My horses are Aseel Arabians. Now, to be honest, I only want a nice horse, good to ride, and with whom I can bond and have fun. And as I don’t breed I’ve never been very interested in pedigrees. A good horse is a good horse. But when you have a horse like Rabhar a pedigree is much more than just a piece of paper: You can very easily trace his ancestry back for two hundred years, and that means not just time, but travels and adventures and stories! And a look at history from a completely different angle.
So, using Rabhars’ ancestry as a theme I’m going to tell a lot of stories. (The Tarq shares many of these ancestors.) Lady Blunt was an avid diary-writer, and has left us fascinating descriptions of their travels. She was also a good painter, the watercolours are by her hand.
Rabhar is mainly ”Crabbet Park” which means that, beside some Russian imported Arab ancestors, he is almost completely descended from the horses collected by Lord and Lady Blunt. Now the Blunts are responsible for collecting the best Arab horses. As time passed they found it more difficult to find quality horses.
I’ll explain a bit about the Blunts, there is a lot written about Lord and Lady Blunt which I don’t want to repeat: The Blunts liked travelling, and decided they would like to try and buy some Arab horses, and see if a new infusion of Arab blood would improve the English Thoroughbred. At their first journey in 1877,- they became convinced the Arab horse should be bred pure, and they planned to start a stud in England. They also started to learn Arabic, in which Lady Blunt became fluent. They were amongst a very small number of Europeans who could really asses an Arab horse. Their interest and respect for the Bedouin and their way of life gave them the opportunity to acquire many important horses. England at the time was staunchly pro-thoroughbred, and anti-Arabian. The Blunts bred the Arabian horse pure, and in their selection of stock they adopted a standart of authenticity more uncompromising than any previously known, in Europe. The horses shown here, and the adventures related to them, are all ancestors of Rabhar.
The very first horse the Blunts bought was the yearling filly Dajania, through her filly Nefisa her bloodline, the ”N” line, has spread over several continents.
Lady Blunts description of Dajania:
Foaled in 1876, a Kehileh Dajanieh, 14 hands 3 inches.
A bright full bay mare with black points 3 white feet (both hind and off fore, mutlak es shemal) star and snip. Purchased at Aleppo, through Seyd Ahmed, Sheyk of the Hannadi now settled at Haggla, of the person who stole her (we not knowing her to be stolen till some time afterwards). Dajania’s dam was a kehileh Dajanieh stolen fromthe Sebaa Anazeh by Mohammed Pasha, a Turkoman chief who bred Dajania, her sire a Kehilan Nowag. Dajania was in her turn stolen from her owner and brought to Aleppo were she was sold to mr Blunt. We only learned she was stolen in 1881. No doubt it was owing to this that we got her cheap.
The first journey
The Blunts, together with mr Skene, then british Consul, made for the desert, in the hope of finding more good horses to buy. At some point mr. Skene had to return to his job, and the Blunts travelled on, with minimal knowledge of Arabic and little knowledge of the land. At Deir, Hussein Pasha send a man called Muhammed to accompany them. They were not pleased with this as they hoped to leave the Tudmor Road in search for Jedaan. They took him in their confidence.
March 30th, We had not been long stirring before Mohammed turned up and his relations with him, and they gave us no peace till we were ready to go with them to breakfast in town. After breakfast I sat on the roof drawing, the view of ancient and modern mixed up is singular.
Mohammed, touched by the offer of 20 mejides, agrees to go with us to ibn Mirsid’s camp and on to Jedaan. He also confesses that the Pasha gave him strickt orders not to let us see anything of the Anazeh. Why? we asked, Oh, because he was afraid for us.
Lord Blunt and Sherifa
April 2nd, (The Blunts and mr Skene finally found each other)Mr Skene brought the Shagra mare and a new mare (Sherifa) got in exchange for Nowag and 22 pounds (turkish) very cheap. She has no fault but that of her colour, white. She is a Hamdaniyeh Simri and was sent by ibn Saoud from Riad as a present to the Turkish govenor of Mecca, Tak ad Din Pasha, who afterwards gave her to Sheykh Takha, chief Ulema of Aleppo. The sheyk died lately. And the mare was sold cheap. She is absurdley cheap. She has the finest head I ever saw and I am delighted with her. I think Sherifa will be pleasant to ride. She is not yet in good condition.
Sherifa was another great addition to the Crabbet Stud, and a great favorite. All of her five daughters were sold leaving no issue at Crabbet. Sherifa’s most important line extant today is through her grandson Ben Azrek (by Azrek out of Shemseh, by Pharaoh). Rabhar carries this line through his great grand sire, Darjeel.
Sherifa had character too, Lady Blunts description of Sherifa:
Foaled probably about 1862, a Hamdanieh Simri, 14 hands 2 ½ inch. A white mare with two black hoofs and two white ( the two near), a few flea-bitten marks and a dark patch on the off-side of the neck, very black skin showing dark when coat is wet; an extraordinary head, very broad forehead, very small muzzle, very deep jowl, broad hollow between the jaws, beautiful eats like a gazelle’s, large eyes shewing some white, long nostril lying very flat when in repose, with crinkles round the upper end, muzzle very black, and quite bare of hair in summer (nearly up to the eyes), eyes surrounded by bare black skin. Mane and tail of wonderfully fine hair. Scar of spear wound on near quarter just below hip bone. Purchased at Aleppo, March 8 1878 by mr Skene for mr Blunt, of the executors of Sheyk Takha Chief of the ibn Ulema of Aleppo.
Sherifa was bred in Nejd, her dam a Hamdanieh Simri, no certain information of breed of sire, but said to be a bay Hamdanieh Simri at Riad. She was presented by Saoud ibn Saoud, Emir of Riad, to Takha ed Din Pasha Governor of Mecca, and by him, who brought her to Aleppo, to Sheyk Takha the Chief of the ibn Ulema of that town.
Sherifa is ‘a unique mare’ in more ways than one. Not only as to appearance, though her head surpasses any that we saw in Arabia, but in the stoutness she seems to be equal to the best, notwithstanding her age, 19 years. She is of the Nejd type in shape, which we had considered as distinct from the best racing type of Anazeh strains; the strains in fact which have been bred in the4 northern desert ever since the Anazeh migrated from Nejd and which have in consequence improved in speed. Yet she possessed considerable speed, as well as staying power. It seemed increadible that an old brood mare, her foal only lately weaned, should after years of idleness, be able suddenly to go into work, as Sherifa did in the summer of 1881. She was then put into harness, perhaps injudiciously, for her companion made her do more than her share of the work, and when she found this likely to continue, she took to kicking with such pertinacity that she gained her point and harness work was given up*. On the last occasion of her being driven she went as a wheeler from Crabbet to Newbuildings and back, 32 miles, and pulled and kicked the whole way going and returning. This was in August, from which time until October 31st she was kept in walking excercise and then given a canter with Pharaoh. The course 2¼ miles which she did in 6m. 30 sec. and then did not want to stop, though carrying 12 stone or more. The ground was also very rough. Sherifa died in 1892.
* Clever horse. (my opinion)