21 April, 2015

The Horse of Sheikhs


"His small ears were pricked, catching the strange sounds from the other animals. His fine head was held high. His every sense was alert. Every muscle, every sinew was ready to be unleashed with the power and swiftness of a coiled steel spring. The Black was all horse." - from The Horse Tamer by Walter Farley.
This young stallion is Thettwa Ezzain, bred by Mr. Usamah Alkazemi, of the world famous Ezzain Arabians, a fabulous breeding farm located in Kuwait. His sire is NK Qaswarah (NK Hafid Jamil x NK Nariman) and his dam is Albaheiah Ezzain (Nooreddine Ezzain x NK Nakeebya). I love the shape and length of Thettwa's neck, which has a beautiful underline and when meets the head, the angle adds length to the poll. His lines are actually circular, very smooth and flow gracefully into each other. There is harmony and balance present in the horse we see. He has longer, muscled forearms and short cannon bones, which are becoming increasingly more difficult to find these days. He is compact, with a smooth and strong top line, balanced below with a well-sprung rib cage. He is very correct. 

Have you ever heard the saying, "let the sire of the sire be the grandsire of the dam?" In the early 1950's, Lloyd Brackett, one of the founding fathers of the German Shepherd dog in the United States, popularized a long known breeding formula, used in breeding everything from Thoroughbred race horses to Holstein cattle to prize winning sheep. Lloyd Bracket did much to clear the confusion and misunderstanding of line and inbreeding and in the process, he bred over 90 champions. So this saying, "Let the sire of the sire be also the maternal grandsire of the dam" is forever known as Brackett's formula. In the pedigree of Thettwa Ezzain, the stallion, NK Hafid Jamil is the sire of NK Qaswarah, Thettwa's sire, as well as the grandsire of Albaheiah Ezzain, Thettwa's dam. 

When I visited Ezzain Arabians two years ago, I slowly realized that my favorite horses all shared common ground in Ansata AlMurtajiz. A son of Ansata Hejazi out of Ansata Samsara, it was not important whether Murtajiz appeared as a sire, grandsire or even great-grandsire; what became more important to me is the presence of Ansata AlMurtajiz in the pedigree. In Thettwa's pedigree, Ansata AlMurtajiz is the sire of Nooreddine, the sire of Albaheiah. I value Murtajiz's influence and the qualities he passes onto his get, most notably the size and shape of the skull and the placement of the ears, as well as the structure of the eye socket which enables these horses to possess some of the most beautiful eyes seen in the breed: very black, luminous and very large, set lower in the head. 

When I saw the dam of Thettwa, Albaheiah Ezzain, for the first time, I felt like someone had hit me and all the air was driven out of me. I felt light-headed and feared the embarrassment of fainting in the presence of men whom I had never met before. I knew that the mare was beautiful and had traveled thousands of miles to see her. I was not disappointed, as she was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined her to be. I had to get closer and look at her, I could no longer remain seated. While Thettwa is black as the night, Albaheiah is as radiant white as sunshine falling on new fallen snow. She is a taller mare with much substance but very refined, graceful and elegant. She has very fine, black skin which accentuates every line, every curve in her fabulous body. Her muzzle is very much like her paternal grandsire with elastic nostrils that become enormous, while moving. She is smooth and strong over her top line and her tail carriage is extreme, with the tail carried like a flag, away from her body. Most people dream of horses that look like Albaheiah does and unfortunately, never meet them. I am one of the luckier people who can say that I not only saw a horse like this once but meeting her was so profound, that I cannot continue to look at horses in the same way. As beautiful as Albaheiah is, one must stop to acknowledge her very interesting pedigree and the close relationship between the stallion, Nooreddine Ezaain and the mare, NK Nakeebya, her sire and dam. Albaheiah, through both her sire and dam, traces to the mare Nashua, a Salaa el Dine-sired daughter out of Lotfeia, who also became an important broodmare for Katharinenhof, having produced the stallion Nejdy as well as Nashua. Both Nooreddine and Nakeebya are grand progeny of Nashua, as Nooreddine is out of the Nashua daughter named Nada (by Adnan) and Nakeebya is out of the Nashua daughter named Nabilah (by Nahaman). To further underscore how closely related Nooreddine and Nakeebya are, both sires of the Nashua daughters, Nahaman and Adnan, are also Salaa el Dine sons. Nahaman is out of Ameera (Madkour I x Hanan), while Adnan is out of Ghazala (Ghazal x Hanan). Hanan is common ground for both horses.The difference between Nahaman and Adnan comes down to only two horses-Madkour and Ghazal. And with Ghazal being the sire of Moheba II, the dam of Madkour I, is there really a difference genetically between these two horses?

Going back to Lloyd Brackett and his breeding theories, he understood the value of using high quality dogs who were related to each other. He understood very clearly the type he wanted to reproduce in his dogs and by concentrating  genes and exercising very strict selection, he could breed the traits he desired with much consistency. He was not fond of outcrossing and he said, "Never outcross when things seem to be going well, do it only as an experiment or when some fault or faults cannot be eliminated." While Lloyd Brackett was focused on breeding his own unique strain of German Shepherd dogs; Usamah Alkazemi is equally passionate about breeding the most beautiful Arabian horses.

Another point that I would like to add is NK Qaswarah's ability to sire color. This is a significant point. While he is gray in color and even when bred to gray mares, he has produced a good number of bay-colored horses and like Thettwa, the more elusive black color. Thettwa is one of three black horses at Ezzain, the other two horses are Ekramilbari and Alttafilbari. In everything we know about the Bedouin, we understand that the Bedouins preferred darker colored horses over lighter colored horses and of the dark colors, the black horse was their favorite, followed by the dark bay and then, the dark chestnut. The black horse was so highly regarded by the Bedouin that only the Sheikhs rode the black horses. 

Thettwa is the best of his dam, enhanced by the unique qualities of his sire. Even with that said, it is challenging to look at this horse and not recognize the impact made by Ansata AlMurtajiz and just maybe, even farther back in the pedigree, the legendary sire, *Ansata Ibn Halima. Thettwa, in my personal opinion is very much like him, especially in the outline or silhouette of his body. Over the years, we have been taught to recognize this phenotype as Dahman by the scholars of our breed, most notably, Carl Raswan and Judith Forbis. Perhaps the multiple sources of Dahman blood in the pedigree have something to do with this? Although he is a Hadban strain horse by pedigree, Thettwa is the ultimate representation of the Dahman horse, in very modern form. 

14 December, 2014

Gabriel

The night air was cold upon her face, even without the wind. She wept. Her heart, was broken in two and drowning in loneliness. The large, open space that is the desert surrounded her and made her feel even more alone than she already felt. "How could she do this to me?" she wailed,
How could HE 
Her inner rage boiling, the fury launching from her lips,
"THIS IS ALSO HIS SON!"
Her tears, like icicles, frozen forever on her cheeks, a harsh reminder of the icy heart that betrayed her and driven her away from a place of comfort...her home. Her son, now fast asleep, wrapped himself tighter in her cloak, as the wind blew a little harder, a little colder. Yes, it was going to be cold in the desert tonight and Egypt was still a few more nights away.

"God of Abraham, I have no reason to trust you but if you are everything Abraham says that you are, please, do not abandon me!" she screamed into the black night.

The wind suddenly grew stronger and the sand, suddenly airborne, blasted angrily against all in his path. A whirling, dervish of sand surrounded her and her child.

"What is this, what is happening?" she questioned, with great concern.

"Hagar, your faith in the living God has been heard and God has sent me to you, to help you, in your time of need."

Suddenly, out of thin air, the handsome young man, with hair of gold and eyes of blue, stood facing her and said, "Peace to you, Hagar and to your son, Ishmael."

The angel Gabriel figures prominently in three world religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism. I find this fact amazing, as many people, all over the world, share common ground through Gabriel. גַּבְרִיאֵל, Gavri'el, Gabrielus, جبريل Jibril, Jibrail, جبرائيل , Gabriel, in all the various names which people know him, means "strength of God". In all three religions, Gabriel is a messenger, between God and His creation.

In the time of Babylon, Daniel was visited by the Angel Gabriel, who helped Daniel to interpret visions that he experienced and did not understand. Gabriel's revelations bring wisdom and understanding, where there was none and bears witness to a God who loves His people and cares for each of us so much, that He would send an angel to Daniel, to counsel him.
"I am Gabriel, who stands before God.."-Luke 1:19
In Christianity, Gabriel is the angel who informs Zacharias of his wife's forthcoming pregnancy. Elizabeth, despite an advanced age, gives birth to a son, John, whom we know as John the Baptist. However, Gabriel's greatest message was to Mary, when He visited her to deliver the news that she would give birth to Jesus. Subsequently, Gabriel visits Joseph in a dream, to warn him of Herod's jealousy and his mission to slaughter all the newly-born male babies in Bethlehem. While the New Testament does not tell us that Gabriel was in fact, the Angel who delivered the news to Mary Magdalene of the resurrection, most Christians believe that Gabriel was the angel who said "Why do you search for the living among the dead?" Most Christians also believe that Gabriel was the angel who ministered to Jesus, as He agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before His passion.

In Islam, Gabriel is also an angelic messenger, delivering messages from God to His beloved people. During the last days of Ramadan, on Laylat al-Qadr (the Night of Great Value), Muslims remember the night that Gabriel descended to earth, to reveal the Qur'an to the prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). Muslims also believe that Gabriel accompanied the prophet on his ascension into the heavens.

One fact is amazingly clear, whether you read the Qur'an, the Bible or the Tanakh; Gabriel has been trying to get our attention. He wants to help us get closer to God, in the hope that we may form a deep and loving relationship with Him. Gabriel reminds us that all good things come from God and in times of great desperation, when we need God the most, his message is full of great joy and hope.

God loves you.  God wants you.

For those of us who love the Asil Arabian Horse, we are connected through the much-loved legends that have passed from one generation to the next, concerning the origin of the horse. Gabriel figures prominently in many of these stories.
"My blessed companion and friend of my creator, thou wilt never fail me."-from The Classic Arabian Horse written by Judith Forbis
"Who are you and where have you come from?" she asks, as she backs up towards her sleeping child, positioning her body between the stranger and Ishmael, offering her child protection.

Although she does not recognize him, she asks

"Has Abraham sent you for me?"

with a little hope still in her voice.

"I mean you no harm Hagar, the Lord God has found great favor in you. For you have remained steadfast in the faith of Abraham. You have not strayed from God and worshipped the pagan gods," he explained, "God is my strength and has sent me here, to this desert, to you, to bless you."
And as his words drifted into the growing wind, Hagar felt the heat rise and the sand started to swirl around her and from nowhere, the sound of a beating heart, amplified, pulsing in her eardrums, faster and faster.

"What is happening?"

And then, the most beautiful creature Hagar had ever seen, materialized out of the wind and stood before her, looking at her. She was extraordinary in her beauty and in her spirit, for she imparted an immediate feeling of peace upon Hagar, the likes of which she had never known. The creature was smaller than the camel but larger than the donkey, with eyes set wide apart in her broad head.  In the middle of her head was a white mark, shaped like a star, as if the star had fallen out of the night sky, landing upon her bulging forehead. She reached her nose out to Hagar, stretching her long neck and soon, her warm breath was dancing upon Hagar's skin. Her broad chest flowed into powerful shoulders, conveying the fact that this creature could fly like the wind, across the sand and away from danger. Her tail, like a flag, was blown from side to side, as if made from the finest silk.

"What is..?" her question, unfinished, drifted in the night air.

"She is a gift, from God. Her name is Kuhaylah and her children will inspire and encourage people for many years to come, long after you are gone from this place, for God has found favor with you Hagar and with your prayers...."
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies"-from the song, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, written by Charles Wesley
EnJOY,
Ralph

PS The painting by Mary Haggard was the poster for the 2002 Scottsdale All Arabian show. The scond painting of the chestnut Arabian Horse is by Fred Verbeek

01 October, 2014

selfie

 
"....large liquid dark eyes of oval shape..." - Carl Raswan
I pulled into the driveway and saw Maria just stepping out of her golf cart, with an arm full of hay.  She had just started feeding the horses. It was a good time to visit, as I could help her with all of the chores while we talked. "Hey, how are you? Thanks for letting me come over" as I gave her a big hug and then asked, "where's your new mare? I don't see her."

With a panicked look on her face, Maria quickly searched the herd with her eyes. "Um...oh, there she is, David, right over there,  by the water trough. She's the little chestnut mare with the white star," she said and continued, "you know, I don't really know that much about her. Her owner died and the relative that I dealt with, didn't really know much, other than what was on her papers. She's a sweet mare though, sad but really sweet. She doesn't socialize with the rest of the horses in this pasture. When she first got here, I thought maybe after a few weeks, she would be used to everyone. But that time has come and gone and still, she prefers to stand alone in the far corner of this field, away from all the other horses." Maria explained, as she agonized over the cute mare. "What do you think?" she asked me. I shrugged my shoulders because I had nothing to say. Maria looked at me and then continued, "the vet has seen her a couple times and has run a blood workup but he can't seem to find anything wrong with her. Nothing. She's healthy. So, I have been wondering over her diet and whether the grain I am feeding her might have something to do with it. I might switch her to a forage-based diet. I've already tried a higher dose of vitamins but I haven't seen any change. She looks so sad, so withdrawn. I know this sounds crazy but I have an animal communicator coming here tomorrow morning, to evaluate her."

"I don't think that's crazy Maria," I replied, "you might just find out what's bothering her and then, help her get better." We talked a little more about her new mare and a few other things and pretty soon, it was time to go home. "Call me and let me know what the communicator finds out about your mare. I'm stumped." I said, as I backed my car out of her driveway and drove away.

Louise Reardon, the animal communicator,  arrived early the next morning. Maria explained all of her concerns about the new mare. After some time, the communicator called Maria over to the pasture and proceeded to give Maria an answer that she was not really expecting. "You know Maria, this was a very poignant session for me. One of the more memorable sessions that I can ever recall. Your mare started to weep great tears of sadness, as if her heart was going to split in two halves, as she remembered her mistress. She had deeply loved her woman, who sounds like a gentle and kind soul. Marti was her name. She called your mare Desi. She doesn't like the name you are calling her by. She prefers that you call her Desi. Marti made Desi feel very special and she told her that of all the horses in the world, she was the most beautiful horse she had ever known. Marti always had kind, soothing words for Desi. She made Desi feel better. She spoke directly from her heart, using words that were raw, full of imagery and feeling" and then, Louise stopped for a minute, to brush a tear out of her own eye. "I'm sorry." she said. Maria looked at her in full amazement, hanging onto every word Louise said. "But the most amazing thing your little mare said, is that she remembers Marti's eyes most of all. They were the most beautiful eyes. Dark, liquid eyes that seemed to be like two pools of melted obsidian. Obsidian. Can you believe Desi said that?" Maria was quiet and Louise, broke into her silence with a question, "do you have a camera?" Maria looked at her, puzzled and repeated, "a camera? whatever for?"she asked. Louise explained, "Desi told me that when Marti looked at her, she could see, in the depths of Marti's eyes, her own beautiful reflection. So, I promised her that you would take her picture with your camera and show it to her every time you see her. It's not the same as seeing her reflection in Marti's eyes but I noticed you have light blue eyes and well, it's the best that I could come up with. It made Desi happier to know this." 

So, imagine my surprise, to learn the whole story, when I called Maria later. I cried, to learn that Desi was grieving the loss of her human. I also loved her name. Desi. And then, it hit me and I laughed out loud, "WOW, even horses like selfies, just like people."

29 September, 2014

Barn Coat

I remember when I purchased this coat. I had gone to the store to buy something else and I walked by the outerwear section and there it was. I must have picked it up a hundred times, only to change my mind each time and place it back on the rack. 
It's not me. 
I'm too short. 
It's too long.  
It's lightweight.
I'll be cold in it but...it had deep pockets.
BIG pockets.
I could fit a lot of cool stuff in there, like a couple wormers plus a few carrots, a hoof pick, curry comb, syringes and a rolled up lead rope. And that was just for starters. Maybe even a rock or two. I love rocks. I pick them up off the ground all the time. It just seemed to me that there was alot of potential in those pockets. So, I bought the coat...yup, for the pockets. I love pockets. 
And wait, 
I have to be honest with you. I also bought the coat because, 
well, 
I thought I looked like the Marlboro man when I tried it on. 
You know, a cowboy. 
I always wanted to be a cowboy. Just like Johnny West. And Thunderbolt. You can't forget Thunderbolt. He was the best part. But this coat needed some serious character before any of that could happen. Over the years, it's gotten a lot of character. With two horses, you can imagine how much character this coat has gotten. My kids are embarrassed to be seen with me in public, if I am wearing this coat. "Please, can you wear something else" or "It's not that cold out, really, you don't need to wear it" or "you really need a new one, you look like a homeless man with that old coat, it's gross" they tell me with painful looks on their faces. It's a sore point in my household. But I love this coat and even if I were to win the big prize on Lotto tomorrow, I would still wear it. I'll never get rid of it. It's comfortable but more importantly, this coat smells like my mare, Maarena. I bury my face in the coat and it takes me back to when I was standing right next to her, with my face buried in her silky mane. How I loved those days. Did I really understand how fleeting that time was? I was so happy then. Nothing could bother me on those days. Every now and then, on the really bad days, when I miss her most, I'll hug it and with every ounce of me, I can almost feel my arms wrapped around her neck. I didn't want to let go. 
I didn't want to say good bye. 
I wasn't ready.  
Please, stay with me. 
Don't leave me. 
Please. 
So that's why I can't get rid of my coat. It's full of...character. My mare's character. I see her in this coat. That's why I can't wash it either. It still smells like her. I see all the smudge marks from when she rubbed her head on my arm, after I wormed her. At the time, I wasn't thrilled with all that white paste that I thought would never come out but it did...sort of. And that time that she choked and all that stuff came out of her nose. That came out too. And when I needed a cloth to wipe her face and I couldn't find one and only a sleeve would do, well, that stuff came out too. It's a really good coat now. It's been repeatedly baptized by stuff, over and over and over. Why, I would say that it fits me perfectly now. Thanks to all that character and...stuff.

26 September, 2014

A Short Course in Miracles

"Fairy tales can come true, they can happen to you, when you're young at heart..."-from the song Young at Heart, written by Johnny Richards and Carolyn Leigh
This is Haliluyah MH, an El Halimaar son out of RDM Maar Hala,  as photographed by the very talented, Christine Emmert. When I think of Haliluyah, I think of his miraculous beginning,
“Desperate to produce another foal or two, Maar Hala was left with an equine reproduction specialist in Santa Ynez. The vet was given carte blanche to ‘do whatever it takes to get her pregnant.’ By this time, Maar Hala was 21 years old but was in excellent health. At the end of the season, she was not pregnant so the decision was made to bring her home, reassess in the spring, and then decide if her reproductive career was over. At home she was pampered and treated like the queen that she was, but she was not teased and her cycles were not tracked. In April of 1995 the vet returned to examine Maar Hala to determine if it would be worth our while to try again. Upon examination, the vet told my dad to sit down because Maar Hala was pregnant. Dad exclaimed, ‘Hallelujah!’ and we had the name of Maar Hala’s next and last foal, Haliluyah MH.” -Jody Cruz, in his article, RDM Maar Hala, appearing in the September 2009 issue of The Australian Arabian Horse News
Who said miracles don't happen anymore? We just need to be more aware of them and to live each day as if it is in fact a miracle, because when you get right down to the middle of it, you are the miracle of your life. You just don't know that yet.

EnJOY,
Ralph

22 September, 2014

The Wisdom in an Overflowing Cup

"In midlife, it is tempting to succumb to the idea that because you have more years behind you than ahead, what you already know will carry you along."~Jon Katz, from Running to the Mountain
Once upon a time, an old Buddhist monk sat with a young monk who was eager and full of questions. The teacher did not acknowledge the young monk immediately and continued to pour tea into a cup without stopping. Soon, the tea was overflowing all over the table. The young monk gasped and was stunned by his teacher's actions. He did not understand what his teacher was doing.  The teacher stopped, looked at the young monk and said, "like this cup, you are full of opinions and speculations. To see the light of wisdom, you must first empty the cup."

Our modern society has become increasingly more urban. The horse now competes with many forms of recreation, some of which did not exist as recent as fifteen years ago. Mobile phones, the Internet and social media have revolutionized our method of communication with each other and set new standards and expectations of  responsiveness. Our world of Arabian horses has been hit hard and is deeply troubled, impacted by many of the same factors that other breeds have also been affected. We have an over supply of horses and not enough people who want them. Add an aging population of horse owners, meaning the people who were breeding, buying and selling the majority of horses, and as this population retires, what further impact will it have on the horse world? It's scary. I think we are all the young monk. Breeders and enthusiasts are worried about the future and I think we have far more questions than answers. I wonder if our cup is overflowing with preconceived ideas, philosophies and opinions, that have more to do with the safety of a glorified past and nothing to do with the times we find ourselves in now. So, thinking back to our little story, do you need to empty your cup first, to make room for new wisdom?

10 August, 2014

The Soulful Eye of the Arabian Horse

"The first thing an Oriental looks at when buying a horse, is the head. They look for a head full of elegance, beauty and expression. They then look at the hindquarters, and if these are satisfactory they turn their attention to the legs. These are the three most important considerations." --- Prince Mohamed Aly Tewfik, from his book, Breeding Purebred Arab Horses
"....large liquid dark eyes of oval shape set deep down towards the middle of the skull." - Carl Raswan
Pictured above is the mare, Al Amal AA, a daughter of Halim Shah I and out of The Vision HG, she was bred by Chen Kedar of Ariela Arabians and owned byKathrin Hampe Klingebiel of EOS Arabian
"The eyes are set low on the head, usually at the line which separates the upper and middle thirds. They should be large, prominent and almost oval in shape. The size of the white are of the eyeball should not be large in comparison to the black part. Eyes with too much white take much of the beauty of the typical Arabian eye."-- Dr. Ameen Zaher, from his book, Arabian Horse Breeding and the Arabians of America
  Pictured above is the straight Egyptian stallion, Ansata AlMurtajiz, a son of Ansata Hejazi and out of the mare, Ansata Samsara.
"The eye should be extremely large and dark...It should be a large blunted oval, very wide open and put into the head like that of a gazelle, and set so that when the head is in a normal position the lower edge is almost exactly horizontal." -- Lady Wentworth, from her book, The Authentic Arabian Horse.
Pictured above is the mare, Saniyyah RCA, a daughter of Mishaal HP and out of the mare, My Shooting Star.
"The indwelling gentle spirit of Arabian horses finds expression in their intelligent, sympathetic features, the glory of their beautiful countenance and in their soulful eyes." - Carl Raswan
 The late Badrilbdoor Ezzain, a daughter of NK Qaswarah and out of the Ansata AlMurtajiz daughter, Azhaar Ezzain.