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The Herd


by Debra Kay Schrishuhn, Joan L. Schleicher and Cheryl L. Fippen

Portrait of Lady Anne Blunt
During the last several years of his life, John Fippen spent hundreds of hours on the telephone and on the road, educating and exhorting Arab horse breeders everywhere in the service of the Heirloom herd. For more than six years since John's death, we have worked to further the vision of Heirloom by completing his book, Heirloom Egyptian Arabian Horses, 1840-2000. John's efforts continue through our publication, and we hope that it will inspire others to join in this important preservation work.

The book project has often felt like rolling a boulder up a mountain, and not only because of the challenges of putting together a finished manuscript. Due to the death of several major breeders in recent years and the dispersal of their stock, as well as the combined negative effects of the tax code and economy, it is increasingly difficult for many owners to afford the breeding and maintenance of horses. More importantly, it is evident that the numbers and gene pool of Heirloom horses are rapidly decreasing.

Less than half the total recorded Heirloom population figures in the living herd and its direct ancestors. Of 835 living horses listed in our records, 528 have no Heirloom progeny to date, including 34 horses over 22 years of age, and 50 animals born after 2000. Another 25 horses have produced Heirloom foals that either died or were gelded, leaving the current number of living horses with replacements at 282 (or 34 per cent), and 104 of those are represented by only one extant foal. Gone are the days when a mare would be bred annually to produce an array of foals with similar genetic heritage. As foals produced decrease in number, the choices made by breeders become proportionately more significant.

Of the recorded 33 taproot mares comprising nine strains, only five dam lines within three strains are extant. Never numerous, the rarest strain in Heirloom today is the Hadban-Inzihi descending from Venus (KDV). This family remains critically endangered with 13 living mares, of which only five have produced extant Heirloom foals.

After the Hadbans, the Saqlawi-Jidran (Ibn Ed-Derri) strain descending from Basilisk (BLT) is the most rare, with 47 living mares worldwide. Sixteen of these mares have Heirloom foals as of 2002, and five are just coming into breeding age. As this book project comes to a close, we have learned that three foals have been born in 2003, and at least one mare without Heirloom progeny to date is checked in foal for 2004 to carry forward these precious lines.

The Saqlawi-Jidran families through Ghazieh (AP) and Roga El Beda (APS) are shrinking in variety, with the loss of five entire branches in the 1990s and eight other branches that are represented by fewer than four living mares each. Our strain charts show many other Saqlawi families with bloodlines accessible only through sons of key mares.

The Dahman-Shahwan strain tracing in tail female to El Dahma (APS) is the most numerous dam line in the Heirloom herd with 329 representatives. Yet, of the 186 living Dahman mares, only 69 have produced Heirloom foals.

Historically, one out of every eight Heirloom colts is gelded, and half of all Heirloom stallions die without Heirloom progeny. Of our recorded sire lines, 14 have been lost, with three remaining in the living herd. The Saklawi I sire line is only transmitted through four of the 34 Heirloom sons of Nazeer (RAS).

Today the Jamil El Kebir sire line descends through three Ibn Rabdan (RAS) sons: *Fadl, Shahloul (RAS), and Hamdan (RAS). The *Fadl sire line is the most prolific, but the other two are almost extinct. Shahloul's sire line continues through three grandsons of *Tuhotmos, none of which have any Heirloom progeny to date. Only three direct male descendants of Hamdan (RAS) survive: Sadek is in Saudi Arabia with no Heirloom mares nearby; Mahtar has two Heirloom daughters, neither of which had been registered as of February 2002; Ibn Serag has no registered progeny as of that date.

The third sire line in Heirloom, descending from Zobeyni (AP) and transmitted only through two sons of Mesaoud (APS), is critically endangered with no more than 41 living intact male representatives. Of these stallions, 13 have sired progeny within Heirloom and ten have Heirloom sons to carry forward the Zobeyni sire line.

As we were finalizing the data for this book, at least 19 Heirloom horses died. Serabaar, the grand old gentleman of Heirloom Babsons, passed at the age of 32, leaving one son (Ibn Sabbah Bedu+/) and five registered grandget within Heirloom. Other venerable Babson horses passing in 2002 include Mahrouf, aged 30, a major sire at the Babson Farm with 40 Heirloom foals on the ground; Serr Beth, aged 27, one of the last Heirloom Babsons without *Maaroufa in her pedigree, leaving within Heirloom two daughters, four sons, and 14 grand-progeny to date; and Bint Roulena, aged 19, dam of six foals, all descending exclusively from the 1932 Babson importation.

With Ansata El Alim's death in early 2002, aged 31, only one Heirloom horse descended mainly from the Forbis importation remains alive, the lovely Glorieta Saafrana (KSB), residing in Kuwait with no Heirloom progeny yet. Alim is represented within Heirloom by two daughters, a grandson, and two great-grandget.

Another *Ansata Ibn Halima son, El Halimaar, died at age 22 last year. A prolific sire, El Halimaar was a 1983 U.S. Top Ten Futurity Stallion with multiple Class A championships to his credit. His three Heirloom sons carry his legacy into the next generation.

Two horses descending entirely from the fifty-year breeding program of the Doyle family died in 2002. Bint Bint Gulida 1977 mare, daughter of the great endurance mare Bint Gulida, leaves two daughters currently in production. Dib died at age 26, with three Heirloom sons to help continue the Zobeyni sire line.

Four horses bred by Richard Pritzlaff died in 2002. Alnaszr RSI, aged 27, left a son and three daughters extant within Heirloom. Nasr Surprise RSI, a 1980 mare, has nine Heirloom foals to her credit. Park champion Radahm RSI aged 30, son of two Pritzlaff imported horses, left behind four Heirloom get and two grandget. Permoniet RSI, a 1986 mare, was preceded in death by her only daughter, and both became sheradu. Other horses of Pritzlaff lines reported deceased since mid-2002 include Shikos Kazmeena, aged 26, having produced two Heirloom foals, and HA Shahnah 1981 mare and Gamila Bint Shiko 1978 mare, both passing without extant Heirloom progeny.

Several more recent deaths are not noted in the database or charts, including AK Bint Serra, Rashads Diamond, Masada Saafaana, and Jubilee Halima.

The news is not all bad, however. The market has been active. Many horses have changed hands in the past five years. In some cases our recorded owner information can only offer the interested reader a recent place to start looking for a given horse. Coinciding with this rapid change and expansion of ownership of Heirloom horses, many individuals and families have embarked on preservation programs using these unique animals. Often, these programs involve very few Heirloom horses, and the owners are as interested in training and developing their horses as performance animals as in using them for breeding. The new generation of Heirloom breeders brings fresh enthusiasm, energy, and dedication in equal measure with curiosity, creativity, and open minds. Under these circumstances, good communication among longtime and novice breeders is vital to the propagation of endangered bloodlines.

The Heirloom Research Group estimates that a birth rate of 35-40 foals per year is required to offset deaths, geldings, and decisions not to breed specific mares. In the years immediately preceding John Fippen's death, when he spent countless hours counseling other breeders, the number of Heirloom foals born rose to its highest levels ever, peaking at 79 births in 1997. In the years 1999-2001 (with incomplete data available for 2001), births have leveled off to a three-year average of 38, sufficient for maintenance of the current herd but with little room for catastrophe, financial insolvency, or poor management of the remaining population.

The strength of the historical Heirloom herd derives from four major factors:
  • the documented authenticity and provenance of the bloodstock at the group's base;

  • the practice of breeding mares for replacement foals before utilizing their genetic prepotency for outcross;

  • the use at stud of many stallions sparingly rather than concentrating on a few popular individuals, thereby promoting more genetic diversity than is usually found in populations of similar size;

  • the foresight, vision, and dedication of a group of breeders from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries who have persevered despite fads, pressures of the marketplace, and economic vicissitudes.
Our living herd, once a bottomless pool of potential, is now dwindling and threatened by external factors and is dependent on the actions of human caretakers for survival. Lady Anne Blunt recognized the urgency of this situation ninety years ago when she attempted to establish an institution to safeguard her horses. It is astonishing that her Heirloom herd still exists—a scant 850 horses—yet every one of them carries the seed of her vision for the future.

Now is the time to take our message to a broader audience, and to let our horses demonstrate their superb capabilities as performance competitors, as companion animals, and as resources for the renewal of the Arabian breed. With access to the comprehensive facts and research presented in this reference book, Heirloom advocates can make informed decisions in the selection and breeding of their stock. Thinking caps at the ready, our conscientious choices today and in the coming years will ensure that the century-old Heirloom Arabian Stud prospers.



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©2005 Elizabeth & Cheryl Fippen
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