Judy Sirbasku Interview

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Reflects on the tReasuRes sale a n d f o Rt y y e a R s w i t h a R a b i a n h o R s e s b y Denis e Hea r s t

Judy Sirbasku with RHAPSODY IN BLACK (Thee Desperado x Aliashahm RA), the homebred she names as the one who comes the closest to her ideal Arabian. She is represented in the auction by several lots.

fter 40 years spent building one of the most influential Egyptian Arabian breeding programs in the world, along with her late husband, Jim Sirbasku, Judy Sirbasku feels that the time has come to downsize. Few breeders have seen as many superstars come through their gates. In the Sirbaskus’ case, it was their stallion, Thee Desperado, that had the greatest impact on the farm and the breed. Today at Arabians Ltd., in Waco, Texas, some 200 Arabians graze the pastures. This October 12-13, fifty of Judy’s finest will be offered in the Treasures Sale. “My husband Jim and I had talked about an auction many years ago, but the time was never right,” she says. “But now I think it’s time. So that’s what I have finally come to do.”

Until recently, Arabians Ltd. was a busy training and marketing center, but that aspect of the operation will wind down by the end of the year. However, Judy’s stallion barn will remain open, with breedings available to her six stallions: Bellagio RCA (Alixir x Rhapsody In Black), Shah Mishaal RCA (*Mishaal HP x Bint Asila RCA), Marbach RCA (The Sequel RCA x Alia Galal RCA), Luxe RCA (*Mishaal HP x Thee Scarlet Lady), Infinity RCA (Bellagio RCA x Kamil FA), and Elegant RCA (Bellagio RCA x Mishaals Lily RCA). Judy also has an inner sanctum she visits at the farm. “We finally built the little barn that Jim always wanted to build,” she says. “I’m sorry he missed it. It is a wonderful 10-stall barn – we call it JJ’s barn, for Jim and Judy — for a few of my sentimental favorites and old friends.”

The mare SCARLET MADINAH offerings in the Treasures Sale.

RCA (*Mishaal HP x Thee Scarlet Lady) is among the lovely

Meanwhile, Jim Maloney (Jim Sirbasku’s friend and business manager), trainer Greg Knowles, and farm and breeding manager Stephane Robillard, assisted Judy in selecting the special horses for the sale. Twenty will be offered on Saturday, and 30 will be offered on Sunday afternoon. With the lots reflecting several generations of Arabians Ltd. breeding, this epochal sale will reflect a sizable chapter in the history of the Egyptian Arabian in this country. We visited with Judy in late June, for a wide-ranging conversation about the sale lots and the highlights of 40 years with Arabian horses.

Q: This October marks the first public auction of Arabians Ltd. horses in your 40 years of breeding. Please share with us your thoughts about some of your favorite horses in the sale. I am quite taken by Bint Bint Asila’s 2018 filly by Bellagio, Illa Bint Asila RCA. Like all the Bellagio foals she has a long, beautiful neck. This is the same family as our stallion Shah Mishaal RCA, as he is out of Bint Asila RCA and sired by *Mishaal HP. There is just one colt in the sale, and he, too, is by Bellagio. This is the 2018 colt out of Mishaals Lily RCA (*Mishaal HP x Desperados Lily RCA). I’ve named him Monarch RCA.


Two Ramses Mishaal Nadir daughters in the sale, LADY


(x Pimlicos Lady RCA by Pimlico RCA), left, and NADIRS (x Desperados Lily RCA by Thee Desperado), right.

These two yearlings are sweet horses, but that is not surprising – Bellagio is the sweetest stallion, and he sires sweet, sweet horses. Mishaals Lily also produced a colt in 2017, a full brother to Monarch RCA. One of my guys who worked here saw him and told me he was an elegant colt. So that’s what I named him, Elegant RCA. And he will stand as a junior stallion next year. We’ve had a lot of inquiries about Scarlet Madinah RCA by *Mishaal HP and out of Thee Scarlet Lady (Thee Desperado x Reckless Woman by The Minstril). She is in foal to Bellagio. She is a beautiful producing mare – her son Aga Khan RCA, by Thee Desperado, is an Egyptian Event Top Ten Colt, and her daughter, Lady Madinah RCA, by The Sequel RCA, was 2018 Scottsdale Champion International Breeders Classic Straight Egyptian Junior Female and 2017

Arabian National Breeders Finals Bronze Champion Straight Egyptian Junior Filly. These mares are the embodiment of what we’re hoping for with *Mishaal HP (Ansata Sinan x Mesoudah M). We looked for an outcross for the Desperado daughters for five years. I sent Shawn Crews all over the world searching, and she finally found him at Frank Spoenle’s. Frank told Shawn that *Mishaal HP’s owner, Horst Preuss, might be willing to lease him to us. Shawn came home and showed me a crummy little video, and what I saw was the image of my “first love,” Ruminaja Ali – the way he pranced, his mane, his charisma. Plus, I love his damline through Mesoudah M (*Messaoud x Madinah) … I was looking for that damline. I said to Shawn, “That’s it. Go get him.” He sired beautiful offspring for us. Several very special daughters of his are offered in the sale.


Two yearlings by Bellagio RCA in the sale, the filly ILLA BINT ASILA RCA (x Bint Bint Asila RCA by *Mishaal HP), left, and the colt MONARCH RCA (x Mishaals Lily RCA by *Mishaal HP), right.

Another *Mishaal HP daughter in the sale is from a damline that is the love of my life – a young mare that is attracting a lot of interest, Mishaals Rhapsody RCA out of Bint Rhapsody InBlack (Alixir x Rhapsody In Black), who is also in the sale. She goes back to the beginning. In 1985, David Gardner had a Ruminaja Ali Summer Classic Sale in Lexington. All the mares were either sired by Ruminaja Ali or were in foal to him. Ali became the first love of my life when I saw him at the Canadian Nationals in 1980. We had only been in the business for two years, and I didn’t know a good horse from a bad horse, but when he walked into the arena, he stole my heart. I thought he was the most gorgeous thing I had ever seen. Evidently David Gardner liked him, too. He asked the Bergrens if he could buy him. They said they’d sell forty-nine percent, so David sold shares. I loved him

so much I said we wanted two shares. At that Summer Classic sale, we purchased Glorieta Zaarina who had the most gorgeous little black filly by Ali at her side. That filly, Aliashahm RA, is the dam of Rhapsody In Black by Thee Desperado. Bred to Alixir, Rhapsody In Black produced the stallion Bellagio RCA, and Bint Rhapsody InBlack, the dam of Mishaals Rhapsody RCA. We are also offering two mares by Ramses Mishaal Nadir (*Mishaal HP x Ramses Minx) – Lady Nadir RCA (x Pimlicos Lady RCA) and Nadirs Lily RCA (x Desperados Lily RCA) in foal to Bellagio. Ramses Mishaal Nadir was a godsend after we lost *Mishaal. Allison Mehta showed him to me at the Egyptian Event one year. But at the time I didn’t need him because we had *Mishaal. The day that he died,


Reference sire BELLAGIO RCA (Alixir x Rhapsody In Black)

Shawn came over here, and we were both crying. We so appreciated that stallion for what he was doing for our breeding program, so we immediately got on the phone and asked Allison to call Ramses Mishaal’s owner, Dr. Dietrick, to see if we could lease him from her. He was out of a Desperado daughter, so he wasn’t as much of an outcross for us, but he helped us a lot. We needed a stallion like him at that time. I had some *Mishaal sons, but they were young, and they weren’t quite there yet. Dr. Dietrick has become a wonderful friend and client. I adore her.


Looking back to the beginning of this journey, how did the Arabian horse capture your heart? I had a young son at the time, so I discovered the local horse shows as a great way to entertain him. You didn’t have to pay any admission, you just walked in. So I would go to every Arabian horse show in the area. It was at the Region 9 show one year that I met David Gardner, who was managing Bentwood Farm at the time. He was so kind and always let us pet the horses. Around that same time, Jim came home one evening and I asked him, “Have you invested in anything lately?”

He was always investing in something. He said, “Yes, as a matter of fact I have. Horses!” I asked him what kind of horses, and he didn’t know. It turns out he had bought Arabian horses from David Gardner!


Was your husband bemused by your newfound passion for horses? He didn’t know I had it, and I didn’t either. But I tell you, I fell in love with these Egyptian Arabians. I fell in love with their beauty. And then I discovered their story, their rarity, their history. Over the next four decades, we went on to build Arabians Ltd., which is the management company and a forerunner in developing strategies to bring new people into the breed. We have been committed to the heritage of the Egyptian Arabian through education, supporting new breeders, overseeing a bustling training operation and affiliate farms, not to mention being active supporters of The Pyramid Society and the Egyptian Event. And concurrently, we developed our own Rock Creek Arabians breeding program which is managed by Arabians Ltd. It’s been quite a ride!


Reference sire *MISHAAL HP (Ansata Sinan x Mesoudah M)


Of all the horses you’ve bred, which one comes closest to your ideal? No question, it’s Rhapsody In Black. She is the most beautiful thing. She has the most beautiful head, the most beautiful big black eyes, beautiful neck … she is absolutely exquisite. And so sweet. I was in a stall one time with her, her mother, and her brand new foal. I started scratching her dam, and she started scratching Rhapsody, and Rhapsody was scratching her foal. It was so magical I can’t tell you. Whenever I walk into that barn, which I have not done lately, all I have to do is say her name, “Rhapsody,” and she starts nickering at me.


What is the most wonderful memory in terms of your horses’ showring achievements? When Desperado won 1994 Scottsdale Supreme Champion Stallion. An Egyptian Arabian! That was the biggest thing that could have ever happened to us. People said, “He’s a horseman’s horse.” It didn’t matter

whether he was Egyptian or not. And then to go on to win U.S. National Reserve Champion Stallion – it could not have been better. It was the highlight of my years with him.

Q: Change comes to all of us unbidden. After your busy life it must seem quiet now. What do you think you will miss the most after those very public chapters of your life? I will miss going to the Egyptian Event. My eyesight is not good, and I thought, why go if I can’t see my horses? I live in a big beautiful home that we built 40 some years ago, overlooking Lake Waco. It’s about 10 minutes to the farm, but I can’t drive anymore. When things settle down a little bit, I have many people I can call to drive me over to visit my beautiful horses. Even if I can’t see them so well, horses still have the power to breathe beauty into your life, just by touching them, and remembering special, quiet moments. One such memory that will stay with me forever is when Bint Magidaa died. I had another older mare, AK Fariha. She and Bint


BINT RHAPSODY INBLACK (Alixir x Rhapsody In Black) left, and her daughter by *Mishaal HP,

MISHAALS RHAPSODY RCA, above, are offered in the Treasures Sale.

Magidaa were elderly mares and were the best of buddies. They were stalled next to each other in my show barn. They went out to pasture together in the morning, and you only had to put a halter on one of them because the other one would follow. Fariha had a foal, and she died shortly after. I named her filly Fariha Magidaa. Bint Magidaa went into mourning and quit eating. One day, I put carrots in the Cuisinart and brought them out to Magidaa. I opened the container and held it under her nose and she obligingly took a couple of bites. And then she would not take any more. Bint Magidaa had a quirk — she never liked people to touch her head. I don’t know what happened to her. I did not get her until

she was 18 years old. So I put my arm under her neck, thinking she was going to freak out. But she put her head on my shoulder and rested all of her weight on my shoulder. She was telling me she loved me. She was ready to go. I cry thinking about it to this day. That’s how these horses have affected my life. They’ve brought me joy, and they’ve brought me tears. But even in moments of such sadness, we are feeling what we are feeling because we love. I cannot imagine what my life would have been like had I not found Arabian horses. They made it so much richer, as did all the people I met through the horses. It’s been wonderful.



What is your greatest wish for your horses who will soon go on to new lives with new owners? What I want for these mares, these gorgeous, exceptional treasures of mine, is for them go to good breeders who will appreciate them and carry them forward through breeding. I hope they feel the love for them that I have felt all these years. That’s my wish.