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Arabian breeder Bazy Tankersley dies at 91

Bazy Tankersley

Bazy Tankersley

Long-time US arabian horse breeder Bazy Tankersley has died at her home in Tucson, Arizona, at the age of 91.

Ruth “Bazy” McCormick Tankersley bought her first purebred Arabian horse when she was 19 and opened Al-Marah Arabians in her early 20s when she and her husband moved to Tucson in 1941. She was particularly dedicated to the Crabbet Arabian horse.

In the early days, she bought Indraff for $10,000. He was the first son of Arabian legend *Raffles (Skowronek x Rifala) and out of the Raseem daughter *Indaia.

In an interview, she said she had strict rules regarding the handling of her broodmares. “If a mare doesn’t produce better than herself, I don’t keep her. If she does, I still want to sell her when she is around 12, to keep her better daughters, and let her go do some good for somebody else.”

Of the arabian temperament, she said: “Disposition is undoubtedly inherited. I have a rule here, that I have to be able to walk in the stall of any stallion and put on a stable halter with no chain and lead that stallion out without any problem. If not, he is a gelding. I don’t care how good he is – because I think there is no excuse for an Arabian not to have a superb disposition.”

In the below video, about Tankersley and the Scottsdale Arabian Show, she said she wanted her horses to be very athletic, “so we concentrate on reining, cutting, and endurance and dressage.”

After later moving to Washington, DC, she served as publisher of the  family-owned Washington Times Herald from 1949-1954. In the 1950s she moved the ranch to Maryland, lived in the Washington DC area for 25 years, but returned to Tucson in the mid-1970s.

As well as being a renowned arabian horse breeder, Tankersley founded St. Gregory College Preparatory School and served as president of the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.

After the death of Britain’s Lady Wentworth of the famed Crabbet Stud in the late 1950s, Tankersley imported the largest single consignment of Arabians ever made from England.

In 2001, Tankersley bequeathed her 85-acre property at 4101 N. Bear Canyon Road to the University of Arizona.

Two books have been written about Tankersley and Al-Marah Arabians: “.. And ride away singing“, by Mary-Jane Parkinson, and “A field of Arabians“, by Suzanne and Jake Page.

She received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Arizona in 2004 in recognition of her contributions. She was a strong and generous supporter of the UA’s journalism department and of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, to the Southwest Center and to the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Tankersley was a supporter of therapeutic riding for children with disabilities, and also created a program to train young horse lovers.

“You see, I come from that old-fashioned background of noblesse oblige: If you’re born with money, you have an obligation to do good works for others,” Tankersley said in a biography. “Only in recent years did I come to feel that through Arabian horses I might do more for my fellows than in any other way.”

Tankersley was born in Chicago in 1921. Her father, Medill McCormick, was a US senator from Illinois and her mother, Ruth Hanna McCormick, was an Illinois congresswoman. Both parents were also in the newspaper industry.

She was four when her father committed suicide, and she spent parts of her childhood in New Mexico with her mother and stepfather, Albuquerque lawyer and banker Albert Gallatin Simms.

Tankersley’s uncle, Robert R. McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, appointed her publisher of the Washington Times-Herald. Tankersley wrote a column for the Tribune after the Times-Herald was purchased by the Washington Post in 1954.

After the paper was sold, she devoted herself to horses. She was one of the most prolific Arabian horse breeders in the country, with more than 2800 foals registered.

Tankersley’s first marriage, to Peter Miller, Jr, ended in divorce, and her husband of 35 years, Garvin E. Tankersley, died in 1997.

Tankersley, who had Parkinson’s disease, is survived by a son, Mark Miller of Orlando, Florida, and a daughter, Kristie Miller, of Washington, DC, a stepson and stepdaughter, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Her younger daughter, Tiffany Tankersley, died of a stroke in September 2012. Mark Miller started the Arabian Nights, a dinner theatre equestrian show in Kissimmee, Florida.

A memorial service for Tankersley is to be held on February 25 at 1.30pm at St Alban’s Episcopal Church, 3738 N. Old Sabino Canyon Road.

In lieu of flowers donations to: Horse Tales Literacy Project, 3081 Arabian Nights Blvd, Kissimmee, FL 34747, St. Gregory College Preparatory School, 3231 N. Craycroft, Tucson, AZ 85712 or TROT, 8920 E Woodland Rd, Tucson, AZ 85749.

 

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