On the flexibility of asil bloodlines

By Joe Ferriss

Posted on September 10th, 2009 in General

To expand on Edouard’s last comment here about our chats in Oregon: I believe that the Asil bloodlines are very flexible and forgiving in that they can be bred for generations in one narrow direction (i.e. show ring, or non-Bedouin riding disciplines), outside the influence of the originating culture, and then they can also be returned to the type of the kinds of horses found among the originating culture as long as the breeder maintains a good understanding of what that culture values in the horse, its purposes for the horse, and keeps an open mind to the broadest possible choices.

One example is modern combined source breeding in Al Khamsa, which I feel represents a great deal of liberation from bloodline constraints. I am optimistic that there are still lots of possibilities for breeders. We need to preserve all the ingredients of the ideal recipe for the Arabian horse, and by example long time breeders have done a fine job of it.

But perhaps now is a good time for some of us to free ourselves from the temptation for compartmentalized thinking about asil bloodlines with the aim of producing more Waddudas, or Sindidahs or Old Speckled Jellabis.

13 Responses to “On the flexibility of asil bloodlines

  1. Just to be provocative here:

    Why can’t you do the same with horses that are not considered asil, even by the smallest, most minuscule percentage of non-asil blood?

  2. Of course you can. There is no reason why you couldn’t. Some of the best asil Arab blood (Kuhailan Haifi, Kuhailan Zaid, Kuhailan Afas in Poland and Hungary and Russia) runs through the veins of non-asil Arabians. But I personally don’t care about non-asil horses. Their bloodlines can be as flexible as they want. They are still non-asil.

  3. On Lyman’s point: You can do the same thing with all Arabian bloodlines.

    Karsten, Edouard, Rick and myself in Oregon were discussing the changes in this breed. The concern for the evolving “Proto-Arabian” in some entertainment based show ring environments is not a new one as long timers have been noting this for decades. My point is that, regardless of choice of bloodlines, if one does not allow a disconnect with the breed’s origins, its founding culture, and its traditional features, then they are well poised to preserve the breed not modify it. Many of the quality of the CMK horses we saw in Oregon validate this. If the Al Khamsa and asil kinds of horses become modified by some of the show ring environments, returning to the traditional type is not believed to be difficult at all when one considers the possibilities. This is not my personal opinion but one that is distilled from years of observations and visits talking to long-time breeders, some from the U.S. and some internationally. Some of these breeders feel that the non-Asil lines require more effort to restore than working within Asil lines. I don’t know. It is certainly a subjective matter. But I do feel that keeping a connection to the history and culture of this breed is a reasonable responsibility for those who feel they have inherited something special from its creators.

  4. If I may be so bold, let me give a non-Asil example. Years ago our wonderful friend Tzviah used to bring interesting visitors to our farm from other countries. One visitor was a young man from Europe working for the summer at one of the prominent show farms in America. His family had bred Arabians since the mid 1960’s and their bloodlines were 100% Polish breeding. However when he visited us, he noted how much our “war mare” Anchor Hill Serfa” was like one of their best foundation mares. He felt that our horses were similar to what they raise because, from the Polish bloodlines that they chose, they bred the traditional kind of Arabian. He said when they produce a large coarse animal, lacking in traditional Arab features, it was often snapped up by American buyers for the show ring. But such a type was not suitable to them or most of their associates. Additionally, good temperament was an absolute necessity for his country of small breeders, and again he said that sometimes the most difficult horses that they culled were also snapped up destined for the American show ring. His family had a considerable library of Arabian horse books and no doubt maintained an appreciation for the traditional Arabian.

  5. We saw a straight Polish *Bask daughter at the vet school once. She was stalled next to our Ceres, probably our all-time favorite mare. The *Bask daughter was one of those gorgeous flea-bitten greys, and she and Ceres could have been sisters. The vet school placed them side by side because of their similarity, and they enjoyed it. The Polish mare’s owners also felt the same as we did, and were proud of the similarity. So it is there…..

  6. Jeanne, I think I asked you once who the Polish mare was, but I can’t remember. Was it Mortraza (*Bask x *Mortissa), owned by Ed and Nancy Weisacosky? That’s the only grey pure Polish *Bask daughter I can find that was owned in Illinois or Missouri at that time. Of course, I might have missed one….

  7. Yes, that was the mare.

  8. Joe wrote: “But perhaps now is a good time for some of us to free ourselves from the temptation for compartmentalized thinking about asil bloodlines with the aim of producing more Waddudas, or Sindidahs or Old Speckled Jellabis.”

    I couldn’t agree more.

    I think that we, and those who came before us, have done a wonderful job of both educating the public and preserving the various AK/asil lines over several decades. Dividing them into sub-groups by various criteria in order to preserve the uniqueness of the various groups was certainly the right way to go, and the Craver model with the Davenports, which created even more possibilities within a limited pool, sheer genius.

    It has occurred to me from time to time that perhaps we have now reached “Stage Two” where we should be deliberately blending more of the subgroups in new ways. I’m not saying we should stop doing what we’ve done, only starting doing something new alongside.

    Certainly some of it should be well-planned and done in the ‘Western mode’ of thinking, with specific goals in mind, but I can’t help thinking that some of it should be done ‘haphazardly’ [in comparison to our Western, compartmentalized way of thinking] just to see what might turn up, such as breeding together asil horses that complement each other phenotypically from unrelated bloodlines, or choosing horses as far removed genetically from our own as possible from within asil choices.

    Wouldn’t it be neat to do an experiment where volunteer breeders each ‘donate’ a breeding season from one of their mares, during which time she would be bred to something unrelated, that is from a different source or combined sources from within the asil/AK fold? Throw the name of volunteer stallions into a hat and then somehow draw an unrelated stallion for each mare?

    This type of experiment, repeated every few years, might really shake things up. Then again, it might not, but we’d all learn something from it. And if it creates just one truly exceptional horse it would help us think about our horses and how we think about preservation models.

    I know there are economic considerations but I would guess that it would intrigue enough breeders that some would donate a stallion breeding or breedings even if they could not afford donating a mare.

    Certainly I personally find it challenging to try to breed the best horses possible from within what we have defined as the Babolna-source Egyptian pool. That’s all part of the fun of being a breeder; and I’m sure that other asil breeders feel the same about breeding within their own groups.

    But shouldn’t we also be thinking about what might result if a few of us choose to ‘step out of the box’ and do something new?

  9. There are many questions about the asil-breeding,Tzviah.Your ideas are interesting for me,it was a good occassion to considering.


  10. Thanks, Laslo. I’m glad it gave someone ‘food for thought’.
    I think that your particular breeding group is already quite a unique combination of all the asil bloodlines in Europe, and perhaps further.
    If I had unlimited funds and space I would also want to do something with the Babolna-asils, both to preserve them and to use them with unrelated groups.

  11. “Combined source is the best way we currently have at our disposal to produce a horse that is as close as possible to the original desert-bred imports.” Excellent put, Edouard. And Tzviah! Consider our “sources” as different marbat, keeping some within and exploring with other genetic material.

  12. Jeanne,

    my marbat is the mixture of the remaining old asil Babolna-,Weil-Marbach-,The Davenport( Wahhabit’s dam)-,and Egyptian bloodlines .But I have an old dream.If is possible,on one beautiful day, I want covering my mares with asil saudi stallion.I have an old asil dam-faily ( through 25 Amurath Sahib) and I know, I must be save this.


  13. I think pure man can help. 🙂

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