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Royal Heritage – the story of Jordan’s Arab Horses

Royal Heritage

 

Who better to write a book about the origins and history of the arabian horse in Jordan than HRH Princess Alia, the eldest daughter of the late King Hussein, and noted artist and author Peter Upton?

Medina Publishing, July 2011
210 x 218 mm Portrait, 264pp hardcover, cloth bound
RRP £35 – Buy now
ISBN: 978-0-9564170-4-6

 

Both need no introduction to the arabian horse world – indeed, they hold various important positions in the arabian and horse worlds, and, closer to home, are both patrons of the New Zealand Arab Horse Breeders Society.

Following the foreword by her sister, FEI President Princess Haya, and some background on the history of the nation of Jordan by Prince Rashid Al Hassan, Princess Alia takes us into the world of Jordan’s Royal Stables.

In settling on a format for the book, Princess Alia decided to write about her memories and experiences in her own words, thus avoiding what can often be a dry chronological style. This has been successful as her resulting section “The Story so Far”, is an engrossing read. It’s not just names and pedigrees, as is so often the case in a “breed” book.

So Royal Heritage is part personal memoir and part history – and told in a most readable and fascinating way.

The book is full of photographs – both historic and modern day – there is always at least one image per spread. The student of breeding and conformation will enjoy seeing the family’s personal collection of photographs of people and horses.

The beginnings of the Royal Stud and the arabian horse’s subsequent history in the region were not without drama. For example, at one time infusions of thoroughbred blood added by racing enthusiasts up to the mid 1980s proved “disastrous to the pure Arab horse and largely responsible for its near extinction in its homelands”, Alia writes.

Other dramas including death and revolution also shaped the stud, but it stayed true to its aims thanks to those dedicated to the preservation of the breed.

Stories of favourite and influential horses are retold, including Mehrez, Bahadur, Bahar, and there is the interesting story of the arabian mare Shamah, who was given to Ursula and Santiago Lopez. The couple, who worked at King Hussein’s Royal Stables for many years, were the most influential “outsiders” involved with the stud.

As well as the horses, there are anecdotes on the people who were involved with the Royal Stables over the years, famous and infamous visitors, and horses who were bought, gifted and received as gifts. Interestingly, these have included breeds other than arabian, including three Galiceno horses, appaloosas, and a couple of palomino “tanks”.

Princess Alia’s extensive section draws to a close telling of her involvement with horse sports in recent years, and an acknowledgement of the forces – horse and human – that have shaped this book.

Peter Upton’s great knowledge of the arabian horse and the arabian people also shows through. In his shorter section, he looks at the breeding of the horses and the important bloodlines that have shaped the arabian in Jordan – and the breed overall.

A talented artist – not just of equine subjects – Upton also paints a picture in words of Jordan’s Hashemite kingdom, its struggles and triumphs, and its sought-after horses, from the early days in the 18th and 19th centuries when travellers came from far and wide in search of the arabian horse. These visitors included Lady Anne Blunt and her husband Wilfrid from England, Ali Pasha Sherif from Egypt, Prince Sherbatov and Count Stroganov from Russia, and representatives from Poland and Hungary.

As expected, Upton’s section is packed with both historic images and his own art work of the horses and the country.

Royal Heritage is not just a book for the arabian enthusiast – it also earns its place on the bookshelf of collectors of equine history.

Without the arabian, where would the horse world be?

 

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