18 January, 2019

Dressage...Arabian Style!

The straight Babson Egyptian dressage horse Serr Maariner (Ibn Fa-Serr x Maarena) was a uniquely special horse and time, has proven just how special he really was.  In his era of existence, Arabian horses were rarely chosen as dressage mounts and the appreciation felt for the breed, especially within all-breed performance competition, was as minimal, as the number of individual Arabian horses participating, were to the sport. Outside of the breed community, Arabian horses were not taken seriously for any of the Olympic equestrian disciplines. So to better understand his success within the sport, one must also understand the role that Serr Maariner also played, in breaking down the barriers of breed prejudice, making it possible for other Arabian horses to not only participate in the discipline but also to succeed in the sport, receiving the same opportunities that other breeds of horses enjoyed. 

In the very beginning of his dressage career, Serr Maariner struggled with an irregularity in his gait, shortly after arriving at Princeton Arabians.  Gail's husband, Major Hector Carmona, an Olympic medalist in the Modern Pentathlon for Chile, a former dressage competitor and dressage coach for the USET, felt that Serr Maariner’s lameness was not a serious medical condition and could be solved through slow, correct training. Hector and Gail suspected that the horse had never been started under saddle properly. With slow, patient and kind training, Serr Maariner's lameness improved and quickly ceased to be a problem for him. He prospered under Gail’s care. “In training, Serr Maariner showed intelligence, talent and a strong desire to do whatever was asked of him,” Gail remembers.  With Serr Maariner already schooling second level movements, Gail wanted to believe that Serr Maariner had enough talent to go far in the sport. However, she was hesitant to invest the time and work into him because she wasn’t sure that he was capable. Major Hector Carmona knew well the desire and determination of his wife, who wanted to train an Arabian horse all the way to Grand Prix. Even though Serr Maariner was already 10 years old and had sired approximately 26 foals; because of his intelligence, conformation, trainability and strong movements, Major Carmona encouraged his wife to see how far she could take Serr Maariner, not only in Arabian competition but also in the open USDF divisions as well. One can learn many things about their horse during training and Gail, encouraged by her husband to give Serr Maariner a chance, finally learned that she had found the Arabian horse that she dreamed of training. His work ethic, his focus on the task at hand was amazing. He loved the work. Some people who knew both Gail and Serr Maariner said that he loved Gail and as a result, would do anything she asked of him. It only took five years, to take Serr Maariner rapidly up through the levels, all the way to Grand Prix, earning the coveted USDF gold medal in Prix St George. Again, I need to remind you that Arabian Dressage horses were exceedingly rare in the open divisions and the Egyptian Arabian horse that he was, possessing the hallmarks that very obviously identified which breed he belonged to, was enough to for some, to not take him seriously but Serr worked so hard and was so successful, that he was also honored as an AHSA/Insilco Horse of the Year, as well as a USDF Horse of the year six times (and the first Arabian horse to compete at FEI levels), in addition to American Arabian National Championships in Second, Third and Fourth Level, as well as twice Reserve Champion and a Top Ten. He was also the Eastern States Dressage Champion in second and third levels. 
I lived within driving distance from the Los Alamos Dressage Center and I had the opportunity to visit, with more regularity. While I was interested in Dressage and becoming a stronger rider; it really was more about the Egyptian Arabian horses and the opportunity to be closer to them. Looking back, I don’t really think I understood the incredible opportunity that I enjoyed in this time. One of my favorite memories was watching Gail work Serr through one tempi changes, which he executed effortlessly and smoothly, while Gail smiled radiantly through the whole sequence. It looked like a dance; the only thing missing was the orchestra music.  I was in awe, watching this amazing horse work. Serr Maariner had an expressive head conveying a remarkable degree of intellectual curiosity. There was a light in his eyes, a sparkle, and an inner confidence that made him even more attractive than he already was. His body, as a result of his dressage training, was dramatically different than what his physique looked like prior to his training. With all of his muscles, he really took your breath away. I am reminded of a passage from My Horses, My Teachers, written by Alois Podhajsky, "Correct work had made him more beautiful, his muscles had developed, and he moved cheerfully and powerfully in balance and harmony. He was convincing proof that systematic and methodical work will result in the increasing beauty of the horse."

As Serr Maariner’s fame grew, many organizations expressed interest in having Serr perform in long lines at their event. One of the most amazing experiences highlighting Serr Maariner’s extreme intelligence occurred at an exhibition in New England, when Major Hector Carmona was still alive. The performance was choreographed to music and during one of the warm-ups, Gail felt that maybe, instead of having him perform the piaffe within a particular segment; she would have him canter instead. She spoke with Hector about it over dinner that night and both agreed that a change to the canter would enhance the overall performance. During warm-ups the next day, when it came time to execute the piaffe, Hector asked Serr to canter instead and Serr hesitated and started to collect himself for the piaffe. So, Hector asked again and this time, Serr turned his head around to look at Hector with a very puzzled expression. He seemed to say with his eyes, “My friend, you have forgotten the sequence. This is not correct! This part is for piaffe, not the canter!”  Later that day, Hector and Gail shared laughs over Serr’s amazing ability to think within the scope of his work. Serr Maariner was a true partner in this endeavor and knew the choreography, as well as his trainers did!

Serr Maariner lived a long life and was a very athletic, willing, and focused dressage horse, right up to the very end of his life. When he retired from the show ring and from regular work, he was not happy with a slower pace of life and wasted little time in letting everyone know of his discontent. Gail had no choice but return him to a regular work schedule, where he was ridden daily. Busy with a successful dressage teaching business, Gail was also in demand as a clinician and short-on-time. One of her working students expressed interest in taking Serr Maariner home with her, to Canada, where she would have the time that Gail did not have and incorporate Serr Maariner in her teaching business. So, in his final years of life, Serr Maariner travelled north,  to Canada, to live quietly, with the consistency of the work that he so desired.

Gail was always open and honest about Serr Maariner. As successful as he was in the sport, she was the first to say that he really was not built specifically for dressage but that he was willing and able to use his body and brains in ways that made him successful and a joy to not only share a part of her life with, but also, for people like me, to watch him perform and shatter all of the myths that people held about Arabian horses as riding horses. He remains one of the most talked about Arabians of our times; truly, a beautiful horse inside and out. Now, more than a decade since he died, Serr Maariner remains a unique Arabian Horse who possessed an abundant level of charisma and appealed to a wide variety of people who never believed that Arabian Horses had the talent and the ability to not only be competitive in the discipline of dressage but also, to work at an advanced level, in the collected frame of a classically-trained high school horse, while leaving hoof prints upon the hearts of many people who recognized his worth, long before he discovered the world of dressage.

17 January, 2019


Zaafarana (Balance x Samira), a 1946 mare, bred by the RAS. Her dam Samira (Ibn Rabdan x Bint Radia) was a full sister to the important stallion Shahloul and Hamdan, chief sire for Inshass. In tail female, she traces to the mare Bint Helwa, whom Lady Anne Blunt had purchased from Ali Pasha Sherif. Zaafarana is a Saqlawiyah Jedraniyah of Ibn Sudan, one of the most loved strains of all Arabian horses, going all the way back to Abbas Pasha, who had obtained the Saqlawi horses from the Ruala Bedouin. Zaafarana was celebrated in her time for her brilliant action and presence. She must have been electrifying, when moving. She captivated all who watched her, including Judith Forbis who said, "she was a mare of exceptional quality and brilliant action." Judi had imported Zaafarana's daughter by Nazeer, *Ansata Bint Zaafarana, who became an important broodmare for Ansata. Zaafarana was an excellent producer, passing on her athleticism to her sons *Talal (by Nazeer) and Amrulla (by Sid Abouhom), who became champions and much loved racehorses in Egypt. 

16 January, 2019


Shortly after Floyd and Margaret Reid married, they visited a friend who happened to own purebred Arabian horses. There are many ways to contract Arabitis and Floyd found the most potent way...to meet the horses in person, to touch them, talk to them and engage with them.  So, no surprise that after meeting the couple's horses, Floyd got "it" really bad and so, two years later, after attending many Arabian horse shows, they purchased Rahym (Kahar x Faiza) who was named a National Top Ten Stallion in 1961, under Floyd's ownership.  Four years later, having moved from Colorado to Oklahoma, Floyd made a springtime visit to Ansata Arabian Stud, where he met horses like *Ansata Ibn Halima, who impressed Floyd significantly with his very classic Arabian type.  Floyd was inspired by the Ansata horses and decided to sell his horses, including Rahym, in order to purchase an Egyptian mare of his very own. Fast forward three years, to the summer of 1968 and what would hopefully be for Floyd, a shopping trip to the Babson Farm. Floyd saw many horses who impressed him, however, none of the mares he really liked were for sale and Floyd left the farm feeling frustrated, and really disappointed, as he felt that there was no hope of ever owning a straight Babson Egyptian mare. A year later, Homer Watson offered Floyd the opportunity to buy that much desired Babson mare. Her name was Serrasab, a Fa-Serr daughter out of Fay-Sabbah.
"Serrasab was probably 14.3 1/2 hh, solid build, muscular and well-rounded. She was very responsive and easily trained. She had a good head, with straight profile."
The sale was consummated and arrangements were made to trailer the mare to the US Nationals, in Oklahoma, where Floyd would pick her up. She was in foal to Ansata Abbas Pasha and eventually she foaled Serr Zeer, in 1970. Floyd was disappointed with Serr Zeer and decided to leave Serrasab open the following year, eventually breeding her in 1972 to *Ansata Ibn Halima.  However, it would be a foal that Floyd would not enjoy as his very own, as Robert Cowling (he owned her daughter, Sabrah, whom he bred to *Ansata Ibn Halima, to produce Fa Halima) was interested in purchasing Serrasab. For Floyd and his young family, the money from the sale of Serrasab was too much money to turn down. The following year, Serrrasab foaled the very lovely mare, Serr Halima, for Robert Cowling, who decided to breed her back to *Ansata Ibn Halima to produce a full brother, aptly named, Serr Halim.

The Babson Farm consistently experienced success by blending the blood of Fabah with that of Fa-Serr, which is exactly how four full siblings were produced by Serrasab, prior to her sale to Floyd Reid: the stallion Bah Sab in 1963 and the full sisters: Sabrah in 1964, Serasabba in 1965 and Serasaab in 1968. All four of these horses were extremely concentrated in the blood of *Bint Bint Sabbah, as they traced to this critical Babson foundation mare in both tail female lines; through the sire  and also, through the dam. As a matter of fact, when you look at the pedigree, you will soon realize that it is made up of only three horses: *Bint Bint Sabbah, *Fadl and *Bint Serra I. The prepotency of this blood, close as it was to the original source horses, influenced these mares and stallions to become the strong and prolific breeding horses that they turned out to be, producing equally outstanding sons and daughters, who have gone on to become influential in both straight Egyptian and straight Babson Egyptian breeding programs. Of the four full siblings, I feel that Sabrah was her most successful offspring. If Sabrah had only produced Fa Halima by *Ansata Ibn Halima, we would still celebrate this single accomplishment and rate her as an elite broodmare.  However, Sabrah also produced Ansata Sabiha, who became an important foundation mare for Mike and Kiki Case's Glorieta Ranch and the charismatic stallion, SAR Fadl Halim, both horses sired also by *Ansata Ibn Halima. When she was bred to the *Ansata Ibn Halima son, Ansata El Sherif, she produced the mare, SF Khala Zahra, an important broodmare for both Walter Schimanski of Masada Arabians and Marilyn Lang of Fantasia Arabians, who incidentally, has bred deeply within this family of horses, more so  than any other breeder, through her foundation mare, Fa Bukra, SF Khala Zahra's daughter by Fa Asar, whose dam by the way is Serasabba, a full sister to Sabrah.  However, to focus solely on the progeny of Sabrah, to the exclusion of the other horses who are part of the Serrasab family of horses would be a terrible injustice to what is, a dynamic and vibrant family of horses. Who are the other horses, you may ask? Well, think of horses like the previously mentioned (and prolific) straight Babson Egyptian stallion Fa Asar, the most successful of all the Babson-Sirecho cross stallions: KH Seral Sireff, the trio of breeding stallions sired by Ansata Abbas Pasha: Serr Fadl, Sab el Dine and Serr Pasha; in addition to producing daughters like Jusera, Tamie and the AK-prefixed mares of which there are many: AK Maalima, AK Rafah and AK Bint Serasaab to name only a few mares.

When Floyd Reid visited the Babson Farm in 1968, he still remembers what Homer Watson told him, "Mr. Reid, you can't buy the quality you are looking for. You have to buy one of these and produce what you are wanting." It is interesting, all these years later, to understand that this is exactly what Floyd Reid accomplished...he bred the quality of horse he desired but Homer always knew that given a chance, Floyd could do that.

15 January, 2019

Sayo Sahran SMF

Makhnificent KA (Makhsous x Star Bint Hafiza) is recognized for siring horses with a strong and smooth topline, particularly, an outstanding length of hip and croup with super tail carriage. I'm not surprised, as genetically, Makhnificent's pedigree includes individuals like Sameh and his son, *Sultann, who were well-conformed horses, evidenced by their strong bodies and superior structure. Sayo Sahran SMF, a Mahknificent KA son out of Bint Bint Sayo (Ali Saroukh x Samura) is equally strong of body but yet, there is something more, that at first glance, may be missed. In reading about Sayo Sahran SMF on line, I appreciate the similarities he shares with mares like Star Bint Hafiza and Bint Deena, however, I present a different perspective directly observed from his tail female line via the grey mare Ansata Sabiha and the four strong-bodied colorful mares behind her: Sabrah, Serrasab, Fay-Sabbah and *Bint Bint Sabbah. If you believe that coat color influences phenotype, then the curvey, circular body we observe in Sayo Sahran SMF, is really, a throwback to his Babson ancestry and particularly, this long line of voluptuous bay mares. These straight Babson Egyptian mares were substantial but balanced mares, inspiring people like Carl Raswan, who coined the term "three-circle horses" to describe the phenotype of horses similar in body shape to the Babson mares. The Babson influence, carried forward through the tail female line is unmistakable and so many years later, is expressed in the body of this splendid bay stallion, bred by Silver Maple Farm in California. 

13 January, 2019


Futna, the dam of *Ansata Bint Sameh, was born in 1943, sired by the great Shahloul (Ibn Rabdan x Bint Radia) and out of the influential mare Farida (Saklawi II x Nadra el Saghira). Farida was the result of breeding an El Dahma son to an El Dahma grand-daughter. As a Farida daughter, Futna was concentrated in the blood of the horse we consider to be the birth mother of the Dahman Shahwan strain. Futna's siblings, sired by different stallions, were also influential horses like Ragia (by Ibn Rabdan), Balance (by Ibn Samhan) and Bint Farida (by Mansour). All of these horses share common ground, by producing horses who have gone on to have a significant impact in the world-wide community of straight Egyptian Arabian horse breeding.

11 January, 2019

A Story of Ibrahim, Lagodna & Nabor

*Naborr (Negatiw x Lagodna)
Much has been written about the stallion *Naborr (Negatiw x Lagodna) and it is not my intention to repeat the volume of information that has already been published about him. There are a couple of great articles which are still available online and I encourage you to read Mary Jane Parkinson's Nabor: The Life of a Legend and Cassie Parker-Charbonneau's *Naborr - Saga of the Silver Stallion. With that said, I learned a long time ago that there's a unique story hidden in the life of every horse and sometimes, you have to dig a little to find it. In a previous blog about the EAO-bred stallion, *Ansata Ibn Halima, I had written that the name of his dam, Halima, means “gentle mare.” Well, imagine the surprise I felt when I learned that the name of *Naborr's dam,  Lagodna, also means "gentle." Even though *Naborr was born in Russia and *Ansata Ibn Halima was born in Egypt, the parallels in both stallions' lives are really amazing, as both horses, having immigrated to the United States, generated alot of interest for their respective country's breeding programs and physically, evolved to become living standards for their strain type: *Ansata Ibn Halima for the Dahman Shahwan strain, while *Naborr was representative of the Saqlawi strain. In the article written by Mary Jane Parkinson, she said,
"The Poles loved him, for they found in *Naborr a resemblance to the Arabian horses painted by Juliusz Kossak, considered the best painter of oriental horses. *Naborr's remarkable Arabian type, dry fine head, swan-like neck and milk-white hair (unusual for his age) all related to the Poles ideal Arabian."
A good part of *Naborr's early life happened before I was even born. He was foaled in Russia, in 1950 (*Ansata Ibn Halima was born in 1958, so both horses are peers, members of the same generation). His impressive early career included racing (he won two of his eight races), showing (earning a Certificate of the First Class, a prize equivalent to the American National Reserve Championship in Halter) and finally breeding (siring six colts and three fillies for Tersk Stud). By the time he was a five year old, the opportunity for Poland to purchase the horse became very real, as Poland, at the time, was rebuilding their breeding program from the devastation caused by World War II, as well as the destructive losses from the preceding world war and conflicts, like the Bolshevik Revolution. Thankfully, the celebrated Antoniny Stud stallion, Ibrahim had sired a son, Skowronek, who was exported to England and was ultimately purchased by Lady Wentworth of the Crabbet Stud in England, becoming an influential stallion not only at Crabbet Stud but all over the world, while preserving the blood of Ibrahim for future use. His son Naseem was purchased by the Russians in 1936. In 1945, the Naseem son, Negatiw, who was out of the captured Janow Podlaski-bred mare, Taraszcza (Enwer Bey x Gazella II) was born and he would play a crucial role in this story, in restoring the Ibrahim sire line for Poland. The Polish breeders knew that both Naseem and Negatiw were highly successful breeding horses in Russia and wanted a horse that incorporated the blood of both stallions in their program. When finally, the opportunity materialized, *Naborr went to the Albigowa State Stud but eventually, he made his way to the newly-established Michalow State Stud, attracting  the attention of Ignacy Jaworoski, the stud farm's director, who developed a lifelong admiration for *Naborr, born out of his interaction with a horse who was as sweet, as he was beautiful. Reading of the feeling that Ignacy Jaworoski had for *Naborr, I am reminded of Dr. Mohamed Marsafi of El Zahraa  and the relationship he enjoyed with a very sweet *Ansata Ibn Halima. However, what makes *Naborr an interesting choice for Poland was that in addition to the Ibrahim sire line through Negatiw-Naseem-Skowronek, his dam Lagodna brings in an additional two lines to Ibrahim: through the stallion Posejdon and through Elstera, a 1913 grey Ibrahim daughter out of Lezginka. The interesting twist in the story of *Naborr happened somewhere in the late 1930s-to-mid-1940s. The dam of Lagodna was a 1933 Janow Podlaski-bred mare named Obra by Hardy (a Gazella II son) and out of Ikwa (Elstera's daughter). She was purchased by a private breeder named Stanislaw Magielski, who bred Arabian horses at his Jablonka Stud. It was there that Obra was bred to Posejdon and foaled the grey filly named Lagodna in 1939. And this is where the mystery begins, as both Obra and Lagodna disappeared, without leaving a trace as to who had them and where they had gone. Lagodna was at the German Trakehner State Stud, where she was incorporated into the breeding program as "Odilgard". It wasn't until 1946, when Lagodna, in foal to a Trakehner stallion, was captured by the Russians, with her Trakehner filly at side. Eventually, her 1946 and 1947 Trakehner foals were sent to the Stavropol Stud Farm and Lagodna was incorporated into the purebred breeding program at Tersk.  In 1949, the catalyst of our story, the ultimate event, occurred and that was that Lagodna was bred to Negatiw, to produce the colt named Nabor (this is the spelling of his name, prior to his American registration, as it was the name given to him in Russia, when he was foaled) in 1950. Imagine what the world of Arabian breeding would be like if the Russians had not captured Lagodna  from the German Trakehner Stud farm and she remained a Trakehner broodmare for the rest of her life? How much poorer would we be without *Naborr and all of the horses that descend from him! Have you thought of this? Think of the horses we dearly love like Equator and the most beautiful mare, Pianissima. The genetic fiber of these two horses includes Kajora, a daughter of the stallion Kaborr, a *Naborr son. THAT! is the significance of Lagodna, as she symbolizes in a very real way, the nature or rather, the essence of Arabian horse breeding in Poland and how it not only survived, despite the greatest of adversities but unbelievably prospered, to emerge better and stronger, as evidenced by the quality of horses produced. And yet, at the very nucleus of this story resides miraculous lessons we can all embrace, about living life with courage, faith and hope, just as our Polish brothers and sisters have done in their lives.

10 January, 2019

Bint Radia

More than just a name in a pedigree, Shahloul's dam, Bint Radia, was a gorgeous, ultra-feminine 1920 RAS-bred mare, out of Ghadia, an important mare for not only the Royal Agricultural Society but also for the Inshass Stud of King Farouk. In THE CLASSIC ARABIAN HORSE, Judith Forbis shared that Radia traced to the mare Ghazala, a line known for producing elegant racehorses, horses that had substance, balance, long necks and extreme heads. What I find most interesting in Bint Radia, are the sources of established Egyptian blood in her pedigree. Her sire, Mabrouk Manial was bred by Prince Mohamed Aly. Although her dam was bred by Lady Anne Blunt, both her sire, Feysul and dam, Ghazala, were by Ali Pasha Sherif-bred horses, whose horses came from Abbas Pasha!