Memories of the British Nationals: Al Shamsa

Another wonderful memory from the British National Championships in this Centenary year for the Arab Horse Society, we feature our next British National Champion. Today, we look at another horse from the 1970s, a Crabbet mare with a great history.

Al Shamsa

Al Shamsa – by Judy Phillips
Apart from some years in the 1990s when I was abroad, I have been to the National Show every year since the days of Syon Park. I was one of those who manned the Glasshouse to answer a myriad of questions and sell you your catalogue. This was in the days when the stewards’ tent made a profit on the drinks sold and when we, in the Glasshouse, were given a “horse’s neck” by Bun Cowey, esteemed Brigadier and Show Director, at midday, a particularly Naval concoction of brandy and ginger ale and still my favourite drink!

I remember Al Shamsa initially when someone in the Glasshouse commented on the “high white” of a mare in the class and the white splash she had behind the girth. While this was an initial distraction, it did draw one’s eye to appreciate the excellent conformation of the mare. She certainly had the good proportions, wonderful legs and good bone, lovely shoulder and natural set of head and neck that is everyone’s ideal.

Foaled in 1969, she was by Sunlights Allegro out of Roshina by Count Rapello and had the sires Naseem and Joseph and the dams Rissla and Razzina on both sides of her pedigree. Al Shamsa (the sun) was bred by the Duchess of Rutland and joined Gill Trimingham’s Grange Arabian Stud as a two year old. She appeared at Ascot as a nine year old and her exceptional movement and floating action was immediately apparent. She became Reserve Mare and Best British Entry in the international class. In 1979, she was Female Champion and the Lloyds Bank Qualifier. At HOYS that year, she was placed second – the highest placed pure-bred ever. A, possibly apocryphal, comment stated that the standard was so low that the judges had to put up an Arab; I prefer to think that the quality of the Arab was so high that the judges really could not continue to ignore it!

Al Shamsa bred 12 foals and nicked particularly well with Melchior; their offspring Sinbad Pasha and Ali al Said were exported to the USA. Both were winners at Ascot, Ali being Junior and Supreme Male Champion as a yearling and Supreme Champion at the Royal the next year. In the US, he competed in open dressage. Their daughter, Melisha, won in-hand and under-saddle. Bought by Mrs Shirley Watts, she enjoyed a ridden career with Justine Crawford and won the Ridden Championship at Haydock. She retired to become Mrs Watt’s favourite riding horse.

When Gill retired from horse breeding in 1988, I was lucky enough to acquire Al Shamsa. Much as I had hoped to breed from her, she had other ideas. Not one to enjoy being stabled, she lived out with shelter available. Luckily she had been backed and I had great fun, riding her in the New Forest where her inimitable and very comfortable floating action continued to attract admiring comments from those who saw her out enjoying herself and my farrier made more than one attempt to buy her! He already had a pure-bred colt that he drove in harness in the forest.

When I moved to Germany, Al Shamsa went to the Halsdon Stud where I am grateful to Mrs Watts for looking after her into old age. She died there aged 32. Here was a beautiful, sweet-natured mare, a great producer and a wonderful ride – everything that an Arabian mare should be.

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This post comes from a series we first ran in The Arabian Magazine in 2005. Called Malvern Calling, the series celebrated British National Champions from Malvern, Ascot and even Kempton Park, and different readers shared their favourite memory from the British Nationals. There is always something special about watching the moment a horse is crowned British National Champion, so please enjoy the memories that will be shared here over the coming month.

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