This feature first appeared in The Arabian Breeders’ Magazine Spring Edition, April 2017. You can order your copy of this beautiful coffee-table book at The Arabian Magazine Shop.
The response to The Arabian Breeders’ Magazine continues to be incredible, and breeders worldwide are getting in touch to share their stories. However, for those of us at the World Arabian Horse Organization (WAHO) Conference in the Kingdom of Bahrain in February, we saw a true breeding programme that captured us.
The Royal Arabian Studs of Bahrain is home to an extremely unique collection of Arabian horses, the families of which have been preserved on the island for over 200 years by the ruling Al Khalifa family, with the most recent being His Majesty King Hamada Bin Isa Al Khalifa.
It was in 1983 that His Majesty, then the Crown Prince, relocated The Royal Stud to Rowtha’t Alghar, where it remains today. The location is incredible, with the natural sand basin surrounded by rocky outcrops that, in the distance, lead to paddocks and a racetrack. Arriving at the Stud, walking though the traditional Arabian tent and looking out on the vista, you could see the Bedouin of yesteryear in your mind’s eye, and it conjured up visions of Lady Anne Blunt and the caravan of travellers, going through the desert.
With 340 pure Arabians at The Royal Arabian Studs of Bahrain, 20 different strains and sub-strains are represented, including Dahmeh, Jellabieh, Ma’anaghieh, and the much-loved Hamdanieh. Strains such as Kuheila’t Umm Zorayr are unique to Bahrain, and can only be seen here on the Kingdom. With all the strains, great care is taken to ensure their preservation, and we were treated to a breathtaking presentation of some 60 horses, including mares, foals and stallions, and all presented in their family groups.
As the presentation went on, you realised that a window to the past was being opened before you. These were true war horses, and with every group that was came out, you longed to get into a saddle and ride, and our souls ached for years gone by. Many of the horses instantly entered my heart. Mares, foals, and stallions – they all moved not only me, and those hundred or so people seated around me. It truly was an honour to see them, these family groups of the pure Bahraini Arabian, living history right there, before our eyes.
The thing that stuck me the most, watching these amazing horses, was how these they had more true Arabian type within them than I see in the modern show-ring. We need to be aware of just how we are losing the genuine essence of the Arabian horse – the element that made them so truly great and coveted the world over for centuries – all in the name of a modern perception of perfection.
This was a day to savour, a day that restored your faith in the world of the Arabian horse. Horses shown free, with a vast desert space behind them, and yet they came back to the handler, easily and willingly. Stallions shown together – and then with crowds of people around them, acting as if this were an everyday occurrence rather than a novelty. This was a day where you saw beautiful Arabian mares, trotting over the ground so effortlessly; stallions, kind and gentle yet incredibly powerful, all at the same time; and foals, unhandled, confident, natural and with a natural cadence that delighted. All of these horses were proud, they were showy, they were strong. And yet, you knew, you just felt, that they were the kind to creep into your tent at night, and guard over you. The true war horse; our world needs more of them.
Our visit to The Royal Arabian Studs of Bahrain will be covered in detail in the next edition, but please enjoy this brief insight for now. For the full daily report from the WAHO Conference, including immediate impressions of the horses we saw both here and at HRH Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Al Khalifa’s Stud, visit www.thearabianmagazine.com.
My grateful thanks to HRH Shaikh Isa Bin Salman Al Khalifa for his tremendous hospitality, both on this magical day, and in the Kingdom of Bahrain itself.