On *Turfa as a ride for Queen Elizabeth, from the JAHS

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on September 5th, 2013 in General

From the British Journal of the Arab Horse Society, 1935-1938, p. 168, under “Royal Gifts of Arabian Horses”:

In December 1937, 4 Arabian horses and 4 camels were unloaded from the liner Mantola at the Royal Albert Docks, London. They were presented by His Majesty King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia to His Majesty the King, as a token of friendship and in appreciation to the hospitality given to his son and heir at the Coronation. The contingent consisted of two stallions and two mares. Brief particulars of these horses are given below:

1. Manak (1928) […]

2. Kasim (1934)  […]

3. Tarfa (1935), a grey mare, of great quality and a nice mover. Her sire is an Obeyan Abdul Hamra and her dam is a Kehaileh Ajuz. Tarfa is being specially trained as a hack for Princess Elizabeth, and she is promising to make a very nice ride for the little princess. 

4. Faras (1927) […]

The “little princess” is Queen Elizabeth II..

17 Responses to “On *Turfa as a ride for Queen Elizabeth, from the JAHS”

  1. Well so then the question becomes how did turfa get from being Elizabeth the 2nds. personal hack to, lets see henry babsons farm to be bred to Fadl? I’ll bet its quite a story.
    best wishes
    Bruce Peek
    p.s. also was Turfa one of the confiscated horses from the Saudis de-goring of the Ikhwan?

  2. she was taken to canada as a safety precaution from WW2, i think, and there Babson saw her and bought her.. A stroke of genius!

  3. Note the typo in the strain of *Turfa’s: it is Ubayyan Abul Hamra not Aubayyan AbDul Hamra..

  4. Speaking of typos– sorry about the de-goring business.. it should be de- horsing..
    best wishes

  5. I recall talking to Babson farm manager Homer Watson in the 1970s about Turfa. He told me how well trained she was for the queen. She could do just about anything under saddle and was very sensitive and responsive to the aids. Mr. Babson’s daughter Elizabeth Tieken told me that Turfa’s skin was so fine and sensitive that they had a special summer stall for her that was screened in so as to give her relief from the bugs.

  6. *Turfa is registered in the British Arab Horse Society Stud Book Vol. 6 (1944). Her first registered owner is listed as Brig. Gen. W.H. Anderson. Her second owner is listed as H.B. Babson. Her Certificate of Transfer from Anderson to Babson is dated November 10, 1941. See the Al Khamsa web site. She was imported to the U.S. in 1941. It’s not clear when she was sent to Canada.

    German air strikes on British targets began in the second half of 1940, so if it’s true she was sent to Canada to keep her safe, that would have been in late 1940 or in 1941. But I’ve never been able to trace that story to a primary source. Does anyone know the source?

  7. I’m forgetting, there is additional evidence, *Turfa’s April, 1942 colt *Ibn Hilal, sired by the British stallion Hilal.

  8. I just looked at the British stud book again and *Turfa’s entry says in small type, “Imported to England in 1930 [sic] and thence to U.S.A. in 1941.”

    So my next question is, what is the source for *Turfa ever having been in Canada? Henry Babson’s stallion *Aldebar is documented as having been in Canada, but what documentation is there for *Turfa having been in Canada?

  9. I read it in J. Forbis’s Classic Arabian Bloodstock but that’s not a primary source.

  10. What is most interesting in the JAHS reference to *Turfa is her strain of K. ‘Ajuz.

  11. If memory serves me right Mrs. Tieken told me in 1983 or so that Turfa and Aldebar were seen by Mr. Babson in Canada which corresponds with what Jean jennings had told me when i filmed her horses in 1978. So perhaps Jean Jennings is the source that related that to Judi Forbis. There is some brief film footage of Turfa taken circa 1942 perhaps before Ibn Hilal was born at Babsons. I have a VCR copy of that footage.

  12. Mr. Babson could conceivably have seen both *Turfa and *Aldebar in Canada, but not together. *Aldebar’s first foal in the U.S. was Baarouf (out of Henry Babson’s mare *Maaroufa), foaled February 11, 1941. Therefore *Aldebar had to have been at the Babson Farm in Illinois by about March of 1940, when he was bred to *Maaroufa. Meanwhile *Turfa was still in England as late as April or May of 1941, when she was bred to Hilal to produce her April, 1942 colt *Ibn Hilal.

    *Aldebar, a 1919 foal, was bred by the HRH the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII and later still Duke of Windsor). *Aldebar is registered in the American Jockey Club stud book, volume 17 (1940), where it says that he was imported in 1929 and owned by The Prince of Wales, E.P. Ranch, in Pekisko, Alberta, Canada. Note that *Aldebar’s last registered foal in England was born in 1930.

    But *Aldebar’s ownership by Henry Babson can be documented even further back. The introductory material to volume I of the Canadian Arabian Stud Book says that *Aldebar was sold from the E.P. Ranch to Henry Babson in September, 1938.

    The Royal Arabians of Egypt and the Stud of Henry B. Babson, a 1976 book by Judi Forbis and Walter Schimanski, states only that *Turfa was “[a]cquired by Mr. Babson in 1941” (page 49). Joe Ferriss’s October 1983 article on *Turfa in Arabians magazine adds the detail that *Turfa and several other Arabians were sent to Canada from Britain for safekeeping at the outbreak of World War II.

    The only mention of *Turfa that I can find in Judi Forbis’s Authentic Arabian Bloodstock is at page 116, in a reprint of Judi’s Nov. 1965 Arabian Horse World article on the Babson Farm, which states under a photo of *Turfa that she was “imported from England in 1941 by Mr. Babson.” Note: FROM ENGLAND. This article was originally printed during Mr. Babson’s lifetime, and it seems clear from the text that Judi had interviewed Mr. Babson.

    Unless someone can turn up a primary source that says otherwise, I wonder if by the 1970s and 1980s someone had confused the story of *Turfa with the story of *Aldebar having been purchased in Canada? Both horses had been owned at various times by members of the British royal family.

  13. Oh, and I’ll quote from *Turfa’s entry in volume VI (1944) of the British Arab Horse Society Stud Book, at page 321:

    “Imported to England in 1930 [that date is clearly wrong] and thence to U.S.A. in 1941.”

    No mention of export to Canada.

  14. Since posting the above, I’ve been looking at additional periodical articles on *Turfa. Jean Jennings wrote in a July 1976 Arabian Horse World article “Salute to *Turfa” that *Turfa was sent to Canada for safe keeping during the Battle of Britain, and that Henry Babson saw her and purchased her there. So yes, Joe, perhaps Jean Jennings is the source for that information.

    Jean Jennings also states in her article that *Turfa was a coronation present to Edward VIII, not George VI, but that doesn’t seem possible. Edward VIII abdicated before he could be coronated, but more than one source (including Majesty, by Robert Lacey) states that his planned coronation date of May 12, 1937 was kept and used for his brother George VI. The Journal of the Arab Horse Society article that Edouard references is clear that the four gift horses reached Britain in December, 1937, and were sent by King Ibn Saud as a token of appreciation for the hospitality shown to his son when he attended the coronation–which can refer only to the coronation of George VI.

    All four Saudi gift horses are registered in Arab Horse Society stud book vol. VI. Faras’s entry gives an importation date of December 13, 1937. Manak was entered as still owned by King George VI. All three of Manak, Kasim, and Faras are entered as having been gifts to George VI, although George VI’s name does not appear in *Turfa’s entry.

    Call me a skeptic, but it doesn’t make sense that Arabians were sent to Canada from Britain for safe-keeping during the war. Princess Elizabeth herself was sent only as far away as Windsor. The royal web site says:

    “When the Second World War began in September 1939, there was some suggestion that the Queen and her daughters should evacuate to North America or Canada. To this the Queen made her famous reply: ‘The children won’t go without me. I won’t leave the King. And the King will never leave.’ ”


  15. Great piece of research R.J. This helps to more accurately view the importation of Turfa. Yes, Jean Jennings told me when I first visited her in about 1977 that Aldebar and Turfa were sent to Canada for safekeeping during the war and that Mr. Babson saw them there and imported them. However we know now that does not quite fit thanks to your diligence. I may have mixed Jean Jennnings story with Mrs. Tieken’s story in my recollection on my previous comment on this thread. After all those years I never thought to look into the Aldebar inaccuracy. Probably because I was only interested in Turfa who was so close up in my horses’ pedigrees multiple times, and because I had seen and filmed so many of her descendants.

  16. who is jean jennings?

  17. The late Jean P. Jennings of Raadin Arabians. She was active as a breeder in the U.S. from the mid 1960s through the 1990s, and is shown in DataSource as breeder of 71 foals. Prominent in her breeding were Babson, Sirecho, and also some Hallany Mistanny lines, along with crosses to Ansata and Gleannloch stallions. I remember seeing in 1987 in Arkansas and liking a couple of the horses she bred.

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