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 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 received 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.
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."
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
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.
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."
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
Notes from Lady Anne Blunt's manuscript studbook.
Breeding records published in The General Stud
"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