The case of Esmet Ali

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on October 6th, 2010 in France, Tunisia

The outstanding stallion Esmet Ali (photo below) is at the center of a controversy that has been quietly brewing for several decades now in Tunisia and beyond. Since Esmet Ali is in the pedigree of almost every single Arabian horse in Tunisia today, the matter is of some importance.

I do not know what position to adopt with respect to this controversy, and I will actually refrain from adopting one until more information emerges from within the country, which I am sure will be the case at some point.

The original Esmet Ali was born in 1955 at the famed and well-respected Sidi Bou Hadid stud of french Navy Admiral Anatole Cordonnier, one of the savviest and most knowledgeable breeders of Arabian horses of his time (little known in the USA, unfortunately). That Esmet Ali was by Cordonnier’s stallion Hazil and out of one of Cordonnier’s best mares, Arabelle (Beyrouth x Ambria by Nasr d.b).

In 1956, Tunisia became independent from France, and some troubled times followed for a brief period, during which the stud of Sidi Bou Said was looted, and many animals ran away, and others were lost or stolen. The yearling Esmet Ali was one of these. He was taken away to the nearby mountains, an army helicopter followed him for about an hour and a half, and then lost trace of him.

A few years later, a horse reappeared in the racing scene that was claimed to be Esmet Ali. Many saw in that horse the chestnut yearling of Cordonnier, but some did not recognize him. That horse made his way to the stallion barn at the Government Stud of Sidi Thabet and sired some of Tunisia’s best racehorses ever, including Dynamite III.

The position of the Robert Mauvy, who was Admiral Cordonnier’s best friend and confidente is a bit ambiguous here. Mauvy knew Cordonnier’s horses inside out. He even received two of Cordonnier’s mares as a gift: the beautiful Izarra (David x Arabelle) a Kuhaylat al-‘Ajuz who is Esmet Ali’s maternal sister, and Hammada (Madani x Antinea by Kriss II), a Mukhalladiyah of old French lines. The story above is known to have come from Mauvy, among others yet at the same time it is the same Mauvy who writes in his book ‘Le Cheval Arabe’: “Aissaoui, Esmet Ali, que de bon et beaux chevaux sont restes outre-Mediterranee; souhaitons qu’ils y aient fait souche…“, which roughly translates as “Aissaoui, Esmet Ali, so many good and beautiful horses remained on the other side of the Mediterranean” (i.e., North Africa). The first edition of the book was written in the mid 1960s, the second in the late 1970s, and the stallion Esmet Ali was active during both times. Maybe Mauvy eventually recognized that the horse that resurfaced was indeed Esmet Ali..

Whatever the case, his sons and grandsons certainly bear the original Arabian type: deserty, dry, skin like silk, huge eyes, etc.

6 Responses to “The case of Esmet Ali”

  1. Hello Edouard,

    I you compare “Esmet Ali” on the following photo where it is behind on it mother “Arabelle” you will see that it is the same horse

  2. Very good!

  3. Arnaud,
    Would it be possible to tell me where did you get this picture from Esmet Ali? I have never seen it anywhere.

    Amazing picture with Arabelle


  4. I think it came from Adrien Deblaise, who was written to me about Esmet Ali and the proof that he is his mother’s son.. it will be published here soon..

  5. dynamite III est il asil?

  6. sur le papier, oui.

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