Son of the Nobly Bred… Ibn Tirf
copyright 1990 by Joyce Gregorian Hampshire
Back in the mid 1980’s, the proportion of Al Khamsa horses in my herd was not so high as it is today. I started horse-breeding in the early 1970’s, with Welsh Ponies, and bought my first Arabian mare in 1975 with the royalties from my first novel. She was a dandy animal with much good blood in her, despite the non-Al Khamsa elements in her pedigree; she was a Saklawi descended from Bint Helwa the Broken-legged mare, and her sire, Zumirz, was a Kuhaylan-Haifi tracing to the Davenport mare, *Reshan. I treasure her blood still.
My first pure Al Khamsa horse was the 1960 Tripoli-Dharebah Davenport stallion, Janan Abinoam, who joined my family in 1978, and runs the farm to this day. One might say he opened the floodgates, since now at Upland Farm there are 41 Al Khamsa horses. 36 of whom are Davenports. The other five owe their presence to the influence of Ibn Tirf.
It must have been back around 1984, when I was trying to place my stallion, HMR Phario, in a new home, that I first heard of Tirf. Phario was one of those lovely dark bay horses bred by Howard Marks, who combined the blood of Gulustra and Hallany Mistanny with non-Al Khamsa elements, such as Tobruk. Phario had sired some nice foals for me, but I really wanted to find an Al Khamsa horse that would have, like him, a marked Saklawi appearance and that expressive “Gulastra” look. One afternoon, a lady called me from Virginia to discuss Phario’s availability, record and price; at the end of the conversation, in a very casual way, she said, “You know, we’ve got one of those ‘Doyle’ stallions down here.”
That lady never did buy anything from me, but I owe her a debt of gratitude, because she gave me the name and telephone number of the lady in West Virginia with “that Doyle stallion”. When she told me that his name was Ibn Tirf, I was able to look him up in the 1983 Al Khamsa directory, and my interest immediately blossomed.
In the 1983 Directory of Al Khamsa Arabians, Ibn Tirf was listed as ‘whereabouts unknown’. For my purposes, he was better than a straight “Doyle”, since his sire, bred by Charles Craver, was Sultan (a cross of the noted Egypt/Blunt stallion, Subani, on the beautiful Davenport Antez daughter, Antan). His dam was one of the great straight Egypt/Blunt brood-matrons bred by Dr. Doyle, Shillala, by Gulson out of Gulnara. I immediately asked his owner for pictures and in due course, I received a few fuzzy shots of a tough-looking chestnut stallion, with cute little ears and a wary expression. He had that Gulastra neck, however, the smooth curve from wither to throatlatch was accented by the typically heavy straight fall of silky mane.
I bought Tirf sight unseen and arranged for his pick up. His owner was gracious, but if a buyer had suddenly appeared from outer space, I do not think she could have been more amazed. She did inform me that the horse had received very little handling in his 12 years, and suffered from heaves. He lived outside year-round, and mares were put in with him for breeding.
At this same time I was buying a Davenport mare in Virginia, a young Oberon daughter, so I arranged with a good friend to use my brand-new truck to collect the two new acquisitions. My trailer was a step-up aluminum 2-horse, on which the first of 48 monthly payments had just been made. It was expensive and certainly looked well made.
Tirf was picked up first, and it was soon clear that his knowledge of handling was minimal. He couldn’t, or wouldn’t be touched on his sides. Brushing against the trailer partitions made him squeal and kick. By the time we had reached Richmond, the back door on his side was bowed out enough so that one could slip a few fingers between it and the jamb. But it still held.
Katja, the filly, was somewhat alarmed by her traveling companion (as well she might be), but they settled in well for the drive home. Tirf’s emphysema had caught up with him by the time we arrived; he practically fell out of the trailer onto his knees, coughing up heavy green mucus. My vet was not impressed by his condition. In fact, she advised me that he might not survive.
It took Tirf about a year to settle in and adjust to his new hayless diet of bran mash and alfalfa cubes. His breathing became regular and he put on weight; his coat slowly achieved the gloss it has never lost, a deeply burnished dark copper with discrete dapples. As his health returned, his vitality increased, and soon he was one of the stallions on every visitor’s ‘must see’ list.
I should point out that standing in his stall he is not especially impressive, curvy, muscular and usually wearing an expression of extreme disgust. (He lives in a row with ten stallions, none of whom are the least bit taken in by his posturing. Two, in fact, are considerably older than he and flaunt their seniority by virtually ignoring his rude remarks.) Tirf has exeptionally large nostrils, and his favorite way of looking annoyed is to draw them up so they seem to reach just below his eyes. This expression, coupled with flattened ears, gives him an “heraldic dragon” sort of look. The effort is ruined, however, when one of us grabs his strong little ears, levers them forward, pushes his nostrils back into shape and tells him to be nice.
The truth, of course, is that he is nice, easy to handle and is a gentleman to breed. It’s just that he wants so desperately to be considered wild and tough. Turned out, he puts on the best show on the place, standing up absolutely vertical, then launching into a powerful springy trot with the curve of his neck and that of his tail in exact harmony with each other. He is breathtaking.
Before Ibn Tirf came to live at Upland, he had sired one registered foal and several part-breds. I was told (but have not received confirmation of the fact), that one of his West Virginia babies is a winning Endurance horse. Given his bloodlines and personal vitality, I do not find this at all unlikely. The first mare Tirf bred at Upland, was Fred Mimmack‘s lovely Saklawi Davenport, Mae West (Kamil Ibn Salan x Maefah). His 1987 filly, Daisy Mae UF, is therefore bred in the Saklawi strain more than five generations.
Ibn Tirf had two more daughters born in 1989, the Al Khamsa filly, Iolanthe UF (x CH Fairy Flight, a Kuhaylan Davenport of pronounced Saklawi characteristics), and the CMK filly, Araba Chimera, (whose dam Kataali, one of my first and most beloved mares, is a non-Al Khamsa mare bred Saklawi in the strain; her sire Aalzar tracing to Bint Helwa and her dam Tsarou to Basilisk). Iolanthe greatly resembles Daisy Mae, like her a bold, strapping chestnut; wheras Chimera is a petite and winsome bay.
While my first loyalty is to my Davenport program, Ibn Tirf has had influence on my buying as well as on my breeding. The Saqlawi al-Abd (*Wadduda) filly, Jadiba (Dib x Jabinta), was bought for his future harem; an Al Khamsa filly combining “Doyle” Egypt/Blunt, Davenport and Hamidie Society bloodlines.
Tirf’s biggest adventure recently has been learning to be a riding horse. Because of his age, heaves, and lack of handling, I had not thought it worthwhile to bother him with training; but one of the girls who works for me fell in love with Tirf and began giving him special attention. After a few weeks she threw on an old western saddle, and started riding him around in a halter with reins attached. He was absolutely delighted. Now he has learned to carry a bit too, but even with just the halter he was perfectly obedient (if a little bouncy), when ridden in company with other stallions and mares.
It is hard to say what the future holds for Ibn Tirf. Physically, he is a springy, handsome 18-year-old stallion, green broke to ride with a few lovely fillies to his credit. In strain and pedigree he is a felicitous example of the complementary blend inherent in “Doyle” Egypt/Blunt and Davenport lines, a combination suggested by Carl Raswan both in The Arab and His Horse, and in The Index. His problem is that he lives on a farm filled with Davenport horses and dedicated to their breeding. In short, there is too much competition for Ibn Tirf to be showcased in the way he deserves.
Still, at Upland we are all grateful for his presence. His beauty and nobility have won many new friends for the Al Khamsa horse, and in the years to come the “Doyle” Egypt/Blunt component in our breeding, as it slowly increases, will be Ibn Tirf’s ultimate legacy.
Despite any past or present offices held in Al Khamsa, Inc., by the authors, the views expressed in this article are the personal views of the present authors, and do not represent any offical policy of Al Khamsa, Inc..