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.

07 August, 2014

Prominence

"The head is more important in Arab horses than in other breeds....the really perfect head being only seen in the horses of purest blood..." - Lady Wentworth, from her book, The Authentic Arabian Horse
The mare pictured is Maar Mara, a straight Egyptian Arabian, of Babson and Hallany Mistanny ancestry. She was bred by the late Jay Gormley and is currently owned by Marilyn Lang of Fantasia Arabians. She is a beauty.
BUT
This blog is not really about Maar Mara. It's more about a quality that Maar Mara possesses that I wanted to point out. The most excellent blog of Edouard al-Dahdah, Daughters of the Wind, is visited sometimes by a guest blogger, a Bedouin named Pure Man, who once wrote about the prominence of the facial crest bone and the esteem that the Bedouin felt for this breed hallmark. See the white arrows that are pointing to each side of her face?
"Among the Arabians the KUHAYLAN (masculine type) has the shortest and widest (broadest) head with the most details (fine tracery of veins, wrinkles, 'bumps', bulges, 'tear-bones', etc.) 'engraved' upon its intelligent features." - Carl Raswan, from his article, The Head of the Arabian, published by Western Horseman magazine
Those are her facial crest bones or as Raswan explains, "tear-bones." If you can magnify the picture, can you see how prominent this bone is? Can you appreciate the width or the degree of the flare (protrusion) of this bone? The prominence of this bone is unique to Arabian horses. If you were to lay your thumb on this area, as a way to measure the width of this bone, the distance would approximate close to half your thumb. In Bedouin breeding, the prominence of the facial crest bone is an important selection criteria. The Bedouin believed that the prominence of the facial crest bone was a clear indicator of authentic origin and horses with a more prominent bone were the horses selected for breeding, among other cherished characteristics.  I am intrigued by what Pure Man explained about the prominence of the facial bone. What do you think?

EnJoy,
Ralph

04 August, 2014

GODZILLA

It has been 7 months since Mimi died. In some ways, it feels like yesterday and in other ways, it feels like it happened years and years ago. Does that make sense? On most days, I am okay. Really.

            "time heals all wounds"

I have heard someone say this before. I have always disliked this saying. As a matter of fact, I despise any cliches and would gladly ban them from human language. No matter how heartfelt, this expression sounds HARSH and UNCARING. And yet, as more time continues to pass, it proves the truth of these words. It's been difficult to think of Mimi without my throat constricting and experiencing the crushing heaviness that pushes any happiness out of my life. Not having horses anymore has not only left a hole in my heart, it's left a hole in my life. Half the time, I don't know what to do with myself. Like the Dutch boy in the famous story, I am struggling to fill in the holes. 

I used to be spread so thin but there was comfort, safety and security in all of my busyness. I was so focused on the task at hand, that I really didn't have time to think about anything else. Not even addressing relationships, professional and personal goals and all of those things that I felt were in disarray and screaming for attention. You know, all the heavy stuff that I am procrastinating on. The horses kept me grounded. They centered me. Now, with them gone, I feel like I am unraveling. I know that sounds over the top and well, maybe, it is but really,
SO WHAT?
I've been dealing with it..in my own way. It's funny how a Google calendar reminder can prove that I wasn't dealing with any of it.

Reminder: Horses Wormed with Ivermectin/Praziquantel @ Every 2 months from 5pm to 6pm on day 3 

I needed to worm my horses. It was time. I even checked the cupboard to make sure that I still had enough Ivermectin on hand. Can you believe it? And then the startling realization, "listen stupid, you don't have horses anymore, remember?" And then, the tidal wave started to roar towards "the shores of my emotions" and my heart started to do "the Godzilla run" to safer shores. But no one can outrun Godzilla. No one. And there I was all over again, in dreadfully cold January with the vet pulling on her tail and guiding her body towards the ground, as the euthanasia drug started to take effect. My beautiful little mare lay on the cold, hard, frozen ground,  as life slowly ebbed out of her. No matter how much I try to forget, this is one of the more stubborn images. It just kills me and sends me to a bad place every time. I wish that I could just forget. But that's my problem. I don't think I am able to forget, because once upon a time, Mimi lived. To forget her death, would mean that I would forget her life. Death is part of living. One is always followed by another, right? Death teaches us how short and fragile life is. And when the absence of another causes great pain, THEN, if we think we have failed in life to accomplish anything meaningful or significant, we can be comforted in knowing that yes, we have been successful in exercising a love that knows no limits. As a matter of fact, on the same day that Google sent the reminder to worm the horses; Google also delivered my daily reflection and buried within this reflection, I read the following,
"...to realize more fully the reign of God on earth by means of sincere witness, increased mutual understanding, mutual respect for human dignity, and the exercise of a love that knows no limits."--On Our Way: Christian Practices for Living a Whole Life, edited by Dorothy C. Bass and Susan R. Briehl 
There are no coincidences in life. We are commanded to love and to love generously...everyone and everything. And if there is one truth that is able to ground me in this sorrowful time, it is love. And at the very core, the bedrock of my relationship with Mimi, was love. That's my nugget of truth. Because why else would this hurt so much if there was no such thing as love involved? I am so grateful that I was able to experience it. Every one should love like that. My Mimi, I loved that little mare.

EnJoy,

Ralph

PS I deleted the series of worming appointments on my calendar, to avoid more reminders.




25 June, 2014

Still Looking for Carl Raswan

"The Bedouin explained to me that Ishmael had attained that sense of Oneness of life, which does not any longer separate man's feelings of love from animals. He had learned the mystery how to project himself into the soul of the creature and how to become One with the mare and her life energy. He grew in consciousness of the love that binds all living things to each other and to their Creator."-Carl Raswan from his article in Western Horseman, The Head of the Arabian
All my life, I feel like I have been on a quest,
hunting...
looking...
searching...
to find a particular horse, a special horse, a horse so elusive and yet,
I know him...
I have come really close. It's like having a word on the tip of your tongue but you can't say it. The word flashes for a fraction of a second in your mind and still... 
you can't say it. 
I can see this horse. Like the forgotten word, he's in my mind. I can see him. I can hear him. I can even feel the silkiness of his fine coat, as my hand glides over his smooth body and yet, I find it difficult to use just the right word to identify him, to define him, to say just the right words that will give flesh and bone to an imagined dream, so that everyone can see how magnificent this horse is too. I agonized over my frustration until, I read Raswan's books. Carl Raswan knew a horse like this too. His horse was ancient and Greek. His words, his description, strike a chord of similarity for my struggle with a similar horse. The elusive horse he saw in his mind, overflowing with a special quality, "that extra something" which led him out of his comfort zone into  the desert to look for him.
"Some day I must know these people of the desert. I must find the beautiful ancestral horse of the frieze on the Parthenon. But my quest may be for a mythical horse which no longer exists."-Carl Raswan from his book, Drinkers of the Wind
Carl Raswan...It seems like in these modern times, almost everyone has an opinion of a man who is often misunderstood and one of the leading characters in the history of the Arabian Horse.  The perspective of "hindsight" can be cruel, harsh and indifferent. We fail to fully understand the sacrifices that people have made. We don't savor the hardship nor the frustrations that authors like Raswan experienced in searching, discovering, writing and sharing the information we decide to use or not use today. Much of what is said about Raswan concerns the many words that he used to describe the Arabian horse.  Raswan is criticized because in his later writings, he contradicts his earlier work. Some people feel that his words glorified only the horses owned by his financial supporters. In the perspective of "hindsight", we lose tolerance, compassion and respect. It is deep within the criticism that I found Raswan and the passion he had for the Arabian horse. I understand what he was trying to say. I have difficulty finding the perfect words to describe the classic horse that I also yearn for deeply, like he did. What is an authentic Arabian horse? Do you know the answer? Raswan spent his whole life trying to answer that question.  Not only do I find it challenging to use the right words to describe my perfect horse; my perfect horse is constantly evolving and changing. I will contradict what I told you today, with what I will say tomorrow. I may have described my ideal horse very differently yesterday, thinking that my ideal horse existed only in the pastures of Ansata Arabian Stud but I evolved, and I  learned painfully, that the world of the classic Arabian horse was much bigger than Ansata.  I developed a passion for other paddocks and other pastures,where equally beautiful and classic horses ran freely. And here I am
TODAY
having lived a lifetime of incredible horse experiences and not any closer to identifying THAT HORSE. Such is the way with a mind that is open and free, with words and feelings, passion and spirit...they never remain the same because as a person, I am not the same. I am different today, as I will be one month, six months, one year from now. Why do we have difficulty accepting the same for Carl Raswan? Was he any different from you or me?  

So, once again, I set out on a journey to find Carl Raswan. As elusive as the ideal Arabian horse is to find; it is just as challenging to embrace Carl Raswan, his heart, his spirit, his passion and understand the journey that he spent a lifetime living.
"But there was something about this emaciated little chestnut stallion that fascinated me, though he was not much to look at and certainly had not been groomed for ages past. He had four white feet, and a white star on his forehead--a head bold and angular as jagged rock. And his enormous eyes were like those of a gazelle." -Carl Raswan, from his book, Drinkers of the Wind
Raswan was unique, a special man, thorns and all, whom you learn to treasure. Jim Carrey the actor and comedian, in the commencement speech he delivered to Maharishi University of Management said, 
"you can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about the pathway to the future but all there will ever be, is what's happening here and the decisions we make in this moment, which are based in either love or fear." 
I have to be honest that initially, I didn't like the man, for maybe, many of the reasons that people have criticized him. And there are still moments when I am not really sure how I feel about him. But Raswan lived his moments, with the information that was available to him....
IN THAT MOMENT.
We criticize Raswan's philosophy, how many moments separated from when he lived, forgetting that we have been blessed with more information about the Arabian horse than the information available in Raswan's day. So what's important about Raswan, you ask? I'll tell you. It's the gradual awakening to the theme of Raswan's message that really got me. He deeply loved the Arabian horse. And that's what forced me over the great divide of accepting Raswan...LOVE. Carl Raswan lived the moments of his whole life, choosing love, that is, love for the Arabian horse. His driving force, his mission,  was to open the minds of people, so that they can love the Arabian horse, as he did. Somehow, in the love that he had for the horse, he discovered that he was not separate from the horse; he was
one with the horse.
I believe that's where you will  find Raswan, the very human and fragile Raswan, who made mistakes, frustrated and angered people, changed his mind over and over and yet, always chose love over fear in any decision he made. He knew the authentic Arabian horse personally and...he really loved the Arabian horse.

EnJOY the happy summer,
Ralph

12 May, 2014

Farrada


Farrada is a 1986 stallion bred and owned by Marge Rose Klasek. He is a son of Ibn Farah and out of Princess Parada. His tail female is to Dajania, a mare bred by Mohammed Pascha, a Turcoman Chief and  imported by the Blunts in 1878. His pedigree is representative of multiple crosses of the Crabbet-bred stallion, *Raffles with older desert-bred lines like the Davenport horse *Hamrah and the Hamidie Society war mare, *Wadduda. But really, it is not fair to just mention *Raffles, as this horse was a son of Skowronek and combined with the other Skowronek-sired get in the pedigree like Raseyn; Farrada has approximately 38 lines to Skowronek! Closer up, you can spot names of the superstars of our breed like Ferzon, Indraff, Azraff, Gai Parada, Dunes, Gamaar, all horses who are representative of the golden era of Arabian horse breeding and showing in the United States of America. This was the time period of breeders like Frank McCoy, Dan Gainey, Jimmie Dean and Bazy Tankersley.
Farrada presents an extraordinary picture of ultimate Arabian horse type, embodying the unique characteristics that are recognized and cherished as hallmarks of the breed. At first glance, one is overwhelmed with the overall balance of this horse. Then, it would have to be the scope this horse presents in all of his 15 hands. He is impressive. His breeder says, "Everyone goes nuts when they see him in person.  He is not that big but throws size. He is a rare CMK stallion and a classic Arabian type. He doesn't act or look his age and still gets excited when his daughter comes in heat. Would love to see more babies by him."
A closer look at this horse and it is in the details, that one finds abounding elegance and grace. The pigmentation of Farrada's skin is amazing. His skin is jet black with no pink spots and serves a dramatic contrast to his sparkling white coat. The quality of his skin is so amazingly thin, that it accentuates the prominence of the bones in his face, as well as the veins.
His eyes are of a very nice shape, larger, fully black, set lower in the head with so much width between them. The width of the facial crest bone is also very wide. This is the area below the eye and right the jowl. The Bedouin believed that the wider this flat area is, the more authentic the horse. His nostrils are elastic, clean and of a beautiful shape. His ears are short with a beautiful shape, ending in sharp points.  His neck is beautiful, with much length and set well on his powerful shoulders, connecting with the head to form a fine mitbah. It reminds me of a Homer Davenport quotation, "The neck is a model of strength and forms a perfect arch that matches the arch of the tail."
When I look at Farrada's pictures, I am reminded of what Jimmie Dean once said about Dan Gainey's breeding program, "He established quality and refinement as the Gainey trademark. He fixed a type." In Farrada, those words, said so long ago, ring true. He is a living celebration of all the treasured qualities one can find in the Gainey-bred horse.

04 March, 2014

Love and the Rest of It

"How's that beautiful mare doing in all this horrible winter weather?" she asked me, as I walked towards the counter, to pick up the pizza that I had ordered. My eyes started to water and my throat started to tighten. It was the last place on earth that I expected to confront the sadness that I have been trying to outrun this winter. It's been 2 months since Mimi died. 2 months. What a brutally hard word...D-I-E-D...followed by Mimi, in the same sentence. I didn't think it was possible. Not for her. At least, not now. I shuddered, as if I wanted to shake off the very word and all it meant from my being. I started to feel the desperation building and consciously,  I summoned every bit of strength that I could muster, in order to answer her, "I, uh...she died on New Year's day." There, I said it, without making a crying fool of myself, in front of all these people. She had been smiling just a few seconds before she asked me and now, her face looked shocked. "Oh my gosh, I am so sorry. What happened, was it a colic?" she asked me. You know, I didn't want to talk about it. Especially, not there, in the middle of a busy pizzeria at lunchtime, with people I don't even know all around me, a million conversations all going on at once, phones ringing, people shouting pick up numbers...ugh. It was really busy. I should have just lied and said she was fine. It hurt too much to recall the images from Mimi's final moments on earth. It happened so fast. I was so unprepared. My heart and soul were wounded from meeting the inevitable, head on. Yet it would be awkward not to respond and I knew she meant well and that her questions came from a good place. And so, I told her about the neighbor's dogs. Gosh, the irresponsible neighbor who can't seem to keep his dogs under control and on his own property. How Mimi slipped and fell on the ice, trying to get away from the dogs and how the hock injury she suffered, was just too much to ask a 23-year old mare to recover from. I told her how it took her two and a half hours to stand up on her last day. I felt so helpless. I wanted my mare to live! I did everything the veterinarian told me to do and I still lost. I was so angry and hurt. I felt cheated and I was reeling from the overwhelming grief. I can't get past a day without some kind of memory, taking me back to the sweet days when she was alive and healthy. Did I fully realize how precious those days were? I think I took them for granted, as if they were owed to me. I loved Mimi. 
WAIT...What did you just say? Love?
What does it mean to love horses anyway? Most people see a picture of a horse and say, "what a beautiful picture, I love it." They might be driving in their car and pass a pasture with horses grazing and say, "Isn't that beautiful? It's just like a painting, I love it." Or, how about a Budweiser television commercial, playing within a favorite television program and the person will say, "that was so touching, I love it." You never really know when a horse will turn up and cause something big to happen inside of you. For the people who are lucky to own horses like Mimi, we know this to be true. For dyed-in-the-wool horse lovers,  it goes beyond appreciating a pretty picture or an image that is pleasurable on the television set. Horses have always dominated our thoughts while we are awake and during our sleep, horses have run wild and free, calling us. Thoughts, feelings and dreams of horses are at the very core of the proverbial "training ground" of life experiences that make it possible for us to recognize the horse of our dreams, when that horse becomes real for us. Mimi was all that and more for me. She was beautiful, she was kind, she was everything I ever dreamed about, whether I knew it or not, present in one horse. She was the incarnation of all the books read and pedigrees studied. She was the living proof of all the theories and philosophies written about the desert horse. She was a "science lab" that proved how those revered characteristics we cherish, enable survival in the harshest of climates. She was a gift from another dimension that surprised me day after  day with a different treasure. On the day I said goodbye, one of the last things I remember doing was burying my nose deep into her silky mane, inhaling the very essence of who she was, hoping that I could hang onto her scent for the rest of my life. So, here I am in the beginning of the "rest of it" and well, I really miss her. “Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up."-Neil Gaiman

12 January, 2014

JUST A...Bucket of Tribute

Maybe, I had seen them in the kitchen cabinet a hundred million times before or maybe not but there they were, all cheery and festive, just as they should be; a merry looking container for both man and horse. Its just a simple bucket of horse treats, right? Yet, they have become much more than that now. When I bought them, Mimi was very much alive. I really loved my little mare and as silly and as trivial as this may sound, this bucket of treats signified how deeply I cared for Mimi. She had a special place in my life and I wanted to do things that were demonstrative of just how special she really was. It's excruciatingly painful to admit that she is gone and there's a hard, biting coldness to the realization of what forever means. Mimi was like an oasis of happiness, in a life that could be so...challenging. There was so much joy in her companionship and it was always the hope that some of this joy could spill into other parts of my life and make them as equally joyful, as life with Mimi was every day. That's the magic that Mimi made in this world, in my life. She was my miracle, my proof of a loving and generous God, who took all that I had ever desired in a horse and made them real; made them into a being named Princeton Maarena. That was Mimi. If she were a person, I would have sought her out, in order to win her friendship. You just naturally wanted to be in her company, in the hope that you could become more like her. She was that charming, in a quiet and sweet way. She was my hope for a better life. So, I must keep these feelings that she inspired alive. I must turn to joy and away from grief. I must embrace joy and not sorrow, because once upon a time, Mimi lived. I am compelled to honor Mimi's life with joy because that's the spirit in which she lived her life. JOY. Anything less, would not be Mimi. I won't be able, in a physical sense, to do thoughtful things like buying treats for her. Those simple symbols of reverence are over now. What is relevant is the inspiration and encouragement that I derive from these sweet memories to live the kind of life that will convey to others just how wonderful Mimi really was, and in the process, honor her memory justly. She was a once-in-a-lifetime horse...how fortunate I was to have this miracle happen in my lifetime.