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Arabian Horse World

Dani El Barbary







by Pat Canfield

rabian horses bring stories to the minds and hearts of everyone involved in their breeding, the world of showing, riding, reading stories as a child, or watching movies through the years. The lucky ones are those who actually have an Arabian whether they are riders, breeders, involved in showing, or best of all, have one as a special stable friend. Dani El Barbary has stories from all of these facets of the Arabian world. Her love of horses began in her childhood at her father’s farm in the countryside north of Cairo and quickly moved through riding, which she studied in Europe. She competed in show jumping abroad and in Egypt as the only female member of the Egyptian team. Breeding became a natural progression as she began to appreciate the talents and capabilities of the Arabian in the

competitions. She began actively breeding over fifty years ago when she began Shams El Asil farm (so named because to her it meant “light of the pure Arabian), on a piece of land near the desert and south of the Great Pyramids of Egypt. Back in the 1950s, there were not many places where one could learn about the Arabian and breeding and so Dani went to the source, the Egyptian Agricultural Organization (EAO). At that time, the director of the EAO was the man who is regarded by many as saving the breed, General Tibor von Pettco Szandtner, who served from 1949 to 1959. The General opened a new world to Dani as she learned everything she could from him about his special horses. In a recent conversation, she told me about his determination to do everything properly


Above Sid Abouhom (El Deree x Layla). Facing page Dani with SEA Sukkar Maaoud (Misk x Yosra). on arriving in Egypt. Back in the late 1940s, Mohamed Taher Pasha, an uncle of King Farouk, was a noted horseman and President of the Royal Agricultural Society, which was in charge of Arabian breeding in Egypt. Taher Pasha realized that the RAS needed a fresh approach if it was to survive. He remembered an exceptional horseman who had been in charge of the Babolna Stud in Hungary, and brought him to Egypt to bring his high standards and abilities to the program here.

The General came to Cairo along with a French colonel from Saumur, who was to superintend the riding clubs. Taher Pasha had arranged for them both to have elegant apartments in the Heliopolis district near their work. General von Szandtner refused to stay in his apartment saying that if he was here to be with the horses and to learn and improve them, he would have to live with them. The historic small office building where so many thousands of visitors to the EAO have come over the years was built as his home. The current Director’s office was his reception with the living quarters behind. There was no electricity; sconces and a chandelier with candles furnished the light. Dani said that one of her treasured memories is being at the EAO early in the morning. The General’s wife would fill a white canvas bag with sugar cubes. The General would put on his green military cape and go out to the paddocks to call the horses who immediately came for their sugar. His small fox terrier managed to dart among the horses’ legs picking up any pieces of the sugar that fell to the ground. This is the same fox terrier that you see standing next to Nazeer in one of the iconic photos (below left). The General was always looking for the “correct horse.” “To him, Sid Abouhom was that horse,” Dani said. “Whenever he wanted to correct something on a mare, he gave her to Sid Abouhom. He and Nazeer were the two columns of breeding for the General.” Dani’s preference was for Sid Abouhom. She didn’t see Nazeer as often and remembers him as being a very correct horse but very quiet. He was not a stallion who liked to show himself. He expected you to study him. Dani said that while Sid Abouhom put a definite stamp on his get, Nazeer was more subtle. He gave type and correct conformation but the mares made a major contribution to the foals. “The General believed that the horse starts with the legs. If you have no legs, you have no horse. That’s how he trained me,” she said. “The horse must stand properly and have wide hooves. That is an attitude I took into my judging career.” Nazeer


(Mansour x Bint Samiha by Kazmeen)

El Sareei



(Shahloul x Zareefa)

(Hamdan x Obeya)

(Ibn Rabdan x Bint Radia)

Another stallion Dani liked very much was El Sareei (Shahloul x Zareefa). “A very pretty dark bay who was a bit small but had a good topline, a beautiful head and neck, and a wonderful mane. I liked everything about him,” she said. “There is a lot of his blood here at Shams El Asil.” She found Gassir (Kheir x Badia) to be “a bit heavy, not refined and yet he gave a good solid body.” In the early days of her passion for the Arabian, Dani visited the Inshass Stud on three occasions, and remembers great respect there for the horse. One of her strongest memories is of Anter, the great son of Hamdan out of Obeya. “He was truly the King’s horse,” she reminisced, “a great horse; very pretty and showy, full of life and expression. You didn’t notice that he was a bit small because he had so much presence.” She felt that Hamdan was one of the most wonderful stallions she ever saw. He was still at the farm of Ahmed Hamza Pasha before the dark days of the revolution that destroyed so many lives and nearly decimated the horses. “Hamdan was a wonderful sight,” she said. “There was also a chestnut mare with Hamdan who to this day could be the most beautiful mare I ever saw. Doug Marshall wanted to have her, but the Pasha could not sell her. “Another extraordinary mare that I cannot forget was Mahmouda (Beshier x El Mahrousa) who I knew from Inshass. She was completely harmonious and a regal mare. One of her daughters was in the group of three fillies who formed the foundation for my program,” she continued. “I didn’t know pedigrees in those days. I saw the horses with my heart, which is how I still am today. I saw this little filly, Basboosa, peeking out from behind her legs and bought her on the spot.” The second filly that she bought in that group was Taysir (Amrulla x Mohga [El Sareei x Yosreia]). This was some of her favorite blood on the farm. The third filly was Fanar, a Nasralla daughter out of Bint Bukra. “Bint Bukra gave wonderful eyes and heads in her foals,” Dani added. “That is why even today you find people here in Egypt trying to find her descendants anywhere that they can. She is highly prized in our breeding.” In those days, at the EAO, stallions were not bred before six years of age. It was expensive to maintain the stock and so some of the stallions that were felt to have promise were leased out to certain private farms to participate in racing. At that time, the Jockey Club was considered to be correct in their evaluations and record keeping. One of the stallions that Dr. Mohamed Marsafi, Director of EAO following General von Szandtner, was very keen on was Farazdac, the exquisite Alaa El Din son out of Farasha. He had a Hungarian trainer and Dr. Marsafi was intent on keeping him after he finished his racing career. Dani was given Farazdac for two or three years and loved him. He was always light in weight


and remained that way even after he was reluctantly sold to the States. However, Dani did manage to get his first filly, Katr el Nada, who was an outstanding mare for Shams El Asil. Farazdac’s stable buddy at the track was Mourad (Gassir x Mabrouka). He was a different type of horse from Farazdac, according to Dani. “He was a very serious horse,” she said. “This is different from beauty. Mourad was a horse who could do whatever you ask of him. He had a wonderful temperament and very good conformation. There are others who might be prettier but they can’t do very much.” She also had Mourad’s first filly, Yosra out of Alifa, a daughter of Alaa El Din. Yosra was an outstanding mare for Dani. Once her young mares were developing, Dani began her quest for the stallion who would form the core of her breeding program. She found him one day when she was at the EAO looking at a chestnut stallion. Suddenly a pure white stallion exploded into her view. It was Bilal I, a Morafic son out of Mona (Inshass). That was it for Dani. The stallion had returned from a stint at the racetrack and captured Dani’s heart on the spot. There would be no other stallion for her. Dr. Marsafi did not want to sell him but after nearly two years of heavy persuasion, Dani wore him down and brought Bilal to her farm. Dani has often talked about her love for Bilal. “I fell in love with him the moment I saw him,” she said. “He was not perfect, but there is no perfect horse. He was the one I knew I could build my program on. Without Bilal, there would be no Shams El Asil.” Dani still refers to Bilal as her “friend.” Even though he put his stamp on all of his get, Dani felt that Bilal never duplicated himself. “That was often the case with special stallions,” she said. One of the breeders whom Dani highly respected was Doug Marshall. “Every time he came to Cairo, he stayed at Mena House Hotel and one of the first things he would do was come to see Bilal. He loved him and said that he felt Morafic never gave him a Bilal. Doug and Margaret were such great horse people. They truly did things because they loved the Arabian.” To add a different dimension to the strong influence of Bilal, Dani bought Misk, a Wahag son out of Nazeema who was an Alaa El Din daughter. The dramatic chestnut stallion was a different type from Bilal who epitomized the refined Saqlawi look. Misk was a more compact stallion with strong conformation and a very masculine appearance. She bought him when he was only four days old after she saw him playing and peeking out from behind his dam at the EAO. It was a combination of these two stallion lines that brought Dani one of her outstanding horses. SEA Sukkar

Bilal I

(Morafic x Mona by Badr)

Maaoud, a Misk son out of SEA Farah was a dynamic chestnut stallion who clearly exhibited the strong points of both lines. The charismatic, flashy stallion dominated the stallion class at the first Egyptian National Show at the EAO and was named the first Supreme Champion Stallion of Egypt. There have been other champions from Shams El Asil through the years, but SEA Sukkar Maaoud still holds pride of place. Like all true breeders, Dani has tried to achieve a specific look through her breeding: a correct horse that is very pretty and shows intelligence and character. She believes that her horses are closer to the classic desert horse than many that she sees today. “Sometimes,” she said, “When I look around, I have trouble finding the real horse; there is so much that is artificial. They may be pretty, but they are not my idea of the Arabian.” Dani is now into the ninth generation on her farm. She considers one of the gifts of breeding to have been the opportunity to travel and see the horses and breeders throughout the world. One of her all-time favorites was


El Shaklan, the legendary son of Shaker El Masri by Morafic and out of Estopa who Dani describes as an unforgettable sight when she was presented to Dani in Spain. “She was absolutely harmonious,” she said. “One of the best mares I ever saw.” Dani judged El Shaklan as Junior Champion Colt at the Salon du Cheval as well as later on as Senior Champion. “He was always the same — a great horse,” she said. “Years later when I saw him in the States, he was still beyond words. If he had a fault, I never could see it.”

Another legendary stallion whom Dani remembers with great fondness is Imperial Imdal, the extraordinary Ansata Imperial son out of Dalia. She saw him at Imperial Egyptian Stud when he was a yearling and belatedly told Barbara Griffith never to sell him. He was another of her favorites that she judged to World Champion at Paris. Judging at the international shows brought Dani experience and knowledge she could never have gained any other way. She visited the studs at Marbach, Babolna, and Poland, as well as private studs throughout the world. After the shows, people would sit and talk. “This is where I learned so much,” she said. Looking back at the early days of the EAO, Dani said, “In the beginning, a good stallion would not be sold. And if they did sell one, it was only after they had enough foals from him to preserve the line. Take Morafic as an example; he left a good group of his get here when he finally was sold. Later, many were sold much too young and nothing comparable was left at the EAO.” Dani has always been a strong believer in the influence of the mares in any breeding program. She feels that many of the really good mares at the EAO were not well known and often overlooked. “That was a mistake,” she added, “what I have observed in my own horses is that they are often much stronger in terms of influence than the stallions.” As with everything else in the world, Dani finds that the Arabian horse world is also changing. “Breeders are drifting away from the desert horse,” she said. “There are some pretty horses, yes, but they are breeding out the essence. Some are a bit overbred. If you change them too much, you lose the original and this is the way to lose the horse itself.” She recalls the last time she saw Doug Marshall and he told her, “Now everyone wants to show off. No one wants the Arabian to be an Arabian anymore.” “Think,” Dani said. “If you want a courageous friend to ride and enjoy, then you should have an Arabian. You need to feel the friendship because this is who the Arabian was meant to be; you must feel what is inside the horse. We must do everything we can to preserve his great dignity and spirit along with his beauty.” Going back to the time of Inshass (the King’s stable), Dani said, “When an Arab ruler wanted to give a gift that had no price, it was an Arabian. It was a symbol of everything that was great in the history and culture and the tradition in the Arab world. The Arabian horse was beyond everything. We need to remember that today.” Misk

(Wahag x Nazeema)