27 July, 2013

Carl Raswan

Earlier this week, I received a surprise, in the form of a comment left by Mark Miller of Al-Marah. I hope that Mark will not mind that I moved his comment to the front page of the blog, so that more people will enjoy his words as much as I have. 
I did not ever meet Carl Raswan, though I have heard the stories about him so many times I sometimes feel like I must have. He was a friend of my father and mother. 
I've always thought it ironic that his "Raswan Index" has been used to help define the "purity" of the Straight & Blue List Egyptian Arabian Horses. Ironic because the horse that Raswan loved most of all was *Raswan, said to be the best son of Skowronek. Until *Raswan died, Carl Raswan was known as Carl Schmidt. It was when *Raswan died that Carl Schmidt became Carl Raswan. Skowronek, of course, is not considered to be acceptable in "Straight Egyptian" pedigrees.
Raswan was certainly a larger than life character. My father, Peter Miller, told me that when he first met Raswan in Tucson in 1942, Raswan was telling him about his Ruala blood brother, Bedouin Prince Fawaz as-Shaalan. My dad said he believed Raswan was exaggerating when he told his tales of the desert.
My dad, however, was not the horseperson in our family. My mother, then Bazy Miller, was. She had already purchased some horses from the Selby Stud lines (heavy in the Skowronek son *Raffles), it was her that Raswan had come to see in Tucson. 
My parents had bought an irrigated farm on River Road in Tucson, and in the early 40s irrigated farms there were rare. When Raswan arrived on the farm, he turned to my mother and said, "This is a real Al-Marah!" My mother asked the meaning of Al-Marah and Raswan said, "The Oasis!" Thus the most famous Arabian Horse farm of the 20th and 21st Century was named. About eight years later, after my sister and I were born and my parents divorced, my mom remarried "Tank" Tankersley and started along the road of making Bazy Tankersley an Arabian Horse legend herself.
My mother always thought that Raswan loved the same kind of Arabian horses she did: beautiful, athletic and with great endurance. I have always thought of them as war horses. Spirited, athletic and brave enough to go into battle; personable and calm enough to share your tent in a sand storm. And, of course, the most beautiful animals on earth. I believe she learned a great deal from talking with Raswan about the desert horses, and that knowledge was important to her because she wanted to be sure to preserve her band of horses, who trace directly from Abbas Pasha to Ali Pasha Sherif to Sir Wilfrid and Lady Anne Blunt to Lady Wentworth to her, was not only the right genotype, but also the right phenotype.
My parents moved to Peru, Illinois shortly after Raswan named the farm, and not long after that, Raswan brought his Ruala blood brother to Chicago to meet my parents. After meeting Prince Fawaz, my dad told me he apologized to Raswan for ever doubting him, as Prince Fawaz backed up all that Raswan had told him and also told my father of the great influence Raswan had when he brought many Bedouin leaders together in the late '20s.
I hope your journey helps you find what you are looking for. The search for the perfect Arabian, whether it is a search of finding the existing horse or, in my family's case, trying to produce it, is a wonderful journey that can last a lifetime. 
My journey includes keeping the core Al-Marah herd in tact for my lifetime, as it remains the most unique and wonderful herd of horses in the world in its 199th year. 
Many thanks to Mark Miller for sharing his thoughts and memories. This is powerful stuff.


Anonymous said...

How wonderful Ralph!

Horsebakken said...

What a wonderful recounting of a man whose character has been misunderstood by many, and whose contributions have been so significant. Thank you for sharing your views, Mark and for you Ralph to put this forward on your blog!

Ann Rienks said...

Really enjoyed reading the memory on Raswan and Al-Marah. I can not understand why there hasn't been a movie made about the man. Talk about a life fully and adventurously lived. His love for the Arabian horse...enduring. The story of the stallion *Raswan broke my heart. I will never understand why anyone would hamstring a horse. For what purpose? Too many people don't know enough about Carl Raswan.