Copyright 1997 by R.J. Cadranell.
Originally published in Arabian Visions Jul/Aug 1997, used by permission
The Donoghue Arabian Farm has been a mainstay of Arabian horse breeding in and out of Texas. Though not the first Arabian horse nursery in Texas, it was a relatively early establishment. And while Gerald and Louise Donoghue’s herd was probably not the largest ever assembled in Texas, it was plenty big enough to supply mounts and breeding stock to a wide variety of customers. As Louise Donoghue wrote in the introduction to the 1993 Donoghue Arabian Directory,
“Jerry’s ambition was to raise and sell horses which could be treated as family pets but could also win ribbons in the show ring. He urged that these horses be trained in different types of riding to exhibit their versatility and athletic ability. His Generations of Champions are widely noted for their friendly dispositions and classic Arabian looks. Nothing delighted him more than to receive a letter from the owner of one of his horses telling him how wonderful they were….”
The detailed story of the early years is best told in Gerald Donoghue’s own book, My Friend, The Arabian Horse. Following is a short synopsis of the story, often drawing on his own words, but kept brief to save room for photos and the reminiscences of friends.
We begin when Gerald Donoghue was working as a reporter and assistant editor for the Houston Chronicle. In 1943 the city editor sent him to do a story on the Arabian horses of R.J. Geimer. Donoghue had never seen Arabians before, but came away impressed by the disposition of Geimer’s stallion *Latif (Antez x *Lassa). After Mr. Geimer saw the story, he offered that Donoghue could breed his Palomino mare to *Latif. At about this time the Donoghues left Houston and moved to a ranch in Goliad, and there in 1944 their first Half-Arabian was born, a filly named Taffy. As she grew and came under saddle, Donoghue admired her so much he decided to get more Arabian blood.
The first purebred was purchased in 1949, a two-year-old grandson of *Latif named Watez. He came out of the J.E. Mowinckle herd, stabled at Alamo Downs in San Antonio. In 1950 Donoghue brought a filly named Yaquta (*Czubuthan x *Lassa). In 1951 Yaquta was bred to Watez. Also that year three females were purchased from the Lodwick farm in Ohio. These included Rafisca (by Rafisco) and her dam, the pregnant Freiha. Jerry and Louise Donoghue now had a small herd. In looking back he commented,
“I liked the group and I was fascinated by their pedigrees. Still, something was missing….I still had not found the type of Arabian I was looking for.”
In 1952 Jerry Donoghue discovered some of the Mowinckle mares were for sale in San Angelo. He found them in poor condition, but even so one bay mare and her bay colt had a “look that set [them] above” the others: “My search had ended.”
The mare was Ronara (Roayas x Narlet) with her son Ibn Hanrah. Ronara was back in foal to Hanrah (Hanad x Rahzawi), and would produce Rohanna in two months. Donoghue bought the whole package, later writing,
“Most of the Arabians I have owned since that time have been descendants of this one great mare.”
From her photos and Donoghue’s descriptions, Ronara seems to have been a mare of great quality. She, probably more than any other horse, appears to have set the type that distinguishes a Donoghue horse.
As for Rohanna,
“she was a complete beauty. No one ever passed Rohanna without taking a second look.”
Her foals included Carol Chapman’s dynamic chestnut stallion Pulque (by Skorage), multi-champion and Legion of Merit winner. Rohanna was also dam of Tondelayo (by Al-Marah Erka). Tondelayo was another successful show horse for the Donoghues, with a Legion of Merit and top tens in park, western and English pleasure.
Much space in My Friend is devoted to stories of criss-crossing the country on the way to show in the 1950’s, often with children Bill, Clare, and Timothy alone. Ibn Hanrah, Ronara, Rohanna, and the other horses represented the Donoghue Arabian Farm well in those early shows. My Friend offers as much chronicle of those days as it does wry commentary on how Arabian shows had changed by the time of the book’s publication in the 1980’s.
The Donoghues finally met Mr. Mowinckle, who told them about Walter (“Chappy”) and Carol Chapman. They caught up with the Chapmans later at a show. The Chapmans agreed to take some Donoghue horses for training. Jerry Donoghue later wrote,
“For the past thirty years, Chappy has trained generations of our horses and three generations of our family.”
Donoghue felt a larger mare band would be necessary to make a profit on the farm; his next addition came in 1953 from the Babson Farm in Illinois. She was Fay Ufa (Fay-el-Dine x *Maaroufa), bred from Mr. Babson’s 1932 Egyptian importation.
In 1954 Jerry Donoghue made his first visit to Al-Marah Arabians, then located in Washington, D.C. He met the farm’s owner, Bazy Tankersley, and her foundation sire, Indraff (*Raffles x *Indaia). Indraff was
“a beautiful gray stallion, almost pure white, who immediately noticed us and came charging up the hill, his neck arched and his tail almost curled over his back. It was a beautiful sight.”
It occurred to Donoghue that Ronara could be bred to Indraff, but he did not want to send her that far from home. Instead, it seemed more practical to bring Indraff daughters to Texas and breed them to Ibn Hanrah.
“Ronara’s Crabbet ancestry would be right in line with the Crabbet-Skowronek breeding of Indraff and Ibn Hanrah would bring the Davenport cross into the combination which should pep things up.” He continued, “Horses with a strong percentage of Davenport blood seem to have an extra spark that some other Arabian horses lack.”
Ronara had a Davenport line through Sherlet; through his sire, Ibn Hanrah was a grandson of the Davenport stallion Hanad, thus Ibn Hanrah had 31.25% Davenport blood.
In 1956 Jerry Donoghue traveled to the first Al-Marah production sale looking for something from the Skowronek line. Studying the catalog, he kept coming back to Egypt, by Ibn Hanad (Hanad x Gamil) and out of Star of Egypt (*Raffles x *Roda). Egypt came with a stud colt by the Indraff son Al-Marah El Hezzez, named Al-Marah Erka. When Donoghue saw Egypt, he admired her head, quality, and quiet disposition. Later, he was the successful bidder.
Egypt had been bred by Margaret Shuey of Sunny Acres in North Carolina. Donoghue wrote,
“Egypt [did] so well that, every time I had a chance, I had bought a Shuey-bred mare when it had the combination of Ibn Hanad, *Raffles and *Roda.”
In 1960 came Sunny Acres Serranita,
“not only an all-around show mare, but was chosen as one of the top ten halter champions at the Canadian Nationals. Her career as a brood mare was even more distinguished.”
Serranita was by Ibn Hanad and out of Joye (*Raffles x *Roda).
Another Star of Egypt daughter to come to Goliad was Sunny Acres Easter Star, in 1964. She was by Shalimar Teke, a son of Flaia. Flaia was a full sister to Indraff, and considered by several connoisseurs to be among the best of the many successful *Raffles x *Indaia foals. Shalimar Teke was a grandson of Ibn Hanad. Easter Star’s most notable son was probably Beau Ibn Hanrah, successful in park, western, English, halter and most classic. Pamela Long remembers him as “magnificent. To this day one of the most beautiful horses I’ve ever seen.” Another 1964 acquisition was Sunny Acres Geneviewe, a granddaughter of Ibn Hanad, *Aeniza, *Raffles, and *Roda.
Indraff daughters had also arrived in Goliad. Tasliya (x Temag, by Fay-el-Dine) came in 1959. She became Louise Donoghue’s personal riding horse, and won Reserve National Champion Mare in 1958. Her career also included the Legion of Merit and the King Saud Cup. In 1960 came Al-Marah Indraffa (x Roumana, by *Sulejman). there as also Indianna (Indraff x Ananda), bred by Louis G. Foye.
Another Indraff daughter to come to Goliad was Al-Marah Gazelle, out of the old R.B.Field broodmare Gisela (Akil x Shemseh), bringing in more Crabbet and Davenport blood. Al-Marah Gazelle was acquired in 1965, and became dam of Don Amistad (by Ibn Hanrah), a Legion of Merit winner. Pamela Long remembers,
“Al-Marah Gazelle, a chestnut mare, had an aversion to wearing a halter. So, Jerry respected her wishes and led her with a rope around her neck.”
Fersheba (Ferseyn x Rasheba, by Rasraff) also ranks among the important Donoghue foundation mares. Fersheba brought in a different line to *Raffles, and through her sire reinforced the more distant crosses to *Raseyn and *Ferda in Ronara’s pedigree. Fersheba was bred in California, and later owned at Al-Marah. Perhaps Fersheba’s biggest contribution was her son Don Fersheba (by Ibn Hanrah). He excelled in English, western, halter, and most classic classes, earned his Legion of Merit, and became a Donoghue sire.
Donoghue described the four Shuey mares, four Indraff daughters, five Ronara daughters, and Fersheba as the background of his breeding program, although other mares were occasionally brought in from outside through the 60s and 70s. The four younger sisters of Rohanna were her full sister La Bahia, Bint Ronara (by Al-Marah Erka), Rose of Ronara (by Al-Marah Erka), and Ronava. The latter was Al-Marah Cassanova’s first foal. Jerry Donoghue judged her
“a sensation. [She] became one of the sights to see on our farm. Her head was outstanding.”
Jerry Donoghue had decided an outcross sire was needed. At a horse management course at Al-Marah he noticed a
“colt was being used for amateurs to trot up and down. The colt seemed happy in his work and, the more I looked at him, the more I liked him.”
This was Al-Marah Cassanova (Rapture x Cassandra), then two. He had three close crosses to *Raffles and a female line to *Roda. A deal was struck, which included returning Erka to Al-Marah, and Cassanova was on his way to Texas. He left a good number of sons and daughters, and also won his Legion of Merit and a national top ten halter before he died young at age 12.
La Bahia was another national top ten and Legion of Merit winner. Bred to La Bahia, Al-Marah Cassanova sired Cass Ole, the star of the motion picture The Black Stallion. This pleased Jerry Donoghue:
“Because I’ve often wondered if I’ve ever done anything constructive in my life, 40 years of it spent with Arabian horses, it gives me great pleasure and satisfaction to know that, at least, I bred a horse that has brought entertainment and beauty to millions of people.”
Ibn Hanrah died from a twisted intestine in 1965, a huge loss. His wins in English and western pleasure, park, and halter (including 1959 U.S.Reserve National Champion Stallion and Canadian National Champion Stallion) and helped establish the reputation of the Donoghue horses. Since his first foals in 1955 he had proven an equally important sire. His sons Don Fersheba and Beau Ibn Hanrah succeeded him.
In 1980 the Donoghues decided it was time to cut down the size of the herd, and many horses were sold. Jerry Donoghue gave this summary of his breeding program in 1984:
“The old farm was sold in 1980 and we live in a remodeled stone house on the ranch. I limit myself to six brood mares, all being bred to Beau Ibn Hanrah, with an occasional outcross.”
By 1991 the Donoghues had bred over 250 foals and were standing Don Beau Max (Beau Ibn Hanrah x Donna Indraffa) and Don Boolad (Don Fersheba x Donna Ferona). In an interview with Sandy Rolland, Gerald Donoghue said he wanted to be remembered for his horses, and breeding a natural, ungimmicked Arabian. He died on August 5, 1992.
In reading My Friend, several aspects of Jerry Donoghue’s character emerge. His constant concern for the well-being of his charges runs all through the story. When he pulled a trailer, he drove so slowly that his son joked there was time to read the historical markers they passed. No one who made horses head-shy was allowed to handle the herd. Pamela Long recalls,
“As I walked around the farm with Jerry, I noticed he touched every horse—usually with the back of his hand. He told me he was freeze branded before he freeze branded any of the horses, ‘to make sure it didn’t hurt.’ He was extremely proud of them, loved them with a passion, and worried about them incessantly.”
Jerry and Louise seem to have complemented each other in evaluating their horses. He wrote,
“Louise and I look at horses differently. I want to know what they can produce; she wants to know how it feels to ride them.”
Speaking of the breed as a whole, he said,
“The basic appeal of the Arabian horse has been as a family horse and show horse combined.”
We end with Jerry Donoghue’s words about the right Arabian horse for him:
“to interest me, a horse had to look like an Arabian, regardless of his pedigree. He had to have a good head and good tail carriage with overall good balance. I always look at the head and into his eyes. To me, the personality of the horse is more important than his size or color. Size is away down on my list of desirable characteristics of the Arabian….
“When an Arabian horse has a good head, it is hard for me to take my eyes away from the head to look at anything else. I assume the horse has four legs.
“I do not belittle the importance of a horse having good, straight, sound legs. However, if all I wanted in a horse was straight legs and powerful muscles I would not go to the expense of raising purebred Arabian horses, straight legs and big muscles can be found in many cross-bred grade horses.”
Dr. James P. Entrekin, Grey Eagle Arabian Farm, Algoa/Alvin TX: Fayhan (x Fay Ufa), from the first foal crop of Ibn Hanrah, was the first Donoghue horse I met. Most of my horses stem from Fayhan and his offspring. My personal mare Faylene is pure Donoghue and perhaps a perfect example of the delightful Donoghue disposition and personality. She is best when ridden without bridle or bit. She goes through a repertoire that includes kneeling, lying down, rolling over, sitting up, shaking hands, side pass, two track, et al., all at liberty. Donoghue Arabians perhaps best personify those three criteria that one must never compromise and they are 1. Disposition, 2. Disposition, and 3. Disposition. Donoghue Arabians are living examples of back to the basics desert bred type, conformation, disposition, and predictability.
Pamela J. Long, Mai-Zel Dragonwicke Arabians, Dragoon AZ: My college graduation present from my parents was a trip to Goliad to the Donoghue production sale in April 1969. I bought the grey yearling Don Zel (Don Fersheba x Al-Marah Gazelle). I realized after I won the bid that I didn’t have any money or transportation. Mr. Donoghue allowed me to make payments for a year. Fifteen of the 16 horses I now own carry Donoghue breeding. All 15 are Don Zel’s descendants. The Donoghue horses have fine typey heads — not extreme, but immediately recognizable — large, intelligent, inquiring, and frienddly eyes, and always smiles. They are short coupled, with good — not extreme — toplines. With very rare exceptions, Donoghue legs are as perfect as they come. They move freely, with balance and poise, always proud. Their strength and balance is incredible. Don Zel could rear and raise and lower himself again and again, never touching the ground. They turn on a dime — co-ordinated and athletic. Donoghue horses are people horses, gentle and kind, very intelligent, learn quickly. I ride them everywhere, over mountains, through streams, down hills. They are sure footed and never hesitate.
Shar Smith, Conroe TX: Butch and I purchased Donna Egypt (Don Fersheba x Bint Egypt, by Al-Marah Cassanova) from Jamil Ferreira of Richmond, Texas, in June of 1993. We had no idea who Jerry and Louise Donoghue were, and knew nothing of the great Donoghue tradition. Donna Egypt was 18, and we knew only that she was beautiful and a dream to ride. On a whim, I took her to a fine local trainer, Jim Maddox. He stoked our imaginations with stories of Walter and Carol Chapman, and how Gerald and Louise represented the best. He referred me to Gerald’s book, which I tried to locate, without success. The following March, Butch and I made the trip to Goliad. We were fascinated by Louise. she totally charmed us. She autographed a copy of Gerald’s book for me, which I proudly took home. We have four offspring of Donna Egypt. Each one is brilliant of intelligence, brilliant of beauty and motion. Perhaps the most notable characteristic is their intense desire to interact with people.
Martha Craig, Fredericksburg Tx: I have many marvelous memories of Louise and Jerry — their excitement and delight in each horse, the way he could give a complete history of every one of the horses for generations — what a joy just to be around those two! My Don Beauzel (Beau Ibn Hanrah x Donna Gazelle, by Don Fersheba) is 16. I have enjoyed him since he was just under three. My Beau was shown as a three year old — did well in western pleasure — then I began using him on our ranch in Colorado. He loved moving cattle and the long rides. We moved to Fredericksburg in 1989 and trail ride in the hills now with friends and he is super for that. He is calm, willing, loves people. His head is gorgeous, wide between the eyes, large soft eyes, nice dish, small ears.
Lynn Weber, Friendswood TX: I didn’t know Jerry Donoghue and I have never met Louise, but I can tell you they have given us a true gift in his line of Arabians. I own four horses, which includes my favorite, a 13 year old black gelding, Don Grito (Don Beau Pronto x Bint Donna Sheba). He is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. He learns tricks eagerly, but his most admirable trait is his kindness. He’s gentle with everything and everyone.
Sally L. Quick, Spring Creek Arabian Farm, Lufkin TX: In the early 1970’s I moved from southern California to south Texas. My first goal was to visit the Donoghues as I had seen their ads for years. Our first visit was a trip to paradise. Over the years we visited the farm many times, and in 1976 moved to Goliad. I was happy to be close to so many great horses. I would simply call Mr. D. and tell him I’d like to walk through the pastures; he would always agree. My children loved to visit and Mrs. D. would have cookies for them. The Donoghue horses possessed a look that was easily recognizable: the beautiful heads with large eyes and bodies with substance are much admired. All Donoghue horses have great personalities and can be real clowns. Through the generosity and special consideration of Mr. D., I bought my first purebred colt from the farm in 1976. Don Ibn Gazelle (Cass Grito x Al-Marah Gazelle) was delivered to us as a weanling, and our dream of owning an Arabian horse became a reality. He won many halter ribbons and was Reserve Grand Champion Stallion at the State Fair Show. Mr. and Mrs Donoghue were the most gracious hosts ever. Each year they had a spring open barn and barbecue. It was the social event for all Arabian people in the area. Recently I was in the market for a younger horse. Of course I was looking for Donoghue breeding. I purchased a Half-Arabian by a Quarter Horse out of Donna Talhanna. He is typical Donoghue, with a great personality, easy going nature, and sound good conformation. The joy these horses have brought to my life is a gift. Mr. and Mrs. Donoghue were gracious and kind to all who knew them.
Dana Kirk, Kenda Arabian Ranch, Cleburne TX: Of our own horses, Don Halawi and Donna Halawi (both Don Fergen x Bint Halawi) have the biggest part of my heart. Donna is elegant and feminine with the largest eyes and one of the most beautiful, refined heads I have ever seen. Her willingness to please and her love of people are her first qualities. Don is best known for his love affair with our daughter, Loren. At the CMK showcase in Glen Rose, Texas, Loren rode Don bareback with nothing but a satin ribbon for a bridle. They were both loving every minute of it. Don was so good at so many disciplines. Whatever Loren asked of him he lovingly gave his all. Donna Halawi, age 24 and crippled now by laminitis, never hesitates to jump into a trailer onto sore front feet. I’m getting teary-eyed over this. I know she won’t be with us much longer and I can’t bear to say good-bye.
Jack & Val Nevilles, Ja-Val Arabians, Pittsburg TX: I purchased a part-Arab gelding, Sabra, in 1977 from Lynn Edge in Tivoli, Texas. His sire was Don Almas, and his dam was a Half-Arabian mare by Fayhan. Sabra was my dream horse. He was shown some in the late 70s and never out of the ribbons either as a performance or a halter horse. Having a Donoghue horse was in a way a dream come true. I first saw Donoghue horses in the show ring at the Nationals in 1962. I had read about them and was impressed by their beauty and conformation. My husband and I had the pleasure of visiting the Donoghues on two or three occasions. What a lovely couple they were — never too busy to talk about their horses, or share some iced tea. The thing I remember most was the substance and willing attitude of each horse.
Carolyn Crowley, East Greenwich NY: My mare was purchased as a youngster by a Navy woman and brought up the coast to Newport, Rhode Island. I met her there, and showed her for her owner until I was able to purchase her for my own. Her name was Donnaliya (Don Fersheba x Tasliya). After living with and loving Donnaliya for 18 years, I can certainly identify with Louise’s affection from Tasilya. In my eyes and in my heart Donnaliya was the most beautiful mare of my life. It was her huge heart — game for anything with the kindness of a saint. Correct conformation — she was a knockout in a halter class, blue after blue after blue. Classic head. Her eye, a form of communication. She was shown halter, hunt seat, and western pleasure. We did trail riding, pace events, and later in life she was broken to harness. Babies toddled beneath her as I groomed and tacked her up. She was careful and safe with my 11 year old son when he started showing her. She tirelessly gave “pony rides” to school children on field trips to the farm. My “Liya-love” is now deceased, buried in a nook of the woods adjacent to the ring. I’ll always love her so.
Linda M. Gremore, D&L Arabians, Boyd TX: The memories I have of Donoghue Arabian horses go back about 45 years. When I was eight years old I began writing to the “Ibn Hanrah Fan Club.” I dreamed of breeding my mare to Ibn Hanrah. Later, I lived in Austin, Texas, and was able to see Cass Ole at a horse show in San Antonio when he was two. My dream of owning a Donoghue Arabian horses did not materialize until 1978. My husband, Virgil, and I purchased two mares (not Donoghue) and after much discussion decided to take one to breed to Beau Ibn Hanrah. Before we even stopped the trailer, my husband spotted a beautiful grey stallion whose hair shimmered in the sun like fish scales. Before I knew what had happened to Virgil, he was in the lot with Don Fersheba. We brought the other mare back to breed to Don Fersheba. Beau Ibn Hanrah had the presence to stand out in a crowd of horses no mater how beautiful the others. Virgil and I made several trips to Goliad and were always given the grand tour. Mr. Donoghue had a stall area with each stall opening onto a grassy courtyard. He would bring each mare and foal out and recite their pedigrees. He had a tremendous program we are trying to continue. Mr. and Mrs. Donoghue were always gracious. In 1980 Mr. Donoghue told us he was cutting down his herd and had several stallion in which we might be interested. I did not believe we could afford a stallion, but my husband insisted we take the trailer. We chose Don Beau Pronto (Beau Ibn Hanrah x Cassa Arriba). We prayed Mr. Donoghue would have the right figures the next morning so we would be able to purchase Pronto. He did! He also let us take Sunny Acres Genevieve home. Everyone always stopped to look at her. Pronto has won numerous blue ribbons in halter and many championships in western pleasure both pro and amateur. In 1984 Pronto was Region 9 Reserve Western Pleasure Stallion. We will always be grateful to Walter Chapman and Brad Bunio for Pronto’s training and showing. Virgil and I have taken dressage lessons on two of our Don Fersheba daughters. To the best of our knowledge, we have the largest herd of pure Donoghue horses.
Ana Carolina Gomez-Simmons, Temple TX: Gran Cicque Kalim is beautiful, graceful, intelligent, loyal, loving. He is my dream come true and it would take me more than all the words in the world to describe him. I love him with all my heart and soul.