Copyright 1990 by R.J.CADRANELL from Arabian Visions Sept ’90 Used by permission of RJ Cadranell
Almost no Americans still alive can say that they imported their own Arabian horses directly from Arabia. Two of the people who can are Mr. and Mrs. Richard T. Cavedo of Richmond, Virginia. The Cavedos spent ten years in Saudi Arabia, and stabled today on their farm are the offspring of a stallion and two mares which they imported from Saudi Arabia in 1962.
The Cavedos, and others who imported Arabian horses to America at about the same time, were connected to Aramco, the Arabian American Oil Company. Dick Cavedo was a pilot for Aramco and went to Saudi Arabia in 1952. His wife, Laura, joined him there in 1953. They lived in Aramco’s town at Dhahran. Writers have described the Dhahran that the Cavedos knew as “a piece of transplanted small town U.S.A.” The Americans lived in a self-contained community. They had to come up with their own entertainment, and constructed such amenities as a swimming pool, library, and even a golf course.
When Laura arrived, Dick already owned a five-year-old bay stallion named *Shams. *Shams was stabled at an American establishment known as the Hobby Farm, and later the Corral, about three miles outside of Dhahran on the Dhahran-Khobar road. This was home to horses, gazelles, rabbits, and an oynx. When Dick joined the Hobby Farm and bought *Shams, according to Laura, there were about 17 horses. By the time the Cavedos returned to the U.S. ten years later, there were about a hundred. “That’s how much it grew.” Laura observes. Among the Aramco personnel, as among Americans at home, some filled their leisure time with swimming and golf, while others chose horses as their mode of recreation. Laura had grown up with horses, and Dick originally bought *Shams to be a gift for Laura when she arrrived. But Dick liked the horse so well it was decided to buy another one for Laura. Eventually, they bought the mares *Munirah (also known as “Lil” or “Lilly”) and *Malaiha.
To look at horses, the Cavedos went to the oasis town of Qatif, about twenty miles to the north of Dhahran, where the Banu Khalid tribe came in summer. Laura says that some of the Banu Khalid lived there all year. They irrigated and cultivated date trees,
- “and that’s where we bought our alfalfa.” Laura adds. “You would know an Arab employee of Aramco, who knew you were looking for horses.” Laura says. “Through him we would make an appointment to see a horse for sale on Thursday or Friday, the Arab weekend.”
On some trips there would be no horses to see.
- “The Arabs would always have an excuse. They couldn’t catch the horse, or whatever. ‘Tomorrow, Inshallah’ they would say. Or the horse was not as described. We would go out to look at some ‘fine young mare’ and find a broken-down stallion.”
The Cavedos would bring along a saddle and hackamore to try anything that turned out to be ridable. Laura remembers one grey mare in particular.
- “She was a very nice ride; a real sweet mare. But she was too old, and not only that, she was owned by maybe 18 people who couldn’t agree on a price or if they wanted to sell her at all.“
When the Cavedos did buy a horse, they asked for a bill of sale.
- “We’d ask them to put down everything they knew about the horse, just for our own information.” Laura says.
The primary equestrian recreational activity for Aramco personnel was riding in the desert. Between Dhahran, Dammam, and al-Khobar, was an area of probably more than 40 square miles.
- “There were no roads, no fences, just open desert. It was good riding.” Laura says. “You could go out for half an hour, or five hours. Sometimes we’d camp by the beach. Other times we’d have a barbecue and moonlight rides. The terrain wasn’t flat. There were big dunes, and some rocky ground, too.”
During nicer weather, from November to March, gymkhanas were held at the Corral. Dick, Laura, and a few friends originated the gymkhanas.
- “Things changed as time went on, and the number of horses and owners at the Corral grew,” Laura says. “It started as a group of people who wanted to have some fun riding horses, and evolved from there. On Friday afternoons we would have our gymkhanas, and other Americans from Dhahran would come to watch, because they had nothing else to do. Gradually, more and more families, parents and children, got involved.”
Unlike Laura, however, most of these people had not grown up with horses. The March, 1956 issue of Aramco World printed an article on the corral, which estimated that more than half of the members had bought their first horse in Saudi Arabia. The gymkhanas eventually included events like pole bending, keyhole races, tilting, and obstacle courses. There was a drill team and a junior drill team. Less serious competitions were egg-and-spoon and equestrian versions of musical chairs. Other events included jumping, driving, races, and relay races.
- “We would try anything we could think of that people did back in the States.”
Laura says. As the gymkhanas became more popular, the company became involved. The company erected a grandstand, installed loudspeakers, and poured oil on the sand to hold down the dust. There were special shows for dignitaries like Ibn Jiluwi (the Governor of Hasa province) and one for Doug Marshall.
As the population of horses and riders at the Corral grew, Arabs would show up there with horses for sale. The horses were generally from Riyadh, to start with, and later from Kuwait. Laura says that most Americans bought their horses in this way, or from other Americans who were returning to the States and leaving their horses behind.
- “Once a horse entered the Corral, it stayed there, and was sold from one American to the next.“
Laura doesn’t recall that most Americans, and especially American women, went outside looking for horses the way she and Dick did. a few of the horses at the Corral were gifts from Ibn Sa’ud or Ibn Jiluwi. Almost all were bought locally. A few came from the island of Bahrain, which the Cavedos could see from their kitchen door. Laura remembers the Kuwaiti horses being an inch or two taller than the other horses, which difference she attributed to better feed.
- “The foals we bred when we got our own horses home all matured taller than their parents.” Laura comments.
The Cavedos bought both of their mares in Qatif. *Munirah was Laura’s competition horse. Dick rode *Shams the most. They both rode *Malaiha, who was better behaved for the drill team than *Shams.
For a short time, an American friend of Dick and Laura’s managed the stables of King Ibn Sa’ud at Riyadh. During the term of his employ, the Cavedos were able to tour the royal stables and see. “all the King’s horses,” as Laura put it. This was near the end of Dick and Laura’s stay in Saudi Arabia. During the 1950s, Fran Richards wrote a column for The Arabian Horse News, which told American Arabian enthusiasts of happenings at the Corral. Fran Richards repeatedly made the point that few horses were found in the area of Dhahran outside of the Corral, since there was almost nothing to feed them. The May, 1956 issue of the News included a picture of Laura Cavedo with “Lil” (*Munirah) receiving the Horse of the Year trophy at the end of the gymkhana season. By 1955, the Dhahran Arabian Horse Association was part of I.A.H.A.
With so many Arabians stabled in one place, inevitably people began to breed foals. Some of the photographs Fran Richards sent for publication in the News, are of horses with “D.A.H.R.” (presumably the Dhahran Arabian Horse Registry) numbers.
- “What we Americans were looking for in horses was something sound and ridable,” says Laura. “People wanted horses for recreation, or for their kids to ride. Many American personnel connected to Aramco had horses, but very few brought them back. I can’t think of anyone who went out to buy horses specifically for importation.”
Of the few Americans who did become attached to their horses and bring them home, even fewer bothered to apply for their registration. However, the stud book of the Arabian Horse Registry of America does contain a number of Saudi horses imported in the late 50s and early- to mid-60s. They are listed in the accompanying table. Earlier AHRA-registered Aramco-connected horses include the 1950 imports of Esther Ames (*Mahraa and her daughter *Muhaira) and John M. Rogers (*Thorayyah, *Subaiha, *Taffel, *Bakhaitah, and *Muneerah).
The Cavedos returned to America in 1962, bringing with them *Shams, *Munirah, and *Malaiha. On board the same boat were Ella Chastain’s *Al-Obayyah and “Redette,” as well as Miss Farrell Lovett’s gelding, “Ramadi.” Laura recalls,
- “It was a long trip, lasting 43 days. We went by way of the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, through the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean, and across the Atlantic. We arrived in America on Friday the 13th of July, 1962.”
Then the horses had to spend 60 days in quarantine. It was September before the Cavedo horses arrived in Virgina.
- “Ester Holmes had imported some horses the year before, and she told us to have ‘passports’ and photo i.d.’s made identifying the horses. You just didn’t know which customs officials would want to see what papers. We tried to cover everything. We went before the American Consulate to have them verify that these were our horses, and we had health certificates issued, too,” Laura says.
When *Shams, *Munirah, and *Malaiha were released from quarantine, Laura made arrangements with the Arabian Horse Club Registry (as it then called itself) to apply for their registration. According to a 10/1962 letter to Laura from Nellie Bayley, the Registry’s assistant secretary-treasurer, the
- “usual papers on Desert horses are sworn to at the American Consulate…”
The Registry also needed a copy of port of entry form showing the date of entry. It needed registration applications and registration fees. The letter concludes,
- “When the papers are found to be complete and satisfactory, arrangements will be made with you for a mutually convenient time for the inspection.”
Milt Thompson inspected the horses and turned them down. Laura felt that one reason might have been the poor condition of the horses following the long months of shipping and quarantine. After hearing that other Aramco imports were granted reinspections and ultimately registered following initial rejection, Laura wrote to Dan Gainey in March of 1966 to request a reinspection.
Nellie Bayley answered that a reinspection could be scheduled if the Cavedos paid the inspector’s round trip fare from Denver to Richmond.
- “That was more or less the last straw,” Laura says. “Maybe we should have kept at it, but by then the whole thing had left such a bad taste in our mouths that we didn’t.“
When the International Arabian Horse Registry of North America (IAHRONA) was founded in 1967, the Cavedo imports and their offspring were registered in its studbook. Today, the original imports are gone, but Dick and Laura still have on their farm the mares Lira II, Kita II, and Binni II, as well as the gelding Arak II. The gelding Chief Shamus is owned nearby. The youngest of the mares is twenty-three, and none have any foals on the ground. It does not seem likely that the Cavedo Arabians will ever contribute to American Arabian breeding but, if the Registry were to reconsider their application and if someone made the effort to get a foal from Kita II, they might.
Cavedo foals registered with IAHRONA: Binni II, (Shams x *Munirah) 1963 bay mare, owned by the author; Lira II (*Shams x *Malaiha) 1964 chestnut mare; Chief Shamus (*Shams x *Munirah) 1965 bay gelding; Arak II (*Shams x *Malaiha) 1967 chestnut gelding; Kita II (*Shams x *Munirah) 1967 chestnut mare.
Aramco Imports of the Late 50s and 60s
15998 *Nurah 1954 ch m bred by Mrs. James H. Gildea in Dammam. In the January, 1956 issue of the News, Fran Richards tells the story of the Gildeas and how they acquired the sire and dam of *Nurah:
- “Mr. Gildea was general manager of the Saudi Government railroad and pier. *Nurah’s sire was a gift from Ibn Jiluwi, and her dam a gift from the King’s physician.”
Imported in 1959 by Laura Beavers.
18025 *Rudann 1951 ch m
18026 *Taamri 1948 ch s
18027 *Halwaaji 1954 ch m
18028 *Amiraa 1959 gr m; were all four bred by the Saudi Royal Stud in Riyadh. Imported in 1960 by Sam Roach. *Amiraa is a daughter of *Halwaaji. This information is from their entries in vol. XI of the AHRA studbook.
20427 *Hamra Johara 1952 ch m was bred by King Ibn Sa’ud and imported in 1961 by Lewis Payne.
27761 *Jamalah el Jedrani 1954 gr m was bred by Fran Richards in Dhahran from a mare she purchased shortly after her arrival in Saudi Arabia, and a Banu Khalid stallion owned by a friend and imported in 1963 by R.O. Richards.
27762 *Al-Obayyah 1957 gr m was bred by the Sa’ud Royal Stud, and purchased in Qatif by D.M. Chastain. Imported in 1962 by Ella N. Chastain.
28560 *Eman al-Shamalia 1953 ch m was bred by the Sa’ud Royal Stud in Riyadh. Imported in 1963 by Cynthia Sue Larsen.
36944 *Jalam al Ubayan 1949 ch s was bred by Ibn Jiluwi. Presented by Ibn Jiluwi to Lou and Mary Killian, who sold him to Connie Cobb. Imported by Connie Cobb in 1966.
36945 *Sheri 1963 ch m bred by W.C. Andrews. Imported in 1963 by W.C. Andrews. By *Jalam al Ubayan, above.
37774 *Furtha Dhellal 1960 gr stallion bred in al-Khobar. Imported in 1966 by C. Cobb.
37775 *Habiti 1952 bay m bred in Saihat. Imported in 1966 by B.J.Cobb.
110011 *Sindidah 1954 gr m bred by Sa’ud Royal Stud in riyadh. Imported in 1966 by M. Johnson.
Note: *Hadriyan 217415 (CAHR 8159) 1976 ch stallion bred in British Columbia, Canada, was imported to the U.S. in 1980. His dam *Hadriya (CAHR 7176) was bred by Dr. & Mrs. Kelly in Dhahran and foaled in 1954. Her sire was *Jalam al Ubayan, and her dam was *Sawannah, a Bahraini mare. The Kellys imported *Sawannah (with *Hadriya in-utero) in 1954.