by Mary Jane Parkinson
Imagine the excitement and curiosity in a small farming town in southeast Iowa, when Dr. Joseph Lyman Doyle and his wife Ellen brought home their just-acquired Arabian mare in 1947. Probably, many of the inhabitants of Sigourney, Iowa, had never heard of an Arabian horse, much less seen one. In the 1940s, Arabians were thin on the ground, and now and then considered an oddity.
Before the purchase of the mare, Dr. Doyle, already an experienced horseman, studied endurance ride records and noted the high incidence of Arabian blood in the winners. He recalled the colorful reminiscences about Arabians of the cavalry officers with whom he served in World War II, and determined to buy a few Arabians for himself when he came home from the war.
The search to find an Arabian, much less buy one, took some months, but in fall 1949, the Doyles located Gulida (Gulastra x Valida by Ghawi), a 1939 chestnut mare, and brought her home — the cause for the curiosity in Sigourney. A bit later Gulida was trailered to Kansas to be bred to the Gulastra son Nusi (x Nusara by *Abu Zeyd). She produced Im Gulnar, a chestnut mare in 1951.
Now, Dr. Doyle needed a worthy sire for his program, so again the search was on. In Wyoming, he found Ghadaf (Ribal x Gulnare by *Rodan), a 1929 chestnut bred at Maynesboro Stud. After more than a year of the Doyle persuasive efforts, the owner agreed to sell, and Ghadaf joined the group at Sigourney. Now, Dr. Doyle had the basis for a unique breeding group in that all horses of Doyle breeding trace to these three horses: Gulida, Nusi, and Ghadaf. With those limitations, inbreeding was the only way to create a program. Dr. Doyle bred Ghadaf to his daughter, Gulida to a son, and Im Gulnar to Jadib, a son of Ghadaf. All three foundation horses traced in sire line to Zobeyni, a grey stallion foaled in the desert in 1844, and, in the ownership of Abbas Pasha I, destined to become the best known sire in Egypt.
Dr. and Ellen Doyle had four children (Kathleen, Susan, Frances, and Terrence), and ensured that the Arabians were a family interest. The Doyle children remember many evenings at the family dining table where they compiled pedigrees, and their father supplied details about each horse. The parents enjoyed long rides on the horses, and continued to study all aspects of the breed.
Dr. Doyle died in 1957, and Ellen knew exactly how to continue the program: use only horses produced in the Doyle program. Two months later, Ellen bred Jadib to his dam to produce Ibn Gulida, a stallion kept in the program. Seven of his foals were out of Bint Ghadaf, also a product of incest breeding.
But in 1958, Ellen tried an outcross: a Doyle mare bred to Henry Babson’s straight Egyptian stallion Fa-Serr (a son of *Fadl and *Bint Serra I, both imported by Henry Babson in 1932). This breeding produced Serg who became an important sire in the Doyle program. Another Doyle cross came through Richard Pritzlaff of Rancho San Ignacio in New Mexico. He bought the Doyle mare Rabanna (Rasik x Banna by *Nasr), specifically to be bred to Ghadaf. That mating produced John Doyle, a stallion noted for his free and extended shoulder action and his fine movement.
When Ellen Doyle died in 1972, the four Doyle children inherited the horses as she had specified. Terry and his wife Rosemary carry on the program at their ranch in Oregon. “I started out with a couple of mares, and through trial and error, I managed to get a few foals,” says Rosemary, who became chief breeder, feeder, and midwife of the Doyle mares. “When we moved to a larger property in 1990, I concentrated on breeding what horses I had and could acquire from others. It was touch-and-go as to whether the Doyle breeding would survive. Fortunately, it all worked.” Rosemary developed several outcrosses within the Doyle program. The senior Doyles’ niece Barbara Baird collected Doyle horses and built a respected program around them.
Soon enough, endurance riders discovered the Doyle horses. They still recall that Linda Tellington Jones rode Bint Gulida (Ghadaf x Gulida by Gulastra) in the 1961 Jim Shoulders Ride of 100 miles and finished five and a half hours ahead of the second place horse. And also won the title for best condition! Over the years, Bint Gulida and her descendants became worthy competitors in endurance riding. In the field of working cow horses, her son Cougar Rock sired many foals for Rush Creek Land and Livestock Company, a ranch noted for producing endurance-ready horses. A Doyle mare Maloof Hadiya (Parnell x Devlin by Omagh) was exported to England in the early 1990s and her sons did well in flat racing there.
A number of preservationist groups claim the Doyle horses as a valuable part of their interests and activities and although the Doyle horses are few in number, their owners develop great skill and pride in the breeding of the Doyle lines. Often to the envy of fellow breeders.
Here are some bits of wisdom from persons acquainted
with the Doyle Arabians.
“Zobeyni was probably the greatest of all stallions to come out of the desert. We have been able to produce horses that have 92 crosses to Zobeyni in 10 to 15 horse generations.” — Dr. Joseph Doyle
“Considering that the Doyle groups extend from only one mare and two closely related stallions that were used by Dr. Doyle more than half a century ago, and that the living members of the group display the characteristics he wanted to preserve, it is appropriate to acknowledge them now as a unique strain: ‘Saklawi Jedran Ibn Sudan of Doyle.’” — Joan Schleicher, Doyle breeder
“What sets the Doyles apart from the hundreds of thousands of other bloodlines? That the breeding program is still going after nearly 70 years. Many people said the Doyle horses were too inbred to survive, but the future looks bright for them.” — Rosemary Doyle
“The Doyles are admirable horses, but just try to acquire a Doyle! There are so few, and they are so appreciated by their owners. I searched for more than a year for a Doyle stallion and finally succeeded in buying Blarney (Ibn Gulida x Bint Ghadaf by Ghadaf), foaled in 1969. Blarney sired horses that were always ‘better’ than both parents and they were consistent in many ways.” — Joan Schleicher,
“The Bedouin ... would travel long distances and study for hours and days the true forward-reaching horses. Only this choice type of Arabian has the ‘reaching’ look because they are long, low, and rectangular, and have a perfect blending of harmonious and living lines that seem in continuous extension and forward motion without any abrupt changes between one part of the body and another, but rather one part of the body flows into the next all the way from the root of the tail to the tip of the muzzle. Of course the great length of the underline compared to the shorter top line has something to do with this fascinating feeling that a ‘reaching horse’ is always in advance (onward) of itself. Locomotion potential is maximum, manifested by the muscling on the inside and outside of the legs. There are tapering long muscles from the quarters into the gaskin and from the deep sloping shoulder into the forearm. The lines of the lower legs (tendons and cannons) are in a perfect parallel never meeting if extended upward to infinity.” — Dr. Joseph Doyle, 1955
“In the first place, Dr. Joseph Doyle was just a fascinating, wonderful person. He was about as much a romanticist as anyone that ever lived. He was also, I am sure, a scientist. He went about this systematically — hardly anyone does it that way. He found out about his horses to begin with and developed the initial foundation of his herd through a very close study of everything that had been written.” — Charles Craver, preservationist breeder