31 December, 2011

A Quiet Dignity: The Story of Imperial Falaah

"For 'twas not into my ear you whispered but into my heart,'twas not my lips you kissed but my soul."-Judy Garland 
I had walked into the broodmare barn, focused on a conversation with Beverly Sziraky on the suitability of Egyptian Arabian horses for Dressage. I was really excited, as it had been a very long time since my last visit to Imperial and the barn we were walking into, was a veritable HALL OF FAME of crucially important  broodmares like BB Ora Kalilah, Imperial Safilla, and Imperial Mistilll. I am embarrassed to tell you that  I didn't even notice Imperial Falaah at first. The focus of my day was seeing Imperial Mistilll one more time. Across the aisle from Mistilll, was the *Pharrah grand daughter, Royal Kamiel. To her right, was Falaah, and in the stall next to her was Imperial Baarillla, a Baarez daughter who literally, knocked my socks off. Across the aisle from Baarillla was BB Ora Kalilah, next to her was Safilla and then in the next stall was Phandala. I was like a kid who had eaten too much sugar. I was darting from one stall to the next, not sure of who to stop and admire, as they were all gorgeous mares. I couldn't concentrate on just one horse! As I settled in front of Imperial Baarillla's stall,  Falaah kept looking at me, waiting patiently. She stretched  her neck out towards me and very gently, bumped me over and over with her nose, trying to get my attention. I was oblivious to what she was doing, as I was so enchanted with Baarillla. I turned around, to see who was tapping me and saw this beautiful face, "WOW, who are you pretty girl?" and I paused, as in that split second, I recognized a beauty so fierce, I could not hear or see anything else but her. "Oh my gosh, you are so pretty" I said, as I scratched her forehead, straightened her forelock hairs and the beautiful mare smiled in satisfaction. She didn't make a sound, not a whinny, nicker or even a thumping of the stall door with her hoof, as most other horses would to demand attention. Falaah had too much dignity, too much grace. A few minutes later, I was actually holding her head in my arms, as the mare dozed, content to be in close company with a human being. "Beverly, who is this mare?" I asked. She smiled and said, "That's Falaah, one of our Imdal daughters and one of our best producing mares on the farm. Remember that chestnut colt you liked so much? That's her son." The chestnut colt that Beverly referred to  was none other than Imperial Amir Kamar, who had given an electrifying liberty performance, earlier in the day.

Imperial Falaah, a 1991 grey mare, was a daughter of Imperial Imdal and out of Imperial BTFawkia. Her pedigree primarily reflected the breeding program of Gleannloch Farms, as the majority of the horses in her pedigree like Dalia, *Morafic, *Romanaa II, and *Hoyeda were either bred or imported into America by the Marshalls. She is also one of the straight Egyptian horses with a lower Blunt desert blood percentage, less than 6%. Her Egypt I, Egypt II and Inshass ancestral elements, combined,  total to almost 95%! What's also interesting about the components in her pedigree, is that for the most part, they represent the first wave of horses produced at Imperial. That is, the foundation horses and the first few generations produced with the foundation, before *Orashan, *Imperial Madheen and *Ibn Safinaz were added to the program. Once the broodmare band was selected and after initially breeding some of these mares with horses like Amaal and Hossny, Imperial purchased two colts who would not only complement their powerful mares but establish consistency and predictability, for the next decade and beyond.
“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.-Barbara Griffith”
The first colt was Ansata Imperial (Ansata Ibn Sudan x Ansata Delilah), who will forever be remembered  for siring the great Imperial Imdal. Much has been written about Imperial Imdal and the impact that he has had not only on Egyptian Arabians, but for Arabian Horses of all bloodlines. Imdal's influence has traveled farther and wider, significantly impacting stud farms all over the world. What I remember most about Imdal, was his abundant charisma. I loved him. There was just something about him, that really got you and you felt compelled to stand next to him, to touch him, to adore him. Susan Gilbert experienced his magnetic presence very personally, when she saw Imdal for the first time at the 1997 Egyptian Event, during the stallion presentation,
"I became aware that this magnificent stallion had an air of complete presence that was emotionally overwhelming to his many onlookers. As I touched his shoulder, Imdal turned his head towards my face, acknowledging my own presence with a calming power deep within his gaze. I continued to admire his completeness and the sheer beauty standing in front of me and I realized that I was crying .. he had touched my soul and heart. There was an aura to his nobility .. a hum of energy.-Susan Gilbert"
The other foundation stallion at Imperial was the Bentwood Farms-bred Moniet el Nafis, who started life with the name of AK Amin Bey. Known on the farm as "Nafis", he was an *Ibn Moniet el Nefous son, who sired Falaah's beautiful dam, Imperial BTFawkia. Nafis was a two-time Scottsdale champion stallion and the leading Arabian race horse sire in the late 1980's,
"...oh, what a horse he was! He had lovely legs and conformation, with strength and refinement, tremendous heart girth and shoulder, great tail carriage, presence, movement, and he reflected Arabian type although his head was not as typey as today's standards demand. As a sire, he produced a fair share of show winners and numerous race horses, at a time when Arabian racing was just beginning to take on a life of its own."-Lisa Lacy
Imperial BTFawkia was a lovely mare, a daughter of the Sameh-sired mare, *Fawkia, pictured to the right. Although I never met Sameh personally; I felt that I  knew him, through his daughters, like *Fawkia. Sameh stamped this mare very unmistakably. So many years later, after seeing her at Imperial in the 1980's and if you believe in coat color inheritance to phenotype, I believe that *Fawkia  favored her sire, more than her dam. Although Kuhaylah Rodaniyah by strain, *Fawkia looked physically, like what I imagined a Saqlawiyah to look like. *Fawkia was very different in type from her half-sisters, Serenity Sabra and Serenity Sonbolah but yet the same, if that makes sense. *Fawkia was smooth and strong of body, alabaster white and she trotted in the same style as her half-sisters, that is, her elastic nostrils became HUGE and she would snort that snort that came from somewhere deep inside of her, maybe pulled from the tips of her toes with her tail curled over her back and a powerful floating trot, elastic hocks driving into the ground pushing the mare  to cover a lot of ground in a few strides. I guess, trying to remember what made the most powerful impression upon me was how this quiet mare changed into a powerfully charismatic personality when turned loose in the ring. If Sameh is responsible for the dynamic personality in *Fawkia, then the influence of Sameh is multiplied in Falaah, as she has two additional lines to Sameh, through Romanaa II and Ansata Bint Misr. I feel that Imperial Falaah inherited her strength, her smoothness, her substance but most of all, her character, from *Fawkia. When Falaah moved, she had many of the Sameh-like characteristics. She was electric.

Imperial Falaah produced more sons than daughters.In 1996, she produced Imperial Sarouf by *Ibn Safinaz, Imperial Amir Kamar by Imperial Al Kamar  in 2001. Then, she produced Imperial Birak in 2004, Imperial Baaron in 2005 and Imperial Baaru in 2006, all three colts sired by Imperial Baarez.  Her two daughters, Imperial Koublah by Imperial Al Kamar and Imperial Orahllah by *Orashan were produced at Imperial, while her third and last foal born in 2010, Nadira al Hadiyah by Ramses Mishaal Nadir was bred by Susan Gilbert of Sumerlan Egyptian Arabians in Texas.
"..Imperial Falaah's daughter, Nadira al Hadiyah, by Ramses Mishaal Nadir, graces our farm with the same magic and nobility etched in time by her beautiful dam and grandsire. Falaah's last gift to me .. in gratitude for loving this beautiful mare who captured me.-Susan Gilbert"
Well before Beverly died and well before Imperial announced their closing, I had called Beverly to inquire about Falaah, as the memory of my last visit was still so strong in my mind. I just had to have her. Beverly was firm with me, "she is not for sale at any price, Ralph. She is only one of two Imdal daughters that we have and she is very important to our program." I wasn't surprised and felt that even if she were available, she would be well outside of my  budget. It was the closest that I came to owning a mare who was like a princess to me. She had so much class, so much dignity, so much love in her heart. No horse could ever be sweeter than Falaah was, not even the ones I already owned.
"If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it."-Frances Hodgson Burnett,  A Little Princess
I went about my business, content that I had done everything that I knew to do and well, time passed and eventually I forgot about Falaah. In the meantime, Susan Gilbert visited Imperial Egyptian Stud with the memory of Imperial Imdal still vivid in her mind.
"In August, 2006, the spirit of emotions created that day by Imperial Imdal were realized the first time I saw his beautiful daughter, Imperial Falaah. It was a beautiful day spent with friends as Beverly Sziraky spoke passionately about each stallion, each mare, and each foal. Imperial Falaah was one of the last mares we saw that day, and she was standing on her own basking in the day's sunlight as if the day belonged only to her. She drew me into her gaze the very same way her noble sire had drawn me back in 1997. She imprinted my heart so much so that I asked to come back to the farm later that day to see her once more."
In February of 2007, Imperial Falaah was sold and her buyer was Susan Gilbert. Of all the people who had expressed interest in Falaah, Beverly picked Susan. The impression that Susan must have made on Beverly that summer, when she visited Imperial must have made a profound impact and convinced Beverly of where Falaah must go. I think that Beverly Sziraky had made a very big statement, as to how she felt and the fact that she could  not trust anyone else, with Falaah. She wanted a forever home for Falaah. That's how valuable Falaah was for Imperial. For Falaah, she had been blessed, as she could not have been purchased by a more loving and adoring owner than Susan.
"Falaah graced our farm in every way possible. Each day spent with her was a gift which touched my spirit. Many onlookers visiting our farm were so captured by her presence that they were drawn to ask me if they could lead her back to her stall. Such were the gifts this magnificent mare offered to one's heart. She lived and died in complete nobility. I miss her so much that I have not spoken to many. The loss feels like it is happening again today as I write this. I will never forget her."-Susan Gilbert
Earlier this week, while casually reading on the internet, I learned the very sad news that Imperial Falaah tragically died a year ago, from cancer. I was stunned and found myself reading the same sentence over and over.  "How could this be?" I thought over and over. The princess, the sweet mare who had captivated me, so many years ago, was gone, leaving the planet as quietly as she had entered my world, so many years ago with both dignity and grace. Now, she lives in the memories of all who loved her, her children will now carry her name and her influence far into the future. And one day, one of these horses will stretch their neck to bump the pant leg of someone with their nose, for attention.  A long ago memory then becomes fresh and new, and the rest of us will smile, because we have just witnessed that the princess, the very sweet and dignified Falaah still lives.
"Promise me you'll never forget me because if I thought you would, I'd never leave."-A.A. Milne
Goodbye dear, sweet Falaah,

*opening photo of Imperial Falaah credit: Carol Maginn, Bear Creek Ranch, Photos of Moniet el Nafis and *Fawkia credit: Johnny Johnston


Jennifer Parsons said...

A beautiful tribute to a lovely mare. It was a difficult time for Susan when Falaah passed I'm sure she will treasure your article along with her memories of her time with Falaah. Best regards, Jennifer Parsons.

Carol Maginn said...

Dear Ralph,

Thanks for using my beautiful photo of Imperial Falaah.

She was a lovely mare and I was glad to have had the opportunity to meet her in person.

I really want to see you carry on the legacy of Imperial Imdal. Have you seen Imperial Baaru owned by Infinity Egyptian Stud? He is such an impressive stallion - sired by Imperial Baarez and out of Imperial Falaah. And I know how much you love Imperial Baaron - what a brilliant dressage horse and just stunning stallion. Reminds me so much of Imperial Baarez.

I'm looking forward to seeing what your passion and love of the horse will create - especially when your inspiration included horses like Falaah.

Happy New Year!