Current Issue:
Spring 2005

 







Indraff, 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 natural habitat.

      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.

      Bazy 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.

      “The Blunt 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 program.

      “I studied genetics in college,” she recalled. With a specific goal in mind Bazy went in search of the top stallion to sire her dynasty.

      “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 years ahead.”

      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.

      Bazy was 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 horses.

      At least half of Al-Marah’s foals are turned out in range conditions in fields of several hundred acres.

      “The best 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.

      “I 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 spirit.”

      Author Ivan Lloyd is an Equine Art Guild member and a painter of horses. View his artwork at http://www.ivanlloyd.com/.