Pride of Al-Marah – Oil on canvas, 16 x 24, by Ivan Lloyd.
The Legendary Al-Marah Inspires Artists
by Ivan Lloyd
The mist gently hovered above the fields early one chilly spring
morning as a group of artists from the Equine Art Guild headed toward
a local horse farm to sketch and photograph Arabian horses in their
We approached the Navajo white adobe-walled
entrance of Al-Marah Arabians farm and were greeted by a small group
of friendly gray mares with their foals.
In Arabic Al-Marah
means verdant garden oasis and the fertile 110-acre farm situated in
the foothills of the Catalina Mountains just east of Tucson, Arizona,
is a verdant garden of mesquite, eucalyptus and cottonwood trees. Al
Marah boasts the oldest privately-owned herd of Arabian horses in the
world and their stud can be traced back over 200 years to Mohammed Ali
the Great of Egypt.
These magnificent animals were purchased
by Ali Pasha Sherif. In 1890 Lady Anne Blunt and her husband Wilfred
purchased the choice Egyptian stock for their Crabbet stud in England.
When her daughter Lady Wentworth died, Al-Marah Arabians made history
by importing some of Crabbet’s finest horses to America.
Tankersley, the owner of Al-Marah, belongs in that category of rare
and legendary breeders known for the phenomenal success of her
breeding program with over 2,500 outstanding foals.
horses gave me the very best foundation stock you could ask for,” Bazy
confided to me as she invited me into her office, “I’m often
overwhelmed with a sense of wonderment as I walk through my pastures
and reflect on how the lineage of the grand dams and great great grand
dams were together in Egypt and England and the heritage of the Abbas
Pasha nucleus was never disturbed.”
In the early 1940s Bazy
bought Selfra, a mare related to the Crabbet line. This move, of
purchasing a purebred mare from the famous Skowronek bloodline, became
the first step in establishing a cornerstone of Bazy’s breeding
“I studied genetics in college,” she recalled. With a
specific goal in mind Bazy went in search of the top stallion to sire
“I looked at hundreds of pictures of Arabian
stallions but didn’t consider buying any of them until I saw Indraff,
son of Raffles by Raseem. When Indraff walked out of the stable door
my whole aesthetic being went out to him in a thrill of recognition.
He was the fulfillment of my dreams and filled my mental picture of an
ideal Arabian horse,” Bazy recalls.
Bazy bought Indraff within
a few moments of seeing him and to this day he lives on in her memory
as the picture of perfection. “My standard will always be Indraff, and
my goal to recreate him is my dream for he is still my idea of the
perfect Arabian horse. Like in Macbeth’s vision of MacDuff in the
series of mirrors showing sons following sons forever down the shining
Al-Marah quickly became the largest Arabian farm
in the country and introducing the Babson blood and the Gulatra line
to her stud enabled Bazy to produce stronger endurance horses with a
striking presence and more freedom in the shoulder.
careful not to fall prey to the pitfalls of incestual breeding of
Raffles. So when in 1957 news flashed around the world that Lady
Wentworth, daughter of Lady Anne Blunt, had died Bazy quickly
dispatched her manager to negotiate the purchase of five stallions and
the choice of the Crabbet mares.
Shortly afterwards, Gladys
Yule of the Hansted House stud, a leading breeder of the Crabbet lines
in England, also died, which presented the opportunity to purchase
more than a dozen horses from the Hansted stud including all of the
mares. After months of negotiating Bazy also purchased the prize
Hansted stallion Count Dorsaz who had twice won the Winston Churchill
Cup for best riding horse of all breeds because of his extraordinary
presence and breathtaking action.
In the 1960s Bazy moved
Al-Marah to its present location in Tucson, the ideal environment for
the desert Arabian heritage. Her present herd is just under 200
At least half of Al-Marah’s foals are turned out in
range conditions in fields of several hundred acres.
horse husbandry practice is to let them live as much as possible like
horses, with a minimum of time cooped up in box stalls and a maximum
of time in the company of other horses,” Bazy explained.
enjoy studying the beauty of the Arabian and observing their grace is
an aesthetic experience.” Bazy notes. “They have such spiritual
qualities, when they gaze off into the distance, I don’t know what
they’re thinking, but I know they’re communicating with some great
Author Ivan Lloyd is an Equine Art Guild member and a
painter of horses. View his artwork at http://www.ivanlloyd.com/.