The Horse That Valentino Rode
By Aaron Dudley
Photos from Spide Rathbun Collection
from The Western Horseman Mar 1952
Rudolph Valentino and the stallion Jadaan in full desert regalia, ready for a dash over the sands for cameras recording “The Son of the Sheik.” This costume and the Jadaan trappings are still on display in the tackroom of the W.K.Kellogg ranch at Pomona.
Probably no horse of modern time — including the favorite mounts of our current TV and movie cowboys — has enjoyed greater popularity or been viewed by more people than a proud little grey Arab named Jadaan.
That name probably means little to the average horseman, and certainly nothing to the millions of curious who have seen him, but when you say he’s “the horse that Rudolph Valentino rode” there’s an immediate reaction.
Millions trekked to the famous W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse ranch at Pomona, Calif., upon the matinee idol’s death to see this horse and view trappings the dashing Latin used in his popular desert pictures of the 1920’s. And although the ranch had many fine horses, fully 90 per cent of the visitors who came wanted to see “the Valentino horse.” Women crowded around his box stall, wore the stable door smooth pressing for a better look at the sleek stallion. And they stood to silent near-reverence when Jadaan was led riderless into the arena carrying his former master’s colorful desert regalia.
This idolizing of a movie hero’s horse continued almost unabated for 19 years until the little horse died in 1945. And then avid Valentino zealots had his skeleton preserved and enshrined in the university of California’s School of animal Husbandry.
Jadaan in later years, standing at the foot of the Valentino shrine in Hollywood. The old horse was trailered to hundreds of gatherings honoring Valentino, and was a top attraction at movieland parades.
Unfortunately, Jadaan was neither a top individual (from a horseman’s point of view) nor did he produce outstanding colts1; this in spite of the fact his ancestry was the best of old-line Arabian stock. His granddam was the famous mare Waddudda, brought to America in 1906 and presented to Homer Davenport by Achmet Hefiz, who also reportedly sent along a desert tribesman to care for the mare.
Registry No. 196, Jadaan was foaled in April, 1916, at Hingham Stock Farm, Hingham, Massachusetts. His sire was the desert-bred Abbeian, imported by Homer Davenport in 1906. The dam was Amran by Deyr, No. 33, another Davenport importation.
Deyr, a very fine individual, was the only stallion of the original Davenport importation ever at the Kellogg Ranch. His skeleton, a classic example of the Arabian, is now on display at the Los Angeles Museum at Exposition Park.
But in spite of this royal Arab lineage, Jadaan had very poor front legs and his get tended to be even farther over in the knees than their sire.2
Horsewomen Monaei Lindley dons Arabian garb and mounts Jadaan for a photo at the Kellogg Arabian Horse ranch entrance. Everything good and bad about the horse can be clearly seen in this photo. Miss Lindley, at the time this photograph was taken, was an active horse breeder of Cinnebar Hill, Reno, Nevada.
H.H.Reese, in charge of the Kellogg Ranch when Jadaan was at the height of his fame, complied to the public clamor for colts from “the Valentino horse“and produced a big crop of colts for several seasons.1 They sold fast, but failed to do anything in the shows, and when a noted judge finally complained about the uniform badness of Jadaan’s offspring, Reese retired the stud to the limelight of his fame as a movie and parade horse and withheld him from further activity in the stud.
This situation was made to order for Spide Rathbun, promotion manager for the Kellogg ranch and the man second only to Valentino in contribution to Jadaan’s fame. It was Rathbun who gave Jadaan the big build-up as Valentino’s horse, who made Jadaan THE Valentino horse, in spite of the fact Valentino had ridden Raseyn and other Jadaan stablemates in motion picture work.
So when Reese wrote finis to Jadaan’s career in the stud, Rathbun went to work with added enthusiasm. Jadaan’s picture began appearing in the Sunday supplements at a rapid rate. Struggling movie starlets begged for an opportunity to be photographed with him. He was a fixture at Hollywood parades, and even was placed on exhibit in a special stall right in the lobby of one of the town’s plushiest theaters. He led Pasadena’s famous Tournament of Roses parades, had half a dozen different authentic desert outfits and rivaled the famous Lady in Black in contributing to the fanatical Valentino memorabilia. People just wouldn’t forget Valentino nor anything that had been connected with him.
Spide Rathbun and Jadaan went along with them, and whatever the little horse lacked in conformation he made up in spirit and a strange human like response to parade music or camera lens.
Jadaan in his prime looks over the Kellogg ranch from a nearby hilltop, with Ken Maynard as Buffalo Bill Cody astride. Maynard was a frequent visitor at the Kellogg ranch and often rode Jadaan in parades.
“Jadaan had an extraordinary faculty for falling naturally into beautiful poses,” says Rathbun. And there are literally thousands of pictures to prove it.
Jadaan had natural beauty, poise, grace, and a vibrant personality. His head and shoulder poses were described by some of Hollywood’s top cameramen as the most impressive they had ever photographed.
There is no denying he was an impressive horse.
Valentino first saw him in Palm Springs. Jadaan was in his prime and in his element, the sandy desert. And he had the benefit of a masterful rider, a European horsemen named Carl Schmidt, known to thousands of Arabian breeders today as “Raswan.”
The pair made an impressive picture, and Valentino immediately was interested in the prancing stallion. The price was $3,000 at the time, according to Raswan. (Kellogg had paid $1,200 for him.) Carl and Valentino visited at length concerning Jadaan and his possibilities as a movie horse. This was in 1926 and Valentino was about to make another desert picture in which he hoped to use an outstanding mount.
Jadaan at this time was owned by W.K.Kellogg, the cereal king, having just been purchased from C.D.Clark, of Point Happy ranch, Indio, along with nine others. Kellogg, however, left the horse in Clark’s care, with Schmidt in charge.
Jadaan was then 10 years old.
Valentino wanted Jadaan badly. Friends said he mentioned the horse often in the next few months, comparing the horse with famous statues he had seen in Italy, statuary of Garibaldi and Marco Polo, always mounted on rearing horses.
“I used to look at the great, metal Garibaldi in the little park,” friends quoted the actor saying. “I can see him now, seated firmly on his rearing horse. I always wanted to ride like that.“
This admiration for dashing horsemanship probably was responsible for much of the success of Valentino’s desert sheik pictures and, no doubt, led to his first interest in Jadaan. Jadaan commanded attention.
Unfortunately for Valentino and his backers, the actor did not give in to his urge to own Jadaan. Instead, it was decided to rent him from Kellogg for use in the upcoming movie.
This decision was an expensive one, for before they were through shooting, the aggregate cost of rental and insurance reached a reputed $12,000. And the movie makers had to furnish an expert attendant besides.
One day of retakes cost the film company $750 of insurance alone, and the backers were pretty sick of horse problems before they had the picture wrapped up.
And Valentino, in spite of the fact he was a far better than average horseman, was too valuable an asset to risk on a spirited horse for any length of time. As a consequence, the producer had to hire Carl “Raswan” Schmidt as his double. In the famous film “Son of the Sheik” Carl portrayed both the son and the father in all long shots and all those requiring fast or dangerous riding.
It was not long thereafter that Valentino died, and Jadaan, under the expert press agentry of Rathbun and thanks to an idolizing public, became the nation’s most famous living horse.
[From Mary Jane Parkinson’s The Kellogg Arabian Ranch The First Fifty Years p. 277: “JADAAN, age 29, had outlived his usefulness. … was destroyed on May 28” by the U.S. Remount.]
He was in such great demand that Kellogg Ranch officials had to maintain careful future booking records and exercise great caution in agreeing to public appearances for him. Idolizers of Valentino pulled hair from the horse’s tail and mane, asked for his shoes, and taxed the patience of attendants by filching jewels from the showy saddle, bridle and other elaborate trappings.
Heirs of Buffalo Bill Cody, after seeing photos of a movieland Buffalo Bill mounted on Jadaan, requested that upon the animal’s death his skin be sent them for mounting and placing in the museum at Cody, Wyoming. It was recalled that Buffalo Bill’s favorite mount was a white Arabian, Muson, a stallion loaned to him by his friend Homer Davenport. Cody always rode Muson in his appearances at Madison Square Garden; and it was on this animal he is mounted in the Rosa Bonheur painting.
Jadaan’s skin was preserved upon his death, but it apparently never reached its destined place of enshrinement at Cody.
The Jadaan-Valentino saddle is still much in evidence at the Kellogg ranch (now Southern California campus of California Polytechnic College). It looked for a while one day recently that future generations would not be afforded an opportunity of seeing this historic piece of Hollywood gear. As is the custom each Sunday, a riderless horse outfitted with the Valentino saddle, bridle, fringed martingale, and jeweled blanket is brought into the ring. The young Cal-Poly student who saddled the honored Arab on this particular day evidently saw no reason for cinching up the rig tightly, and the filly bearing it promptly bucked it loose midway in her appearance and proceeded to kick it pretty well to ribbons as it hung beneath her belly.
Harness maker Z.C.Ellis, of Pomona, came to the rescue, however, painstakingly piecing embroidery, dyed leather, and jewels back together again; and posterity can now see the saddle that Rudolph Valentino rode.
And parents can continue to scoff when youngsters look blank and inquire, “Who was he, anyway?”
(1) From “Jadaan 196″ by Carol W. Mulder in Arabian Horse World Dec. 1971 :
foals: 1925 Markada (x Fasal) a broodmare for Dickinson 3 reg foals (from Dickenson’s Catalog(’47):” Height 15.1 weight 1025″ “Markada is intelligent to a degree and has been well educated. She knows a number of tricks and has personality enough to make an ideal heroine for a ‘human’horse story. She seems to take pride in giving one a good ride. Markada is above average size and well built up, especially in the forehand. She has deep shoulders, sloping nicely, and good withers. Her middle piece is well rounded and she carries herself well at both ends. This mare is close to desert breeding and strong in the blood of great producing dams.” ” Used 1931-1934. Sold in Tennessee” (CWM “Fasal 330″in AHW Feb. 1976: “(Markada) dying in her prime. “) 1927 Irak ( x *Raida) – no recorded get Wardi ( x Sedjur) a broodmare for Jedel Ranch 1929 End O’War (x Amham ) died at 4 months Raidaan (x * Raida) a sire for Gordon A. Dutt 7 reg. foals Jadanna ( x *Rossana) exp. to Mexico City, Mexico Gloria Davenport (x Sedjur) 4 reg foals 1930 Jadur ( x Sedjur) at 2 reg. daughters Badia ( x Babe Azab) Dam of12 offspring including the Davenport 2nd
foundation mare, Asara. Damline of Fadjur’s favorite mare, Saki. Estrellita ( x Amham) 8 reg. foals 1931 Jadura( x Sedjur) line has died out Amaana ( x Amhan) at least 5 reg foals Raidaana ( x * Raida) Kellogg broodmare. at least 6 reg foals Destroyed by Remount in ’44 at age 13. Lame. 1932 Bedaana ( x Beneyeh) 5 reg foals Majada ( x *Malouma) died at six months Jurad ( x Sedjur) did not breed on. Hamaan ( x Amham) sire for Marie C. Scott’s Wyoming ranch 20 reg. foals Jarid ( x *Raida) a sire for Dr. Fred A. Glass Fred E. Vanderhoof bred 3 mares to him in 1938 resulting in: 1939 Leidaan ( x Leila), bred on. Havanna ( x *Bint, at least 7 reg. foals. Ravaana ( x Rasrah) at least 7 reg. foals. (2) “(Buck-knees) While this is a very unsightly disfigurement, it is not by any means as serious as several other front leg flaws, and is, in fact, considered by many experts to be relatively harmless!” Carol Mulder