Continuing with memories from the British National Championships in this Centenary year for the Arab Horse Society, we feature our next British National Champion. Our featured horse today remains one of the most amazing mares bred on British shores in all time. Her name – Aliha.
Aliha – by Emma Maxwell
The first British National Champion I showed was Esplendor in 1984 and the most recent ones were Pjatakova and Kalinisi in 2004, but it is not hard to guess which one is my favourite…
Aliha and I had a long and somewhat chequered career at the British Nationals and I am fairly sure that the first year I showed her there was 1981 when I was 11 and she was a dapple-grey four-year-old. I think we got a brown rosette. Later that year, my mother showed her at the Salon du Cheval where she was World Reserve Champion Mare.
The following year, Aliha was second in the novice ridden mares with Caroline Nelson. In-hand she was in the back line somewhere in the last four under one of the more peculiar foreign judges we have had over the years. Aliha was Supreme Female Champion at Haydock in 1983 and then spent a year being shown in the States. She returned from the USA with a shoulder injury that kept her out of the show-ring until 1988, when she won her class at Ascot and later in that year was World Champion Mare with the highest score of the show.
Aliha came back to the Nationals in 1991 where she was crowned as British National Champion Mare and Supreme of the Show, entitling her to go to Wembley for the obligatory last placing for the Arab in the Lloyds Bank In-Hand Championship, despite my efforts to disguise us both in tweed jacket and plain snaffle bridle!
Aliha then made three appearances at Malvern in the 1990s and won the Princess Muna Saddle of Honour on each occasion for best Family Group, accompanied by various members of her family who have also won a class or more at Malvern – Atlantica, Ayat, Amazonn, Akhenaten and Ashiqa.
Her final in-hand show ring appearance was at Malvern 1999 where, at the grand age of 22, she was Reserve National Champion Mare, with her daughter Ashiqa the Broodmare Champion standing second Reserve.
However, Aliha’s accomplishments were never somehow her main attraction – her personality was, and still is, much bigger than her list of wins. She is both bombproof and charismatic, is trustworthy but never 100% obedient, and of course she knows how to work a crowd better than Bill Clinton. Quite simply Aliha is the greatest Arabian I have ever met and I owe her many thanks for her company throughout most of my life.
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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.