Words by Cheryl Richards-Healion
It was 29 June and, with the heaviest of hearts, the day I made the inevitable decision to say goodbye to a very special mare… Indeed, a horse of a lifetime, my much loved, treasured and precious ‘Pompi’.
Amira Kastanah, as her name implied, was truly a ’chestnut princess.’ Foaled in May 1997 she was sired by the ever great and influential straight Egyptian stallion Crusader (Salaa el Dine x AK Kastana) and out of Sushi (ex Sappho), a petite daughter of Maleik el Kheil (El Shaklan x Muneera) with a splash of old Court House Crabbet lines. Pompi was the epitome of a successful recipe of Lodge Farm breeding, which her breeder, the late Mrs Jean Oppe, bestowed upon herself to achieve. Crusader, Reserve World Champion in 1994 and 1995 and double British National Champion, was bred to a harem of Maleik el Kheil daughters with rewarding results for the Maxwell family. Amira Kastanah, christened ‘Pompi’ by my young son Alex, was purchased as a weanling from Mark Gamlin. It was love at first sight; exquisite as a foal, Pompi was destined to become my foundation mare and the queen of Barland Arabians.
|Amira Kastanah claiming her BNC title 1998.
As her registration was still pending, I decided to write to the Arab Horse Society to request permission to change her name. I felt that an Arabic name with relevance was more meaningful for such a special filly. Nevertheless, as old folklore predicts, the bad luck that followed came tenfold. A month later, my precious pride and joy took a tumble while playing in her paddock. A hairline split in the patella was diagnosed. I was distraught; all my plans and hopes for the forthcoming show season instantly disintegrated to be replaced by months of box rest. I can remember my vet advising me to keep her calm and quiet. That was no mean feat on a busy yard I can tell you! As the months passed, Pompi made a surprisingly quick and complete recovery. Driven on by her will to be well, I made it my goal to train and produce her for her first show, the British National Championships at Malvern. That debut show turned out to be a most unforgettable one moment in a lifetime.
I held my breath as she entered the ring. A vision of sheer beauty, her flaxen mane and tail luminous in the sunshine against her iridescent chestnut coat. She looked amazing and she knew it. My yearling filly, partnered by Mark Gamlin, claimed the title of Junior Female British National Champion 1998. I was ecstatic, I couldn’t believe it was real. What an achievement for one so young, and at her first show too.
In 2004, the straight Egyptian German National Champion Stallion GR Amaretto (ex Halim’s Asmara) arrived in the United Kingdom. Owned and bred by Erwin and Annette Escher, this exotic Classic Shadwan (Alidaar x Shagia bint Shadwan) son was to be leased by Delyth Gamlin at her Peakland Arabian Stud. Not wanting to miss out on such an opportunity, ‘Pompi’ met her first husband and was soon scanned in foal. The following May, we welcomed a gorgeous, extreme and very refined grey filly into our world. I named her Sanaa CR. She was her mother’s daughter in many ways, not least in that she followed in her mother’s footsteps to the letter. Under Mark’s handling, Sanaa CR would also win convincingly at her showing debut at the Midland Festival C show in 2006.
|Sayyad – Reserve Reserve B.N.C. Junior Gelding 2011
It was April 2009, before I helped deliver the first son born to Amira Kastanah, a tall and pretty colt foal sired by a young stallion dear to my heart, the very successful Orion OS (Om el Bahreyn x Vetla), owned and bred by Jane Fraser Brown. Pompi’s first son was named Sayyad and, as family tradition dictates, he too went on to win his first showing class, this time in the capable hands of Stephen McCormick. Sayyad looked superb as he claimed his red ribbons at the head of the yearling colt line-up at the 2010 Classic C show. He was also Reserve in the Championship. Later that year, he claimed a third place at the British National Championships in a strong yearling colt class of 16 contenders. Sayyad was gelded the following year and claimed his in-hand Reserve Reserve British National Junior Gelding title at Malvern 2011. In March 2012 Sayyad was sold as a future ridden prospect to Karen Johnson. He has gone from strength to strength under saddle partnered by Clare Fitch, qualifying for the Horse of the Year Show, and was the 2016 HAPPIE Scheme Champion.
Pompi had a freak accident out in the paddock a few years ago, severely damaging the top of her splint bone. The consequences were tenfold and over time it became her ruin. I would have been so proud, it would have been a celebration to have shown her as a veteran mare, but it was never meant to be.
Amira Kastanah was a much-loved treasure, the best mother to her offspring and most of all, she was my friend. It was my privilege to have owned her during her lifetime. She lies at rest in her paddock in her favourite place, she is missed by us all.
Amira Kastanah, my chestnut princess and definitely a horse of lifetime.
|.Amira Kastanah 1998
Somewhere in time’s own space
There must be some sweet pastured place
Where creeks sing on and tall trees grow
Some paradise where horses go
For by the love that guides my pen
I know great horses live again…