You done yet?" he asked. "Yes sir, as soon as I dump the wheelbarrow, I will be finished. All the stalls are clean, just like you showed me, except for the stall with the chestnut horse inside. You told me not to go near him." I said. The old man remembered how tough he had been with the kid. And yet, this kid may be the best thing that had happened to him in a long time. Maybe the kid really loved horses, like he said he did. Now, he wished he hadn't been so gruff about the chestnut horse. The fact was, that he really wasn't so sure the horse was as crazy as he made him sound. If anything, the horse appeared to be curious about people and seemed forgiving of his past, as if he realized that life as he had known it once, was finished and a new, better life was about to start. Thinking about it, the old man had a lot in common with the chestnut horse, as he hoped for happier times and stronger relationships with the people he loved.

"You know anything about Arabian Horses son?" he asked. Arabians...wow. I had read about the breed in one of my favorite books. There was a picture of all these different kinds of horses running, together in a herd and there was a single white horse, stretched out into a full gallop, with the word "Arabian" appearing in a text box, under the horse. I had studied that picture over and over and over. Truth was, if someone could possibly choose from all the different kinds of horses, a favorite, mine would be the Arabian. I just loved how they looked. They looked different, like right out of a fairy-tale. "This horse is as close to a desert horse as you can get in America." the old man's words jarred me to attention, lost as I was thinking about Arabian Horses and how much I liked them. "This horse's grandmother came from the Arabian desert. She was bought by a wealthy man who was into Arabian horses for a little bit and then decided that it wasn't for him. Unfortunately for the horses, that set them on a path that wasn't always kind to them. This chestnut horse ended up in the wrong hands and those hands, ended up making it all wrong for him." the old man explained. As he slid open the stall door, the chestnut horse rocketed into an all out charge, ears flat against his head and teeth bared. While someone might say that the horse looked angry; I could feel that the horse was more scared than anything else. The old man confidently stepped toward the horse, while speaking softly and calmly to him. The horse charged at him, smacking his lips together and shaking his head. When that didn't scare off the old man, he half-reared in his stall, making himself appear bigger and badder than any other horse on the farm. The old man shook his lead rope and got the horse to move away from him, in a small circle in the box stall. Every time the horse decided to stop, the old man shook the rope and kept him moving. I watched the old man but really, I was watching the horse. I had never seen a horse move like this, with his neck stretched out in front of him, long and proudly arched, his beautiful chestnut mane, silky and soft, lightly bouncing off his neck. His tail was lifted high, so high, that the tail seemed to be curled over his back. His back was so short and so smooth and muscles popped out everywhere, in his shoulder, in his hind end, on his abdomen. An obviously beautiful horse when I saw him, standing in his stall; he was even more beautiful in motion and reminded me of the white horse galloping in my book. Suddenly, the horse stopped moving and turned to look at the old man. Slowly, the old man walked up to the horse. The horse stepped away and the old man shook his rope and moved the horse in the opposite direction. After a few minutes, the horse stopped and just like before, turned to face the old man. Slowly, the old man walked up to him and got a little closer than before. "You know son, when he first got here, I couldn't even get him into this stall. He was so afraid. I had that door open and eventually, he would come in to the stall, when he knew that I had left the barn. I just let him be. Didn't ask him to do anything." the old man told me and then continued, "that's enough for today son. Tomorrow is a new day. Come back tomorrow after school. I'll be waiting for you." he said.

I thought about everything that I saw and heard and my mind was full of vivid images and thoughts. While the old man had some beautiful horses of other breeds on his farm; the chestnut horse was so uniquely different from them and from a young boy's perspective, everything he had ever hoped to find in one horse. It was as if this horse had jumped out of his dreams, to take his place in the real world. Before I knew it, I had bicycled into my driveway. As beautiful as the chestnut horse is, I couldn't stop thinking of the negative experiences he might have had. "What kind of a person would want to hurt such a beautiful horse?" I wondered. I couldn't wait for tomorrow afternoon and another chance to see the beautiful chestnut horse again.

In  SHE LET ME LOOK DEEP I told you the story of Apple Hill Ani, the mare that the Garretts purchased from April Johnson. However, the Garrett's also purchased a colt, out of Zelebanni and sired by Apple Hill Azal, whom they eventually named ELH Ibn Azal.  Apple Hill Ani and Zelebanni were full sisters, sired by a chestnut stallion named Ibn Sirecho. As I researched the Garrett's wonderful story, the story of the relationship that Ginny Garrett enjoyed with this mare captured my attention. As I thought more about Apple Hill Ani, I also thought about her sire, Ibn Sirecho. From a pedigree perspective, his pedigree is especially interesting, as he represents fifty-percent Prince Mohamed Aly Tewfik breeding, through *Nasr and *Fadl. The tail female lines of both horses trace to the mare Bint Yamama. The other 50% comes through the RAS mare *Exochorda and the Sa'ud mare, *Turfa, which invigorates the lines of the Prince with close-up desert breeding. So, while Ibn Sirecho carries a high percentage of Egyptian breeding, he also offers a closer source of desert breeding than many other horses of his lifetime. While Ibn Sirecho is not a straight Egyptian Arabian horse, he is 100% Al Khamsa recognized, which also means that he is Asil, of authentic Bedouin breeding, as every one of his lines can be traced back to the desert.


Ibn Sirecho was a 1961 chestnut stallion, a son of the straight Egyptian stallion Sirecho and out of the Babson-Turfa mare, Turfara. Originally registered as Esperanzo Asil Sir-Turf,  Ibn Sirecho was bred by Raymond and Jane Davis, of Cassville, Missouri. I liked his original name, "Esperanzo" which means "hope" in Spanish. For a young colt, with a whole future ahead of him, I could not think of a more appropriate way to start life than with a name so full of hope. In Ibn Sirecho's lifetime, he sired sixty-four registered Arabian foals. Through the present day, this particular horse has 410 recognized Al Khamsa descendants. He has left a legacy for many people like me to enjoy. Joe Ferriss is one of the people who was successful in bringing the legacy of Ibn Sirecho closer into his life. He once wrote of a special horse, a "war mare" named Anchor Hill Serfa, an Ibn Sirecho daughter he purchased from the Atkinson's of Anchor Hill Ranch.
"She was a dark liver chestnut, very balanced and symmetrical, a very nice head, nothing to excess yet strong, with clean flat bone, and a classic old world look overall."
The Atkinsons of Anchor Hill also produced the stallion, Anchor Hill Gamil out of the mare Anchor Hill Bint Gamila. You will remember in THINKING, the story of Glorieta Gazaal, the Atkinsons had purchased *Gamila from Daniel Gainey, who was the filly foal that the EAO mare, *Mamdouha, was carrying by Enzahi, when she was purchased in Egypt. *Gamila was a phenomenal broodmare for the Atkinsons producing the full sisters Anchor Hill Bint Gamila, Anchor Hill Hamila, Anchor Hill Hadga and the extraordinary Anchor Hill Hamla, who produced Glorieta Gazaal's dam by Char Echo, Glorieta Gambolia.

What I like most about this horse is his frame or silhouette. I could not believe my eyes as I gazed over his body, in these photos.


His neck is one of the loveliest parts of him...his neck is outstanding. The neck is long and is gracefully arched with a very fine mitbah. He is neither thick nor short in this area, as we see in some of today's horses. I like his shoulder, the angle of the shoulder and his muscling is phenomenal. His top line is strong and level, with a nice short back, which flows into a smooth croup and a very full, wonderfully muscled hindquarter. His tail carriage is equally impressive and I really love how he carries the tail away from his body. He is harmonious, smooth of body, which is no surprise, considering who his sire is. I have always admired the influence of Sirecho in a pedigree. There is always a little extra-something that I see in horses who carry even only one line to him. Like the challenge I experience to define exactly what "quality" means; so too is the challenge to define this "little extra something" and maybe, both terms are related somewhat,with an answer found in the continuing influence of the horse, Sirecho.

My mare Princeton Maarena has a beautiful head with an extreme jibbah. I don't know where she gets this head, as I knew both her sire and her dam and neither horse had a head shaped like hers. So, while searching through Google Image search, I found a photograph of Ibn Sirecho's head and I was stunned. He reminds me so much of my mare! Could this head come from Sirecho? Or...can it be the concentration of the Bint Yamama dam line through both *Nasr and *Fadl? Mahroussa, the dam of *Fadl was recognized as one of the most ethereal mares of Egypt. When I look at this particular picture, I get a strange feeling of deja-vu. I have seen this face before and then, I remember...oh yes, Mimi.

"Remember, all living creatures have good days and bad days. Sometimes we just need a little respect for how we are feeling in the moment."-Moshi, Jane Savoie's horse, friend and Dressage partner
The horse looked at me intently, anticipating my next move. The old man had left for his sister's house, about 20 minutes away, so I knew that I had some time to find out for myself if this horse was as crazy as the old man said he was. I held my hand up to the bars of his stall, trying very hard to keep it quiet and steady. The horse looked at my hand and snorted. He stretched his neck as far as he could, from where he was standing, barely touching his muzzle to the skin of my palm. A few seconds passed and he took a step and stretched his neck out, enabling his muzzle to reach closer to my hand. I felt his muzzle hairs on my skin. We stood a long time like this. When the horse was convinced that I meant him no harm, he moved closer to the front of the stall, closer to me. I had sliced up some pieces of apple and had kept them in my pocket. I now offered these pieces to the horse. He sniffed them, unsure of what he was to do with them. He smelled them again and happened to lick one of the pieces. Suddenly, he ran to the back of his stall, kicking out with both of his hind feet. I jumped back and then, got my senses together. That's when I whispered softly to the horse, "I'm not going to hurt you. I just want to be your friend." and as I whispered this to the horse I remembered Ken McLaughlin from the My Friend Flicka book I loved so much. What was the word that Ken was always so anxious about? Oh yes, "loco'. "Could this chestnut horse be loco too?" I wondered. "Is that his problem?" I worried about it for a minute. And as I was lost in these most worrisome thoughts, the horse turned around and walked quietly to the front of the stall, where I stood and hung his head over the stall, pushing my body with his muzzle. In a second, I shook myself free from all of my "loco" thoughts and realized what had just happened. I was now closer to the horse than I had ever been. And suddenly, it dawned on me that the horse was asking for the pieces of apple that he had tasted. So, carefully, I held out my hand and watched in pure utter delight as the horse ate every piece of apple from my hand. Weeks passed and with every piece of apple, the chestnut horse deepened his relationship with me. Soon, the horse trusted me, assured that I would never strike him like so many others had. Every day, I waited for the old man to leave for his sister's home. It was the highlight of my day, the few minutes spent in ecstasy with a horse whom over time, I realized represented everything I had ever wanted, even if I didn't yet understand what everything was. This horse was it...my everything. These days would remain forever etched into my memory as some of the sweetest days of my life. Then, my studies became more important than they had ever been, due to a sternly written teacher's note home and I wasn't able to visit the old man for a while. For the next few months, I agonized over not being able to see my two closest friends in the world: the chestnut horse and the old man. On my way to church, my parents drove past the old man's farm and it was all I could do not to snap my neck in two, as I craned and looked for a brief glimpse of any activity that could be seen from the road. I wondered over the horse and whether the old man still owned him.

Six long months later, smarter and freer than I had been in a long time, I rode my bike over to the farm.  Much to my surprise, the old man was riding the chestnut horse. I stood against the fence rail and watched both horse and man, carefully. The old man was smooth and subtle.
To another person, a small shift in weight, the opening and closing of his hand, the slight turn of his head would go unnoticed. In those minutes, watching the old man, I knew that this is what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  It was hard to believe that this was the same horse, who only a few months before seemed unapproachable and even a bit scary, too intimidating to try and get close to. "Where you been son" the old man asked and continued, "I didn't scare you away now, did I?" "No sir, well, I got a bad report card and then there was this teacher's note and my parents were so mad with me. My mom wouldn't let me take any time from my studies, horses or no horses." I said resignedly. "I sure missed being here and being around the horses, especially the chestnut horse you are riding. I couldn't think of anything else but him, all this time." The old man smiled and in that moment, he knew that the kid had something special, something that he felt he could exploit and maybe one day, he might be able to take over and do something bigger with the place. "You can help me unsaddle him and then we need to wash him down a little bit." I was stunned. Wasn't this the same horse he sternly warned me never to approach or get close to? "There's something about Arabian Horses that I never told you about son. Once they figure out that you mean them no harm, that you respect them, they become  loyal, steadfast in their devotion to you. Knowing this gave me hope, that it wasn't too late to help this horse out. So, what you are seeing now is what's happened with this little horse. He figured out that I wasn't going to hurt him. He will make someone like you, a great friend." the old man explained. "He's mighty sensitive but that's not a whole heck of alot different than most chestnut colored horses are. He just needs a little more time to figure things out, to learn that he doesn't have to worry anymore." he said. I smiled, as everything the old man said about the horse, I knew. I had already lived it but the old man never knew, being that I didn't want to get "fired".

In 1964, Hodie Maxwell contacted Carl Raswan. Hodie and her husband Pres, had moved to Colorado from Texas and owned Arabian horses. Hodie had been studying the Arabian Horse, purchasing books about the breed and learning of their Bedouin roots. She was enchanted by the rich desert history of the horses. The more she read, the more she realized that she wanted to dedicate her breeding program to breeding and raising authentic Bedouin-bred Arabian horses. Carl Raswan had devoted his life to the Arabian horse breed and had more experience, a majority of which came from living in the desert, among the Bedouin tribes. Carl Raswan suggested to Hodie that she contact Mrs. Jane Ott, which she promptly did. After months of conversations with Mrs. Ott, Pres and Hodie Maxwell purchased the stallion, Ibn Sirecho, in 1964. He was three years old. Pres and Hodie also purchased the mare, Fanistar, a Fanifeh daughter, out of the *Turfa granddaughter, Blue Star, whom they bred to Sirecho, producing the mare Sifana, who with Ibn Sirecho, would become an important foundation of the Maxwell breeding program and eventually lead them towards creating a program of Blue Star breeding, focusing on horses of the Hamdaniyah strain. While the Maxwell's mission was to breed authentic Bedouin horses; they did show Ibn Sirecho in English Pleasure classes and he did well but he was a breeding stallion first. His greatest success in the show ring would come later, with his sons and daughter.

While the Maxwells proved the excellence of Ibn Sirecho as a sire, what happened next would prove the  athletic excellence of Ibn Sirecho, as a sire of working western performance horses. Ibn Sirecho was sold to The Searle Arabian Horse Farm in Chandler, Arizona and very quickly, became an important sire for Bill and Kris Searle.  Ibn Sirecho, authentic to his desert heritage, sired agile, willing and intelligent working ranch horses for the Searles, who did well at the Nationals and also at the famous Scottsdale All-Arabian show in the western stock horse classes. In 1983, Ibn Sirecho's daughter, the 1980 mare, Jezail (out of the double Ibn Fadl grand-daughter, Al Asmaje) won Champion Snaffle Bit Western Pleasure with Kris. In 1984, the Ibn Sirecho sons, Al Hajal (out of Sakkara, a daughter of Al Asmaje sired by the Sirecho son, Muhairon) and LeEncore (out of the Al Asmaje daughter, Ibn Fadls Finale) won 4 top tens. In 1985, LeEncore won a Reserve Champion Hackamore Stock Horse at the Scottsdale show. In 1987, Le Encore went to Scottsdale again and was pinned top ten in open stock horse. It is interesting to consider the amount of *Turfa blood in all of these horses, as the line to *Turfa, on both sides of the pedigree appear 4 and 5 times. Is the fact that these horses did so well in performance attributable to a mare who enchanted all who knew her with her amazing movement? I think this is a fact worth considering.

Gail Hoff-Carmona, at the urging of Mrs. Jane Ott, purchased two Ibn Sirecho horses from the Maxwells. The double Sirecho mare Samoohah (Ibn Sirecho x Sifana) and the stallion El Hamdani Bey (Ibn Sirecho x Fanistar) became part of Gail's breeding program at Princeton Arabians, both in her small Blue Star breeding program and also combined with her straight Babson Egyptian horses.  Gail said
"...these horses are among the very best when you consider disposition. They tend to be very easy to train and quick to learn."
Like the horses bred by the Searle's, these two horses were also rich in the number of crosses to the mare, *Turfa. Gail crossed these bloodlines with her horses like Serr Maariner, whose Babson lines nicked remarkably well with the *Turfa blood and increased the percentages of Prince Mohamed Aly breeding, present in Sirecho's pedigree. The progeny of these Ibn Sirecho horses became part of the Los Alamos Dressage Center's training program, helping Gail to teach dressage to children.

"Okay son, now bring the horse over here. Give him a little bit of your right leg. That's good. That looks real good." the old man said and continued, "I want to do something special for you Victor. I want to encourage your love of horses and give you some hope for a future filled with these horses. I just sent over a transfer of ownership to the Arabian Registry." I looked at him, listening to the words he was saying but not fully recognizing the significance of the words he was using. "Victor, I am giving you this horse. I want you to keep him here and I will continue to work with you. One day, this place will be yours and you can take up where I will leave off. By then, you will have learned my training methods which respects the sensitivity of these horses, while helping them to reach their full potential. In that way, we can be a small part in a greater plan...to insure that all horses will enjoy sound and sane relationships with humans." he said. I drew in my breath, hoping to keep myself from falling off my horse from the shock of what the old man said.

MY HORSE...he said MY HORSE.
"How long has it been, since I started out on this journey?" Victor wondered out loud.
It had been quite a long time since Victor thought of the old man and the kindness he had shown him over the years. And suddenly, thinking about the old man, Victor was overwhelmed with gratitude over the old man's kindness and generosity. He had been more than a mentor to Victor, actually, Victor now realized that the old man had been a father figure for Victor; something his own father had failed at. If it had not been for the old man, Victor didn't believe that he would be involved in breeding and raising Arabian horses now. It was the old man and the chestnut horse who had made the Arabian horse so real in his life. The chestnut horse lived for a little more than twelve years and Victor showed him at the local 4-H club shows. When the chestnut horse had won just about every conceivable award from the 4-H, Victor started to show him at local shows and from there, he showed him at selected Class A shows, eventually qualifying him for the big regional Arabian show and then Nationals, winning a top ten in the hunter class and a legion of merit. The old man was at every show, silently watching the little boy who had once pedaled down his driveway, looking for an opportunity to get closer to the horses he loved. The boy proved to be the old man's redemption and his last chance to mend a grieving and broken heart.

If only the old man were still alive, to see the breeder Victor had become. The old man had a profound impact on Victor's decision to become a preservation breeder, hoping to produce another horse like the little chestnut horse. Victor had grown up with this horse, who had become the closest friend Victor had ever known in his life. When it was time to bid good-bye to the chestnut horse, Victor had looked into his eyes and promised him that he would insure the survival of his family, for others to enjoy and cherish, long after he and the chestnut horse's descendants had gone from this earth.

So, if you haven't figured it out yet, my name is Victor and I breed Asil horses of combined sources, particularly Babson-*Turfa horses, with and without the influence of Sirecho. I hope that you will recognize the plight of these horses, once more prosperous in number than they are now; this breeding group sadly faces reduced interest and a reduced number of breeding horses. I hope that my story inspires more "Victor's" as the *Turfa horses really need help, they are a FRAGILE breeding group and if nothing is done soon, they will disappear forever.

Long live the influence of *Turfa, a great and powerful mare, who remains so vibrant and relevant, in her descendants.

Happy Thanksgiving,

PS Many thanks to my friend, Diana Johnson of Bint Al Bahr Arabians, who helped me find so many photos of Ibn Sirecho. I am so grateful for her friendship. Also, I need to publicly thank and credit Ms. Karen Stalmann, whose Khamsat article, THE MAXWELL CONTRIBUTION helped me quite a bit in trying to understand the influence of Ibn Sirecho. Also, Ms. Kris Searle wrote an article titled THE MAKING OF A WESTERN HORSE which I also need to credit, as I learned about her horses like Jezail, Al Hajal and Le Encore.

1 comment:

D Susan Whitman said...

I loved this article, both the story and the article on IBN SIRECHO, whom I technically owned at the time of his death. Since I did not ever really get him, I acquired LE ENCORE from the Searles and picked him up at Scottsdale in 1987, after he went Top Ten Open Stock Horse. He was my friend, companion, and personal horse until his death at 27 years of age. In that 20 years, he produced multiple BLUE STAR produce, from mares of the same source pedigree. which populate my farm, today. His last two produce, coming three year old colts, were born in August/September after LE ENCORE passed away in October of the previous fall.