Edward Troye (1808-1874) was well-known for his portraits of Thoroughbred horses, and is considered North America’s first important portrait and landscape painter. He accompanied horse breeder Alexander Keene Richards to Turkey and Syria where Troye documented his travels in search of Arabian horses to improve his Thoroughbred breeding stock.
by Mary Jane Parkinson
We think of Randolph Huntington, Spencer Borden, Homer Davenport, and others as early importers of Arabian horses, but Alexander Keene Richards imported them as much as half a century earlier.
Mr. Richards (usually known as A. Keene Richards) lived the life of a wealthy, respected, well educated, well-spoken, and successful Thoroughbred breeder at Blue Grass Park, his farm near Georgetown, Kentucky. He was not one to sit and rock on the front porch of his home and contemplate the blue grass.
His curiosity had him puzzling about the long-term influence of Arabian blood on the Thoroughbred and, in 1851, he hied himself off to Europe to get some first-hand answers. In England particularly he studied the use of Arabian stallions (the Darley, the Byerley, and the Godolphin) on English mares. Through his studies, he found the current English horses to be sadly in need of a new infusion of Arabian blood. With that insight, and his study of horses in several other European and Asian countries and Egypt, Richards determined to go on to the desert to see for himself the quality of desert-bred Arabians that might be obtained. With that trip he became the first American to travel to the desert for the purpose of buying Arabians. The journey went fairly well until Richards and his fellow travelers arrived in Syria. There Richards became ill, delaying the trip by several months.
In the desert, Richards bought two Arabian stallions, Mokhladi and Massoud, and a mare Sadah. He trained a dromedary to saddle for his personal mount and, for fun and recreation, frequently competed in the local camel races. Back home, he carefully chose his top Thoroughbred mares to breed to Mokhladi and Massoud. The mares produced show winners, beating Thoroughbreds in yearling competition, but later on they did not show the improvement he hoped for in racing speed. He also bred Mokhladi to Sadah, thus becoming the first American breeder of purebred Arabians — with the smallest possible breeding program.
Almost as soon as his imports arrived at Blue Grass Park, Mr. Richards began planning a second visit to the desert. This time (1855) he took with him his cousin Morris Richards and an artist friend Edward Troye so that Troye might create paintings of the desert scenes and, with his knowledge of equine anatomy, aid in selecting animals for purchase. Richards’ two-year-long planning period did not assure success. The Syrian servant Yusef Bedra who was to serve as a guide and interpreter in the desert became suddenly ill and died. That meant a delay as Richards was dependent on the young man to negotiate with the desert sheikhs. So Richards and his fellow travelers spent some months learning the Arabic language.
In Damascus, Richards contacted Sheikh Midjuel el Mezrab of the Anazeh tribe. The sheikh was married to Lady Jane Digby of England (Lady Ellenborough), and when Lady Anne Blunt and her husband Wilfrid Scawen Blunt traveled that area several decades later, they were guests at the sheikh’s luxurious home. Sheikh Midjuel escorted the Richards party on to Palmyra, a distance of about 150 miles, and somehow managed to avoid contact with the Shammar tribe with which he was currently feuding, probably thereby saving his head. In Egypt, Richards saved a different kind of head — the mummified head of a former Egyptian queen.
This time, Richards brought back from the desert two stallions, a colt, a mare, and two dromedaries. He began to hear some praise for his efforts, but generally Arabians in the United States were not well known for their versatility and usefulness during those years, and they had to prove themselves.
Then there began the rumbles that threatened a civil war in the United States. In 1861 the battles began. “Damnyankees at the gate.” Richards joined the Confederate Army, attained the rank of an officer, and fought at the battle of Shiloh.
Blue Grass Park was damaged if not destroyed, and the horses were sold, some at public auction. Although some considered Richards’ experiment a failure, others believed he was justified in his Arabian enterprise. But it was too close in time, both in years and in horse generations for it to be fairly evaluated.
Richards died at Blue Grass Park in January 1881, age 54. He’d spent his fortune on his horse breeding experiments, but through those experiments, he’d provided examples for future breeders — examples that later led to the popular use of Arabian blood to benefit other breeds.
Here are some bits of wisdom and some observations of A. Keene Richards’s life and adventures.
Having inherited a love and admiration for the horse, and a desire to possess the highest bred and noblest type of his race, I determined to examine for myself the most authentic history of the horse and, without prejudice, select from the stock I preferred — whether it might be at home or abroad — from the aristocratic paddocks of England, the mountains of Morocco, the sandy plains of the Sahara, or the rocky deserts of Arabia. — A. Keene Richards
Mr. Richards, as you suppose, was a well-informed and traveled gentleman, with pleasant manners, and a fine conversation. At his death, he left a widow, and three daughters. Two daughters married. — Mr. Richards’ cousin Morris Richards who was a part of the second journey to the desert.
Faithful portraits of three of my stallions are introduced in this pamphlet and, those who are judges of form, can see for themselves and compare their opinions with other importations. The portraits are photographed by Elrod of Lexington, Kentucky, from sketches by that eminent artist Edward Troye. The proportions are strictly correct, and anyone who has the curiosity, may measure the comparative points with any Thoroughbred of known merit. The height of each horse is given accurately, and not in the usual way of measuring part of the stallion’s neck for his height.
— A. Keene Richards, in an introduction to the 1857 pamphlet he produced entitled, “A. Keene Richards’ Arabian Horses Moklhadi, Massoud, and Sacklowie.”
… a gentleman of romantic history, Keene Richards, Esq. — The 1883 description of Richards by a fellow Kentucky breeder, on inspection of a later generation of the Richards imports.
Mr. Richards’ stock looks well and is generally of fine size and sound, and if he fails to get a winner, he has a horse that will command a good price for any purpose. — A visitor to Blue Grass Park after the second importation.
by Denise Hearst
There were a lot of thrilling moments at Scottsdale this year, but perhaps none as momentous as when the feminine grey yearling filly sold for $1.55 million to Pat Dempsey of Lady Lake, Florida, at the Marquise Invitational Auction.
Pat was bidding against several people, not least, Middle Eastern Sheikhs who no doubt thought she’d fold. When the gavel fell, a wave of excitement swept the room. And there were tears, too, from the filly’s consigner, Janina Merz, who, with her late mother, Sigi Siller, bred the filly.
Om El Erodite out of Om El Excella, attracted loads of pre-sale interest. Here was a multi-generation Om El Arab-bred filly on her dam’s side, sired by an outcross — the European sensation EKS Alihandro, who is undefeated in his career. The combination of the Om El type with the dazzling showring presence of Alihandro turned out to be magical.
We asked Pat how she found the steely resolve to pursue the filly to any lengths.
“A week before the sale, my trainer Ted Carson asked me to go see her. There were about 10 of us there for the showing. She was turned loose and she came right up to me and told me who she was.
“I knew there was strong international interest, and I received offers from some of those same people for my filly Beloved Gracious Lady (Bey Ambition x AP Sheez Sassy), who was high scoring yearling filly at Nationals last year.”
Pat has turned down those offers, and here’s why: “We need to build self-esteem for our own Arabian breeding programs,” she says. “Our horses are paying the price. How are we going to have depth in our classes if we sell our best?
“Everyone should read Arabian Horse World’s January 2017 issue editorial, ‘Make Halter Great Again,’ by Cindy Reich, on page 142. If everyone reads and understands that article, they can decide what to do about it. When a horse can walk along the rail and be a 15 or 16, and then stand up and have a 19.5 topline, you know that halter has become a performance class.
“We have to reform by going forward in a strong way. When you know what’s wrong and don’t improve it, whose fault is it? Until we have a basic understanding of where we are, we can’t improve. That article lays it out perfectly.”
But back to the auction. The week before, Pat got a pre-purchase exam done, and lined up insurance. She and Ted agreed that he would do the bidding, but that he wouldn’t start until Pat gave the signal: touching knees. That moment came at $900,000.
A well-known international breeder got in via a phone bid at $1.2 million, and several others were in also. “At one point Ted froze up,” says Pat. “We’d never talked about money. We hadn’t discussed a limit. I didn’t have a limit, but I hadn’t told Ted. That’s when I took over the bidding. I was so busy trying to figure out where the bid was — it was going so fast — by $100K increments. So I slowed it down to $50K, and that’s how we ended up at $1.55 million. No one knew it would go that high.”
A few days later, Erodite, now known as “Mika,” had a good trip home to Ted Carson’s farm in White Oak, North Carolina, where she enjoys daily turnout with Beloveds One Blessing (Beloved One NA x Rohara Marcalyssa). Both are slated to go to Vegas, but Ted and Pat are taking things day by day.
“People told me that was one night our industry was united,” says Pat. “Some clients of Ted’s came to his barn the next day and said, ‘It was a real good jolt for all of us, and it was reassuring to feel like breeders are going to be rewarded for their efforts.’ I had never thought about the impact the sale would have on U.S. breeders. At the Dubai show a couple of weeks later, Ted heard comments such as, ‘The Americans had enough pride to keep her.’
“It was what I needed to do.”
Vol. 57, No. 7
on the cover: Expressamo (IXL Noble Express x Mystic Bey V by Huckleberry Bey), 2017 Scottsdale Champion Pleasure Driving, pictured with his best friend Kate Candelaria, at Sandman Inc., San Jose, California. Photo by Kelly Kenneally.
Cover Story: Expressamo
“He’s the best thing that happened to our barn, my daughter, and my grandchildren. These days, kids are so plugged into their phones and computers, it’s tough to get them outside in a healthy environment.” Meet the Scottsdale Champion that changed all that for one California family, by Gary Dearth
Scottsdale 2017 — The View from Center Ring, by Gary Dearth
Marquise Invitational Auction
Certainly an evening to remember, harkening back to the glitzy Lasma days when Hollywood stars and Arabian aficionados were one and the same.
Moments in Time: The Polish Pioneers
Let us return to a happier time, when Poland first emerged as a serious international contender, by Betty Finke
Horse Properties Across the Nation
Join us in Region 7 — Arizona, Nevada, and Utah — as we explore equestrian properties, by Wendy Tinker
Wadee Al Shaqab — The Legend Continues
Al Shaqab has achieved the near impossible, beaten the odds and produced not just one such horse, nor even two, but an entire dynasty of them, by Betty Finke
Zobeyni Sire Line Part 2 — Mahruss, Rijm, and the Unlikely Brothers
The second branch of Zobeyni’s line is just as extensive as that of Mesaoud, by Betty Finke
2017 Las Vegas Arabian Breeders World Cup Show Preview
You can’t help but feel a strong sense of togetherness as the lines between barns, trainers, and space blend together in this magical, four-day world.
Wit and Wisdom: Alexander Keene Richards
He found the current English horses to be sadly in need of a new infusion of Arabian blood. With that insight, and his study of horses, Richards determined to go on to the desert to see for himself, by Mary Jane Parkinson
From the Artists: Edward Troye
In Memory of Sundance Kid V
We say farewell to another great sire who in the last decade sired six U.S. National Western Pleasure Champions, by Gary Dearth
HH Sheikh Mansoor Festival Races at Sam Houston Race Park
Paddys Day impresses again with his Sheikh Zayad Cup win, as well as a classy win by Ruby AA at the Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship for amateur riders, by Steve Andersen
March Racing in Abu Dhabi — Featuring Five Stakes Races
“Mahbooba’s win has left us all enthusiastic about the rest of her career,” by Steve Andersen
Around the World
Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz International Arabian Horse Festival
Take a step into this 44,000-acre oasis and discover the extraordinary horses that emerged as Gold Champions, by Kristi Hopp
Thirty-third Punta del Este Arabian Horse Show
In one of the most charming and exclusive cities in the world, Arabians gather in the new center prepared especially for this event, by Gaston Labadie
Web Exclusives at www.arabianhorseworld.com
What In The World: Sold! To the Lady in Front!
When the gavel fell at $1.55 million, a wave of excitement filled the room, by Denise Hearst
Stud Farm Diaries: Rocking and Rolling,
Causes and treatments for enteroliths, by Cindy Reich
Map and Index
Arabian Horse World — Recordkeeper
Women of World in June
Las Vegas Arabian Breeders World Cup Coverage in June
Egyptian Arabians in May, August, and December