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host of the 2017 WAHO CONFERENCE

host of the



boulboul was trilling from a thicket of palms and the

by Denise Hearst

old white stallion stamped and kicked up the sand,

photos by April Visel

tossing his mane up against the morning sun. Up

there on the limestone escarpment he looked so grand and important, as though history was written in his veins ‌ and in a way, it was. His name was Hamdaany Wadhah 901, and he, like the other residents at the Royal Stud of Bahrain, is a member of the largest single breeding group of original desertbred horses left in the world today.

Right: The stallion Hamdaany Wadhah 901 at Al Roudha. On the front cover are: Jellaby Zemjar 1348 (bay stallion on the left), Hamdaany Mesud 1054 (grey stallion in the center), and Krushaan Khattaf 1567 (chestnut stallion on the right).

His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and the stallion Mlolshaan Alyatim.


In February 2017, this lovely island nation will welcome guests to the World Arabian Horse Organization conference — a golden opportunity for visitors to tour the Royal Arabian Studs of Bahrain at the gracious invitation of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Tours will include a visit to Al Roudha, Umm Jidr, and Al Jazayer studs, as well as the endurance stable of HH Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, and a private stud, Al Rashediah. A day at the races, an Arabian horse show and visits to numerous fascinating local sites will be offered as well.


HH Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, eldest grandson of His Majesty King Hamad, is Vice Chairman of the Rashid Equestrian and Horse Racing Club of Bahrain. It is he who now presides over the Royal Stud at Al Roudha, home to approximately 320 of these asil horses. The king’s late uncle, HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Khalifa’s stud, Umm Jidr, now overseen by his sons, has approximately 500 Bahraini Arabians. Another 70-80 such horses are in private collections.

Bottom right: The stallion Rabdaan Sary Al Leil 1090. Left: The stallion Rabdaan Nader 1133.


When we visited Bahrain last February we asked Sheikh Isa to share his thoughts on the Bahraini Arabian and his family’s connection to them. “It starts with what these horses mean to us. It’s a much deeper and older bond. I look at preserving these horses as a duty … a duty based on centuries of tradition,” he says. “It is partly because of their connection to the family. The horses served the family well, so now it is time for us to return the favor. “These horses descend from the roots and they have been preserved for their purity. Not for show or speed but for purity. All the things His Majesty the king did to preserve them were unseen, and it went into a quiet love.”

Below: Hamdaany Wadhah 901.


For the Al Khalifa family the preservation of these horses is a family passion and a labor of love. In a study published in 1972, Erika Schiele listed 22 different family strains bred at the royal studs: Jellabi; Dahman; Krushan; Wadnan; Mlolesh; Shawaf; Hadban; Hamdani; Hathban; Krayan; Kuhailan Afas; Kuhailan El Adiat; Kuhailan Um Zorayr; Kuhailan Ajuz; Ma’anaghi; Musannan; Abayan; Rabdan; Saqlawi; Shuwayman; Suwaiti; and Tuwaisan. Of these, Mlolesh, Krayan, and Musannan are found nowhere else. Most still exist in the Royal Stables today. According to legend, the Kray in particular was an exceptionally fast and brave horse in times of battle. There is a true story of a battle taking place in East Riffa. Sheikh Mohammed was mounted on a Kray mare, she was both fierce and brave and the opponents needed to eliminate her from the battle. They succeeded only when eventually she fell. Horses are often named after their owners but only in the Kray has the master taken the horse’s name in honor of her bravery. To this day the descendants of Sheikh Mohammed will add ‘Master of Kray’ to their names.

Top: The stallion Hamdaany Senafee 1381. Middle: The stallion Saqlaawy Al Faisal 1275. Bottom: The stallion Mlolshaan Wesam 1371, is a favorite riding horse of HH Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa. “My father was very keen that we ride — it’s character building,” said HH Sheikh Isa.


In 2014, the bay stallion Kuhailan Afas Maidaan (Shawaf Al Betaar x Kuheilat Aafas Nood), was a gift to the people of Poland from the King of Bahrain, HM Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. At far left is the King’s grandson, HH Sheikh VESTY PHOTO

Isa bin Salman

Bahraini Blood Retur ns to Poland Some of the breed’s great breeding programs have been graced with the blood of pure Bahraini Arabians — Kuhailan Afas (Kuhailan Wadnan x Kuhailat Afas) in Poland founded a sire line that claims Comet … and follows right through time to today’s showring stars like Wieza Mocy. In Egypt, there was the gift to Abbas Pasha of the mare Jellabieh, and Mlolesh and El Dahma (Bint El Bahreyn) were given to the Khedive Abbas Helmi II. The latter’s descendants include Bint Maisa El Saghira, Tuhotmos and the Babson foundation mare Bint Bint Durra. In 2014, a second Bahraini Arabian came to Poland, 80 years after Kuhailan Afas’s arrival. This was the bay stallion Kuhailan Afas Maidaan (Shawaf Al Betaar x Kuheilat Aafas Nood), a gift to the people of Poland from the King of Bahrain, HM King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. On that sunny August day, during the Polish National Championships, HM King Hamad’s eldest grandson, HH Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, presented the stallion to the people of Poland, and in his dedication speech, he revealed much about the Bahraini horses. He said, in part: “I have the honor and privilege to be here personally to gift to the Janow Podlaski Stud, and to the people of Poland, the stallion Kuhailan Afas. “He is a magnificent purebred Bahraini stallion, bred from our private stud of historic family horses. A combination of selective breeding and survival of the fittest have produced this breed, which displays stamina, speed, intelligence, and a superb temperament. “The gift reflects the values and bonds between our

Al Khalifa, at the ceremony in Poland.

two nations. As relations between Bahrain and Poland race ahead, we continue to share a passion for a noble creature, the Arabian horse. “For more than eighty years, the well-known desert line, the Kuhailan Afas, has linked our two countries. “Most breeders in Poland will be familiar with the Kuhailan Afas as the sire line that has produced purebreds such as Comet and Wieczy Mocy. “They may not be aware, however, of the breed’s origins, and that this desert strain can still be found today in the Royal Arabian Stud of Bahrain. “My grandfathers established their stud on the island in 1783. The horses traveled with my ancestors when they migrated north in the seventeenth century. These were pure, desert warhorses, long bred for their endurance and resilience in battle. “Their descendants are the horses you will find in the Royal Stud of Bahrain today. “Over the decades, we have taken great care to preserve the breed’s heritage, passing down this responsibility from generation to generation. On behalf of His Majesty the King, I am currently responsible for the management of the stud. “The first Kuhailan Afas was born in Bahrain in 1930. It was in the following year, during the rule of His Majesty the King’s great-grandfather and namesake, that Mr. Bogdan Zientarski, manager of Poland’s Gumniska Stud, first saw the Kuhailan Afas colt that was to return with him to Poland. This original Kuhailan Afas was born to a dark bay Kuhailat Afas mare, and a bay Kuhailan Wadnan stallion. “Today, Poland is famed for breeding some of the most accomplished Arabian horses in the world. You honor, nurture, and celebrate the Arabian horse. It is with pride that we see the legacy of Kuhailan Afas live on in Poland’s breeding program. And, today, after more than eighty years, history is repeating itself. “It is with a deep sense of pride and honor, that His Majesty is gifting Kuhailan Afas to the Janow Podlaski Stud and to Poland, reflecting the engagement of his great-grandfather some eighty years earlier.”


Al Roudha mares, above, from left to right: Suwaitieh Jahzah 1461, Saqlawieh Dhabiya 1621, Mussannah Mehna 1323, Kuheila’t Umm Zorayr Nadija 1568, and Kray Falaha 1496. Below: The mare Krush Barraka 1479.


Continued from page 6 …

Arab legend traces the origins of the Arabian horse to five strains — the Banat Al Khams: Koheilah al Ajuz, Obeyah al Shariek, Dahmeh al Amer, Shuwaimeh al Sabah, and Saqlawieh Jedranieh. “The science of that is fascinating,” says Sheikh Isa. “We value each strain for what they are, but it’s a difficult balance to strike. While you’d like to use your best stallion on your best mare, you still need to be conscious of the need to widen the gene pool, and we try to avoid close breeding.


Left: Mares coming into their stalls for the night at Al Roudha. Each one knows her place.

Middle left: Shawafah Lateefa M581 and her 2016 foal. Middle right: The mare Hamdanieh Khawla 1637. Bottom right: The mare Kuheila’t Umm Zorayr Alia 1612.


“The Bahraini Arabian has been selectively bred for centuries with all the attributes required of a good riding horse,” he continues. “In battle the Arab needed a reliable horse that could go long distances. Therefore they bred only from horses that were tough, of good conformation, sound, fast, comfortable to ride, and with good temperaments. Bravery and obedience are essential for a horse in combat, and these qualities are still valued today.”

Left: The mare Kuheila’t Aafas Arwa 1124.


Right: HH Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed bin Salman Al Khalifa of Umm Jidr, with five stallions, pictured from left to right: Saidan Toofaan M346, Krushaan Bader M498, Shuwaimaan Mishwaar M401, Hamdaany Minwer M510, and Rabdaan Alawsaj M291.


Across the island lies Umm Jidr Stud. Flocks of sheep and goats graze under the acacia trees, and berseem clover and vegetable gardens flourish in the shade of the date palms. Here at this rustic, traditional farm, Sheikh Sultan greeted us, surrounded by his 100 stallions. “I grew up here,” he said. “I came with my father every day to look at the horses.”

Right and inset: The stallion Shuwaimaan Mishwaar M401.



At Umm Jidr the stallions are kept in the time-honored manner, out in the open by day, tethered by a front pastern, each one just a few feet from the next. Each stallion has his spot for his lifetime. At night they return to their stables — a routine that is reversed in the summer. Most of the stallions are ridden for exercise. We marveled at how quiet and relaxed they all were, and the intimate knowledge that Sheikh Sultan had of each of them. We asked, for instance, “Who is that white stallion, fourth row back and third from the left?” And he recited “the yellow one’s” pedigree, and those of the stallion’s neighbors, too. My eye went to the gleaming chestnut, closest to where we were seated. Sheikh Sultan smiled, “This is Saidan. In the evening, I sit on this bench and Saidan lies down beside me and I feed him dates. The horses are my friends. Being with them makes me feel peaceful. Happy.”

Facing page and above: The stallion Obeyaan Azheer M361. Left and below: At Umm Jidr the stallions are kept in the traditional manner, tethered by a front pastern, each one just a few feet from the next.


While the stallions all seemed so strongly bonded to one another, the mares up on the plateau above, were far more independent ‌ haughty, even. And when the mares returned to their paddocks after their photo shoots, we heard a chorus of 100 stallions neighing. Here, as at Al Roudha, the aim is to preserve the strains of the original war mares of the traditional Bahraini strains. Horses are bred for pleasure and pride, and to keep alive family traditions; not for commercial purposes.


Top left: The stallion Rabdaan Baher M294. Top right: The stallion Tuwaisaan Talleb M555. Left: The young stallion Saqlaawy, a son of Saidan Toofaan.


Jenny Lees, proprietor of Pearl Island Arabians in Herefordshire, UK, has been bestowed the title of “Ambassador of the Bahraini Arabian.” Born in Malta, Jenny moved to England at the age of 10. In the late 1960s, she moved to Bahrain and through business connections she met the late Emir HH Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa. “He showed me a mahogany bay Dahman stallion. I had never seen such perfection on four legs,” says Jenny. “Then I learned the history of this horse — I just wanted to know everything about him.

Above left: The stallion Mlolshaan Gassaf M300. Above right: Jenny Lees of Pearl Island Arabians, UK, who has been bestowed the title of “Ambassador of the Bahraini Arabian,” with the head groom of Al Roudha, Muhammad Younis.


HH Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Khalifa visits the weanling colts.

“I went back the next day and they brought him out for me to ride. I’d never seen a horse that looked like that or one who carried me that way — he was keeping me balanced. Bahraini horses are bred to be ridden. There is nothing like them — it is sensational. You just sit there, with this lovely neck coming up in front of you. “At that time, there were mares in the stud whose grandams had been ridden in battles. These horses have a lot of history on their backs and are very much family treasures,” she says.


“Sheikh Isa said I could ride anytime, and soon I was working for him at the farm. And thus grew friendships with family members that remain to this day.” At Jenny’s farm in England, she shares her life with several Bahraini Arabians; some her own, and some that were gifts to the Royal Family. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was gifted two Bahraini stallions, a Mlolshaan and a Tuwaisaan. In May 2016, these two stallions took part in Her Majesty’s 90th birthday pageant at Windsor. His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa was present in the Royal Box that day.

Right: HM the Queen’s stallions, Mlolshaan Mahrous 1233 (chestnut), and Tuwaisaan Tha’atha’a 1251.

Mares at Umm Jidr: Suwaitieh Enaam M363, top left, Saqlawieh Hadeeya M519, top right, and Jellabieh Hadbah M438, bottom left.


At the Royal Stud at Al Roudha, the site of the royal palace, 30-40 foals are born each year. At around ten months of age they are moved to the desert stables, Al Jazayir, where the colts and fillies are separated into two areas of fenced desert, each almost a mile long. They come back to the stable area for shade, water, and to be fed. They are wormed, fed, groomed and have their hooves trimmed but apart from that they are left to enjoy their youth. At the age of three years they are taken to the racing stables to be backed and then at four they will be tried on the racetrack. Any fillies from the more rare family strains will go straight back into the breeding program. “Criteria for the selection of breeding stallions include good conformation, legs, soundness, and temperament,” says Jenny. “Any stallion with these good features who also proves to be a racetrack winner is destined to be a stud stallion. “Mares, too, are proven under saddle but a major deciding factor would be the number of mares that we have of any one family. It’s the mares who give the foals the family name. Lose the mares and we lose the family.”


The desert stables at Al Jazayer. Thirty to forty foals are born each year at Al Roudha, and when they are 10 months of age, they come here. Colts and fillies are separated into two areas of fenced desert. Pictured middle left is Jehangir Rustomjee, Registrar of the Royal Arabian Stud Book of Bahrain.


It is said that horses from the royal studs are never sold, but only given away as gifts. There have been several much-publicized gifts in recent years, such as the stallions presented to Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and the stallion presented to Janow Podlaski (see sidebar on page 7). Is there any other way for an interested breeder to acquire an authentic Bahraini Arabian, we wondered. “Stallions are occasionally given to locals who might sell them on, thus giving an opportunity to purchase a pure Bahraini stallion, but mares almost never,” says Jenny.

Obeyaan Al Kumait 1620, winner of the 2016 Crown Prince Cup, pictured left, above, and below in the stretch.


HH Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, left, is an avid endurance competitor. He trains out of his state-of-the-art endurance facility.



There are a number of “modern” Arabian stud farms in Bahrain today, some of which participate in international shows. Their horses are imported, often straight Egyptians. One such farm, that will be on the WAHO stud tour, is Al Rashediah Stud, owned by Abdulrahman Al Jassmi. Mr. Al Jassmi inherited his love for Arabians from his father and grandfather. He has some show horses in Europe, but most of his 65 horses are in Bahrain. At a sunset presentation, he showed a group of impossibly lovely mares, several of them representing Hans Nagel breeding. And then came his stallion, the magnificent Jamil Al Rayyan (Ansata Hejazi x Dana Al Rayyan), whose silver coat looked golden in the last rays of the setting sun.

Abdulrahman Al Jassmi, owner of Al Rashediah Stud, left, pictured with his daughters, and below is his straight Egyptian stallion Jamil Al Rayyan (Ansata Hejazi x Dana Al Rayyan). The beautiful farm entrance is pictured above.


Mr. Al Jassmi’s farm, on the beach at Al Janabiayah, looks out over the Arabian gulf toward Mohamadia island. It’s a showstopper — over-the-top both in terms of the facility and grounds, and the sheer beauty of the Egyptian Arabians that Mr. Al Jassmi has collected over the years.

Left: Jamil Al Rayyan. Below: The mare Maleeha Al Rashediah (Tammam Albadeia x Maghribia)


Right: The Al Rashediah mare NK Hebbattollah (Ibn Nejdy x NK Hallah). Bottom right: Deem Al Rashediah (Ansata Nile Echo x Farid Nile Dream).


As our week in this tranquil country drew to a close, there was one thing left undone. How can one write about the Bahraini Arabian without having ridden one, I wondered out loud. And just like that, a trio of stallions, saddled and bridled, was delivered to us. There, in the desert surrounding the Royal Bahraini Stables at Al Roudha, photographer April Visel and I were privileged to discover firsthand some of the many virtues of these horses. Riding together with Jenny Lees and Muhammad Younis, we passed through a natural bowl in the desert surrounded by limestone cliffs, our four stallions walking quietly together in a spirit of kinship. I wanted to feel my Mlolshaan Morshed 1290 move, and asked him to trot on, flushing doves as we went. We climbed a little outcropping overlooking the desert, where Mlolshaan stood quietly while I took it all in, his faraway gaze fixed on something I couldn’t even see.


Beyond the distinct desert beauty of these stallions, we enjoyed




surefootedness, and their size and power coupled with quiet, docile temperaments. Over the course of many days and photo sessions throughout Bahrain, they showed us other things, too, like dignity and kindness. Not unlike the Bahraini people, come to think of it.

Above: Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdullah bin Hamood Al Khalifa, who gave us a lovely tour of the Al Fateh fort on Rifaa Hill, looks for his family’s names on the illuminated family tree.

Top: Louise Jane riding the stallion Hamdaany Mesud 1054. Bottom: Our pure Bahraini stallions pictured here, are, from left to right: Mlolshaan Morshed 1290 (with me), Kuhailaan Umm Zorayr Mabrouk Al Bahrain 1199 (with Jenny Lees), and Mlolshaan Jiran 1238 (with April Visel).


Later that evening, we were sitting at the stables behind the racetrack, talking with HH Sultan bin Mohammed and Sheikh Salman bin Mohammed Al Khalifa. We asked Sheikh Salman what he hoped WAHO visitors will take away from their experience in Bahrain. He said, “They will see that we are a moderate country where all cultures and religions are respected. “And I hope that when our WAHO guests return to their homes, they will take with them the feeling that they have seen the Arabian horse as he was 300 years ago. “The toughness, the strength of the Bahraini Arabian, is forged by the desert environment. Some owners feel their horses’ beauty in another way — they feel it in 300 years of breeding pure in the desert. These are desert warhorses who mean so much to us. All the Bahraini rulers rode horses in battle. In those days, if the enemy captured a horse, the vanquished owner would tell the captor its pedigree, out of respect for that horse. “The horses shared the highs and the lows with us. And they have been with us all this time. Even though the world has changed, the horse is still here to remind us who we are.” 32 ▪ BAHRAIN ▪ WORLD

February 6 -15, 2017 For conference inquiries, please contact: Subin Abubacker: WAHO Conference Coordinator Bahrain 2017 P.O. Box 17066, Manama Kingdom of Bahrain Telephone: +973 17760002 Fax: +973 17760003 Email: ¡ WAHO Conference hours: 8:00-14:00 local time (closed Fridays) Designed and produced by Arabian Horse World ¡ 09/16

Profile for Arabian Horse World

Bahrain — Host of the 2017 WAHO Conference  

In February 2017, this lovely island nation will welcome guests to the World Arabian Horse Organization conference, by Denise Hearst. Photos...

Bahrain — Host of the 2017 WAHO Conference  

In February 2017, this lovely island nation will welcome guests to the World Arabian Horse Organization conference, by Denise Hearst. Photos...

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