In The Arabian Breeders’ Magazine in June 2021, we ran the story behind the sensational stallion IBN Farid (RFI Farid x Asawir by Marajj). We are sharing this feature on TheArabianMagazine.Com – if you would like to buy the original magazine , please click on the link above.
All is quiet. Only the high-pitched screech of a desert fox and the gentle sway of the palms rustling in the cool night breeze cuts the silence. Then, in the distance, a nicker from a mare welcoming her new-born foal into the world. A foal that is on his way to change history. Hidden within the grandeur of the palace walls in Sharjah, safeguarding their most precious of treasures, you will find the elite group of Arabian horses of the Al Qasimi Stables.
The Ruler of Sharjah is His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, someone who can only be described as the most magnificent of men. He is the 18th ruler of Sharjah in a lineage of succession of Al Qasimi’s dating back to the 1600s. Highly educated, His Highness has a double doctorate with distinction of History and Political Geography of the Gulf. His love affair with the Arabian horse started before he was born through the natural bonds between Bedouins and their beloved horses scripted in the Quran. However, it was at university in Cairo as a young man while studying agriculture where His Highness developed his interest in the pureness of the Arabian horse when he visited the paddocks at the Egyptian Agricultural Organization. This is the place that sparked an interest in Egyptian Arabian horses, a passion that led him on a worldwide travels, just as any scholar would do to learn, study and educate himself on these fabled animals.
His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi with the Egyptian mare Kahielat Khalid (Al Adeed al Shaqab x Deserree). Credit Scott Trees
Upon returning to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), His Highness took up the reigns as the new ruler of Sharjah, once the bustling epicentre of the United Arab Emirates and the 1998 UNESCO Cultural Capital of the Arab World. With his own better understanding of Arabian bloodlines, a small stud farm was created by seeking horses to re-establish the UAE with these jewels of the desert. Some horses that came into or were bred at Al Qasimi Stables were gifted to other breeders, and this was a source of extreme happiness for His Highness whose aim has always been to try and help to improve the nation’s breeding programmes, not just his own. These gifts have gone onto start dynasties, not only in the UAE, but across the world. His Highness feels that: “We are not the owners but caretakers of these wonderful animals and out of valued respect, I have gifted many horses to their new owners.” Offering his stallions free of charge, as dictated by the religious writings of Islam, to upgrade the country’s stock, and Sharjah soon became a part of the backbone of the Arabian horse breeding world in the UAE. These unselfish acts are typical of His Highness and have made Al Qasimi Stables loved and respected throughout the region. Often, gifted horses would beat his own in the show-ring, but it is His Highness who is the true winner as a breeding and progenitor of his much-loved breed. He was once quoted as saying that his “joy comes through the happiness of others”. These are the words of a natural born ruler.
The first straight Egyptian stallion His Highness imported was the black Fahim Hisan (Bahim Hisan x Nagiba by Ibn al Hassan), bred by the Marshalls of Glennloch Farms. He was imported with a select group of mares, and the wheels were set in motion.
Farid Nile Moon. Credit Erwin Escher
In time, the phenomenon that was Farid Nile Moon (Anaza el Farid x GA Moon Tajhalima by Imperial Imperor) and US Egyptian Event Champion Mare Deserree (Thee Desperado x PH Maroufina by RG Gabriel) would arrive. They were followed by Belbowrie Obsidian (Imperial Maakir x The Nile Rose by The Minstril), a black straight Egyptian stallion bred in Australia. Later still came a collection of Ansata horses including Ansata Malik Shah (Ansata Hejazi x Ansata Malaka by Ansata Halim Shah) to further His Highness’ vision. There has always been a successful straight Egyptian programme running alongside the blended bloodlines at Al Qasimi Stables, but I digress.
At the first ever National Arabian Horse Show in 1996, held in the UAE’s capital of Abu Dhabi, all those years of steadfast devotion were rewarded with both the Senior and the Foal Championships going back to Sharjah with horses belonging to His Highness. The foal title was awarded to Futnah (Mahabi el Shaklan x Khulduna el Assuad by Joka-Tuam) while the ethereal mare Esta Shama (Ibn Estasha x Sadika by Saudi). The dynamic El Shaklan son, Mahabi el Shaklan (El Shaklan x Mohara by Shaker el Masri), who was no stranger to show-ring success, took the stallion title. The quiet selection made by His Highness was now beginning to make some noise.
His Highness spent many wonderful summers in the English countryside and attending a few shows, talking to the locals in his unassuming, eager way. He quickly recognised and sought out the horses that caught his eye. The Needham’s of Rosthwaite Arabians were definitely one of the big gamers that brought so much international success to England with their European style of horses. Tall, white, beautiful horses with tails high in the air and magnificent movers, they conquered show-rings from UK to Europe and even the Middle East. With them, a new era had arrived at the English shores.
Om El Azadik (Sanadik El Shaklan x CH Azhnaba). Credit Sweet Photography.
His Highness liked this type of horse, and he was particularly mesmerised by the progeny from the mare Warandes Estopa (Ibn Estasha x Warandes Hindia by Hindi) when she had been bred with the stallion Om el Azadik (Sanadik el Shaklan x CH Azhnaba by AZH Naborr). Upon hearing of the news that Rosthwaite Arabians was to close its doors, His Highness managed to secure his dream and purchased both Warandes Estopa together with her stablemate Om el Azadik, and the palace welcomed them with open arms. By then, Warandes Estopa was not a young mare, but His Highness was so empathic that even if she only produced him one daughter, he would be happy. As the saying goes, if you want something badly enough, it will happen, and her two daughters, both sired by Om el Azadik, were some of the best in the UAE with the ever-gorgeous mares, the 1999 Moneat Annafs and the 2000 El Badeah. Both were huge winners in their day and they have continued to produce champions.
It was a small conversation with one of the UK’s old school, Angus Bancroft, that His Highness mentioned his love and success of his Needham-bred horses. Sadly, Esta Shama who had been selected as one of the first foundation mares, had failed to produce a foal and subsequently he did not have a member of her family to continue this precious bloodline. So, a visit was arranged to see a maternal half-sister, the one that got away. Sadisha (by Edykt by Eukaliptus) had been a highly decorated show mare in her time, and she is every bit the epitome of a classic Arabian mare. Snow white and fiery, with eyes as black as kohl and a classic Polish pedigree that has earnt respect and admiration around the globe. Sadisha had become available, and she was snapped up in an instant.
Sadisha (Edykt x Sadika). Credit Sweet Photography
Continuing his love of Egyptian horses and starting to refine his bloodlines and adding some more images from his youth, His Highness slowly started to look for a stallion reminiscent in style to the great Morafic (Nazeer x Mabrouka by Sid Abouhom). This was a stallion he greatly admired when he saw him in Egypt, and he was one of the group of people that were against his export to the United States. But then, by a twist of fate, his eyes were focused on the Salaa el Dine (Ansata Halim Shah x Hanan by Alaa el Din) son, Crusader (ex AK Kastana by Naibn Moniet out of Nadafi). Crusader was no stranger to glory and after his arrival to Sharjah, he roared his way to be crowned the 2002 National Champion Stallion as well as winning the Ridden Championship at the same show in Abu Dhabi, thus proving that these Arabians must be more than a pretty face. After much trepidation, Crusader’s first foal crop in Sharjah arrived and the dream to mix in a dash of the pure blood that had made His Highness starry-eyed as a young man in Egypt repaid him with stall after stall of beautiful foals. Thankfully, Sadisha proved to be much more fertile than her half-sister with her filly foal being the standout in the group. Nurjis was a consistent winner at the shows in Ajman, Sharjah, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, and Jordan.
Crusader (Salaa el Dine x AK Kastana). Credit Sweet Photography
Always one to help and support and encourage, it was a source of delight when His Highness’s family became more involved with the Arabian horse. His two nephews have gone onto become famous in their own right, Sheikh Mohammed Al Qasimi and his world-renowned Albidayer Stud and Sheikh Abdullah al Thani with Al Zobair Stud. Meanwhile, His Highness’ cousin, Sheikh Adullah Al Qasimi, set up the Emirates Stud. All three farms all important and impactful, and it was thanks to His Highness that they exist. When the wonder of Marwan al Shaqab (Gazal al Shaqab x Little Liza Fame by Fame VF) was starting to dominate the globe, a small breeder in America saved up his money to breed his mare to this sensational stallion in his first season in America, and the rest is magical history. Joel Desmarteau, not quite realising what he had bred but with much belief in the colt, sent him to Robin Hopkinson to be shown at Scottsdale. The colt was Marajj (RGA Kouress by Kouvay Bey out of Angophora) and the very moment he walked off the trailer, he set the showground alight with gossip of a new level of stardom found within the breed and people were in a frenzy to buy him. The very lucky person to acquire Marajj was a man I have so much respect for, Sheikh Mohammed, and Albidayer Stud as we know it was born.
Meanwhile, His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi imported a well-known stallion from America and bred his mares with confidence that the following year, a string of beauties would be born to further his dreams at Al Qasimi Stables. As with every breeder, there are high points and low points. Three foals were born the following spring with problems. They seemed uncoordinated and just not quite right. Sharjah Equine Hospital identified the problem as the genetic disorder Cerebellar Atrophy (CA), caused when both the stallion and the mare that are bred together carry what is a recessive gene that can result in either an affected foal, a carrier foal, and just a 25% chance, that a healthy foal that is not a carrier.
Nurjis (Crusader x Sadisha). Credit Al Qasimi Stables
Nurjis was one of the mothers of these foals and many eyes sadly watched as their condition began to deteriorate as the disease evolved. Desperate to try and do something, His Highness, through the Sharjah Equine Hospital that he was instrumental in creating a few years earlier, sought advice from one of the world’s leading vet of neurological studies in equines in America, Cecilia Penedo, working for UC Davies at the California State University. Constant correspondence was kept up with ongoing data being shared from Sharjah, but the heart-breaking decision was made to put down the foals. However, this was not in vain as their brains were sent to America for further examination. An in-depth investigation was conducted as, while they had seen foals like this before, the stallion owners never wanted anything done, but in the true grace of His Highness, he wanted to find the root problem and in turn shield people from the horrific events he had endured with his own foals. Thus, a test was discovered for CA.
With this newfound knowledge, the entire herd was tested along with horses belonging to the Ruler’s family. It was Albidayer manager, Dawn Martin, who first decided to announce that Marajj himself was a CA carrier and broke the boundaries of this disease. At this time, Nurjis was carrying a foal due to Marajj. However, after finding out with the recent tests that Nurjis was also a carrier, it was too late to rethink the breeding decisions and fate played her own generous hand in giving the world a filly, Asawir. At only hours old, a hair sample was on its way to America to be tested and everyone waited nervously, with no one letting themselves get too excited about this exquisite bundle. To everyone’s relief, the result came back as a CA Carrier, not affected like the last foal. A small moment to savour was had.
Asawir (Marajj x Nurjis). Credit Al Qasimi Stables
Meanwhile, Dr Ghanem Al Hajri, a man of great passion, was just a few miles away starting into Arabian horses with his Al Hawajer Stud. Seeking something different and away from the same old same sires, he made the Bronze World Champion RFI Farid (RFI Maktub x RFI Fayara el Shiraz by Shiraz el Jamaal) his choice to take the stud to the next level. CA Clear and blowing fire, with bold eyes and undeniable charisma, Dr Ghanem generously offered his new stallion to His Highness and he decided to breed Asawir, now a highly decorated show mare herself, to him for her first foal. And this is where we pick up the story…
In the distance, in the still of the night, there is a nicker from a mare, welcoming her new-born foal into the world. A foal that is on his way to change history. IBN Farid was always a star, very much in the style of his grandfather Marajj, and this vibrant bay colt foal had indisputable charm. He was shown was great success at his first few shows, and Al Qasimi Stables realised that great things were to come.
One morning, IBN Farid was playing in his usual exuberant style in the paddock and His Highness stopped and looked at him with a smile in his eyes. “So, this is the Asawir colt and who is the sire?” he asked. With pride, trainer Abdul Kader explained that it was RFI Farid. “He is a fine colt,” said His Highness. “Tell me, does Dr Ghanem have such a colt by his stallion in his stable?” “No,” came the reply. “Then please take this colt to him along with my best wishes,” His Highness responded.
IBN Farid (and lead photo). Credit Stuart Vesty.
With sad faces, IBN Farid was loaded into a horsebox and off he went to a much-delighted new owner to join Al Hawajer Stud. IBN Farid grew in stature and poise and became a familiar face, wearing garlands of roses, before a deal was struck and off he went to South Africa and EKS Arabians. There, Willie Brown had found his next step in his much-acclaimed breeding programme. His first foals hit the South African soil and they were so refined and elegant that breaths were gasped when people saw them. It was clear that IBN Farid was not only a show horse, but a genetic power source. With a handful of filly foals to continue the heritage, there was also a magnificent colt who was a near-perfect blend of his parents’ blood, EKS Farajj. He, too, would enter his name in history books, being out of the straight Egyptian mare EKS Bint Helwa (Laheeb x Helwah AA by Al Ayad), and he would join the Middle East’s elite at Al Khashab Stud, quickly creating waves of excitement winning championship titles, one after another. Firstly, in the city of Sharjah, where all eyes shone fondly on a member of the family, and then in Dubai before he went to dominate the arenas of Europe, finally wearing the World Championship Junior Male crown at the end of a very busy year. IBN Farid was now a revered sire of excellence.
Midcrest Farms in the United States had long since had a history of promoting stallions of exceptional quality and their horses have had a huge impact as not only great sires but dazzling show horses. These were horses that had wowed crowds of people all over the United States and they had bred some of the finest of the times. Preston Keeter had long been looking for some fresh blood to inject into America and to find that one horse of a lifetime just as his father had with Echo Magnifficoo (Aladdinn Echo x SS Magnolia by AN Magno), some years before. After many miles searching, Preston’s belief and heart set his sights on IBN Farid and the IBN Farid Partnership was established.
IBN Farid with Preston Keeter. Credit Stuart Vesty
So, this 2013 stallion said goodbye to the lush African plains and started his new journey once more but of course, with every ending of a chapter, one looks to whom created such a masterpiece. And there you will find a single man’s vision about a horse whose ancestry is written in the sands of time, in a book many millennia old, and this is where we find the creator. A creator who battled adversities, enabled a discovery of a now much used test in equine science, and watches contently as the world enjoys one of his gifts.
We applaud and thank the Ruler of Sharjah, His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, and the team at Al Qasimi Stables. With yet more foals hitting the ground and furthering peoples’ delight, the story of IBN Farid will slowly once again unveil itself on a new continent. For this is a story that is far from over.
For more features from The Arabian Breeders’ Magazine, click here.