There was a time when harsh winds and howling gales blew across Arabia. Inch by inch, a desert was formed, harsh and barren, where only the most gifted and the strongest could survive its wrath. Of all the creatures, it was God who created the horse to live here, a creature so magnificent that his tales are woven into the very fabric of the Bedouin lifestyle and in the words of the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) himself as the Qur’an was written. Fantasy, legends and art were but a few to portray this wonderous animal and it is said it was Ismail, son of Abraham, that was the first to tame and ride him. In those early years, the Arabian horse was more than just an object, it was a partner for the bedu. They rode together into battle, conquering new lands and bringing wealth and power to the tribe. The stealth, unparalleled beauty and agility of these fabled horses became their trademark and the whispers of the few who witnessed them firsthand soon had people craving to see more. Those early adventurers rode out into the heartlands on vast expeditions to source the very best jewels of the dunes and it is this legacy that bought this famed horse from Arabia to the rest of the world.
Brazil has long since been a great place for Arabian horse breeding. The quality of those first imports when the currency was at its highest against the American dollar saw some of the best blood infused into the countries breeding programmes. Over the years, they have developed bold, smooth, long-necked horses with structure and charisma, a perfect foundation for any stud. One such mare caused raptures in the show arenas around the world, the grand matriarch herself, FT Shaella. Bred by Flavia Torres, this mare has been a powerhouse of the breeding barn and year after year, she immortalises herself further with yet another gift to the world of the Arabian horse. Her sire is the three-quarter Egyptian stallion Shael Dream Desert (Ansata Shaamis x Elettra), imported to Brazil by the brilliant breeder, Murillo Kammer. Bred in Italy, Shael Dream Desert has travelled back and forth across the Atlantic and left some wonderful progeny but thanks to the strength of the outstanding mare Soul Pretty TGS (Shallenger x HMA Clyquot), FT Shaella is his most prominent. Shallenger (Bey Shah x Wind Feature) has long been known as a broodmare sire of dominance and adding to a mare from the best of old Polish and Crabbet blood, the same damlines that had people transfixed by the desert horses centuries earlier. It is a recipe that has withstood the test of time.
With FT Shaella’s early wins collecting gold championships and indeed the attention of many, Dubai Arabian Horse Stud made the wise decision to include her into their already enviable collection. Sprinkling a touch of magic from the UAE’s super sire Marajj (Marwan al Shaqab x RGA Kouress), who we cover in detail in a previous article, the mix exceeded all expectations and in turn, transformed Dubai Arabian Horse Stud from collectors to breeders. They now were put on an international pedestal for the globe to marvel at with their first big success story, D Shahla.
I remember seeing her as a yearling, in 2013, and even in her first blush of success, one could see the dazzling brilliance that was about to unveil. Dark, delicate, and dazzling with her quality, D Shahla soon found fame and had Europe waiting for this gift of the desert to unleash herself onto the show-rings. Gold rose garlands and appreciative nods from some of the world’s most esteemed judges crowned her Junior Female Champion in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Menton, the All Nations’ Cup and finally, on her last appearance as a junior, World Junior Female World Champion at the Salon du Cheval in Paris, the mecca for all breeders around the globe.
With each year, we saw D Shahla grow in confidence, stature, and beauty and then she did the extraordinary. Away from the razzmatazz of the euphoric show arenas, in the still of her stall, another generation had been created and once again the strength of the desert blood proved invaluable with the birth of D Shallal in 2016. A strong chestnut colt sired by the world’s most sought-after sire, FA el Rasheem (FA el Shawan x Virtuosa MLR), again added power to this legacy with many titles to his name.
It was a year later when a dark doe-eyed beauty, as glorious as her mother, stunned crowds, trainers, and judges, we saw the start of the true depth of this monumental mare. D Shihanah, a full sister to D Shallal. was to collect her fair share of titles from the world’s most prominent show arenas.
In 2019 with the added element of the unique Ajman breeding, D Shahla went onto produce the colt D Shaheer. AJ Marzan (AJ Portofino x HED AB Maria) is the secret ingredient in many of the winning formulas of the youngsters who are collecting top honors in the UAE in recent seasons. A much-decorated show horse himself, it is his vast array of top contender babies that have put his name at the top of many breeders’ lists of go-to stallions. Combining the immortal blood of Versace (Fame VF x Precious as Gold), some Egyptian and adding another touch of alchemy from Brazil from his splendid dam, HEB AB Maria (AB Magnum x Ailec Padron), this young stallion has stamped his own distinct touch into the blend of champions and as Europe waits for the gates to open, I am sure we will see plenty more of the recent Abu Dhabi and Dubai Gold Champion Yearling Colt.
History, as they, say repeats itself and nowhere is it truer than with this family of champions. D Shahla and her family is another fine example of the brilliance that these horses give us all to look on with wonder and intrigue, the same essence that captivated those early collectors that made months long excursions deep into the deserts hundreds of years ago. The romance of the Arabian horse never once falters to have us straining to see what the future stars of the UAE will bring.
Photo credits: Erwin Escher, SIR Photography