07 December, 2010

'Tis the Season: King Ibn Saud's Gift

"You gave your love away, and I'm thankful every day, for the gift."-Tom Douglas & Jim Brickman, from their song, The Gift
Seventy-three years ago, in December of 1937, *Turfa and three other horses (along with four camels) stepped off a ship named "Mantola", which was docked at the Royal Albert Docks in London and were presented by King Ibn Sa'ud as a coronation gift to George VI, the new King of England. They had traveled a long way from their home in Central Arabia, in the Nejd.

We know about *Turfa but who were the other three horses?

Above is a picture of the stallion, Manak. A 1928 chestnut stallion, who was reported in the Arab Horse Society (UK) news as,
"of exceptional quality, very masculine in type, with good bone, strong loins, quarters and hocks. He is a fine mover and carries his head and 'flag' like an artistocrat. He is a horse of perfect temperament and can be ridden by a child."
 Shortly after his arrival, Manak traveled to Upend Stud in Newmarket, the farm belonging to Colonel Anderson.

The three year old colt, Kasim, was a bay-colored horse and a little taller than Manak, at 14.3 hands. Although the AHS feature reports that he was of good quality and a nice mover, the news also says that he was rather backward. I know that desert horses take longer to fully mature, as compared to other breeds of horses and I imagine that Kasim had not yet fully grown into all his parts. Kasim went to Nant Fawr Stud in South Wales, the farm belonging at the time, to Mr. D. E. Neale.

The last horse who was part of the coronation gift was actually a proven broodmare. Her name was Faras. She was a 1927 bay-colored mare, who had produced offspring famed for their speed and endurance. The AHS news said of her,
"...of exceptional quality and hard bone. She has an ideal Arabian head and carries her tail well."
Manak was bred to the Bahraini mare, Nuhra, yielding 3 fillies: Nurmahal in 1943, Taj Mahal in 1945 and Nurmana in 1946. I found it interesting that Manak was bred to this mare. She was a gift, given by the Sheikh of Bahrain to the Earl of Athlone. In the same AHS news article which reported the Coronation gift horses; mention was also made of a visit that the Earl of Athlone and Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, made to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Nuhra was one of two horses gifted to the royal couple, by the Sheikh of Bahrain. Nuhra was sired by a Kuhaylan Jellabi stallion, out of a Kuhaylah al' Wadhna, from where she received her original Amiri name of Wadhna.

I am amazed over the generosity of King Ibn Sa'ud, in sending his very best horses, representing his skill, his wisdom and his talents as a breeder of the finest Arabian horses. I wonder over all the horses he bred and raised in the Nejd. What were they like? What did they look like? I wonder over their beauty and of the unique characteristics which made the Nejd horse so revered, for all the people who were blessed with the opportunity to see them. 

In the last decade, only seven Babson-Turfa horses were produced. Six of these horses were females and five of them were sired by the same Babson sire. A reduced breeding population, on the verge of disappearing, makes me desirous to repay the King for his long-ago kindness, in allowing a treasure like *Turfa to leave her home forever and insuring that her valuable pedigree would continue far into the future, waiting to be discovered, "un-wrapped" and cherished by someone like me, in love with these extraordianry horses.

Trot on! Turfa! Trot on!

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