In the beginning, it starts with a single flicker of light. A spark of one’s imagination, a promise of things to come. One small glimmer became a beacon of shining light, one that lit up a nation and was crowned champion of the world.
With breeding of any horse, it is these initial thoughts that someone, somewhere in some place of silence, initiated a single belief. First the Bedouins bred the horses, and now it is breeders from around the globe who carry on this centuries-old tradition. Of course, the philosophy may have changed but when what is created is without imperfection, this becomes a masterpiece and in turn, becomes coveted by the world.
Delving back into my mind of the great horses of the United Arab Emirates, my memories rest on another special mare. She was special for so many reasons – a hint of what was another generation of greatness from a famed family spanning back many millennia.
Her early days as a bay-going-grey youngster at the shows here in the UAE saw her get lost in a sea of more flashy, flamboyant and finished youngsters. She may not have won a single class but as with any stroke of genius, the best things come to those who wait – and boy, was she worth the wait! By the time she was a mare, she had dried out with her beautiful clean lines became clearer and reminiscent of her Polish heritage. It was then that she took the show-rings by storm. Winning title after title, she became the crowd’s darling and Salwa al Zobair had arrived to write her own page in the history books.
Salwa al Zobair was bred by the charismatic HE Sheikh Abdulla bin Mohammed Ali Al Thani in the tranquil emirate of Sharjah at his Al Zobair Stud. A man that has immense passion and has every reason to be proud of his achievements as a breeder, owner and supporter of this most noble of breeds. Salwa was the very first foal of a young colt who had created tsunamis across the globe, Marajj (Marwan al Shaqab x RGA Kouress). As a yearling, he was snapped up by the young and ambitious Sheikh Mohammed bin Saud Al Qasimi for his newly formed Albidayer Stud, a brother to Sheikh Abdulla Al Thani, on a trip to the Scottsdale Show. Marajj was from the first foal crop of Marwan al Shaqab (Gazal al Shaqab x Little Liza Fame) born in America, bred by the small breeder Joel Desmarteau. He had dreamt of using Marwan al Shaqab, the new superstar of the Arabian horse world, and he saved up to breed his mare RGA Kouress (Kouvay Bey x Angophora). The following spring, she foaled down what was to become one of the greatest show horses and sires in recent history, a colt named Marajj who changed the lives of so many; that is another story for another day. Marajj arrived in the UAE in November and continued his sensational winning ways before leaving to conquer the cooler climates of Europe. In this short time, Marajj was bred to three mares as he was only just turning two-years of age and from the one successful pregnancy would come perhaps one of his greatest and most successful foals.
Salwa al Zobair’s dam was one of the classics to herald from those famous stone-clad barns of the Michałów State Stud in Poland. This was Esklawa, who I believe was a gift to Sheikh Abdullah when he was setting up Al Zobair Stud from HH Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Khalid bin Hamad Al Thani from the renowned Al Rayyan Stud Qatar. Esklawa arrived in foal to one of the best straight Egyptian sires of recent times, Ashhal al Rayyan (Safir x Ansata Majesta) and the resulting foal was a lovely filly Mahna Al Zobair. Esklawa was as rich in her 400-year heritage, as the lines comes from being a direct daughter of the legendry broodmare sire Eukaliptus (Bandos x Eunice) and out of Ekstaza (ex Eskapada), by the celebrated Celebes (Witraz x Canaria). Not only was Esklawa as magnificent as her pedigree would predict, but she earned international recognition and thunderous applause in many show arenas. However, her ultimate gift to the breed was her daughter, Salwa al Zobair.
Salwa Al Zobair is that very rare balance of refinement and such dryness, quality of her skin, and eyes as black and soulful as any painting. Yet, with a snort, she storms into action with the power of the warhorse and movement that won her rapturous ovations and the top marks from many esteemed judges. The Gold Senior Female Championship at the 2015 Salon du Cheval in Paris and the Gold Senior Female Championship in Qatar in 2016 are just a few of her highlights. It was not only her show-ring successes that had people cheering; in those quiet moments in the breeding barn, she produced some wonderful foals herself. The 2020 Gold Senior Male Champion at the Ajman Arabian Horse Festival and the UAE National Championships was Salwan al Zobair, sired by the Al Zobair Stud’s own SMA Magic One (Psytadel x Majidah bint Pacha), continues Salwa’s greatness, passing this on to another generation of brilliance.
With memories in mind of so many people, horses, and joyful occasions, I will finish this writing with a smile. In a country that is only 48 years old, the magnitude of what has been accomplished here in the UAE is immense. With the world’s tallest building, the only 7 star hotel, and an array of Arabian breeding farms that have bred some of the most sought after horses in the world, the stars collection of the UAE is a dynasty that will continue for many years to come.
Photo credits: Erwin Escher, Glenn Jacobs, Scott Trees, Stuart Vesty