Category Archives: America

A Famous Desert horse from California

In November 2018 one of my many dreams came true. The opportunity to speak at the inaugural conference of the Equine History Collective also resulted in the long dreamed of visit to the Kellogg Arabian horse library and the W.K. Kellogg Arabian horse center in Pomona, California.  Most Arabian horse enthusiasts will have heard of the breeding program and the library but in general people know of this place because of one single horse: Jadaan (1916). The stallion that Rudolph Valentino rode in the 1926 movie The son of the Sheikh.

It was absolutely wonderful to learn about the story of this stallion during the conference, as several paper presentations included details about him. If you are not very familiar with his story you can read a bit more here.

The fact that the Kellogg Arabian horse library holds the saddle of  Jadaan made history tangible to me. It was very special to see how they created the supposedly Arab costume for the horse, while Valentino himself tried to distance himself a bit from the general stereotype of the Arab. It was an excellent illustration to the core argument of my own paper presentation: that the concept of the Arabian horse is heavily entangled in Orientalist culture production. Nevertheless, as an Arabian horse enthusiast myself, I was delighted to learn more about this exceptional stallion, who apparently drew thousands of visitors to his box at the Kellogg Ranch until his death in 1945.

A day after the conference, while roaming around Los Angeles with one of my fabulous hosts and dear friend  Dr. Kathryn Renton, we wandered into the Hollywood Forever cemetery and discovered that Jadaan’s influence on my trip to California wasn’t over yet. This cemetery is the final resting place of his rider! And the kisses on the plaque with Valentino’s name show that their legacy is ever present!

I choose to highlight Jadaan’s story here because perhaps we can see him as a famous desert horse as he was often pictured in the desert with Valentino.  But the Equine History Collective conference was full of amazing people who presented extremely well put together papers about horses and #Burro’s. Many of them about Arabian individuals as well. I was very impressed and please with the quality of the entire event and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire 10 days I spent in California. Many special thanks to Katrin Boniface for also hosting me and making it all possible for me!

As said, the visit to the Kellogg Arabian horse library and W.K. Arabian Horse Center was very special to me. Researching parts of the history of the Arabian horse, I had been dreaming of visiting the only Arabian Horse library in the world. And it was absolutely fabulous and everything that I had hoped for. I discovered a few very interesting things in the titles they pulled out for me and I felt like a little child in a candyshop. So much material! Now I can only dream of being able to visit once more in the future to continue the adventure of discovery.

Another person making my trip even more special was Jéanne Brooks, director of the W.K.Kellogg Arabian Horse Center.  Not only was I honoured to be part of the panel that she chaired during the conference, she also made my visit to the center one to never forget; I got to meet CP Khavalier (out of a Monogramm daughter)! She explained to us that they are still breeding according to the guidelines set out for them in the will of the late W.K. Kellogg.  Due to the bad weather in the days before the conference the Sunday show at the center had to be cancelled, but the chance to take a picture with a Kellogg Arabian made up for it!

Many thanks to everyone involved in the conference, my hosts, tour guides, roommate, fellow presenters and so many more! Many thanks to my academic buddies from across the world (you know who you are 😀 ) and all my other supporters, you all have made sure that my trip to California was a tremendous success!


An Arab Stallion’s reputation

Marwan Abusoud is a Palestinian breeder based in Texas, born  with a great passion for the Arab horse. He tells us about his  encounters with Bedouin and their horses in the al Naqab desert and how he applies this rich heritage to his own breeding program.

Prejudice, about a little A-Rahb???  Try Being an Arab man, from Palestine, East Jerusalem and a Muslim riding an A- Rahb horse–just for one day.  I have heard it all about my little A-Rahb. LOL!

Just this last week, I had a week of vacation, a whole week to work with my green broke Arabian Stallion and get him ready for the Native Costume at the Egyptian Event.   Sunday came, I woke up excited and ready to start the training.  I heard in the distance the thunder clashing and the skies turned gray, as I looked up the clouds opened up to three long days of heavy rain.  My pastures and arena filled with water.  I remembered a reining ranch nearby where I purchased a donkey not long ago, it had a beautiful large covered arena.  I thought perhaps on Sunday afternoon they might let me use it, so I called.  The people there were wonderfully gracious and told me to come anytime and jump in with their horses.

I loaded my horse and drove over.  As I looked around, I saw a young cowboy on a quarter horse rocketing out of the gate, and roping a calf– it was impressive, to say the least.  These people commanded my respect, they were kind, welcoming and worked their horses’ daily.  These were working reining performance horses. There was an older gentleman who was an owner, I found to be quite knowledgeable about horsemanship.

I took my Arabian Stallion to the arena. This was his first time in a closed arena and his first time with Arabian halter donning tassels.  Naturally, all the new surroundings were all he needed to spook him and put on quite a show. He tried to buck a few times. When that did not get his way, he decided to lift his front legs, reach high into the air and walk on his back feet for a while.  The more he spooked, the more he spun, jumped, kicked and reared.   As I hung on and held to him, the news of the excitement in the arena reached the stables.  I looked over to see a crowd had gathered to watch.  They were all in disbelief that I was still on the horses back, and they were making guesses if I could stay on. With each new buck or rear, I could hear someone say “he’s still on there”.   Thank goodness, much to everyone’s surprise.  

This did a lot of good for my reputation, but not so much for my Arabian Stallion’s reputation.  They more or less thought of him as a crazy Arab horse. Being reining Quarter horse owners, Arabs were not too great in their eyes.  Considering my heritage, I ride my horse with its head held high and proud, much to the dismay of those doing reining. One of the daughters of the stable owner mentioned they could help get his head down.  When my wife told her she appreciated the offer, but I wanted the head up and proud; a visiting patron grimaced at the idea and she was not so sure about Arabians either. Perhaps, another that is just little prejudice about the Arabian.  None the less, I worked with him, got him under control and left for the day.  The next day I returned, my stallion was more familiar with the surroundings and performed much better.

By the end of the week, he was great – he had changed and he was performing like a champ.  He was not looked on as the crazy Arabian Stallion, but the quick learning well behaved performance horse.  I was riding him along side mares and stallions with not a reason for concern for he had developed into a gentleman.  He was ready for the Event.  And as far as being little, my wife looked out over the arena full of their horses and she told me, my stallion looked the largest of the horses in the arena.  By the end of the week, everyone was asking how he was doing, asking questions about Arabian horses, petting him and bragging on him.   The daughter asked if I washed my horse everyday, she had never felt a horse so silky.  They were amazed and respectful of my Arabians stallion. Not only had my horse changed, but the attitude toward the Arabian Stallion had changed also.

I appreciate these people who allowed me to work my horse along with them and I admire that they work and ride their horses daily.  I wish more Arabian owners could do so.  While I still prefer my- not so little- A-Rahb over all other, I know he is capable all sorts of performance. Just as they learned to respect my Arabian,  I also learned to have respect for the Quarters horse who can bullet out of the shoot and perform so well too.

If more Arabian owners worked, rode and raced their horses,  I think it would breakdown the prejudices and show how capable they are of all types of performances. The Arabian horse owners are responsible for the prejudices portrayed about the Arabian horse.  They are perceived as “Pretty Little Halter Horses” because that is what the owners have concentrated on.  Prove your horse, work it, race it, ride it – break these conceptions. Look at their heritage, the Bedouins raced these horse daily both long and short distance, keep the image of this War Horse what it should be.

©Marwan J Abusoud