By Joe Ferriss
Posted on March 23rd, 2008 in General
Anchor Hill Serfa
I thought I would share a few comments about the notion of the “War Mare”, a term used to describe mares of particular nobility and courage throughout the ages. The late Mark Mayo, who I used to refer to as the “American Bedouin Cowboy” used to tell stories of the “war mare syndrome” which he experienced personally in the deserts of Oklahoma on his 17,000 acre ranch riding his asil mares while herding cattle. He talked about that special trait of total courage and nobility and how these special mares defended him against snakes and other predators as well as many other adventures.
38 years ago when my wife bought me Homer Davenport’s book, “My Quest of the Arabian Horse”, I never forgot the wonderful stories Homer Davenport gave about riding the great war mare *Wadduda, truly a noble mare. I used to imagine that my first half-Arab mare in 1970 would grow up to be a war mare. But in fact my own personal experience with the “war mare syndrome” was a decade later when we purchased, in 1980, an older mare that we had wanted for years, Anchor Hill Serfa (Ibn Sirecho x Serida by Fa-Serr).
Abu Uwais will like this story as he has the Ibn Sirecho breeding. “Serfa” was a mare we wanted for a long time but the Atkinsons of Anchor Hill Ranch would not part with her until, finally when she was older they agreed and she became ours. I am slowly writing my own book on my life with Arabian horses, so I will share here a small excerpt about my war mare Anchor Hill Serfa (Granddam of our current stallion Saamir).
“When she arrived at our farm [fall 1980], Serfa confidently made herself at home immediately. She was very kind and friendly yet fearless of anything. She seemed to have the same sense of nobility and dignity that I remember in *Bint Moniet EI Nefous (Nazeer x Moniet El Nefous), and LD Rubic (Plantagenet x Tarla). You knew there was something special in their demeanor just by being around them. Serfa did not seem bothered or intimidated by any of the other horses or animals or sounds. She had just arrived yet this was her new farm and she knew it. When we put her in with our foundation mare Sirbana (Sirecho x Habbana) who was 5 years older than Serfa, Sirbana seemed to know immediately that Serfa would be the new lead mare and there was no conflict and they became quick friends almost as if they knew they were cousins.
She was a dark liver chestnut, very balanced and symmetrical, a very nice head, nothing to excess yet strong, with clean flat bone, and a classic old world look overall. At Anchor Hill she was shown by the Atkinson children, but also was used to work cattle on their ranch, and she had 10 foals in a row before they finally agreed to sell her to us. She just emanated something special and you could always pick her out in their pasture.
Serfa arrived at our farm on a Friday of labor day weekend so I had extra time to spend with her. Since she settled in so quickly I was anxious to rider her and see what she was like under saddle. I knew that she was trained for just about everything. So I tacked up Serfa the day after she arrived and went for our first joy ride around the farm and it became apparent to me she loved being ridden and enjoyed new adventures. She was a compact powerfully built mare of the western pleasure type and her action was soft, flexible and free, giving a very comfortable ride. She was also extremely agile. I realized by riding her that her sense of confidence is why she was such a great trail horse. She was fearless about new surroundings but observed them with an interest that lead you to believe she was quickly absorbing everything for future reference, giving me that same feeling that Homer Davenport described about *Wadduda. But what confirmed to me that this mare Serfa had the “war mare syndrome” (as Mark Mayo describes it) was the following incident:
After only knowing me for two days Serfa and I went out for our first trip off the farm down our dirt back-roads exploring the rural area. About two miles from the farm we encountered two fiercely barking and growling Doberman Pincers charging at us from the front yard of a farm we were passing. Serfa was completely unaffected by their territorial challenges as the dogs circled us while growling, snapping and barking, moving in closer to us. However, I could tell she was monitoring their actions very carefully without letting them know she was watching them. She seemed to be planning something but I knew not what. She proceeded forward down the road without breaking her stride or veering off her straight forward course, but her jog trot became much more collected and rounded without my doing anything to cause it. She was systematically gathering herself, preparing for a battle as though she were loading a gun. She waited until both dogs were immediately in front of her where they stood their ground, growling. Without breaking her stride, her front feet struck out at the dogs, swiftly like the rattle snake strikes at its prey. She struck so fast and hard that it flipped one dog completely around, tumbling over the other dog and both dogs ran off frightened of her as she continued forward. As the dogs fled, it became obvious by her rather proud, springy movements and behavior that she was so proud of herself for having defended both of us. It was as if she was challenging them to come back for more. I was so amazed as it was the first time in my experience that an Arabian exhibited such extreme loyalty and protectiveness. She was truly a war mare.”