Arabian horse lover, used to the European way of breeding, showing and unwritten rules of horse industry here, should forget everything he got used to and learned so far while visiting Egypt – or he will face an earthquake. Arabian horses in Egypt it’s a completely different fairy-tale – literally and metaphorically.
2007 Egyptian National Show, run due to the rules of EAHSC and organized by Egyptian Arabian Horse Breeders Association (EAHBA) took its place at Sakkara Country Club – the green trough on the edge of Sahara desert with palms and big swimming pool in the center. Behind it all the camel caravans passes slowly from time to time. As there was no fence between the showground and the desert one could have an impression that if some of the champions would choose freedom it would be difficult to search for him in the big Sahara.
The National Show itself has had a nice character of friendly picnic – without the VIP’s and „the rest” areas division but with lots of sectors of „clappers” that have been doing everything to titillate the horse of their boss, friend or neighbor.
However the National Horse Show is very important event in Egypt – there were 5 of the world best known equine photographers in the ring and the event was DVD recorded as well as transmitted by the national TV.
During the Egyptian horse show one can see the situations that could be considered as strange in the European show rings – ex. the happy owner of winning horse who seizes the sheaf of money into the air. The money immediately disappeared in the pockets – not only of HIS grooms…
In the spare time between the classes the performance of „dancing horses” was presented – chestnut stallion Romman of Rabab Stud in hand of Sh. Salem Bin Laden simultaneously to the grey stallion performing under the saddle with nearly 10 years old boy. Egyptian „dancing horses” are famous for their dressage presentations performed with the national percussion music („Tabla Beladi”) most often during the festivals or weddings.
The show contest is very important for Egyptian breeders. This year they entered a huge number of 136 horses for the Nationals. Probably due to the new EAHSC rules of conducting the shows – that no Senior or Junior National or higher Champion from the previous 3 years will be allowed to participate in the Nationals, some of the most known horses from Egypt didn’t took part in Sakkara show this time.
Stallions and mares competed in 5 classes – for yearlings, two-, three-, 4-6 years old and 7 years old and older horses. Amongst the mares and stallions the Most Classic Head horse was also awarded.
The stereotype for Straight Egyptian (SE) horses in Poland is that they usually lack for strong health, are not very good performers and the main of his attractive point is only extremely exotic head. However, watching the horses entered to 2007 National Show I have seen many horses of really good conformation, strong built, good moving and with good topline and legs. Though as to the legs – this feature is considered as the Achilles’ heel of Egyptian horses also by their own breeders.
– The weakest point of Arabian horses bred in Egypt are legs – says Hanan Medhat Serag El Din, owner of Amadeyat Al Hamd Stud, the first of the studs I have been visiting for photo sessions together with Joanna Jonientz, one of the leading European Arabian horse photographers, very well known in Egypt as well.
– The troubles with legs of Egyptian horses are caused not only by genetic faults but mainly because of lack of professional farrier’s treatment in Egypt. We have no professional farriers so far and some of the breeders even hire the foreign ones – points Hanan El Din, who showed an elegant, good moving black stallion Fares Al Hamd in Sakkara show this year (5th place in 3 years old stallions class).
Asked what she pays her attention to while looking on a horse for the first time she mentions head and eye. The first sight to horse’s eye is also important for Mohsen El Gabry – famous Egyptian jewellery designer, owner of El Gabry Stud – farm situated in the mango groves in a rural area near Cairo.
– Once I have an interest in horse, I look to the eye. If this is something special I move on to the rest of the characteristics I try to identify – says Mohsen in the interview for Pat Canfield. Sh. Khaled Bin Laden, who breeds horses and exotic plants in his Rabab Stud (one of the most influential in Egypt) since 25 years, has a different point of view. We, the Egyptians, should see the national good, the fourth Pyramid in Giza in our Arabian horse – he says. – Dishy head achieved at the cost of good legs or topline will not survive. We should breed horses for the body adding the beauty afterwards.
Horses with really good legs one could see in Hamdan Stables – currently run by the founder’s granddaughter – Fatma Hamza and her family.
– If you look only for the head you better buy a Barbie doll – says Fatma who is proud that her stud specializes in producing a foundation horses for other Egyptian studs and abroad. Few of the horses we have seen at Hamdan Stables just after the Nationals found their new homes in Syria and South Africa already.
Fatma Hamzas’ farm is peacefully situated far away from the big city – in Tahanoub village (its name means „founded in gold” in Arabic). Before the photo session a big showground with silk decorated bands and huge tent where the drinks and lunch were served were prepared. The team of grooms was very excited and helpful being dressed in traditional “Beduin style” clothes and playing a “driving a bargain for horses” scenes for the photos.
The name of this farm – „the oldest in Egypt or even in the whole Middle East” as the owner says – comes from the stallion Hamdan (Ibn Rabdan – Bint Radia), the hero of a romantic story. He was both sides Straight Egyptian grey stallion born 1936 at King Farouk’s royal stables. After king’s dethronization (by the nationalists of the future Egyptian president – Naser in 1952) all goods from the royal palace were put on sale – including the horses. Hamdan, being ill, was put on… a stretcher while sale presentation! He was bought by Fatma Hamza’s grandfather – Ahmad Hamza Pascha, the founder of Hamdan Stables breeding. Unfortunately, the socialistic point of view of the government didn’t accept „useless”, noble pure bred horses. They were picked up from their owners – and Hamdan was one of them. The sick stallion was going to be given as a food for lions and distraught Ahmad Hamza asked even the US embassy for the intervention in this matter. Though Hamdan didn’t survive due to his illness, he was finally burnt after his death.
Ahmad Hamza was one of the breeders who had to buy his horses twice as – besides Hamdan – he had to re-buy all of the horses that has been taken out from the stud by the government those times.
In fact, nowadays we can find Hamdan in pedigrees of many pure bred Arabian horses – also those famous stars used in Polish breeding as Gazal Al Shaqab, Al Adeed Al Shaqab, Laheeb, Al Maraam, PS Pacos and even 2003 Criterium Stakes winner in Poland – Seliger. Hamdan is also closely related to well known sire – Nazeer.
When the political system changed Hamdan Stables had its heyday. Many noble guests of political or show business world were seen there – ex. Jacqueline Keneddy. Today, at the honourable place on Hamdan’s Stable guest house, the big picture of Fatma’s father – the breeding continuator – pictured with grey mare Bint Bint Kheir hangs on. The mare won 11 stakes on Egyptian racecourses – as Hamdan Stables breeds not only beautiful but also brave horses and maybe not every Arabian horse lover knows that SE horses, besides its dishy heads and exotic type are being proven on two Egyptian racecourses too – in Cairo and in the summer season, also in Alexandria.
Hamdan Stables’ horses were one of those that established the present stud of Ahmed Fathi Badrawi (Badrawi Stud), EAHBA Vice President, grandson of the well known Arabian horse breeder – Mahmoud Pascha El-Etrebi and Sayed Pascha Badrawi – one of the Royal Agricultural Society (RAS, now EAO) founders. Badrawi stud was established in the late ’40 but during the revolution the horses were picked up from Badrawi as well. The new breeding story began in 1978 on the basis of Hamdan Stables’ horses and 4 mares from El Zahraa. Ahmed, besides the breeding stud has also another stable – where the horses of most precious race lines of Bint El Samra, Mahesin, Tahawi i Farid are being trained for horse-racing.
Badrawi uses SE stallions for his mares as, in his opinion, the Egyptian Studs as El Zahraa, Hamdan Stables or Sakr Arabians Stables have their own, very good and prominent bloodlines and he doesn’t need to search for them anywhere else. The only one line that Ahmed Badrawi looks for abroad is SE line of Ibn Halima.
The other famous Egyptian breeders also prefer not to mix the SE lines with others. „Arabian horse has its origin in Egypt” – says Fatma Hamza and Hanan El Din tries to explain this point of view:
– The strains are very important in SE horses breeding and I wouldn’t mix it with any others. There are some Arabian countries that used to buy and sell horses from all over the world still but Egyptian breeders prefer to breed their horses from A to Z.
Jewellery designer Mohsen El Gabry compares the Arabian horse breeding to his profession. – I want to create an outstanding horse the way that I design a piece of striking jewellery – he says. – You begin with pure gold and precious stones and you work with them until you have something that can take your breath. I want to do the same thing with my horses by starting with the pure gold of the famous bloodlines and adding the jewels of some of today’s horses. The only problem I have is that my horses have now become like my jewellery – when I have created a magnificent piece I just want to treasure it. I can not sell it – says El Gabry.
His breeding program bases on such as exotic names for us as Bint Ibtisam (that brings the eye and beautiful type), Alaa El Din and Bint Bukra (pretty faces), Adeeb (for body) and Akhtal (movement). „The jewels”, that he adds to his breeding are the foreign lines but only from SE breeding as Ansata (US) or those from Dr Hans Nagel (Germany) stud.
Alya’a Abass, Fatma Hamza’s daughter and a talented young breeder, seems to have more liberal point of view saying: – I don’t refuse foreign stallions to be used in my breeding as far as they pass the good features but also represent a corresponding bloodlines.
Sh. Khaled Bin Laden goes more forward in his considerations:
– I always look on a horse as an individual, then at his bloodlines. I think that the lines can not guarantee a quality of a horse. When I look at the pedigree I always look for the dam and grand dam of a horse – what progeny they have had. It gives you an idea what are the horse’s breeding abilities in the future. I think that 75% of the horse comes from it’s dam.
But asked for his ideal Arabian horse he mentions the bloodline of Imperial Imdal, being represented by GR Lahawi and 2007 Egyptian National Champion Mare Mahala, both by Al Lahab.
The mare’s domination in breeding was also noticed by Mohsen El Gabry who says that „mare is the most important factor in the selection”. Mohsen is known for buying a stallion just to give to a certain mare. That was the case of the mare being in foal to El Basha Saqr (Imperial Madori – Alidarra). After he saw the foal, Mohsen felt he had to bring the stallion to his farm. It has worked beautifully as in the case of Ghazalah El Gabry (out of Knooz Hamdan) – a dark bay, very correct mare that in Poland could be described as „Janów Podlaski’s type”. Ghazalah has won her classes in every show she entered including Senior Champion Mare at Sakkara Nationals in 2005.
Ahmed Badrawi didn’t bring his horses to the Nationals this year because he performed there as a trainee judge. But he also hasn’t been entering his horses to El Zahraa International Show since two years. The reason is too much of politics amongst some of the judges. Also Fatma Hamza is only a guest without horses on the Egyptian shows since last four years. She explains it as „the nice break from stressful contest” and Alya’a Abass points that this absence has no negative results on going out of the Arabian horse business at all when their Hamdan Stables is the reputable stud with long breeding traditions. But we do know unofficially that Ahmed Badrawi is preparing 12 of his horses for 2007 El Zahraa internationals and Fatma Hamza is very interested in hiring a foreign trainer for her horses…
Those Egyptian breeders who do show their horses used to hire foreign handlers more and more often recently. This is to enlarge horse’s chances in judges’ eyes – says Hanan El Din. Her horses have been shown by Belgian trainer Philippe Looyens in Sakkara this year. However, show horses in Egypt are being trained by amateurs – grooms at studs and just few weeks or days before the show the foreign trainer comes.
– Though showing a horse that you hardly know before a show is not what a handler dreams of but the professional foreign trainers are too busy at all these shows in Europe or US to come here for a longer time. Though, handling is their job anyway – says Stuart Colvin who has been showing Mohsen El Gabry’s horses in Sakkara.
But neither the better athletic and cosmetic preparation nor the world-known handler can not influence judges at work – if they are involved in any politics or just use their own knowledge and conscience while judging a horse.
Conscience was the good point of this year’s Sakkara show jury (Elizabeth Chat – Austria, Marek Trela – Poland, Mohamed Machmoum – Morocco) mentioned by the breeders and spectators I talked to. It was easy to see that the jury is trying to be as much objective as possible while judging the type, conformation and way the horse was prepared and shown. Sometimes it could have been quite hard as in the classes of yearlings where some of the horses were 12 and the others – 6 months old. There were spectators upset with the low scores (especially for legs, movement or topline) without a doubt but Ahmed Badrawi points out the large number of ties for qualifying places in the classes – that was the proof for judges’ unanimity in giving scores. – They were just looking for each horse’s advantages and disadvantages and I could say it was the best panel of judges in the history of Egyptian shows – Badrawi says.
In his opinion, in the future, the organizers of El Zahraa internationals should decide about the judges to invite by voting amongst the Egyptian breeders. This has been already proven in Sakkara last year with good result – says Ahmed Badrawi.
Striking point of 2007 Egyptian Nationals is that only one of the 8 champions and reserve was born in Egypt! The others were imported, mostly from Germany.
– This is because in the ’60 and ’70 many horses from Egypt were sold to Germany and then still bred as SE there. This years’ champions are their descendants – says Raouf Abbas, our „guide” in the Egyptian breeders’ community, owner of Shaikh Al Arab Stud.
The exception from this group was the best junior stallion – Mirajh RCA (by Alixir), bred by Rock Creek Arabians, US, with American handler – Steve Daddy on the lead. Strong and powerful black stallion with short but yet slightly heavy head has beaten the famous Albadeia stud representative, big and well conditioned Haytham’a Albadeia (by Simeon Sharav). The other non-German-bred horse in the champion titles was Reserve Senior Champion Mare – Simeon Safir (by Asfour), bred by Simeon Stud, Australia, currently owned by Albadeia Stud. Simeon Safir is 13 years old, rather „older in type” horse (not a „sea-horse” one) but still very typey, dry and correct.
The “black horse” of the Senior Stallion Championships seemed to be the grey Authentic Shamani (by Maysoun), very handsome and good moving horse who has beaten the favourite – Hamra Aligance (by Ali Valentino), that was scored as high as 20 for type, 3×19 for head and neck and there was no surprise in it as Hamra Aligance’s close pedigree is full of SE world-known stars as Ruminaja Ali, Ibn Moniet El Nefous, or Nazeer’s son – Morafic.
It seems that Egyptian breeders don’t look forward to compare their horses with foreign ones as well. The breeders I have met and talked with – Fatma Hamza and Ahmed Badrawi are rather not interested in sending their horses abroad. They give a high costs and Egyptian officialdom as main reasons.
But the truth is that the more one gets the more one wants. Hanan El Din’s great dream – besides her own bred chief sire – is to show her horses abroad. She is already thinking about sending the young mare – Asalah Al Hamd (by Imperial Madori) to the show training in Italy. Khaled Bin Laden puts it simply: „Rabab Stud’s nearest plan for the future is to win World Championships”. Will we see Mahala in Paris, Anno Domini 2007 then?
Though not too many Egyptian bred and owned horses could have been seen abroad so far and the number of the breeders willing to change the situation seems to be quite low – is the show title the most important thing in horse breeding? Egyptian breeders are the good proof that it could not be. They would rather look for this untouchable and immeasurable feature that is given, in their opinion, only to the unique, intelligent and gentle „asil” Egyptian horse, such as Hyaz – one of El Gabry’s foundation stallions:
– One day we have put a 3 year old nephew on the bareback of Hyaz – Mohsen mentions. – The stallion happily trotted down the street when the boy suddenly became frightened and started to cry. As the people watched with alarm, the stallion quietly lay down on the ground until they lifted the child off his back. He then rose and proudly continued his trot along the street with neck crested and tail proudly flagging.
Photographed by Joanna Jonientz, www.joannajonientz.de
The short version of this text was also published in „Świat Koni” – Polish equestrian monthly magazine, April 2007 issue.
Junior Female Champion:
Jamila El Chamsin
(Authentic Shamani x Jahilah El Chamsin)
bred by Hartmut Wohlann / Germany
owned by Al Forsan Stud (Cairo)
Junior Female Reserve Champion:
Anwaar Al Kaherah
(Makhnificent KA x Moonira)
bred and owned by Al Kaherah Stud
Junior Male Champion:
(Alixir x Rhapsody in Black)
bred by Rock Creek Arabians / USA
owned by El Sheruk Stud, Naser Moushtaha
Junior Male Reserve Champion:
Saladin Al Qusar
(NK Hafid Jamil x 241 Tisrina B)
bred by Schlereth & Wettengl / Germany
owned by El Gabry Stud, Mohsen El Gabry
Senior Female Champion:
(Al Lahab x Mahasin II)
bred by Susanne Reiter / Germany
owned by Rabab Stud, Sh. Khaled Bin Laden
Senior Female Reserve Champion:
(Asfour x Simeon Safanad)
bred by Simeon Stud / Australia
owned by Albadeia Stud, Dr. Nasr Marei
Senior Male Champion:
(Maysoun x Sajida)
bred by Authentic Egyptian Arabians, Rosemarie Kolster / Germany
owned by Khattab & Tahani Stud
Senior Male Reserve Champion:
(Ali Valentino x Sonbohlas Music)
bred by Gabriele Weixelbaum / Germany
owned by El Farida Stud, Tarek & Ahmed Soliman
Most Classic Head – Mares
(Al Lahab x Mahasin II)
bred by Susanne Reiter/ Germany
owned by Rabab Stud, Sh. Khaled Bin Laden
Most Classic Head – Stallions
(Sheikh El Araby x Bint Mahbouba)
bred by Peter Gross / Germany
owned by Al Sharbatly & Al Bawady