29 January, 2023

Breeding Horses: It's Complicated

Princeton Maarena (Serr Maariner x Princeton Gamila)

You know, I have never really been the same, since both of my mares died. I wasn't expecting either horse to die, especially within a year of each other. Wait, can I rephrase that sentence? I understood that an end-of-life event could happen, sooner, rather than later, because both mares were mature mares, in their mid-twenties but I was determined, no, committed, to keeping them both healthy, with all the resources available to me. I fooled myself into believing that both mares would see their thirty-year old birthdays and of the two, because she had been in my care for a longer time, that Rosie's life would extend far into her thirties like many of the amazing horses I had read about in Equus magazine.   

Although I met Princeton Maarena when she was a yearling, she did not enter my life again until she was 18 years old.  From the time that she arrived, it just felt right. I know that sounds cheesy but as she stepped off the trailer, I was overwhelmed with gratefulness, more than I have ever experienced. A few years later, she had choked on her feed and while waiting for the veterinarian, she had laid down in the thick bed of shavings that I had prepared for her, with her legs tucked under her. She was visibly in distress, sweating profusely and in my best suit and overcoat, I kneeled right next to her and put my arm over her back, for reassurance. "I'm here for you Mimi, whatever it takes." She turned her head and made eye contact with me and from that point on, the connection that I shared with this mare was unbelievable, unlike any relationship that I have ever had with a horse. When I say that I loved this mare, with apologies to Rosie whom I also loved,  I deeply loved Princeton Maarena. I wish that I could have bred a replacement foal from her, in preparation for the day when she would not be here anymore. To have done so, would have been the crowning achievement of a horse breeding life, well-lived. 

I'm a fan of an independent streaming series created by Dallas Jenkins, called The Chosen. It's a dramatization of the ministry of Jesus, after choosing his disciples. Now, in its third season, this particular episode focused upon a woman, Veronica, who had been plagued by illness for 12 years. Her faith was so strong, she believed that just by touching the fringe of Jesus' garments, she would be instantly cured. I thought about my mares and maybe, the breeze stirred up by Jesus walking past them, would have been enough to keep them from dying and in the process, fix the red hot mess that I am. 

Ansata Ali Abbas (*Ansata Ibn Halima x Faye Roufa), as photograped by Judith Wich

In the previous blog post, I shared Barbara Griffith's breeding commandments and if you study the list carefully, you come to the realization that as a breeder, Barbara was laser-focused on mare quality. Many years ago, I had the opportunity to purchase an *Ibn Hafiza daughter, out of Masada Bellesabah. In those days, prior to home computers and the internet, videos were sent on VHS tape, through the mail, to be played in a VCR. I couldn't wait to play the video and finally, it arrived to reveal a powerfully moving mare, unbelievably electric, with ground covering strides very similar to the Sameh daughters at Imperial: *Sonbolah, *Fawkia and *Sabra. Barbara would be proud of my selection, as this mare redefined the word "best" in Barbara's first commandment:
"Acquire and retain the best mares possible."
I negotiated a price that I could afford to pay and waited for the sales contract to arrive. In the meantime, I went to see Ansata Ali Abbas, who was at Hope Farm, then located in Mendham, NJ, owned by the late Joan Skeels and Sue Burnham. Hope Farm was home to two Ansata stallions: the impressive, Ansata Shah Zahir and Ansata Ali Abbas, who reminded me more of the type of horse that Prince Mohamed Aly Tewfik would have bred. He was EXACTLY what I was looking for,  sired by *Ansata Ibn Halima and out of Faye Roufa, an Ansata Abbas Pasha daughter. I was convinced, after meeting Ansata Ali Abbas that he was the "outside stallion" that Barbara referred to, in commandment #5:
"Use outside stallions if you think they will improve upon your mares." 
Days turned into weeks and weeks, turned into a month and the sales contract never came. Finally, I reached the seller by phone, only to learn that the mare had been "sold" to an artist, in exchange for artwork. I wasn't surprised, as I suspected this outcome but I was thoroughly discouraged. 

Thinking about how close I came to breeding my very own Ansata Ali Abbas-sired foal underscores the challenges involved in breeding horses. Judith Forbis has said many times that it's not for the faint of heart. Although, I'm not sure why becoming a breeder has been so elusive for me. You would think of all the people involved in this community, it would be a cake walk for me, right? It's complicated. While the financial resources can be a bit daunting; maybe if I lived a little more boldly, a little less fearfully, not so afraid of taking risks, even failing, the outcome may have been different. Now, having reached a mature age, it doesn't seem morally right to create a new life, who may live a longer life, than the time I have left in this world. Who will take care of my horse, when I am no longer here?

***This blog is lovingly dedicated to my friend Marilyn Lang. While life has thrown some curve balls at me, a friendship with Marilyn has been not only a gift, it has been a huge blessing in my life, for which I am forever grateful. Love you Marilyn.***

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