On picking a stallion for one’s mare..

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on June 21st, 2011 in General

Those of us preservationists who have a mare or two, and can’t afford to breed them every year, always find it harder to choose stallions when the time comes to breed their mare. They have to live with the consequences of their decisions, and this alone tends to make them more risk averse. Of course, the new world of opportunities opened by artificial insemination techniques makes such decisions all the more difficult to make.

I am finding myself in this situation now that it is time to breed Jadiba. Even more, I am asking myself a lot of questions, like:

— should I just pick the best horse for my mare, the horse who will correct her defects, and emphasize her qualities, and hope for offspring that are “better” (prettier?) than both parents?

— or should I pick the horse a Bedouin would have picked, using Bedouin standards of selection (if these could indeed be generalized), because I want to breed the kind of horse Bedouins — as custodians of the breed — wanted?

I always thought I should do the latter, which is an intellectual view. Now I am not sure anymore. All I know that I need to balance an intellectual view with practical considerations.

Bedouins liked their stallions to ooze power, courage, virility and masculinity. Their liked horses that could do things; their stallions had to have the same characteristics the Bedouins took pride in having themselves. In terms of human masculine ideal, they liked their horses to be the equivalent of firemen and construction workers here in the USA, not top-models whose gender is hard to define.  They liked horses like Clarion (photos below).

They did not like “pretty”; they did not like “cute” (“cute” as applied to all things masculine, is a western, post-modern value anyway), and they certainly did not like “exotic” and “extreme”. I am not even sure they liked “classic type”. They would scoff at the colts some rich Gulf Arabs are breeding today, many of them are indistinguishable from fillies. Values have shifted indeed.

In the 1970s, a very typey grey desert-bred stallion was brought from the desert to Aleppo for breeding. He had a more “classic” head and a more dished profile than most desert breds, a head an average Westerner would have liked. His origins were excellent: he was a Kuhaylan al-Khdili of the marbat of ‘Abbud ‘Ali al-‘Amud of the Agaydat Bedouins, and the marbat traced back to ‘Udayd al-Waqqa’ of the ‘Anazah. Yet no one would breed his mare to him, because Bedouins and townfolks alike considered him “too pretty, like a female”. This part of the story tells you about Bedouin’s preference for bold, masculine stallions.

‘Abbud also owned the stallion’s sister, Leelas and he was very attached to her. ‘Abbud was very picky about choosing a stallion to breed her, so much so that Leelas went ten years without being bred. The late Consul of Qatar in Damascus, Yusuf al-Rumaihi, who was seeing such a beautiful mare going to waste, finally convinced ‘Abbud to lease her to him for a year, and bred her to his Egyptian stallion Okaz (Wahag x Nazeemah). The mare produced a daughter, Khaznah, for Rumaihi, and both were eventually registered in the Syrian Studbook in the 1980s thanks to him. In the early 1990s, ‘Abbud finally saw in al-A’awar, the chestnut desert-bred Hamdani Ibn Ghurab stallion of the Shammar a horse he liked, and he sent old Leelas to be bred to him. The result was Leelas’ second and last foal, a chestnut colt called Saad al-Thani, who has now taken over his sire’s duties as the main breeding stallion for Radwan Shabareq (who told me the story). This part of the story tells you that Bedouins liked stallions like al-A’awar, and it’s one of the many reasons I liked this horse, too.

7 Responses to “On picking a stallion for one’s mare..”

  1. This question and this story give us a reason why Arabian horses have “changed” in the last 100 years in some, or even most, breeding programmes.
    Breeding the way the bedouins did seems to be quite different to the way westerners do it.

    All of us have a picture in our mind how the perfect stallion should look like. The bedouins have their pictures, we have ours. Looking at potential breeding aspirates we compare our ideal to the horses we see. A lot of considerations follow, as to pedigree, conformation, character, performance ability and so on. Our mind tries to find out if the stallion and the mare together can give a foal that pleases us.
    But in reality in many cases we will not get a foal like the parents, but like the grandfathers or grandmothers or even more remote ancestors. Only some stallions and some mares stamp their get.
    We may follow our intelectual considerations, our knowledge, our intuition, the councils of others, or our heart, but still in the end breeding a foal depends on something totally outside of our influence. The breeder is a breeder and will never be a creator!

  2. Interesting points made by Edouard and Matthias… I would love to give my (probably very predictible) view but, I am too sleep deprived to make any sense.
    I will follow comments on this matter with interest.

  3. I heard that Abdud Ali Al Amud from Agaidat bedouins have been safe by Leelas’s mare on his way back to home. Someone tried to pursue after him but Leelas’s mare was quicker. In fact, bedouins don’t take care about pretty aspect of a horse.

  4. Yes, thank you for reminding me. When he was young, he used to participate on raids across the Iraqi-Syrian border on the back of the mother of Leelas. This was some of the last Bedouin ghazus in the 1940s.

  5. Exactly Arnault, the best mare, the one you love and cherish and will make sacrifices for, is the one whose speed, endurance and above all generosity of character will save your life. This is the Bedouin’s Horse.
    I know from personal experience the unbreakable love that a horse will inspire when they have really given their all for you or actually physically defended you, it is so humbling.
    This was the point I was trying to make in my response to ‘All are Asil’. It is also why I respect you Arnault for testing your Syrian stallion properly under saddle.
    There are in fact, many interesting aspects to Edouard’s dilemma that I would like to learn about/comment on… it is a microcosm of the challenge facing the whole breed… but in a rush now… off to compete endurance tomorrow :)!!

  6. Yes, Lisa, Edouard’s dilemma for knowing which stallion to shoose for his mare is the main topic for all preservationnists and Leelas story is a very good example; his owner Abdud Ali Al Amud, Igaidat bedouins took a big risk for living Leelas empty, couple of years, for waiting the best stallion, Al A’awar “the horse of the long distance in the Badia and for hawking” but with unpretty face. Perhaps he would have been more reasonnable ,meanwhile, to get out of Leelas several foals every year with not so good stallions As Al A’awar. After he would have made a good selection between males and femals for his breeding and safgarding his good lineage… Nevertheless from my side, I have grandson (3 years old) of Leelas by Saad Al Thani. I am already riding it and I am very surprised of his quality under the saddle.

  7. Please read on previous message: grand/grandson of Leelas and Al A’awar through Saad al Thani his father.

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