At the world famous Bentwood Farm.
THE BENTWOOD FARM.
Inside the stallion barn where the great *Ibn Moniet El Nefous had once lived and where, his empty stall, like a perpetual shrine, reminded everyone that once, a king lived here.
Of all people,
I had seen his pictures in books and magazines a million times; I was familiar with his accomplishments and the horses he sired. And here we were, Ansata Abbas Pasha looking at me, as intently as I, was looking at him. And my mind wandered, to words that had been forgotten but somehow, were still present in my heart, bubbling to the surface of recollection, contributing to this magic moment, which now is forever cast in a dreamy haze. This was a moment in time, the seconds frozen and saved for those dark moments in life when I would need to remember. A moment so unforgettable, proof that I shared a mental communion with another living being: Ansata Abbas Pasha, whose home was my pilgrimage and the catalyst for my own journey of transformation, my renaissance moment of understanding...my own private Paradise.
My Beautiful! My Beautiful!Those words echoed through my head, as my fingers slowly traced his outline, his silhouette. He was different from the other *Ibn Halimas. His face a bit longer, a bit more narrow and yet, the lines flowed, uninterrupted, harmoniously from one to another. The head, meeting the elegant neck, set at an angle to form the mitbah, clean, roomy and graceful…flowing, flowing, flowing…the line of his proudly arched neck flowing down like a gentle river, reminding me of a refrain: "somewhere the river of happiness flows", until it was met with the pronounced bump of his wither, drawing attention to his laid-back shoulder and his deep and powerful chest and finally to the place of magic on his back, the place where a saddle would sit, a throne for one worthy to sit upon his back. Winston Churchill once said, "when you are on a great horse, you have the best seat you will ever have."
That standest meekly by,
With thy proudly arched and glossy neck,
And dark and fiery eye…
He studied my every move, with great interest. Was he studying me? Was I worthy of his intense focus? What was he thinking? He was, after all a stallion, no surprise that he might be alarmed at the stranger that had invaded his territory. Was he thinking of places he visited, friends he made and then had to say goodbye, was he thinking of Illinois, was he thinking of Paris or Germany…all the places that he had traveled to and known?
In 1966, the Babson Farm purchased this horse, an outcross for their Egyptian breeding program, made up entirely of the horses that were imported in 1932. For 10 years, Ansata Abbas Pasha lived the life of a breeding stallion, in the charmed, almost magical, serene setting that was the Babson Farm. Jarrell McCracken, who had purchased a number of Babson Horses, started to inquire about Ansata Abbas Pasha and for 5 years, he persevered, until 1970, when the farm, returning to the lines of the horses imported in 1932, sold Ansata Abbas Pasha to Bentwood Farm. In 1976 Dr. Nagel of Katharinenhof, accompanied by Dr. Nagy of Babolna, went to Bentwood Farm to purchase Mohafez (*Ibn Moniet El Nefous x Ahroufa), a nine month old colt for Dr. Nagel’s breeding program. While they were at Bentwood, they saw Ansata Abbas Pasha and immediately loved the horse. However, Ansata Abbas Pasha was a highly valued source of Saqlawi Jedran blood for the Bentwood breeding program. Shortly thereafter, Ansata Abbas Pasha was invited to compete at the Salon Du Cheval, and in 1979, Bentwood sent Ansata Abbas Pasha to Paris, where he was named the Reserve International Champion of the show. Recognizing the European interest in the horse, Dr. Nagel, together with Marbach and Babolna, leased Ansata Abbas Pasha for a period of 6 months. In 1981, Ansata Abbas Pasha went to Germany, to Katharinenhof to breed a limited number of mares for Dr. Nagel, Marbach and Babolna. In the following year, the world had new horses to marvel over: Mameluk, Sherif Pasha, Farid, Nasrodin, Abbas Pasha I, Maha, Aida, Simeon Savion, Mubarka, Nasra, 229 Abbas Pasha.
And so, here I was, in front of this majestic horse, a living, breathing poem of the Saqlawi horse, a full brother to the nationally acclaimed Ansata Ibn Sudan. A piece of living Egyptian history, connected with my own personal history, his parents arriving in America, the same year of my birth. We shared common ground. I remember what Judi Forbis had said about his mother:
“Ansata Bint Mabrouka was one of the great mares of all time. Perhaps I’m prejudiced, but I think those who saw her, would have to agree.”In her short life, Ansata Bint Mabrouka produced three colts, the full brothers Ansata Abbas Pasha and Ansata Ibn Sudan and the *Morafic son, Ansata Shah Zaman. And here I was, standing in front of her first foal, which had spread her influence, all over the world. Ansata Abbas Pasha, in his life, had underscored Judi Forbis' words about the great mare and made her influence perpetual. In Sy Montgomery’s book, THE GOOD GOOD PIG, she shares a story about Amazon River dolphins and the local legend about them. Assuming the disguise of a human, these dolphins, shape-shifters, would seduce real humans to follow them back to the enchanted world called "Encante", at the bottom of the river. A place so beautiful, that all who visited, chose never to leave. Sy Montgomery’s words, captured the sense of enchantment that had filled my heart to bursting, as I stood captivated by Ansata Abbas Pasha:
“I wanted to follow them back, down, deep into the watery womb of the world, to the source of beauty and desire, to the beginning of all beginnings-and through their story, to show again the power of animals to transform us, to lead us home to Eden, and to remind us we can always start anew.”Life, in all of its challenges, in its unexpected moments, seems to rewrite our dreams, our goals, with seriousness and the adult pursuit of moments and accomplishments that happily take us farther away from our wishes and desires. Drunken with new-found glory in my career and family life and the resulting bliss of these moments, I somehow, lost touch with something important, something dear, something that had been written into the fiber of my very being, that now seemed to be like the books I had collected, dusty and abandoned on the shelves. In those moments with Ansata Abbas Pasha that are forever seared into my memory, I experienced what Sy Montgomery had expressed, when she learned about the River Dolphin legend. I had reached Encante and Ansata Abbas Pasha was my guide.
Several years later, I would cross paths with Ansata Abbas Pasha again, through his grandson, Ansata Ali Abbas. When Ansata Abbas Pasha was owned by the Babson Farm, he sired a 1973 chestnut mare named Faye Roufa (out of Bint Fay Roufa). Eventually, this mare went to Ansata and became part of their herd. When she was bred to *Ansata Ibn Halima, the colt, Ansata Ali Abbas was born. When I saw Ansata Ali Abbas, as an older horse, he was at Hope Farm, then located in Mendham, NJ. He had previously been leased by Grove Hill Farm in Maine. Hope Farm was the home to two Ansata stallions: the powerful, masculine, ten-feet-tall and bulletproof, eat-up-the ground-with-his-movement Ansata Shah Zahir and the quiet, regal, calm, elegant, classical Mohamed Aly Tewfik-type horse, Ansata Ali Abbas. A picture of grace, refinement and harmony. Similar to the experience that I had had with his father, my fingers followed the familiar outline of harmony, elegance and grace. And in that moment, my mind and body shivered as I remembered a long-ago great horse that I once knew.
I never did get to breed a mare to Ansata Abbas Pasha or his maternal grandson, Ansata Ali Abbas, in order to produce my very own Abbas Pasha but I did embark on a journey of rediscovery, which has allowed me to arrive here, within this place, and share a moment with a very great horse, who helped me to understand the transforming power of enchantment.
Happy New Year,