HomeBreeders' MagazineTouched by lightning: D Aziza

Touched by lightning: D Aziza

Some mares just take your breath away. Their beauty captivates, and their elegance enchants. D Aziza is one such horse, and I first fell under her spell when she was garlanded in gold on the beaches of Menton, a refined grey mare whose iridescent coat gleamed against the hot Mediterranean sunshine. A true breath-taking beauty, D Aziza is one of a very special group of mares at the heart of Hanaya Arabian Stud in Switzerland.

Cover star of The Arabian Breeders’ Magazine Volume VI Issue III
All photography unless stated Elisa Grassi

D Aziza
D Aziza

Founded by Nayla Hayek in 1975, Hanaya Arabian Stud is renowned for being a straight Egyptian breeding programme. However, Nayla has a deep-rooted love for all horses, breeding Quarter Horses at the farm since 1993, and over the years, she has developed a purebred breeding programme at Hanaya Arabian Stud. “This is my fun,” Nayla explains. “I enjoy going to the shows and seeing horses from other bloodlines, seeing what kind of Arabian horse moves other people. So, I have my show side and my preservation side, and I enjoy every moment.”

Having loved, and been around, horses all her life, – even her first pony had Arabian blood – Nayla’s first horse was an Anglo Arab mare. Her first purebred was a mare gifted to her from a Prince in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and although not a recognised Stud Book at that time, Nayla bred her first foals from this mare.

D Aziza
D Aziza

“I breed straight Egyptians as they are my favourite line,” explains Nayla. “One of my first mares came from El Zahraa Stud in Egypt, Kodwa (Shadwan x Alifa by Alaa el Din). Foaled in 1977, her bloodline was very old and important, a real treasure for any straight Egyptian breeder. The first time I saw her, it was as though lightning had struck me. I was with the Director, Dr Al-Marsafi, and Kodwa was just two years old. Dr Al-Marsafi knew what a special mare she was and was reluctant to sell her. However, I convinced him to do so, and she lived with me until the end of her days. She blessed me with many children, who are still in my programme today.”

Other significant mares for Nayla, especially in the early days of her programme, included Hebat Misr (Adeeb x Basant by Aseel), from the famous Farida (Saklawi II x Nadra el Saghira by Samhan) line from 100 years ago, and also the famed mare 218 Elf Layla Walayla (Assad x 223 Ibn Galal-I by Ibn Galal I) from Bábolna. “She had a colt foal at foot, the future significant show and breeding stallion, El Nabila B (by Kubinec by Balaton out of Kosmetika). As with so many of my horses, it was love at first sight with ‘Elf’. These lines live on in my programme, and I am very happy with the foals they produced for me. Elf blessed me with two daughters, foaled in 2010, Hanaya Elissar (by Nader al Jamal by Ansata Sinan out of Savannah CC) and Hanaya Habibtee (by El Khaled by Ansata Sinan out of Shahir’s Abriel).”

D Aziza
D Aziza. Credit SiR Photography

Alongside the straight Egyptian programme is a purebred breeding programme. “Most of my free time is dedicated to horses, so it is important for me to be able to follow my passion,” says Nayla. “While I love the straight Egyptian, and they will always be my focus, I also love the fun side of showing, and that is where the purebreds come in. There used to be many great shows for the straight Egyptians, such as the Egyptian Event Europe, but in recent years, this show scene has changed dramatically. It seems that no one really cares so much about it anymore, so I focus on showing the purebreds to get my ‘fix’’.”

Some of these purebred horses include the charismatic grey stallion HL el Ganador (HP Shakir TE x Lonco Baby Maria by HP Emir), bred by Haras Lonco in Chile, a multiple Gold Champion from Nayla’s first show with him, when he took the Gold Yearling Colt Championship at the 2017 Ajman Show. Then there is the beautiful mare, Wadad Zamani (Laheeb x Zena al Buraq by Al Manar), a straight Egyptian mare shining in open competition, with titles including Gold Senior Female Champion at this year’s Arabian Horse Weekend.

HL el Ganador

“I will always breed straight Egyptians, but I have been looking for some of the best Arabians in the world for many years now,” explains Nayla. “Hanaya Stud is the realisation of a lifelong dream, and spending time there is my way to relax away from work. With so many of my horses, I have an instant connection the moment I see them. And that was the case with D Aziza – another lightning strike.”

It was during the Mediterranean and Arab Countries Arabian Horse Championships in Menton in 2020 that Nayla and her trainer, Frank Spönle, first became aware of D Aziza, foaled in 2009. Because of COVID, they could not travel to the show and were instead watching on livestream. “From the moment D Aziza first came on the screen, it was the case of a love at first sight again,” says Nayla. “Bred by Dubai Arabian Stud and owned by ABHAA Stud in Kuwait, we just watched her, and she went on to take the Bronze Senior Female Championship. She was just this ethereal, fleabitten, beautiful, typey, and extreme faced mare. She took our breath away, but we did nothing about her, thinking that there was no way they would consider selling a mare such as this.

“Then, just a couple of months later, Elisa Grassi, Frank’s wife, was talking to Paolo Capecci, who trained and showed Aziza, and was told that she could be available. Well, I didn’t even blink! The deal was done, and Aziza arrived with us in autumn 2020. Simply speaking, if you can buy a mare like this, then you do. She is one of the most beautiful Arabian mares around today, and she has an amazing pedigree, meaning that we knew not only would she be successful in the show-ring, but would also make a great mare to breed from.”

D Aziza
D Aziza

In D Aziza’s case, the pedigree, bringing that je ne sais quoi, that all the great horses have, comes from a perfect blend of classic and modern lines. She is sired by Ajman Monisicone, one of the most famous sons of WH Justice (Magnum Psyche x Vona Sher-Renea by El Sher-mann), and out of Anthea Monisicone (Padrons Ghibli x Armonia by Aktszn). Ajman Monisicone is renowned for not only putting a pretty head on his progeny but also for his charisma and flamboyance in the show-ring, something he also passes on.

D Aziza’s dam is the classically bred Polish mare, Midnight Kiss J, a mare bred by Jadem Arabians, one of the oldest privately owned breeding farms in Europe along with Hanaya Stud. Midnight Kiss J is sired by Extreme (Ararat x Elegantkah by Gwizd), and out of Mauhiba (Ekstern x Starlight by Pegaz), and the cross of this mare with Ajman Monisicone resulted in a very smooth-bodied, huge-moving, correct mare, one with panache and attitude, and clearly Arabian in type.

D Aziz and Alsa
D Aziza and Alsa with Nayla. Credit SiR Photography

The following year, Nayla took D Aziza back to Menton for the 2021 Championships. There, she not only won her class in elegant style, but she was named Gold Senior Female Champion and would go on to take the Best in Show title. Making this win even more special was the fact that standing Bronze Senior Female Champion was another of Nayla’s mares, the Polish-bred Alsa (Kahil al Shaqab x Alameda by Wachlarz).

“This was a special moment for me,” smiles Nayla. “My horses mean a lot to me. They’re a very important part of my life and are like part of my family. To have this moment in Menton and to share it with these beautiful horses will stay with me for a very long time.”


Not only has D Aziza fulfilled any expectations of her inside the show-ring, at the start of this year, she foaled HA Bendito (by HL el Ganador), a very smart and showy colt. “The goal of every breeder is to breed the perfect Arabian horse,” says Nayla. “For me, one of the most important things is that my horses must have a loving, kind, and caring character.

HA Bendito (HL el Ganador x D Aziza)
HA Bendito 

“The best moments for me are when I see a new foal being born and realise that it fulfils all my hopes and dreams for that particular cross. Breeding is a slow process, from the idea of the cross to getting your mare in foal, and then waiting. That moment the foal arrives should be the best moment in the life of a breeder, and every foal born here at Hanaya Arabian Stud is special. The Arabian horse is our lifelong companion, just as they were in the days of the Bedouin, and we are truly blessed to spend our lives with them.”

D Aziza
D Aziza. Credit Credit Sylwia Iłenda

Find out more about Hanaya Stud here.

Click here to read more about our previous stars.


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