Copyright 1990 by MICHAEL BOWLING
used by permission of Michael Bowling
published in Arabian Visions Oct 1990
Those of us who study the historical Arabians are always looking to expand the range of knowledge: for foundation stock there’s documentation of origin to pursue; one always hopes they and their progeny might have been the subject of a contemporary photograph or written comment which has been preserved. Some of us particularly value photos as an aid to making the old horses more “real,” even though we are well aware that interpreting such photos may be fraught with danger. As frustrating a situation as we can find ourselves in, is having an old photo of Arabian horses in which individuals are not identified. Fortunately, when a photo’s provenance is clearly established, there are sources of information with which to compare its images.
There are many such photos to work with, within the Crabbet canon alone; this discussion will center on one which Lady Wentworth used on page 27 of her 1924 Crabbet Stud Catalogue, and captioned, “Mares at Grass.” As luck would have it, there is an original Rouch print of this photo in the Brown collection at the Arabian Horse Owner’s Foundation, presumably one of the items W.R. Brown recieved from Spencer Borden when he bought out Borden’s Interlachen Stud. The Brown print is labeled “Arab mares at Crabbet – 1913” in what appears to be Lady Anne Blunt’s handwriting: Spencer Borden corresponded extensively with Lady Anne. This original print is of course much clearer and sharper than the reproduction in the Catalogue. The photo, which accompanies this article, shows five mares without foals; one group of four is in the foreground, two of them facing the camera and two looking away; a fifth is some distance behind them to the right.
One obvious resource for identifying horses in old photos, is to ask someone who might have been there at the time. I had the good fortune to be present nearly 13 years ago, when the late Lady Anne Lytton identified the foreground mares as Riada, Rose of Hind, Kibla and Risala. Either Lady Anne did not identify the mare on the right, or I did not remember the identification long enough to make a note of it.
The mares are in slick coat and at least four of them are in high condition; they are swishing flies, the trees are in full leaf and the pasture fairly short, all suggesting mid to late summer as the time the photo was taken. The foreground mares all appear to be in the prime of life, while the mare at the right is down in the back, has a big left knee and, under magnification, shows possible scars on her left cheek and point of hip. The mark on the cheek is ambiguous and may be a flaw in the negative, though it seems a lot to ask that such a flaw should accidentally fall in this position.
This photo clearly seems to show a group of dry mares on pasture in the summer of 1913; none of the mares named by Lady Anne Lytton has a 1913 foal in The General Stud Book (GSB). Known photos of Rose of Hind and Risala are consistent with the markings visible on the two mares facing away from the camera, and this pose of head and neck seems to be characteristic of Risala in other pictures. It is more difficult to be certain about a grey mare; Balis, Belkis and Bukra all were Crabbet (as opposed to Newbuildings) mares of the appropriate vintage, and all were barren in 1913. As a first approximation, I see no reason not to think Lady Anne had it right, and a photo of Kibla as a yearling seems consistent with this judgement, in terms of the general shape of her face and the distinctive cut of her nostrils.
The most interesting identification, from a historical standpoint, is that of the mare on the left as Riada. That 1904 brown daughter of Mesaoud and Rosemary had been Lady Anne Lytton’s favorite riding horse as a girl at Crabbet; the mare died of twisted gut in 1920 at age 16, and bred on into modern pedigrees through just one offspring, but that was Rayya by Rustem. Riada, in other words, was second dam of the internationally influential Kellogg sire *Raseyn, and this is her only known photo. Lady Anne certainly should have been able to recognize her favorite mare; if any confirmation be needed, Riada’s markings as recorded in Lady Anne Blunt’s manuscript studbook are, “near fore foot, narrow blaze like prolonged star, & spot between nostrils.” That fits this dark mare to a “T.”
That leaves the mare in the background. Comparing the original print with the version in the Catalogue suggests that, for publication, Lady Wentworth retouched the scarred cheek to show a white marking running up from under the mare’s chin. This apparent marking confuses the issue, as it calls to mind the distinctive face marking of Amida, and suggests that this mare might have been her dam Ajramieh, described by Lady Anne Blunt as having a “blaze all over muzzle.” Ajramieh would have been at Newbuildings in 1913 (this was during the partition phase of the Crabbet story), and furthermore possessed leg markings which should have been visible here. Peter Upton recently published a photo of Ajramieh (Arab Horse Society News. Winter 1989), which shows a different mare from this one, and confirms her leg markings.
I listed the Crabbet Stud’s producing mares in GSB between 1906-1916, just to get a base to start from; GSB does not distinguish between Crabbet and Newbuildings, but one can judge which half a mare was in by the sires to which she was bred. One way and another (the other candidates died, were sold, or disappeared from GSB before 1913; or their known markings don’t fit), the choices narrowed down to Abla, Betina, Kantara, Kasida, and Rahma. Abla, Kantara and Kasida all qualify on markings; the other two I can’t find markings on. All but one of these were producing to Newbuildings sires around this time, so were unlikely to have been photographed at Crabbet. Betina and Rahma were a generation or so younger than the rest of our group; Kantara and Abla would have been 12 and 14 in 1913, which would have made them roughly the same age as Kibla and Risala, while our subject is clearly an older mare. Further, Kantara has a 1913 foal in GSB, so would not have been running out with the dry mares even if she had been at Crabbet.
Kasida was definitely a Crabbet mare, and in fact was one of Lady Anne Blunt’s personal favorites. She would have been 20 when photographed here, and according to Peter Upton (The Arab Horse, p. 147) “aged before her time… was shot September 12, 1913.” There is a look of other Kasida photos in this mare, about the eyes and in the awkward conformation. I sent an enlarged copy photo to the Baker Street Irregular, R. J. Cadranell, who pointed out the “pale mane” referred to in Kasida’s published description and visible in her other photos. Based on this and other resemblances to known Kasida photos, and on his reconstruction of Crabbet history, he wrote “I’ve convinced myself that the mare in the photo you sent could not be other then Kasida.”
Thus it is possible, by combining sources, to go from “Mares at Grass” to a photographic record of Riada (Mesaoud x Rosemary), age 9; Rose of Hind (Rejeb x Rose Diamond), age 11; Kibla (Mesaoud x Makbula II) and Risala (Mesaoud x Ridaa), both 13; and Kasida (Nasr I x Makbula II), age 20. All five of these mares are widely represented in modern pedigrees and their photo should be of great interest to many students of the breed.
- Crabbet Stud Catalogue, 1924.
- W.R.Brown photo collection, in possession of the Arabian Horse Owners’ Foundation
- Personal communication from Lady Anne Lytton, daughter of Lady Wentworth, and granddaughter of Wilfrid and Lady Anne Blunt.
- Notes from Lady Anne Blunt’s manuscript studbook.
- Breeding records published in The General Stud Book (GSB)
- “‘Worth a King’s Ransom’ — Queen of Sheba,” by Peter Upton (Arab Horse Society News No. 73, Winter 1989).
- The Arab Horse, by Peter Upton (Crowood Press 1989).