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Lebanon b y D en i s e He a rs t

ith Lebanon in the news now for the fragile state of its government, it’s easy to wonder how life can ever be stable enough to support a thriving Arabian horse community. But at the Fourth Lebanese National Arabian Horse Championship this past summer, we met passionate horse lovers who showed their horses with pride and optimism for the future. Here, on this sliver of land between the Mediterranean and Syria, it seems that every major civilization has passed through, from the Phoenicians to the Assyrians, Babylonians, Ottomans, Romans and more. All left their ruins and relics behind, such as

the Roman temples in Baalbek, one of the wonders of the ancient world. And then there is the food, the motherland of Middle Eastern cuisine, and the Lebanese wine – vineyards have flourished in the Bekaa Valley for thousands of years. But perhaps the most striking thing about Lebanon is the warmth and joy of the people. If you go out to dinner by yourself anywhere in Beirut, you will never be alone! The show manager for this Fourth Lebanese National Arabian Horse Championship was Danny Ghosn, who breeds Arabians at his Mount Lebanon area farm. “The Arabian horse scene in Lebanon ALLESIO PHOTO

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Where a love of the Arabian horse Thrives.


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Lebanon Arabian horse championships

TOP LEFT:

Gold Champion Senior Stallion RIYADH AM (Abha Qatar x Dana Al Mohemadia), bred by Al Mohamadia Stud, Saudi Arabia, and owned by Samjad Stud, Lebanon.

Silver Champion Senior Stallion ALFABIA BABILON (ZT Magnanimus x ZT Ludjelite), bred by Zichy-Thyssen Arabians, Argentina, and owned by Samjad Stud, Lebanon.

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TOP RIGHT:

Gold Champion Senior Mare FS TNZANIA (Magnum Psyche x Bint Tasaqqara), bred by Frank Spönle, Germany, and owned by Danny Ghosn, DG Stud, Lebanon.

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LEFT, L-R: Mr. Mohamed Choucair, representing the President of the Council of Ministers His Excellency Mr. Saad Hariri, and also Minister of Telecommunications, Arabian breeder and show manager, Danny Ghosn, and Dr. Youssef Chahine, representative of the Ministry of Agriculture.

began to gain strength in 2015 when the Lebanese Arabian Horse Organization organized the first Nationals to be recognized internationally at the historic racetrack in Beirut,” Danny says. “From that date on, awareness was raised for Arabian horses in general, and especially show horses. “Historically, horse racing is very popular in Lebanon, especially since it’s the only racetrack in the Middle East where gambling is legal,” he adds. “And that gives a boost to the racing industry, but unfortunately there are no races for

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MIDDLE LEFT:

Gold Champion Junior Colt HAMZA SAMJAD (QR Marc x FS Thee Cinderella), bred and owned by Samjad Stud, Lebanon.

purebred Arabians now due to many complicated reasons.” In the evening, the lights in Beirut twinkle in the distance. And in this paradise that Danny and his father have created on the hillside, fruits, vegetables and flowers abound. “The idea of the farm came after we moved from the U.S. where I was born and raised. The farm is just 25 minutes’ drive from Beirut, with perfect weather for breeding and raising horses as it’s never too hot or too cold. We overlook the city of Beirut and the view continues to the Mediterranean Sea.” Horses have been part of Danny’s life since he was a child growing up in Indiana. “My father used to breed and raise some Thoroughbreds, and as I grew older I started visiting some Arabian horse farms around our area. There I spotted my first Arabian horse and was bedazzled by this creature. From that moment I couldn’t look at any other horse.”

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Lebanon

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Bronze Champion Senior Stallion RAMICO MARC (QR Marc x Ravenwood Nejma), below, owned by Sami Wardy, Al Wardy Stud, Lebanon. Sami, far right, along with with his brother Khalil (on far left) and sister Rima, center, breeds Arabians – both show horses and racing Arabians – in the Bekaa Valley. Together they also own Domaine Wardy winery and vineyards covering 55 hectares near Zahle in the center of the Bekaa Valley, a region famous for fine wine since the beginning of civilization. The Wardys are the fourth generation of wine and arak makers in their family. They often hold wine tastings and special events at their Arabian horse farm, and have introduced many newcomers to the breed.

Silver Champion Senior Mare LEEN AL AMINE (Aabis Al Amin x Zain Al Amin), bred and owned by Mohammed Amine, Lebanon.

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Arabian horse championships

Bronze Champion Senior Mare PRINCESS SANADIVA (Nader Al Jamal x Om El Sanadiva), bred by Ralf Heckenbüker, Germany, and owned by Ismail Al Taki, Al Taki Stud, Lebanon. “I have been breeding for two years,” says Ismail. “What I love most about Arabians is their mind. Every moment when I wake up and have my shisha and can see my horses is a favorite moment.”

Danny’s passion led to his involvement with the Lebanese Arabian Horse Organization and their National shows, as well as training and handling clinics for local horse owners. If there is a friendlier show atmosphere I haven’t seen it. Held on the grounds of the Beirut racetrack, the show was small in terms of numbers of entries, but enormous in enthusiasm for the Arabian horse, viewed as an emblem of Lebanese heritage. And there were some superstar horses in attendance, even a special presentation of World Champion Abha Qatar (Marwan Al Shaqab x ZT Ludjkalba), now owned by Arayby Stud of Lebanon. The dominant exhibitor was Samjad Stud who brought the fairytale pretty grey stallion Alfabia Babilon (ZT Magnanimus x ZT Ludjelite), bred by the late Count Zichy-Thyssen, who took the Silver medal, beaten only by another Samjad entry, the handsome bay Riyadh AM (Abha Qatar x Dana Al Mohamadia), bred by Al Mohamadia Stud. Samjad also took Gold and Silver Junior Colt medals, winning with the homebreds Hamza Samjad (QR Marc x FS Thee Cinderella) and Badi Samjad (ZT Magnofantasy x AJ Ambers Ajman), respectively, and the Gold for Junior filly with another homebred, Hawazan Samjad (Excalibur EA x Tahity Bint Salar). The one Gold that Samjad didn’t win went to

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Champion Junior Colt BADI SAMJAD (ZT Magnofantasy x AJ Ambers Ajman), bred and owned by Samjad Stud, Lebanon. ALLESIO PHOTO

Gold Champion Junior Filly HAWAZEN SAMJAD (Excalibur EA x Tahity Bint Salar), bred and owned by Samjad Stud, Lebanon. Silver Champion Junior Filly WARDET EL SULTAN (Sakr El Sultan x Gyzele), bred by Abdul Kader Dargham, and owned by Omar Al Naim.

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Bronze Champion Junior Filly HA AMANDA (AJ Mardan x MA Alluzia), owned by Tarek Ibrahim, below. “This filly was bred by Nayla Hayek. I have only been breeding Arabian horses for three years. It started with riding horses. It is my place where I escape from the pressure of the work. It is a place where I can share thoughts without talking. That’s where it started. Then I wanted to see what owning and breeding a horse would be like.”

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LEFT, TOP TO BOTTOM:

Danny’s mare FS Tanzania (Magnum Psyche x Bint Tasaqqara). “She is a special mare,” he says. “It took me a while to find a grey Magnum Psyche mare, but I finally found her at Frank Spönle’s. What made her special to me is her straight Egyptian dam, Bint Tasaqqara who is by Botswana out of an Ibn Morafic mare. She will be bred to my own young stallion, AJ Nader, who is by AJ Mardan out of AJ Noor Kwestura. His first foals arrived this year and I couldn’t be more pleased.” There was one young man, Tarek Ibrahim, who could not have been happier with his Bronze Medal in Junior Fillies for his HA Amanda (AJ Mardan x MA Alluzia). He summed up the power attraction that the Arabian horse illicits. “Arabian horses have opened new places in my heart,” says Tarek, an architect in Beirut. “You discover a totally new love for animals. They have lots of human characteristics. They feel, they give love, they give you what you need and you give them what they need. It’s a sharing life with each other. The Arabian horse is full of power, full of strength, yet it is sensitive, humble, beautiful. They are beautiful creatures that God created for humanity. They always take you back to the roots ... you will feel more responsible for protecting planet earth for all these beautiful gifts that God gave us.” With owners such as Tarek, and many others we met, this ancient breed will surely live on in these ancestral lands.


Lebanon open houses

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Sami, of Samjad Stud, right, with his favorite mare, TAHITY BINT SALAA (Al Shama Sala x Al Shama Sahdindi).

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ZT MAGNOFANTASY (ZT Magnanimus x ZT Fantmaira).

The stallion ADMIRAL DG (Fadi Al Shaqab x Alisha Bint Bengali) with Danny Ghosn.

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ABOVE: At the Beirut racetrack we met the respected Arabian breeder and judge, retired General Salim Al-Dahdah. He was member of the board of the racetrack’s supervising organization, SPARCA, and a friend of Henri Pharoun’s. He told us that in 38 years in the military he never had a day without his horse. The General is the father of Edouard Al-Dahdah who wrote the scholarly analyses of the 14 Hearst imports in Arabian Horse World’s April 2016 issue. Pictured also is translator par excellence, Ali Ftouni.

The stallion AMMAR AL MOHAMADIA (Farres x LF Starzafire), owned by Danny Ghosn.

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Stepping into the Past

HERE I AM WITH MICHEL PHAROUN IN THE SAME RACE STABLE WHERE ANCESTORS OF MY FIRST ARABIAN WERE PHOTOGRAPHED, AT THE VERY TRACK WHERE THEY RACED IN THE 1940S. THE 1944 STALLION *GHAMIL AT THE BEIRUT STABLE CIRCA 1947.

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had other, more personal reasons to go to Lebanon. My first Arabian was a gift from my then mother-inlaw, Austine Hearst, in 1980. As I delved into the mare’s pedigree I began to understand the romance and intrigue of the Arabian horse. I traced the paths of her ancestors, fixating on two stallions bred in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. This beautiful grey mare, Rahmouns Friendly (Rahmoun by Rahas x Zamals Friendly by *Zamal) had three crosses to those two stallions imported by W.R. Hearst from Lebanon in 1948: *Mounwer and *Zamal. In the April 2016 issue of Arabian Horse World we told the story of the W.R. Hearst’s expedition in search of desert-bred Arabians to bring to his California ranch. Several of his 14

imports were photographed at the Beirut racetrack stables of Henri Pharoun, who was the leading racehorse owner of his day, and who assisted the in the acquisitions of W.R. Hearst’s Arabians. So when the invitation came to attend the show, I leapt. I wanted to see the race horses of Beirut today, to see if those stone pines were still there in the infield, I wanted to see the old parade ring, and especially, I wanted to see if Henri Pharoun’s stables had survived – the backdrop for all those 1948 images. While the lovely old grandstand was destroyed in the civil war, much remains as it was then. There, I met Nabil Nasrallah, the manager of the racetrack and

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registrar for the Lebanese Stud Book, who invited me to the VIP boxes. Somehow I got swept up into a celebration for the Presidents Cup winner. There was cake and champagne and TV cameras ... and in that moment I was introduced to Michel Pharoun, a former Lebanese State Minister and the nephew of Henri Pharoun. It was surreal. I shared copies of the story with him, and he and many of the guests remembered the horses pictured and recalled stories about them. Michel Pharoun poured over the photos. “I know those stables,” he said, pointing to the horses pictured in that evocative setting. “That’s my uncle’s stable here at the track, and it is the same one I train out of today. Come, I will take you.” So we hopped into his SUV and drove to the backside. And suddenly, I was standing in a dream, where even today, sheep and chickens are underfoot. I confess that I got a little teary, as the weight of history and years of curiosity about this place pressed on me. Michel brought his race filly out for this picture. She, too, is from the Bekaa Valley. Lebanon has a hold on me, now. There is so much more to see and learn … following the horses, always..

Profile for Arabian Horse World

Lebanon, Where a Love of the Arabian Horse Thrives.  

In this ancient land, the Arabian horse has a rich history and a modern-day following, by Denise Hearst

Lebanon, Where a Love of the Arabian Horse Thrives.  

In this ancient land, the Arabian horse has a rich history and a modern-day following, by Denise Hearst