Words by Jane Roberts
I wasn’t looking for a colt, but the beautiful grey kept drawing me back. Just out of interest, I told myself, I checked out his pedigree – perfect! His dam, Athina El Jamaal (Maysoun x Athenais El Jamaal) – oh what a beautiful, beautiful mare…! In November 2012, Aryen joined us in the UK.
On his arrival, I remember commenting to my daughter Rhiannon that he made even our most beautiful mare, Chiya (Kerim Shah x GC Chanel), seem plain in comparison. He had an amazing neck, a good topline and hip, but the real icing on the cake was his temperament. Clever? He was the most intelligent horse ever, added to which he was eternally cheerful and bursting with life – if he was a person, you would have said he ‘filled the room’. He was also extremely playful and full of fun – and very, very easy going, so much so that we nicknamed him ‘The King of Cool’.
Aryen quickly established that he didn’t think much of a solitary lifestyle. His neighbours were a couple of younger colts, separated by electric fencing but that posed no obstacle to Aryen! I was amazed one day to see him fly over the fence to join his ‘friends’, forming a perfect bascule as he did so. It was a heart-stopping moment, but fun was all they wanted, and luckily that was just what they had! They all appeared happy, if a little tired, so from that time on, Aryen always had a companion, and was happier for it.
Obviously I was desperate to use him on my mares, who were all already in foal for the following year. We had breeding enquiries for some truly lovely mares, and Aryen was duly sent off for dummy training in the spring. Unfortunately, he sustained an injury that put him out of action for a while, and also meant I would not risk sending him away again. Without the required help and the experience needed to collect from him myself, sending out semen was impossible.
Just as my mares were starting to foal, my daughter Rhiannon became ill. She has suffered from Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis since she was a baby, which has largely been controlled by various drugs and steroid injections. This turned out to be her biggest ‘flare up’ for many years, and she deteriorated to the point that she could no longer walk and was wheelchair bound. Thoughts of breeding were the last thing on my mind as I watched her struggle and we searched for more treatments in an attempt to help her. Finally, towards the end of July, Rhiannon started to improve, and by the time of the British National Championships she could walk again – although the wheelchair was in the lorry just in case!
On our return home, we debated covering our mares but ultimately decided it was just too late in the year. Instead we planned to start covering early in 2014 – the idea being that we would then be able to show Chiya at the National Championships in her first year as a Veteran in 2015 with Aryen’s foal at foot. So, sadly only my leased mares were covered. Frustrating as it was, I reasoned that Aryen was only three – we had all the time in the world.
Tragically that was not to be. Just as my thoughts were turning to breeding in February 2014, my world was turned upside down when I found Aryen lying dead in his field. Just hours earlier, he had eaten his breakfast and bounded out across the field with his usual enthusiasm. There wasn’t a mark on him, no sweat, nothing. The shock was immense. I just remember screaming for my husband, unable to bear looking at my beautiful boy lying there, lifeless.
At the time, I couldn’t bear the thought of a post mortem. That was a huge mistake. My vet is convinced it had to be an aortic rupture, but even now I am still tortured wondering if I missed something, some little sign, that showed all was not well. All my hopes and dreams were wrapped up in that lovely grey package – there was not a day that went by where I didn’t pause, just for a moment, to take in his beauty. He filled my heart.
There followed a very dark time in my life, where I was ready to give up on Arabians, and gradually withdrew from my friends. The only people who had a real idea of my devastation were my husband and my friend Andrea Taylor of Tucana Arabians. She was wonderful, particularly through those first awful months, and I will never forget that.
After the first anniversary of Aryen’s death, I half-heartedly looked at a few colts. Lovely as they were, as Rhiannon kept saying – they ‘weren’t Aryen’. I knew that Aljassimya Farm at that time owned both Aryen’s sire and dam, and contacted Bart Van Buggenhout on the off chance that they might have something of similar breeding to Aryen available. And that is how Ali Aljassimya (Monther Al Nasser x Bint Alia Aljassimya) came into my life. There was a look in his eye that grabbed me instantly and reminded me of Aryen. And it is incredible how similar their characters are – the same cheerful, bright, love of life and humour that makes me laugh out loud every day. Once again there is a ‘presence’ in our stables. I am forever indebted to Sheikh Jassim, Bart and all at Aljassimya Farm for all their kindness and patience, and for giving me hope for the future once again.
Aryen was a breathtaking beauty. I still miss him every single day, mourn his loss, and wonder why he had to leave us. I will never forget him.
Run free and fast, my beautiful boy. You were one in a million. ARYEN