All posts by Hylke

Syria : Home of Horses

After having seen the images of the horses brought to Damascus for the celebration of Independence Day, I started thinking about Syria and its history as a ‘true horse country’.  Usually when we think about ancient horses Syria is not the one of the first places that come to mind, yet it should be. Not only did Syria host some of the most famous horse cultures in history, it is perhaps also a place of origin of the ever so famous Arabian horse.


Although we do not know for certain which peoples introduced the horse to the Near East, or where exactly the horses came from, Maryannu existed in the region of current Syria and Palestine as early as the second half of the second millennium BC.  Maryannu were an elite class of chariot warriors that became nobles, based on the idea that their expertise in horse care and chariot handling was an ancestral tradition. Other than the existence of a relation between the Maryannu and chariot warfare in the region, we do not know whether they represented a specific peoples or kingdom. By the end of the second millennium BC  this noble Maryannu class had disappeared.

“Thus speaks Kikkuli, master horse trainer of the land of Mitanni”

Part of the Kikkuli tablets

Kikkuli (approx. 1400 BC) a Hurrian from Mittani (northern Syria), left us instructions on how to exercise and feed a horse  for 214 days, in order to prepare it for war. Surprisingly, his work describes much of the things we currently still consider normal horse care, such as stabling, rugging and feeding meals.  Interestingly Mittani, together with Ishuwa, a state probably located north of it, are said to have tried to forge an alliance against the Hittites, however ended up becoming vassal states of the Hittites. Ishuwa is thought to mean “Horse Land” however no further research has been done to confirm that.


After the fall of the Hittites and the Assyrian Empire, the region became known as Aram, home to  Aramean tribes. They are mentioned in various Bible versions as buyers or receivers of horses, in relation to Solomon’s horse traders.  By the 9th century BC the Neo-Assyrian Empire started launching attacks in almost all of the Near East, including Aram, Babylonia and ancient Iran, in order to keep their trade routes open. Slowly the Aramean kingdoms were conquered and became part of the Neo-Assyriam empire, and the Arameans were absorbed by indigenous peoples of Assyria and Babylonia.  But their influence did not disappear; Arameic and Syriac became official languages of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. Towards the 7th century BC the Empire weakened under influence of civil wars (due to so many ethnic minorities within its borders; Babylonians, Chaldeans, Medes, Persians, Parthians and Cimmerians) and eventually Niniveh fell in 612 BC.


During those wars, hordes of Scythians ravaged through Aram all the way to Egypt. Scythians are considered one of the first peoples to master mounted warfare. They were  warlike nomads famous for their equestrian skills and the use of bow and arrow. It is unlikely to think that the Scythians would not have left some of their horsemanship behind in every region they rampaged.

Scythian horseman (400-350 BC)


Herodotus describes Syria in the 5th century BC; stretching “from the Halys river, including Cappadocia (in Turkey today ) to the Mount Casius. Cappadocia is of interest to us horse enthusiasts. In Old Persian the name would be Haspaduya, which is said to be derived from Iranian Huw-aspa-dahyu- “the land/country of beautiful horses”. Cappadocia once was a supplier of horses to many places in the Middle East, even Yemen. Various Orientalist writers mention a gift of no less than 400 Cappadocian horses to a Christian Arabian king in Yemen in the 4th century AD.

Arabs and Islamic rulers

Some of those southern Arabian tribes migrated to the Levant during the 3rd and 4th century AD. Syria was then one of the most important Roman provinces and even produced emperors such as ‘Philip the Arab’ (244-249). From a beautiful coin from his rule we learn that horses were definitely part of his life.

But after the Islamic conquests , Syria now added to the Islamic Empire (634-640), the story of the Arabian horse in particular, is connected to various famous rulers. The odd thing however, is that sources on the history of the Arabian horse fail to mention that said rulers were not Arabs, but of ethnic minorities that were all part of the Islamic empire.  One such horse loving man was of course Salah al-Din al Ayoubi (1137-1193), the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria, almost always depicted mounted on a horse. Famed for his struggle with the Crusaders he is said to have had a specific love for Arab horses and great knowledge of their genealogy.

Statue of Salah al Din at the Citadel in Damascus

Sultan Baibars (1223/1228 –1277) was a Cuman born near the Volga river. Upon his death he left behind a collection of 7000 horses. It is rumoured that these were Arabian horses.  Sultan Baibars also enhanced the postal system between his castles Damascus and Cairo. Chroniclers do not provide us with exact numbers but approximately a dozen horses is said to have been stabled at each of the stations between the two castles. Terms used for the grooms (sayyaas) and the person taking the horses from one station to the other (sawwaaq) are still in use in Egypt today as groom (sayyis/suyyaas) and driver (sawwaaq).  Baibars obtained horses for his postal service from Turkoman and Arab tribes. These horses were called khayl al mushaaharah: ‘horses that supply a month of service until they are replaced’.  Chroniclers tell us that Arabs did not feed their horses well enough so only horses that had not been in service before were accepted from them, while Turkoman horses were repeatedly serving.

Sultan Qalawun (1285–1341) also of Turkic (and Mongol) bought ‘excellent horses’ for enormous amounts of money. Many of the reports state that the horses were brought to him from Aleppo and Damascus.

Europe imports Arabian horses

After contact was made with the Arab world during the Crusades, we find references to Oriental horses being brought to Europe. Sometimes over land, mostly from Turkey and surroundings, and sometimes by ship, the port of choice almost always being Iskenderun. Horses shipped there were kept in Aleppo until ships were ready to be loaded and depart. A lot of the later imports to Europe in the 17th-19th century were also shipped from that harbor.

Arabian horses?

I think it is safe to conclude that Syria has long been home to horses, and because of its strategic position it can possibly also be seen as a place of origin to the Arabian horse.  The Ghassanids, allegedly one of the first Arab tribes to have Arabian horses, possibly obtained their horses in Syria when they became vassal states of the Eastern Roman Empire.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the equus caballus reached its finest form in pre-Islamic times in Ghassanland. The Arab warhorse, which benefitted from the Byzantine experience of its rider, was also kept fit by Graeco-Roman expertise in two important areas, which also show Byzantine influence. Medically that expertise was directed not only toward human beings but also toward animals, especially horses – hence the rise of hippology and hippiatry, the diagnosis and treatment of horse diseases.  The Greek influence is reflected in the term ίππιατρόϛ, which entered Arabic as the loanwords baytar, the veterinary surgeon and baytara, hippiatry. Baytar still survives in modern Arabic as a family name.  Another term underscores the debt of Arabic and the Arab federates to the Roman military establishment, namely, istabl, a loanword in Arabic from Latin stabulum, “stable”.   – Byzantium and the Arabs in the Sixth Century, Vol 2,Part 2. By Irfan Shahid. p. 231.

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

Necklaces and the evil eye

Decorating one’s horse is something of all cultures. We all do it. But one particular thing caught my eye when I first moved to Egypt and got involved in the horse scene there. Horses and donkeys wear necklaces. Not all of them, but a lot of them do. In all kinds of shapes, from braided cotton or wool to a string with just one bead (mostly blue) or colorful beaded necklaces. When I asked local horse and donkey owners why they would make their animals wear such things they all answered that it was to protect their precious animal from “the evil eye” (al- ᵓain).

Many westerners have probably never heard of this eye, I definitely hadn’t until that moment. In Egypt the notion of the evil eye is largely based on Islamic beliefs, however I think the idea of an evil eye is more common than we realise. Who doesn’t remember the burning eye that represents evil forces in the Lord of the Rings trilogy?  But let’s stay in the real world.  Explanations of the evil eye frequently quote the Qur’ān:  Say, “I seek refuge in the Lord of daybreak..” (113:1) “..And from the evil of the envier when he envieth.”(113:5).

Envy and jealousy are not unfamiliar to us, only in this case those emotions can cause harm to the victim of the evil eye. You could view it as transferable and perhaps even a disease as general belief is that there are symptoms when a person is ‘struck’ by an evil eye of another. Physical and emotional fatigue, cramps, headaches, hair loss, diarrhea and many other ailments and disorders are ascribed to the evil eye. But it cannot only affect humans, but animals too. Symptoms include drying up of the milk in females, impotency in males, horrific accidents and even outbreaks of for example ringworm or strangles is frequently attributed to the evil eye.

Some people will no doubt question the idea of the evil eye but for Muslims confirmation came from Prophet Muhammad himself: “The evil eye is a fact.” (Bukhari 5944: Book 77, Hadith 159) So what can one do when struck by the eye? Sadly not a lot, some say taking a bath may help but the general way to try to get rid of it is by prayer and recitation of the Qur’ān.

Since it is hard to get rid of the evil eye, people logically came up with ways to try to prevent it. And this brings us back to the horses. During the research for my MA thesis I interviewed various breeders and horseowners in Egypt in to figure out how much of their practices are ascribed to Islamic guidelines.  The necklaces that are said to protect the horses from attracting an evil eye were one of the topics that I discussed with them as I found contradicting aḥadith on this matter.

“No necklace of bowstring or anything else must be left on a Camels‟ neck, must be cut off. The narrator Malik said “I think this was due to evil eye.” (Abū Dāwūd Sunān, book 15, no. 76) In the book where we find this ḥadith elaboration whether this might apply to other animals is absent. However in the ‘Book on horses’ by Abū  Ubaida this very same ḥadith is mentioned to also apply to horses and explaned as a warning from the Prophet against Bedouin tradition. The Prophet is said to have prohibited the habit of decorating horses’ necks with colorful beads to dismiss evil spirits based on the Islamic view that beads cannot repel divine power and fear that horses would endure injury from tight necklaces.

So perhaps the idea of the necklace isn’t as based on Islamic views as we thought it was. But then why does this decorating prevail, and is especially widespread in Egypt?  The answer may be in a necklace from the 18th dynasty (1351–1334 BC) found in 1911.  It is 95 centimeters long and features 35 blue beads, of which 24 are decorated with the so called ‘fish-eye’ and 11 with the ‘Udjat’ eye. One of the beads has an extra drawing on the back of the ‘ankh’ symbol that stands for life and power. At first the necklace may look like it belonged to a princess or other important person but it was found in the stables. Correspondence from the 14th century BC contains notice of “horse-necklaces”. It is assumed that the necklace found in 1911 was decoration of the harness, but any person who has worked with horses would consider the suggested placement odd if not dangerous. Also the necklace doesn’t look very flexible and horseowners will recognise it’s shape as somewhat reflecting a typical harness collar.

According to ancient Egyptian myth, the Udjat eyes represent the eyes of the god Horus. He and Seth were fighting over the throne of Osiris when Seth poked out Horus his left eye. Legend has Thoth restore the eye and Horus then offered the eye to Osiris in the hope to restore his life.  Since that moment the eye of Horus has come to symbolise healing and protection.  In modern Egypt the blue fish-eye is still very popular and sold almost everywhere, even in supermarkets, as pendants for the home, car, as jewelry and even as car stickers. Frequently horses and donkeys are wearing some form of necklace, many times in the typical blue of the eye, but other colors are also seen.

Although the tradition of decorating ones horse with a necklace to repel evil is probably older than the Islamic notion of the evil eye, the habit did somehow grow connected to horsebreeds of the Middle East. Especially the Arabian horse can be seen in modern shows around the world and photoshoots wearing large breastcollars featuring bright colours, but also in Iran, North Africa and among Turkish horsebreeds, horses are generally presented with some form of decoration around their necks.

Taking a closer look at Assyrian depictions of horses (7th BC), we also clearly see tassles, once again confirmation that the idea of decorating horses in this specific way  is very old and was already widespread in ancient times. The Assyrian horse also seems to be wearing a necklace made out of beads…

Book Review: Noble Brutes

Noble Brutes: How Eastern Horses Transformed English Culture, Landry, Donna. The John Hopkins University Press, 2008.

In light of a paper I am working on for WOCMES this year I finally read Noble Brutes. It was long overdue as Donna Landry is an authority in our rather small group of equine historians. She has published on horses as cultural agents throughout history, women writing, travel writing, imperialism and Orientalism. Combining all these elements resulted in the interdisciplinary work Noble brutes, in which she also touches upon Ottoman history, art history and military history.

The book starts with the introduction of “His lordship’s Arabian”, a phrase that characterizes a large part of equestrian discourse in 18th century England (and Ireland).  Landry explains how the Eastern/Oriental horse rose to tremendous popularity following the first wave of imports between 1650 and 1750, and shows that it did not matter at that point where the horse actually came from or what breed it may have been, there was a general tendency to call them Arabians.  She shows how various identities developed in the British Isles, such as English, Irish, Scots, Welsh etc., and argues that a similar movement happened in the horse culture at the same time. Eastern horses represented a legendary equine ideal that had already been formulated in the 16th century, however had perhaps more to do with the way of riding them than the horses themselves.

A  brief sketch is made of “Horsemanship in the British Isles before the Eastern invasion” when horses were still seen as property yet embodied a powerful symbolic. Owning a good horse and riding it well  showed that one possessed all the necessary qualities for social authority and political rule.  The idea of the horse as a ideal version of the human self was on the rise and Eastern imports would “revolutionize” this concept, as argued by Landry.  She starts by showing that the equestrian culture of England has always been based on immigrants.  The phenomena of racing was brought to the Isles by the Romans and during the 16th century, Italian and Spanish equestrian masters of ‘haute d’école, set the trend of riding in the arena.  It is generally thought that European horsemanship went through a “renaissance” following the rediscovery of Xenophon’s work, however Landry points out that we might look a bit further east for support of this rebirth of equestrian values.  She finds a foundation for her argument that the East was the place to look for the origin of the equestrian renaissance, in the existence of a vast discourse on horsemanship from the Islamic world, called furusiyya.  Although furusiyya has not received the scholarly attention it deserves and Orientalism has long been (and still is) so common that Eastern influences on European culture seem absent, the equestrian culture of the east has not gone unnoticed. At first through Italian and Spanish horse masters, English equestrian authorities discovered a more friendly way of approaching the horse, and found confirmation in their observation of the Ottoman’s seemingly very successful handling of ‘noble brutes’.

Landry eases the reader into the idea that there was more to the English admiration of Eastern equitation by explaining of what she calls “The making of the English hunting seat” and the “Stealing of a Turk”.  The idea of “riding like a Turk” is very appealing but Landry does not provide much evidence that the development was so directly based on Ottoman example. However, competitive as the English were in the wake of Imperialism, the shortening of the stirrup and posting the trot became viewed as a final departure from European example and the birth of a superior English way of riding.  Hand in hand with colonizing various parts of the east, many products from that exotic part of the world were naturalized and now viewed as rightfully English. The equestrian culture was no exception to this rule.

But Landry takes it a step further, arguing that through what Gerald McLean called “imperial envy” and the ideology shaping Edward Said’s Orientalism, the imported horses and their naturalized descendents became valued as the epitome identity of British imperialism; Eastern exotic and English appropriated asset of ultimate Englishness.  She uses the story of the Bloody Shouldered Arabian to guide the reader to the various roles this horse has played and perhaps still plays in English equestrian culture. Topics like the trouble of importing horses, marvel over their exotic features, their status as living art and especially the birth of the new genre of “equine portraits” that elevated George Stubbs, John Wootton and others to world famous painters, are discussed extensively. More and more the blood-horse featured in art and literature, while the equestrian society became obsessed with hot blood. Imperial envy was so strong that even horses born on English soil were often called Arabian or Barb, solely as proof of their hot pedigree and not as a reflection of modern ideas of breed identity. The idea that the Eastern horse was superior to any other breed prevailed during the 18th and lasted well into the 19th century.

But what happened when the English Thoroughbred, viewed as the mirror image of the perfect English self was a well established breed of its own towards the second half of the 19th century? I was happily surprised that Landry does touch upon that question a bit. As she opened the book with “His lordship’s Arabian” she closes it with “Her Ladyship’s Arabian”. The Eastern horse had now fallen behind its product, the ever faster and taller Thoroughbred and Landry shows that men now preferred their own ‘hunters’ to the imported stock, a shift that left the once so sought after Oriental horses in the hands of women. The “graceful and short-coupled” horses were perfect for carrying a side saddle and their willingness to cooperate with their rider gave women something of their own  as men didn’t show much interest anymore. A second wave of imports did happen at the end of the 19th century as European travelers went to the Orient in search of fresh Eastern blood to replenish the Thoroughbred stock.  As women were not yet ready to let go of their beautiful and exotic mounts, a new preservation theory was born and the idea to breed purebred Oriental horses ‘back home’ was on the rise, with the efforts of the Blunts mentioned as an example of these expeditions. Landry concludes that with this newly found purpose for the imported stock, namely to not only use it as a source for the English thoroughbred but to breed them as a breed of their own, the Turkish roots were buried in favor of the Arabian. She supports this argument with examples of anti-Turkish prejudice prevailing in Britain at the time, but I personally believe that this issue requires a closer look, not only in terms of the historical or political context but also into the motives of the individual promoters of the ‘newly’ created breed that we now know as Arabian horse.

A true Desert Bred horse

When we speak of a desert horse most people will immediately assume the conversation is about Oriental horses, or just  Arabian horses.  But the Desert Bred horse is generally also seen as a concept that no longer exists. But it does, in the Namib desert. 

The past century feral horses have been living in this vast land surrounding the Garub water hole, which has allowed them to survive.  Although the Namib is called a desert, the areas in which the feral horses are found vary in topology, geology and climate. Plains of sand and dry rivers aren’t the only features of the roughly 2000 km long Namib. There are also low mountains and desert gravel, which provide the horses but also their grazing competitors the gemsboks and springboks, their main diet.  When we think of desert climate we imagine a searing heat but the average temperature  in the Namib throughout the year is  18°C, making it a ‘cool desert’.

Due to the scarcity of water, grazing competition and predators such as the spotted hyena and the jackal, the feral horse population of the Namib has always remained small. The total number never exceeding 280 horses.  Studies have shown their ability to adapt to harsh environments to stem from their behavior rather than genetic extraordinary resilience.  Patterns were discovered in their ratio of feeding, travel and resting as well as temperature.

The genetic makeup of the Namib desert horses is however very interesting as there are many theories about their origin.  Since horses are not native to the south of Africa it still somewhat a mystery where these horses have come from. Among the theories about the origin of the feral horses is the idea that the Dutch and English colonists from the Cape moved upwards to what is now Namibia and took their (war)horses with them. Another possibility was that the indigenous peoples such  as the Khoikhoi, who are known to have stolen some of the immigrant horses and started keeping them, were responsible for the arrival of horses to the Namib.

Because the Namib desert horse resembles the TB and other European breeds, a theory about how a ship carrying English TB’s stranded on her way to the Cape surfaced. Although a romantic idea , it is unlikely that horses would first swim to shore in large numbers and then traveled approx 318 km to reach the Garub water hole. Another, more detailed, theory is that of the horses escaping from Duwisib Castle, about 200 km from Garub. German Baron Hans-Heinrich von Wolf bred horses there from 1908 until WWI broke out in 1914.  Although this story gives us a bit of an idea towards the time we think the first (feral?) horses may have appeared in the Namib, the distance to the water hole still remains an issue.

The first more serious reports of larger number of horses in the area do stem from the same time period. Union of South Africa troops were stationed near Garub during the war with reportedly up to 6000 horses. A German military report from 1915 describes the bombing of the encampment and 1700 grazing military horses.  It is thought that in the heat of the moment the Union forces did not manage to retrieve all of the horses as they quickly marched on the Germans, and the horses left behind considered the foundation stock of the feral Namib desert horse. Although this theory is very attractive because there is no large distance for ‘lost’ or ‘escaped’ horses to travel, it seems that it is unknown whether or not the ‘forgotten’ horses were retrieved by anyone or remained lost.

Kreplin among his stud animals on the farm Kubub near Aus. (photo: private collection Mannfred Goldbeck)

Kreplin among his stud animals on the farm Kubub near Aus. (photo: private collection Mannfred Goldbeck)

The most plausible theory towards the origin of these feral horses is the stud farm of Mr. Emil Kreplin (gestüt Kubub) in Lüderitz.  Kreplin was the mayor of Lüderitz and responsible of building the new train tracks up-country following the diamond rush in 1908. He bred horses for both the work in the mines and the railways as well as for the luxurious races as his town grew larger between 1909-1914. The Kubub studfarm was located close to the Sperrgebiet, a marked out area which the colonial government tried to protect by giving mining rights to just one company (Deutsche Diamantengesellschaft) and thereby rendering the Sperrgebiet forbidden terrain for all others. When the German forces fell and South African forces took over the Sperrgebiet remained intact under new ownership (De Beers).

Being one of the founders of the Deutsche Diamantengesellschaft, Kreplin used his diamond wealth to import horses for his stud. During the war he fell in Union hands but returned to his post as mayor of Lüderitz after the war, however he eventually left Namibia in 1920. His horses now left ownerless and fenceless are assumed to have wandered into the Sperrgebiet where they would be safe from hunters and other human dangers.

A study of the genetical makeup of the Namib desert horse showed extraordinary results. Only Blue Star Arabians have a lower genetic variation than the desert horses, meaning they descend from a very small number of foundation horses.  Surprisingly, the Namib horses fit within the ‘Oriental’ cluster, having a lot in common with the Arabian, Turkoman, Akhal Teke, Kurd, Khuzestan Arabian, and most interestingly, the Shagya (Hungarian) Arabian.   A bit further away they have a connection to Iberian breeds, TB and North American gaited breeds.  Most of the breeds listed here can be explained by the fact that there would have been Union horses among the foundation of the Namib desert horses. South African forces would have had both TB and local horses, that were the result of earlier colonial efforts of creating the perfect warhorse.  Indonesian horses, carrying both Spanish and Arab/Persian blood were brought to South Africa by the Dutch settlers. British immigrants later added the TB and Indian blood.  The only odd name on the list seems to be the Shagya Arabian. Who brought that influence to Africa? It may have been Kreplin as the Hungarian horses were popular warhorses at the time, but I have not been able to find records yet.

A couple of photos raise a few more questions. For example the fact that there are clearly some grey horses in the German herds and the various studies and sources about the Namib Desert horse state that there are no greys among the current population. It almost seems as if grey is not a ‘natural’ color, which leaves question marks  at the idea of the grey DesertBred Arabian for example.

Horses of the German colonial forces near the city Aus. Source: National Archive of Namibia
Horses of the German colonial forces near the city Aus. Source: National Archive of Namibia

The size of the horses of the German forces in some of the photos also seems a bit odd. Most sources state that they rode imported horses and also bred their own, suggesting they were not interested in using locally available horses, if there were any. However in the photo below it is clear that these horses are smaller than the suggested Trakheners of the German cavalry… Another photo shows an officer on a rather large horse, probably imported as it looks similar to the ones featured in images from Europe during WWI.

For now the ‘origin’ of the Namib desert horses will remain an unanswered question, however there is a very important lesson to be learned from their existence. They may perhaps represent the only ‘breed’ not created by man. The extremely low genetic variation suggests that they are now ‘purebreds’ in their own right.  As such, the SA Boerperd registry has accepted the crossbreeding of Namibs in their studbook following an experiment that isolated some of the Namibs in order to see if they could add beneficial qualities to domestic stock.  Because it is still assumed that any Desert horse has to possess certain qualities to be able to survive in the extremely hostile environment. Much of the talk surrounding the Oriental horses has claimed their appearance, and especially that of the Arabian, is a direct result of the breed being ‘shaped’ by the desert. Yet the Namibs have survived without the help of humans and do not resemble the Oriental horses they are so genetically close to, leaving a serious question mark in relation to a ‘unified shape’ of the concept of the Desert horse.

Some photographs of the Namib Desert horses today

The Bloody Shouldered Pegasus

Of the many legends told about the Arabian horse, that of the Bloody Shoulder is one of the most popular. At least, that’s the case in the West, because to date I have found no Arabic version of it. While this color mutation can happen in any type of horse (and appears in various coat colors) it is frequently seen in grey Arabian horses, thus providing the fuel that keeps the legend burning brightly. Like so many other stories, this one is also set in an unspecified time amongst the Bedouin and within the space of the desert, all concepts perceived as being closely connected to the identity of the Arabian horse.  On closer inspection of this legend, it’s still not immediately clear precisely how the tale of the Bloody Shoulder should have become so firmly established and so popular amongst today’s Arabian horse community.

The modern version of the story of the bloody shoulder appears to date back no further than 1982. In this tale, which first appeared in print in Arabian Horse World, a Bedouin chieftain is surprised by a group of robbers while riding on his mare through the desert. The robbers open fire and although his mare runs for their lives, a bullet pierces the heart of her rider, causing him to slump forward onto her shoulder and neck. The mare keeps going and doesn’t stop until she has returned her master to the camp they call home. There, his people take his lifeless body off her back to discover a large bloodstain that has dried on her shoulder. That same night the mare foals a colt who has the same mark on his shoulder as his dam, and ever since it is believed that every horse carrying a bloodlike stain on its shoulder descends from that very brave mare.

Although it is not possible to pinpoint the exact source of the legend, the story itself resembles that of a very old Shia Islamic ritual that is still found today: the mourning of the death of Hussayn ibn Ali on the Day of Ashura. Commemorated primarily among Shia Muslims in India and Pakistan, the death of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson is mourned during processions that include a horse. Mostly white horses are used, to represent the grey stallion that is said to have carried the wounded Imam Hussayn away from the battlefield and back to his camp. Another striking similarity to the story of the Bloody Shoulder is the fact that the rider, in this case Hussayn, was also shot in the heart, causing him to fall forward on his horse.  During processions, the horses are smeared with red paint to look as though a rider has bled on them and often wear sheets with arrows attached, to emphasize the bravery of the horse that brought its rider home despite the rain of arrows or, in the case of the modern legend, bullets.

Whilst there are different versions of the role that the horse played during and after the death of Hussayn, the horse is always hailed as a hero, much like the horse in the legend of the Bloodied Shoulder.  Maymun, Hussayn’s grey stallion, is praised so highly that he even receives a new name; Dhu al Janah, Owner of Wings. Not only is he celebrated by poets and in processions, some rumors even try to connect the winged horse to Prophet Muhammad himself, claiming that he was in fact the stallion al Murtajiz. This horse is said to have sat down to let Hussayn mount him as a child, a detail returning in the Dhu al Janah tradition where the stallion lowered himself to gently release the wounded or slain Hussayn from his back. Although it’s very appealing to believe that the two horses were one and the same, al Murtajiz would have had to be at least 54 years of age at the battle of Karbala, after which Hussayn passed away.

Because of the similarity of the two tales, it might be possible that one derived from the other; and the introduction of the story into at least the English language may have focussed on one special horse: the Bloody Shouldered Arabian, a stallion imported into England in 1719/20 from Aleppo. Was this then the colt who provided the inspiration for the modern legend?  On the one hand it doesn’t seem very plausible, as in a letter from Nathanial Harley, who shipped the horse to his brother Edward Harley, it is explained that the stain on the horse was “red as blood” when he bought him,but faded as he aged. But, on the other hand, the story may have boosted interest in the stallion among other breeders in Britain.

The first lead in English literature to the story of Hussayn’s death I found in the work of historian Edward Gibbon (1737-1794). It surprised me how his lifespan so closely paralleled that of Shia poet Hassan al Damastani (d. 1759), who wrote a poem about the battle of Karbala, titled Dhu al Janah.  Gibbon does not mention any horse in his version of the tale but refers to his source: Simon Ockley (1678-1720). Although Ockley does not pay special attention to the character or name of the horse in his very long description, he may have been the one to transfer the story into the world of Arabian horse breeders as he exchanged letters (1714) with Lord Harley, the last owner of the Bloody Shouldered Arabian.

Perhaps the one is not the source of the other, but both stories are legendary, adapted to early modern orientalism; in the latter, modern version, the horse became a mare to fit the romantic image of Arabs and the Bedouin, and perhaps also to insinuate in some way that the stallion was in fact the colt born to the mare.

While it is not absolutely certain whether or not the two stories – that of the Bloody Shouldered Arabian and the heroic horse with wings – are indeed connected, it is certainly a possibility. Both these legendary tales are known in several different versions and the horse in question is celebrated. Furthermore, it is very interesting that Hussayn’s horse is now known as Dhu al Janah rather than Maymun. The idea of giving the horse wings may be related to the important position Hussayn holds within Shia Islam, much like the mystical creature Al Buraq that Prophet Muhammad rode during his visit to the heavens. Although Al Buraq is not a horse but composed of various animals, he is usually depicted as at least part horse and having wings.

Assuming it was understood that Dhu al Janah also had a mystical aspect to his being, it is possible that the story of the Bloodied Shoulder was regarded in similar fashion. The legend was then perhaps adapted to a more tangible and appealing setting for the interested European public, a Bedouin Arabia, possibly to help promote the stallion with the bloodmark on his shoulder.  In order to further convince the public, the role of the hero was now shifted from stallion to mare because the Orientalists had met Bedouin with a tradition of riding mares into battle.  If the legend was to help promote the stallion it may have also helped people overcome the fact that he had a “strange” color and was somewhat odd, not fitting in with existing views on attractiveness in horses.

Remembering a Desert Horse

I’m sure that the first thing that comes to your mind when you read Desert horse is the Arabian horse. Most horse lovers, no matter what kind of horse or breed they prefer, will admit that the Arabian horse is somewhat more a phenomenon than merely a breed. Without any questions asked, I too used to believe the idea that it had to be an “ancient” breed.  The answers seemed everywhere I looked. Numerous books, websites, YouTube video’s and even organizations connected to the breed confirmed the “thousands of years” of Arabian horse history.  Theories such as the Ancient Egyptian Prototype Arabian, the birth of the Barb and TB and many other current breeds are ascribed to the portrayal of the Arabian horse as the oldest breed.

But, as a naturally curious person I started reading more material and started asking myself why most of those books, websites and other sources do not seem to agree with one another on what exactly is an Arabian horse. Sometimes it was suddenly an Oriental horse. Sometimes a Warhorse. Sometimes a Desert horse. The only consensus seems to be the idea that the breed in question is a product of Bedouin tradition. So I started looking for answers there and it wasn’t until I discovered that many Arabic terms that are said to be related to the Bedouin horse breeding tradition are in fact not so easily interpreted that I realized that I was perhaps asking the wrong questions, because all of a sudden the answers weren’t everywhere anymore.

Is the Arabian part of Oriental horses or not? What is the definition of an Oriental horse? Do we call it the Arabian horse or the Arab? Why do we consider it to be a product of Bedouin tradition? Where is the evidence of such a tradition? When does that horse breeding Bedouin first appear?

Bedouin horse or Arab horse?

Most literature we have is “western” or more specifically European. During the renaissance of Orientalism the hype of obtaining Oriental horses suddenly reaches its heyday. Examining that literature the Oriental horse seems to be new phenomenon. It is presented as being a precious commodity, in need of saving, instated in the west as part of their renewed cultural heritage.  All the different presentations of the horses in question are merely memories of a past, as they all center on some aspect in history, whether it is ancestors, purity, imports, looks or performance. Thus the question here is not so much as where the Oriental/Arabian/Desert horse came from, but rather that of identity.

This website will be a platform for the collection and discussion of the infinite memories of the horses in question, through history. I have chosen not to use the wording Arab or Arabian horse as the identity of “Oriental” horses is not yet defined properly. However I will respect general consensus that the horses in question all have the ability to perform/survive/etc. in the desert climate and am therefore looking to remember a desert horse, and hopefully learn more about its identity or even various identities.

Deco Shet

In Nederland lijkt iedereen ze wel te hebben. Shetlanders. Als grasmaaiers, als kinderpony of gezelschapsdier voor het rijpaard op de wei. Steeds vaker zie ik ze ook online voorbij komen als circus ponies van tieners als alternatief voor een groot duur paard. Immers, je kan ze soms via marktplaats tegen een kratje bier ruilen. Al met al zijn ze populair.
Ook in Egypte zijn ze beroemd. Ze worden hier Sisies genoemd, niet naar de president maar als afkorting van het Arabische woord voor klein, ‘soghayyar’. In tegenstelling tot in Nederland zijn ze hier alleen maar te vinden bij de aller rijksten onder de paardeneigenaren. Niks niet kratje bier. Een beetje een Shetlander kost al gauw 2000 euro. En dat zijn dan degene die niet zo mooi uitgevallen zijn, zwarte,gevlekte of extra kleine maat zijn snel twee keer zo duur!

De naamloze Shet die te koop is..

Als je bedenkt dat een vliegticket voor een paard ongeveer 5000 euro kost snap je waarom Shetjes hier zo ontzettend duur zijn en de gemiddelde paardeneigenaar kindlief dus een fatsoenlijk formaat Baladi aanschaft voor slechts een tiende van de prijs van een shetlander. Want ook hier zijn Shetlanders geen leuke kinder ponies, zelfs al zijn ze hier gefokt, ondeugend blijven ze generaties lang. De meeste rijscholen hebben een paar Shetjes en ook probeersels die het resultaat zijn van Shetlander- Baladi kruisingen. Maar bij elke pony loopt een groom om te zorgen dat de kinderen niet onderweg verloren worden. Draven doen ze ook nog wel een beetje aan de hand maar galopperen zit er voor de echte ukkies niet bij. Zodra de kinderen een jaar of 6 zijn gaan ze meteen over op de “normale” maat baladi’s, en dan kan je denken aan 1.50-1.60m. Zodra kinderen een jaar of 10 zijn verwachten ouders dat ze op de warmbloeden gaan rijden, want “Dat zijn pas echt sportpaarden”.

Waarom zijn er dan toch een handjevol stoeterijen, die vaak prachtige collecties Arabieren hebben, die Shetlanders fokken? Lang kon ik het niet begrijpen maar nu weet ik het. Wie wil er nou geen Deco-Shet? Sisies zijn nutteloos, aangezien er hier in Cairo ook geen grasvelden zijn die ze kunnen maaien functioneren ze als decoratie. En omdat bijna alle paardenmensen op de hoogte zijn van de exorbitante prijzen kun je het vergelijken met het hebben van een levend kunstwerk. Ze worden vaak ook zo uitgestald. Meestal staan ze ergens in troepjes in een box op een strategische plek zodat al het bezoek er langs komt. Bij rijschooltjes staan ze vaak naast de zadelplaats zodat ouders hun kinderen allemaal gaan optillen en aan het schattige grut opdringen. Bij fokkers staan ze vaak in overdekte paddocks precies vlakbij de presentatie ring waar gasten naar de mooie Arabieren gaan kijken. Zo kunnen eventuele “boze ogen” van de Arabieren afgeleid worden op de Sisies ( een culturele traditie waarbij men bang is voor jaloezie die ziekte en zelfs dood van paarden zou kunnen veroorzaken). Maar ook economisch is het handig om ze daar zo dicht bij de presentatiering te plaatsen, wanneer er rijke kopers strooien met geld kan je ze ook een leuke Shet in de deal schuiven. Win-win situatie toch?

Als ik heel eerlijk ben had ik ook wel een Deco-Shet willen hebben. Gewoon voor het leuk. Maar ze zijn zo duur en een bijkomstige narigheid is dat niemand ze hier als echte paarden behandeld. Ze zijn grotendeels onopgevoed. Lopen niet fatsoenlijk mee aan een touw of geven geen voetjes. Grooms hebben daarom vaak ook een hekel aan de Sisies, en dat maakt de situatie alleen maar erger omdat ze op die manier ook nog eens blootgesteld worden aan gewelddadig pestgedrag. Zelden zie ik een vriendelijke Shetlander en een brave bereden Sisi is nog zeldzamer.

Wandelen aan een touwtje is moeilijk
Wandelen aan een touwtje is moeilijk

Nu hebben we geluk, één van onze stalgenoten heeft een tweejarige merrie waarmee we kunnen spelen, en hoeven wij geen dure Deco-Shet zelf aan te schaffen. Dat is pas een win-win situatie!

Doktertje spelen

Echte vriendinnen zijn een zegen. En gezegend ben ik zeker met een beste  buddy die niet alleen een hele toffe vrouw en vriendin is maar ook nog eens net zo paardengek als ikzelf. Ze staat altijd voor mij en de kids klaar. Vandaag werd ik blij verrast met een heel tof cadeautje. Een stethoscoop! Een tijd geleden heb ik eindelijk de paarden thermometer aangeschaft die ik eigenlijk al jaren nodig had. Met z’n tweeën hebben we die uitgebreid bewonderd en getest op onze arme paarden. Ik zei toen: ” Nu alleen nog een stethoscoop en dan kunnen we pas echt doktertje spelen!”

Vandaag zorgde ze ervoor dat we de eerste hulp kit echt compleet hebben en dat waardeer ik heel  erg. Het hebben van een stethoscoop en weten er mee om te gaan kan in Cairo een paardenleven redden. Het klinkt altijd grappig wanneer ik andere paardenmeisjes uitleg dat we bijna zelf doktertje moeten spelen hier in de woestijn,  maar eigenlijk is het niet om te lachen. Als je zelf niet enige interesse hebt in het medische dossier van je paard dan wordt het heel moeilijk om überhaupt je paarden in leven te houden. Zelfs met de fantastische artsen die ons ondersteunen.

 Koliek, oververhitting en uitdroging komen hier veel vaker voor dan in Nederland en de eerste symptomen zijn soms moeilijk uit elkaar te houden. Ook wij houden er niet van om bij elke steun of kreun de dokter te moeten bellen.  Grooms lopen nogal snel over je heen en lijken overal een oplossing voor te hebben. Ze zijn vaak ook handig in het zetten van injecties en willen je paard nog wel eens wat spuiten zonder dat je daar toestemming voor geeft of zelfs vanaf weet.  Zelf kennis opdoen en het verdiepen in paardengezondheid is daarom in mijn ogen een must. Het hebben van een thermometer is cruciaal, koorts is een enorm belangrijk symptoom.  Ik zeg altijd dat grooms me moeten bellen en dan kom ik zelf meten want als ik hen laat meten willen ze vaak al iets tegen de koorts geven. Dat levert vaak grote frustratie op als er dan toch een arts moet komen want die kan dan slecht bepalen wat er gaande is omdat de koorts een belangrijke indicator is van hoe groot een probleem werkelijk is. Je kan begrijpen hoe ik in de wolken ben met zo’n mooie paarden thermometer.

De stethoscoop komt wel echt op nummer twee. Na gecheckt te hebben hoe het zit met paardlief zijn of haar temperatuur  is het tijd om de vitals te checken. Hartslag en ademhaling.  En dan de darmen. In het Arabisch heet koliek marras, dat eigenlijk gewoon buikpijn betekent. Wanneer het om mensen gaat dan slaat de term ook op maagpijn en eigenlijk alles dat er in de omgeving van je buik mis kan gaan tot aan menstruatiepijnen. Daardoor weten sommige grooms niet dat koliek vaak in de darmen misgaat. Niet altijd natuurlijk, er zijn zoveel vormen van koliek. Maar in Egypte is het toch vaak in de darmen. Zandkoliek en gaskoliek zijn de meest voorkomende volgens onze artsen. Het is dus belangrijk te begrijpen wat je moet horen als je luistert naar paardlief zijn darmpjes.

Nu hebben wij geweldig fijne artsen die heel geduldig mij meerdere keren hebben uitgenodigd om te komen oefenen op hun bloeddonoren bij de kliniek. Ze hadden al snel in de gaten dat ik de mysterieuze dood van een aantal paarden niet goed accepteerde en mezelf enorm begon te verdiepen in allerlei medische aspecten van paarden. Zo begon ik cursussen over voeding, vroeg de oren van de Nederlandse hoefsmid via email en kwam dus leren infuus aanleggen en bloedprikken bij de artsen hier. Ook het leegpompen van de maag is iets dat ze me nog graag willen leren maar ik vind het heel eng. Immers, als je dat slangetje in de verkeerde pijp steekt verdrink je je eigen paard. Alle artsen vonden dat ik moest leren de stethoscoop te gebruiken want als ik zou weten wat er in de darmen gebeurd dan zou ik zelf kunnen onderscheiden of ik met koliek of met iets anders te maken heb en zo beter kan beslissen of de arts met spoed moet komen of niet. Want met een handvol goede artsen op een grove zeshonderd goed onderhouden fokkerijen (om nog maar te zwijgen van alle zielige werkpaarden) hebben ze het heel erg druk. En ik heb ze wel eens laten komen voor koliek en tegen de tijd dat ze er waren had ik zelf het infuus er al in gehesen en voelde paard zich al een heeeeel stuk beter.

Artsen hier gaan ook bepaalde problemen logischerwijs uit de weg. Wanneer ze medicatie voorschrijven die in het bloed gespoten moet, komen ze dat echt niet elke dag doen. Dat doen grooms en als je dat niet wil dan zal je het zelf moeten doen. We vaccineren ook gewoon zelf. Het bekende ” mijn paard heeft nu een bult want die arts zette die vaccinatie op zijn borst” gaan artsen hier professioneel uit de weg. Je koopt zelf de vaccinatie en leest op het papiertje of doosje hoe en waar het moet en hop spuiten maar. Ik heb op stal dozen met verschillende infuusvloeistoffen voor de verschillende problemen, canules en infuusnaalden voor veulens en volwassen paarden, druppelaars in verschillende groottes, steriele injectienaalden en spuitjes in allerlei soorten en maten, handschoenen, steriele watjes en betadine maar ook soda voor als paarden ingeslapen moeten worden. Verder hebben we nog een doos met allerlei verband en gaasjes, een aantal vetwraps ( de rest ligt thuis ongeveer onder m’n kussen want we kunnen dat hier niet krijgen), suiker mix voor hoefzweren en natuurlijk de thermometer. Je snapt nu waarom ik in de wolken ben met zo een mooie stethoscoop. Nu kunnen we pas echt doktertje spelen.

De Baksteen

Misschien wisten jullie het al wel. Sinds kort mag ik exclusieve blogs schrijven voor Bokt. Heel erg leuk! Ik vat het een beetje op als een plicht aan de paardenwereld. Zodat Nederlandse paardenmeisjes hun eigen paardenwereld gaan waarderen wanneer ze lezen over de constante strijd die we hier voeren om onze paarden ook een Bokt-waardig bestaan te gunnen. Maar ook om aan het licht te brengen hoeveel leed er eigenlijk over de grenzen is. Maar al bij de tweede blog gaat het een soort van mis. Ik reageer op vragen die naar aanleiding van het eerste stuk gesteld werden en mensen accepteren nu het antwoord niet.

Mijn eerste gevoel erbij is kwaadheid. Het was een vrijwel onmogelijke taak om uit te leggen waarom werkpaarden in Egypte vaak een slecht leven lijden. Er zijn zoveel oorzaken die niets met paarden te maken hebben maar veel dieper in het land, de politiek, de cultuur en de samenleving geworteld zijn. Ik heb dagenlang gewerkt om een beknopt stuk te schrijven dat zowel een uiteenzetting als een beetje van mijn eigen ervaring zou zijn. Immers een blog is geheel persoonlijk en gaat vaak om de mening of ervaring van de schrijver. Ik had zo mijn best gedaan om wel mijn ervaringen erin te zetten maar mijn mening achterwege te laten. Die is niet belangrijk wanneer je een “waarom” vraag probeert te beantwoorden. Het was echt een veel te lang stuk geworden dat ik zelf niet meer kon inkorten zonder gevaar op onvolledigheid in mijn ogen. De redactie heeft er peentjes over gezweet om het fatsoenlijk voor me te editen en samen konden we toch nog een sterk en informatief stuk plaatsen.  En toen kwamen de nare reacties.

Maar mijn kwaadheid is ongegrond. Ik kan de lezers niets kwalijk nemen. Ze hebben nog geen kennis gemaakt met de baksteen. Baksteen? Mensen die hier wel eens geweest zijn of wonen snappen wat ik bedoel.  De Egyptische paardenwereld komt aan als een baksteen in je gezicht. Lange tijd heb ik het ook niet kunnen accepteren en huilde ik en mijn hart bij het zien van welke ezel of paard dan ook. Onbegrip, onmacht en kwaadheid zijn de enige emoties die er dan in je opkomen. Hoe kunnen mensen dit doen? Hulp organisaties spelen daarop in. Westerse paardenliefhebbers steunen ze bij bosjes.

Mijn speciale vriendje Meneer Shay (thee). Hij verliet zijn leven als karrepaard op straat om bij mij te komen wonen. Hij is mijn geschenk uit de hemel , en ik het zijne.

Maar als je hier gaat wonen dan moet het acceptatie proces op gang komen of je dat nu wilt of niet. Heel langzaam begin je inzicht te krijgen in de verschillende soorten paardeneigenaren. Welke wel en niet opzettelijk mishandelen of verwaarlozen. Onbegrip wordt langzaam vervangen door begrip naarmate je meer kennis en inzicht krijgt in Egypte als land en als samenleving. Onmacht verdwijnt wanneer je zelf gaat helpen bij organisaties of zelfs privé een paard red. En tot slot verdwijnt de kwaadheid. We moeten accepteren dat we niet in ons eentje een hele gemeenschap  van idioten kunnen recht breien. De kwaadheid komt af en toe boven wanneer we dan betrokken zijn bij vervelende situaties omtrent paarden.

Maar alle facebook fans aan de andere kant van de zee ervaren wel een kleine baksteen wanneer ze naar al die fotos van de zielepiet-paarden kijken, maar ze kunnen niet relativeren of werkelijk beseffen wat er loos is. Na mijn stuk op Bokt worden ze ongewild toch het acceptatieproces in geduwd en dat vinden ze erg moeilijk. Begrijpelijk. Ik deed er jaren over en heb al heel wat gezien hier en nog altijd gebeuren er dingen waarvan mijn kaak tot mn schoenen valt. In alle eerlijkheid heb ik nog steeds wel eens tranen om zielepieten op straat.

Omdat ik zo diep in de paardenwereld hier zit maak ik er ondertussen deel van uit. Ik vergeet soms dat er veel dingen zijn die hier zo anders zijn dan in Nederland. Wanneer ik bezoek krijg merk ik hoeveel ik al geaccepteerd heb. Pas geleden werd ik vereerd met bezoek van een Bokker naar aanleiding van de eerste blog. Ze vroeg een heel relevante vraag nadat ik nonchalant opmerkte dat mijn ruin speciaal is. “Maar als ze niets ruinen, wat doen ze dan als een hengst ineens op een merrie springt ?”  Ik wist niet eens een goed antwoord omdat ik daar nooit over nadenk.  ” Dat noemen ze een klein ongelukje, kan gebeuren,…gebeurt trouwens wel vaak nu ik erover nadenk. ” zei ik maar. Haar ogen werden groot van verbazing. Vrijwel meteen schaamde ik mij voor mijn onvermogen me in te leven in hoe zij de Egyptische paardenwereld ervoer.  Ik heb na lange tijd eindelijk volledig geaccepteerd dat in Egypte de ruinen op twee handen te tellen zijn en als je een ruin wil hebben, je zelf de dokter met de schaar moet laten komen. Meneer Shay is zelfs de allereerste hengst in Egypte die staand geruind is, omdat ik met mijn toen nog heel Nederlandse, koppige mentaliteit erop stond. En godzijdank was er een arts die dat een keer in Ierland op cursus had geleerd en het wel voor Shay wilde doen.

 Mijn geweldige stalruiter, ook Nederlandse,  woont hier nog niet zo lang en verbaast zich nog vaak over hoe wij dingen zien of doen. Wanneer ze aan het warm stappen is terwijl ik nog even mijn zonnebril en thee pak bekijkt ze altijd de andere ruiters van top tot hoef. Als ik dan de bak in kom stelt ze me altijd een vraag over de combinaties in de andere baan. ” Die slofteugel is toch niet goed voor een paard? ” Gebeurd dat in Nederland ook zo?”  Daar moet ik over nadenken. Voor mij is Nederland soms ver van mijn bed. Ik ben toch al wel zo lang weg dat ik sommige dingen niet meer weet en geen inzicht meer heb in bepaalde dingen.  Als je er dan over nadenkt is het logisch dat niet iedereen makkelijk kan beseffen waarover ik eigenlijk blog. Het is een ver van je bed show. En dan kan je makkelijk oordelen, je hoeft er immers niet werkelijk een mening over te hebben omdat je nooit ter verantwoording geroepen wordt.

Sneller dan de camera! Meneer Shay speelt vaak racepaardje.In Egypte is er een bijgeloof dat wanneer je een hengst castreert dat hij dan zijn ziel verliest en daarbij zijn energie. Keer op keer moeten mensen weer even onder mijn pony kijken als ze zien hoe graag hij keihard door de baan speelt. Hij is de allereerste die succesvol staand gecastreerd werd in Egypte.

 Ik hoop dat lezers zich meer open zullen stellen voor de blogs want er komen nog zoveel leuke maar ook minder leuke onderwerpen aanbod. Je hoeft dingen niet te accepteren maar meteen veroordelen is kort door de bocht. Zeker met dit soort onderwerpen die heel gevoelig en erg veelomvattend zijn. Mensen, zowel Egyptenaren als Nederlanders, vragen me vaak: ” Waar is het leuker? In Egypte of in Nederland?” Ik antwoord altijd: ” Het is geen kwestie van leuker of minder leuk, voordelen of nadelen,  het is gewoon anders”.