Cover Story – Vol. 47, No. 5A
ANSATA HALIM SHAH
Leader of the Great Migration
Once in a Lifetime
By Judith Forbis ©
(Portions of this story are condensed from Authentic Arabian Bloodstock II)
A Hint of Things to Come
If you were visiting Ansata Arabian Stud on April 28, 1980, you would have felt excitement pulsating throughout our farm deep in the piney woods of Lufkin, Tex. The broodmares were happily grazing the tender spring grass. The staff were tending their daily chores, lunging show horses, putting them on the walker, grooming Ansata Ibn Halima, Ansata Ibn Sudan, Ansata Shah Zaman and various horses in the show barn. Some of the top ten songs of the day were playing as everyone went about their work: Shining Star, Fame, Celebration, Once in a Lifetime, among them. Meanwhile our very special mare, Ansata Rosetta, in foal to Ansata Ibn Halima, was about to give birth in the mare barn. Was she listening to the music too? Were the titles of these songs prophesizing the future of the foal about to be born?
After keeping all of us waiting and wondering, Rosetta presented us with a healthy capricious grey colt. From day one he was his very own self. It wasn’t long before we could see in him the qualities we hoped he would inherit from his outstanding parents and four grandparents: balance, beauty and the gentility of his sire, Ansata Ibn Halima; the elegance, grace and spirit of his dam, Ansata Rosetta; the exceptional overall refinement and fine bone structure of his grand dam, Ansata Bint Bukra; and the extreme pride and individuality of his dam’s sire, the inbred Ansata Shah Zaman who resulted from breeding Morafic to his full sister, Ansata Bint Mabrouka. The fact that he was intensely bred to Nazeer added that indefinable quality and nobility that Nazeer imparted to his get.
What’s in a Name
What to name this new colt? A potentially great horse should have a memorable and meaningful name. He had already developed a certain attitude of royal reserve and his regal bearing was enhanced by a high-borne silken tail. He was refined and elegant at this early age. His big black expressive eyes were constantly alert to his surroundings. Nothing escaped them! He was extremely intelligent, kind, yet somewhat haughty, down-to-earth but a mischief-maker with a twinkle in his eye. He’d nip at you to attract attention, but he never bit hard or intentionally tried to hurt. It was his way of saying, “Look at me, I’m special!” We decided to name him Ansata Halim Shah: Halim (kind) after his sire, Ansata Ibn Halima, and Shah (ruler) after his dam’s sire, Ansata Shah Zaman. It fitted him perfectly.
When he tried to self-destruct, we knew he would become something special. These “accidents” often occur only to the best ones. I can remember it to this day. When we walked into the barn, there he was with his foot jammed through the bars of his stall door. How he did it remained a puzzle, but fortunately he understood his precarious situation and remained quiet. We finally cut him free and luckily the injury to his pastern was minor and left it unscarred. Was this a sign of fame to come? His stable mate, Ansata Ibn Sudan, had also done likewise, and he had become a U.S. National Champion.
At Home in Arkansas – The Natural State
In 1981 we sold the Texas farm and began the migration to our new ranch in Mena, Ark. Nestled in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains, it was a haven of natural beauty. Several friends including Lisa Lacy and her father, Jarrell McCracken of Bentwood Farms, were on hand to meet the caravans and record the arrival of Ansata Ibn Halima and his family. Lisa vividly recalls that historical day, “My strongest memory of this regal heir to the Ansata throne is when he was a brash young colt leaping off of the van. He exuded quality and he knew it. He was comfortable in his own skin. He was a classic whose bearing and attitude reflected the ethereal beauty now well known to the whole world.”
Soon after we made several trips abroad, including a stop at our friend Dr. Nagel’s Katharinenhof Stud near Bremen, Germany, to see his handsome white stallion, Jamil. Short wedgy head, big black expressive eyes, tiny ears, long neck, well-balanced with clean bone and good straight legs, Jamil was an elegant refined individual. Also bearing in mind his excellent parents, grandparents, and their pedigrees, he seemed a perfect match to add to the Ansata program. Not long afterwards, Nagel came to visit us. This meeting turned out to be what I often refer to as one of those “divine appointments.”
“It was my first visit to Ansata in the early eighties, after Don and Judi had moved to Arkansas,” Dr. Nagel recalls. “I had the opportunity to see most of the horses at that time, especially the colts and the stallions. Admiring Ansata’s special look and quality, I was busy in my mind with the question, which horse might improve some features of our Arabians in Germany, and naturally, also in my own farm. My face apparently changed expression drastically when I saw the young Ansata Halim Shah coming out, and Judi apparently noticed this fact.” He went on to reflect, “She asked me later about my impression of her horses, and my answer was like many of them, ‘It is difficult to tell which is the one.’ And Judi remarked, ‘I can tell you which is the one, because I saw your reaction when Halim Shah appeared’.” A cooperative agreement was then struck whereby Jamil would come to America to be shown and stand at Ansata, and Halim Shah would go to Europe after the U.S. Nationals, compete at the Salon du Cheval in Paris, and then stand at Nagel’s farm in Germany.
Jamil (registered in America as *Jamilll) arrived at Ansata in time to be exhibited together with Halim Shah at the Pyramid Society’s 1983 Egyptian Event in Lexington, Kentucky. Together, the two stunning white stallions made a memorable impact on breeders and spectators who came from around the world to attend the annual gathering of straight Egyptian Arabian horses. Other prestigious shows were soon to follow. Halim Shah, now age three, was already eligible for the Stallion Futurity Class at the U.S. National Arabian Horse Show to be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that year. Jamilll went about qualifying for the U.S. National Champion Stallion class by winning several Class A championships and gaining popularity along the way.
“The Egyptian Event had been very exciting that year, especially with *Jamilll’s debut in this country. Even with the hoopla about *Jamilll, Halim Shah held his own and seemed to affect people with his impish regal air,” Richard Sanders, Ansata’s resident trainer reminisces. “We arrived at U.S. Nationals on quite a high note, having had a very successful summer of showing a group of straight Egyptian stallions that turned everybody’s heads. Through all of this, Halim Shah seemed to know he was on a mission. Showing never seemed to stress him. Although he was a nipper, most of his energy came across as impish and playful. It looked good in the ring.”
In those days, classes were huge and highly competitive. Richard recalls, “If I remember correctly, we had to compete against as many as 60 stallions, and as many as three cuts of 20 just to reach the top ten. The competition was exceptionally tough, but *Jamilll was chosen as a U.S. Top Ten Stallion, and Ansata Halim Shah was chosen a U.S. National Top Ten Futurity Stallion. By this time, he was getting considerable notice from breeders and Arabian enthusiasts worldwide.”
Jody Cruz of Rancho Bulakenyo and his dad, Dr. Felino Cruz, were devoted fans of Ansata Ibn Halima. Jody fondly recollects, “My favorite memory of Ansata Halim Shah was at the 1983 U.S. National Championship Show when he and our own El Halimaar were crowned U.S. National Top Ten Futurity Colts. The two brothers [by Ansata Ibn Halima] made their sire proud that day.” In speaking of Ansata Halim Shah, Jody reflects, “Anyone who saw him even once, remembers him forever. His beauty was unmistakably ‘Ansata’ and his classic type unforgettable. What attracted me most was his exquisite, finely chiseled head, beautiful black eyes, and his memorable expression. Of course, one would expect such beauty from his pedigree.”
After Nationals, we decided to “take on the world” and prepared to ship Halim Shah to Paris for the Salon du Cheval World Championships. Halim Shah was in peak show condition for the trip, and Richard recalls that exciting day, “We left Arkansas for Europe, flying from Houston to New York and then on to Paris after spending eight hours on the J.F.K. tarmac due to mechanical problems. However, Halim Shah did not seem to mind the delay. He sensed he was on a mission and it seemed to help keep him out of trouble. We traveled well.”
Halim Shah’s fame and U.S. National win preceded him to Europe. Richard was unprepared for the reception committee of newspaper reporters and press that greeted them when they landed, or for the anxious moments that followed. “Somehow, the arrangements to move Halim Shah from the plane across town to the Longchamp race track, where he would stay temporarily, were overlooked,” Richard remembers. “My French, being very poor, forced me to draw pictures indicating the need for a ride. It was a bit traumatic, but we finally got transportation and, with a strange mare riding beside us, traveled across Paris in an open-topped two-horse trailer. When we arrived at Port du Versailles, where the historical Salon du Cheval takes place, Mizan Taj Halim, a beautiful black-bay Ansata Ibn Halima son from America, was there with Midwest Training Stables. It was an exciting show with much class and an enthusiastic French crowd, as well as spectators from around the world. When the cheering was over and the show had concluded, two Ansata Ibn Halima sons stood out from the rest, Mizan Taj Halim was World Champion Stallion, and Ansata Halim Shah was Reserve World Junior Champion Stallion, and the only horse to receive a perfect 20 in type. It was an unforgettable event.”
Singing His Praises
After the show, Halim Shah was vanned to Dr. Nagel’s farm in Bremen. “He remained for 18 months only, and any Egyptian horse, since that time, that does not carry his blood, ranks on a lower level,” Dr. Nagel vividly recalls. “This stallion had such a positive influence, that even those breeders who were at first very skeptical about him, nearly all changed their minds, and until now, Halim Shah is still the top name in all the breeding farms concentrating on Egyptian blood.” With a practiced eye for classic beauty, Nagel carefully selected the mares to be bred to Halim Shah, not only his own, but those from the Babolna State Stud of Hungary, the Marbach State Stud of Germany, and from other private breeding farms.
In Europe, horse breeding is a serious, honorable profession, and much attention is paid to breeding horses who have excellent conformation, are sound and athletic, and have good character which allows them to be happy in performing their allotted tasks. Classic type in Arabian horses encompasses all these attributes, including the unique beauty characteristic of this breed. At that time, German breeders were still compelled to obtain official approval for their stallions when they wanted to use a horse for breeding. It is therefore, significant that at the very strict German stallion licensing tests, Halim Shah was the only horse to receive a perfect 20 in type.
A letter from Stefan Walterman of the Maiworm Stud, who bred the celebrated Halim Shah son, Maysoun, explains how Halim Shah came to be even more appreciated by German breeders as time progressed:
“Dear Don, dear Judith,
Something unsurpassed happened during the 1987 German stallion licensing:
29 stallions out of 62 were licensed
4 were by Ansata Halim Shah
9 were rated “PREMIUM” (Same as ‘Elite’ in Tersk)
3 are by ANSATA HALIM SHAH.
The success of your stallion as a breeding horse is absolutely unique for the breeding of Arabian horses in Germany. In his article in the Arabisch Pferde, Dr. Wolfgang Cranz, the director of Marbach, mentioned that the four Halim Shah sons had been noticed as ‘superior in type, ideal neck, fine in the throatlatch, flowing movement with an extreme elasticity of the body.’
We all would like to thank you for sending Halim Shah to Europe and we all congratulate you for the phenomenal success.”
Dr. Nagel further commented at that time regarding the German licensing system and Halim Shah’s total record, “According to statistical figures covering 20 years of licensing, an Arabian stallion produces in all his life only one or two licensed sons. Ansata Halim Shah instead produced, in only 18 months during his short time in Germany, nine stallions who were all approved by the governmentally guided committee.”
Concluded Nagel, “His unprecedented success was definitely based on his own high breeding potential, but also on the careful selection of mares that might fit to such a horse. His striking appearance as a most classical Arabian and the quality of his ancestors listed in his pedigree, together made him a unique horse. He was also endowed with the rare ability to produce excellent sons and daughters as well.”
Halim Shah sired for Nagel a group of beautiful grey mares and the very influential grey stallion Salaa El Dine. In fact, Halim Shah changed the look of the Katherinenhof program, from colored horses to greys, and marked it with a new look. Many stallions sire good quality in only one sex; Halim Shah sired equally good colts and fillies, and his sons and daughters were soon winning national and international championships.
Among the enthusiastic Straight Egyptian Arabian horse breeders in Germany at that time, as well as now, was Cornelia Tauschke of El Thayeba Arabians. She remembers, “When I saw Ansata Halim Shah the first time, he was three years old and had just arrived at Dr. Nagel’s Katharinenhof. His exotic head and balanced body impressed me very much. We were happy to have the chance to breed some mares with him. Today when you see the group of El Thayeba horses, you can see Ansata Halim Shah in every horse.”
Home Sweet Home
When Halim Shah returned to America, he was quarantined for a month in Kentucky before traveling back to Arkansas. Not long after his arrival in Mena, he appeared colicky. Don rushed him to a vet clinic in Oklahoma where exploratory surgery was performed. No problems were found, and he came through the operation with his usual aplomb and serenity, surprising the vets with his rapid recovery and playful demeanor.
Halim Shah matured into a majestic silvery-white stallion and made an indelible impression on breeders and judges, including Peter Pond of Forest Hill Arabian Stud in Australia, who has known the Ansata horses since 1971. “I marveled at how successful a sire Halim Shah was when used in many of the Egyptian breeding programs in Europe and the Middle East,” remarks Peter. “Halim Shah was truly one of the great Arabian sires of our time.”
Similar thoughts were echoed by two American breeder judges, Bill Trapp and Jim Panek, who were dedicated to rewarding classic type in the show ring. “Recollections of Ansata Halim Shah for me are of an exceptional individual with that elusive quality many good horses lack, a ‘presence’ about him, coupled with a lot of vitality,” remarked Trapp. “He was the epitome of Arabian type, and, of course, had the bloodlines to ‘breed on.’” Panek’s appraisal is similar, “If there is any one Arabian stallion that has re-awakened the world of Arabian horses to the classic Arabian, it is Ansata Halim Shah. He has perpetuated his likeness in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. Through his offspring in each of these geographical areas, Ansata Halim Shah has become the epitome to which breeders strive. There is no doubt that as the history of the Arabian horse progresses world-wide, Ansata Halim Shah will be recognized as the standard bearer of the breed.”
Writers were captivated by Halim Shah’s extreme beauty, pride and nobility. Respected author Cynthia Culbertson was one of many who fell prey to his charms, “Ansata Halim Shah, much like his legendary father, Ansata Ibn Halima, seemed to have an inner sense of self,” she muses. “In his presence, one sensed a sublime serenity and harmony. He could stand quietly, a certain stillness in his faraway gaze, and project his greatness without unnecessary fuss. He was exquisitely beautiful … Halim Shah, like many of the greatest Arabian stallions, wasn’t a tall horse, but he had extraordinary balance, and in motion could be bigger than life. He was the essence of Arabian type.”
Joe Ferriss, former editor of The Khamsat magazine, knows Ansata horses well. Reflecting on when he first saw Halim Shah in the early 90’s, he wrote, “As I walked around him looking over his pearl-like surface, the experience was like that of viewing an Auguste Rodin sculpture. He was continuously harmonious when viewed from every angle. Knowing his pedigree, I was aware that he represented an amalgam of the key ingredients that embody the Ansata vision and type. Yet, he was not a horse that one could accurately say, ‘he reminds me of … .’ As I looked into his deep lustrous eyes, I felt an immediate sense of quiet dignity conveying with certainty that this was a horse unto himself, a soul like no other.”
Breeders loved Halim Shah, who was in his element whether holding audience at home, or at the Pyramid Society’s annual Egyptian Event where he was exhibited in the 80’s and early 90’s on the Hall of Stallions. Karen Henwood, successful breeder and owner of Sandybrook Farm in Fla., remarked after she first saw him in the Big Barn at the Egyptian Event. “I was stopped dead in my tracks. Before me was a vision I thought only possible in ancient paintings. I had never seen anything like this in the flesh.” She further noted, “There was no other horse in that barn that gave me the feeling that Halim Shah did.”
Long-time breeders Joan Skeels and Sue Burnham of Hope Farm in Ark., remembered, “At first we saw him in his huge double stall, his coat opalescent as if he were cast from fine bone china; huge dark eyes glanced briefly then he returned to the order of his day. Regal, a king in his demeanor, were our thoughts of him. Once on a lead shank, he became animated; his tail a plume over his back claiming full attention from those observing him, yet reflecting kindness and docility. Standing there, each point of his construction fluidly created a model of perfection.”
The Perfect Model
Photographers worldwide considered Halim Shah a perfect model. Because of his ideal fine bone structure, he was very photogenic, and every photo session produced excellent pictures. Jerry Sparagowski began his career in equine photography at Ansata in the early 70’s. He recorded Halim Shah’s life in America and his famous “fountain” image of Halim Shah looking over his back at his high-plumed tail set a new benchmark in Arabian horse photography. Harking back to those formative days, Jerry remembers, “In the early seventies, Ansata Arabian Stud had three important stallions: Ansata Ibn Halima, Ansata Ibn Sudan and Ansata Shah Zaman. They were very different in style, and one could easily pick out which foals were by which stallion. As time moved on and Ansata’s breeding program continued to mature, a distinctive ‘look’ started to appear. In my eye, that ‘look’ was Ansata Halim Shah. He had Ansata Ibn Halima’s beauty, Ansata Ibn Sudan’s strength and elegance, and Ansata Shah Zaman’s flair for life … . To my mind, he had become the Ansata horse.”
Internationally famous equine photographer, the late Erwin Escher of Germany, became an enthusiastic fan of Ansata Halim Shah when he and his wife, Annette, came to America in 1993. “We first visited Ansata Arabians, and this has had much influence on our future breeding program,” Erwin remembered. “The first horse we saw there was Ansata Halim Shah! Don showed him to us outside his barn, and we were totally impressed by his incomparable Arabian beauty and charisma … white, dry in type, elegant—simply a real ARABIAN HORSE. We never before saw a beauty like him!”
Gigi Grasso of Italy also needs no introduction as a world-famous photographer. He too, began his career at Ansata. “Ansata Halim Shah will always be a special horse to me because he was the very first Arabian that I had the chance to photograph,” Gigi fondly recalls. “Even after I have had the privilege of photographing many of the world’s most beautiful and famous Arabians, I still cannot forget Ansata Halim Shah. After I had seen several of his offspring, I said to myself, ‘Just once in my life, I would like to have a horse of this blood!’ His charisma, his eyes, his fine skin, his splendid quality—all of this made Ansata Halim Shah simply spectacular.”
In the Eye of the Beholder
From time immemorial, artists have been inspired by the Arabian horse’s classic beauty. When Halim Shah was seven years old, accomplished painter and sculptor Barbara Lewis of Baraka Farm and Studio in Mena, portrayed him in a charming pencil sketch entitled “Grey Monarch“. She reminisces that, “On occasion, it would seem that God sends us an Arabian horse of such beauty and elegance that it becomes an ideal by which all others are to be measured. They remain a goal for breeders to accomplish, and for lovers of perfection to own.” To her artist’s eye, “Ansata Halim Shah was such an Arabian horse. He had that indefinable, ethereal quality. His demeanor made it known that he did not question his importance. If I were to compare him, it would have to be with the finest Meissen china … delicate, and refined, yet with a strength that is enduring … he was perfection in elegance. It is the hope of this achievement that drives us forward against all odds.”
When we commissioned celebrated sculptor Karen Kasper to portray Halim Shah in bronze, she came to Ansata and spent several days in and out of his stall studying his structure, taking his conformation measurements, and observing his mischievous habits. She finally chose to depict him in a playful rearing position. At that time she didn’t realize this pose was also common to his sire, Ansata Ibn Halima. Speaking in retrospect about Halim Shah, she was reminded, “Although a stallion of exquisite refinement and beautiful type, I remember most his unique and expressive energy that projected a powerful charisma, attitude of superiority, and an inherent sense of mischief.” She further recalled, “I was among those who sensed that he was profoundly important in some way beyond our present understanding, and I felt that Halim Shah himself sensed this as well. I sculpted him rearing proudly, yet with a playful eye on his admirers, and this is how I will always remember him.”
During the late 80’s and early 90’s, Ansata was continually receiving guests from around the world. One day Sheikh Abdulaziz Bin Khalid Al Thani, a young man in his early twenties from the ruling Al Thani family of the State of Qatar, paid us a visit. Arriving at Ansata with an entourage of friends, and minus their luggage, they uncomplainingly made themselves comfortable with clothes hastily purchased from Wal-Mart until their bags arrived two days later. Rain or shine, they walked through the pastures and studied every horse. The young sheikh had the keen eye of his beloved falcons, and nothing escaped his critical gaze. He knew exactly what he wanted—whether or not it was for sale made no difference.
Mindful of Sheikh Abdulaziz’s extreme enthusiasm, remarkable pedigree knowledge, and his potential to lead the Arab world to new heights in breeding Arabian horses, we agreed to sell him our stunning chestnut U.S. National Top Five Futurity Champion Mare Ansata Splendora (*Jamilll x Ansata Splendora), and the dynamic white Ansata Majesta (Ansata Halim Shah x Ansata Malika). Majesta promptly lived up to her name for her new owner. Those who saw her majestically trot into the show ring and win the first Qatar National Junior Mare Championship will forever remember her. She was a true queen, and she lit the torch that carried Halim Shah’s flame into the Arab world.
“When I first saw Ansata Halim Shah in photographs, I had high expectations,” remarked Sheikh Abdulaziz. “When a few months later visiting the Ansata Arabian Stud, I realized this stallion was still more special! Halim Shah made such an impression on me that from that day, I gladly dedicated my own breeding program towards him, hoping that one day I would be honored with a colt foal possessing his incomparable Arabian horse type, quality and charm.”
Ancestral Homelands Beckon
Meanwhile, the hint of an Arabian horse renaissance was on the horizon in the Arab world. HH The Emir of the State of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, sensed the time for the renaissance had come and he was determined to move it forward at a rapid pace. A life-long horseman, he enjoyed riding, but he was also particularly aware of his country’s Arabian horse heritage and was determined to restore the cultural tradition of his ancestors in breeding superior bloodstock. That he would choose a stallion of the Dahman Shahwan lineage as a foundation sire was prophetic, for the founding father of the State of Qatar, Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, (r. 1878-1913) also coveted this strain as did celebrated breeder Abbas Pasha I, Viceroy of Egypt (r. 1848-1854). It is noteworthy that the first Dahma Shahwania mare mentioned in the famous Abbas Pasha Manuscript was from Qatar.
As a site for his exciting new project, HH The Emir chose the Al Shaqab region where Qatari blood had once been shed in the battle for Qatar’s independence. He meticulously began construction, naming his stud farm Al Shaqab in honor of the valiant horses and warriors who fought the Ottomans there in 1893 and paved the way for Qatar’s future independence.
His Highness’s vision for the stud was three-fold: to preserve many of the breed’s ancient sire and dam lines, to perpetuate the native Qatari Arabians, and to elevate the standard in world-class Arabian show horses which would bring recognition to Qatar’s cultural heritage. His goal was to see the results of his Al Shaqab Stud’s breeding program become a valuable contributor to breeding herds around the world. To manage his breeding program, HH The Emir chose a very capable young horseman, Sheikh Hamad bin Ali Al Thani, whom he had known for years. Sheikh Hamad was a devout patriot, devoted to His Highness, and determined to make Al Shaqab world famous.
Sheikh Hamad did his homework, studied pedigrees, and set forth on his quest to purchase world-class Arabian horses. He visited with Egyptian breeders from around the globe and attended the Pyramid Society’s Egyptian Event in Lexington, Kentucky. After looking at many horses, he purchased the handsome straight Egyptian Arabian stallion Sabiell, who promptly won Supreme Champion Stallion of the show. This win further inspired Sheikh Hamad to boldly move Al Shaqab forward into the highly competitive international show ring. A few months later at the Salon du Cheval World Championships in Paris, Sabiell was crowned 1993 World Reserve Junior Champion Stallion, the first of many World Championship titles to be garnered by Al Shaqab in the future.
White Horses – Symbolic of Victory
One day in 1993, an exquisite white mare pranced into the life of HH The Emir. Immediately he recognized in her something beyond beauty. It was Ansata Majesta! She had become the talk of the Arabian horse community since winning at the Qatar National show. Desirous of having horses of this unique quality and beauty, HH The Emir inquired of Sheikh Abdulaziz and his brother, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Khalid Al Thani, where he might obtain some like her. Thus he learned about Ansata Arabian Stud, including the farm’s remarkable stallion Ansata Halim Shah, and the Ansata breeding program.
In the course of events, we were approached to sell Halim Shah and a group of mares that could help found a straight Egyptian Arabian breeding program for Al Shaqab. We gave much thought to the pros and cons of letting Halim Shah leave the States. It seemed a wonderful opportunity for him to become a “light on the hill” to further the Arabian horse renaissance in the Arab world. Therefore, after great deliberation, we made the decision to let him return to his ancestral homeland where the Dahman Shahwan strain had long been celebrated.
Well-known breeder, Christie Metz, of Silver Maple Farm, remembers her visit to Ansata just before we made that fateful decision, “I saw Halim Shah, along with Ansata Omar Halim [Halim Shah’s full brother], Ansata Manasseh and Prince Fa Moniet, the first time I visited your farm. I remember thinking how special it was to see these beautiful silver talismans of the breed and thinking that I wanted to breed Sahbine to Halim Shah. The next year you sold him and the rest is history. It was a lesson for me to follow your instincts immediately, do not wait.”
Before Halim Shah was to make his fateful journey, we held a special farewell party in the show barn, complete with carrot cake, to wish him bon voyage. Soon thereafter, Don and Dr. Craig Bullock, D.V.M., were accompanying him on his flight to the faraway land of Qatar, jutting off the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula into the turquoise waters of the Arabian Gulf.
The Great Migration Begins
The trip was undertaken without mishap. Halim Shah deplaned into the blinding desert glare and was taken to his new home at Al Shaqab in Doha. A small but select group of straight Egyptian Arabian mares, as well as those of other international Arabian bloodlines, awaited his arrival and he promptly went about his mission of getting them in foal. The future looked bright.
HH The Emir was very pleased with Halim Shah and always made it a point to see him when he came to visit the farm to take his daily walks. Eileen Verdieck, an advisor to Al Shaqab in its early years, remembers that after Ansata Halim Shah arrived, His Highness loved to stand at the fence and watch him running loose. “The stallion would gallop right up to him, snort, and whirl away again,” she recalls. “It was fun to watch him play and entertain HH The Emir.”
Not long after Halim Shah arrived in Qatar, caravans of Ansata’s choicest Dahmah Shahwanieh mares wended their way eastward to join him at Al Shaqab: Ansata Bint Halima, Ansata Sudarra, Ansata Aliha, Ansata Prima Rose (a maternal half-sister to Halim Shah) Ansata Malaha (a special Halim Shah daughter) and Ansata Deborah, as well as Ansata Narjisa of the Saklawiah Jedraniyah strain. Thus the foundation for a significant straight Egyptian Arabian program was in place and founded primarily on the Dahman strain valued by the Al Thani ancestors. The renaissance of the Arabian horse in the Arab world was beginning to blossom. In a few years it would be in full bloom, much to the credit and leadership of HH The Emir.
What a fabulous opportunity it was for Qatar to carry on that time-honored strain. It seemed that Halim Shah and his harem might live together happily ever after. However, it was not to be. The “Hand of Fate” struck. Halim Shah suffered an irreparable accident and sadly passed away far too soon! His beautiful white light, however, did not diminish. It continues to shine in reflection through his magnificent descendants.
Fortunately a few mares had gotten in foal during his short period at Al Shaqab and they delivered several fine daughters. Fate was also kind enough to provide a stunning, very impish, grey colt to carry on his father’s legacy. Named Al Adeed Al Shaqab, he matured into a dynamic silvery-white stallion. A born show horse and big show-off, halter championships fell at his feet including multi-National Champion Stallion wins, Egyptian Event Supreme Champion in the U.S. and World Champion Stallion at the Salon du Cheval in Paris. Now his get and grandget are passing on many of his traits, and the influence of Halim Shah continues.
The Last Migration
After nearly fifty years of involvement with Arabian horses, in 2006 Don and I decided to phase out our breeding program – just two years before our Golden Anniversary. HH The Emir inadvertently heard the news from one of his friends, and he was determined to acquire the remaining Ansata herd which contained some of our choicest mares. We agreed to the purchase, and another migration of priceless Dahmah Shahwaniah mares wended its way eastward to Qatar, most of them carrying close-up breeding to Halim Shah and his relatives. Among them were: Ansata Nefri, Ansata Nefr, Ansata Bint Nefr, Ansata Nadra, Ansata Shahkira, VA Ahlam, Ansata Desert Star, Ansata Desert Sunrise and the double Halim Shah mare, Ansata Millennia. Accompanying the herd were two young Dahman Shahwan colts, Ansata Mabrouk and Ansata Ibn Sirius.
Sheikh Hamad Bin Ali Al Thani, the current Breeding and Show Manager of Al Shaqab recalls, “From the beginning of the foundation of Al Shaqab Stud, we selected the best stallions which became the basis of our present elite horses. I am remindful that Ansata Halim Shah is one stallion that I chose and I have never forgotten; he was the main pillar at Al Shaqab Stud.
“Ansata Halim Shah was the best Egyptian horse; he comprised all the great things which all breeders love,” Sheikh Hamad reminisced. “Although it is not difficult to find a beautiful stallion, it is very difficult to get one with the specifications of Ansata Halim Shah. He incarnates beauty, magnificence, elegance and endurance, and was much beloved. I have never seen any other like him nor one that had something of his fascination; he was a unique stallion that cannot come back.”
Sheikh Hamad continued, “I tried to find suitable words that can describe my lovely stallion, but I couldn’t. He is gone, though he lives in my heart and mind. All breeders around the world from the U.S. and Europe, to the Middle East, are missing him. I can say, Al Shaqab Stud is very lucky, because the blood of Ansata Halim Shah is running into new generations of stallions born here, and Al Aadeed Al Shaqab is one of them. He is not Ansata Halim Shah, but he takes most characteristics of his sire. Thus, I can say he is a unique stallion. I love him, just as I loved his sire.”
Once In A Lifetime
“The moving finger having writ, moves on…” Over a quarter of a century has passed since the young Qataris first visited Ansata Arabian Stud in Mena, Ark. In 2008 we closed the farm and Don Forbis passed away at the close of our 50th anniversary year. Al Shaqab was gifted by HH The Emir to the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science, and Community Development located within Education City – “a city of knowledge built for the people.” Twenty-one years after HH The Emir founded Al Shaqab, he abdicated the throne in favor of his son, HH Sheikh Tamim. Now beloved as HH The Father Emir, his foresight in bringing the Arabian breed to new heights is being enjoyed by Qataris and breeders worldwide. Furthermore, the bloodlines of Ansata Halim Shah are carrying forward at Al Shaqab, and other Qatari farms, through a host of beautiful broodmares and outstanding stallions such as Al Adeed Al Shaqab, Ashhal Al Rayyan, Ansata Selman and Faris Al Rayyan.
As if by prophesy, the songs predicting Halim Shah’s future the year he was born came true. In the year of his passage into greener pastures, they had been replaced by another prophetic set, Always, Take a Bow, Broken Hearted, and The Crossroads. But the tunes I remember that seemed to fit him best were those of the early 90’s, when he was in his prime, Here and Now, All Around the World and Nothing Compares 2 U.
Ansata Halim Shah achieved legendary status as a classic Arabian stallion by which many others are measured, and as an unsurpassed sire during and after his time on earth. He touched countless lives, leaving each person with a treasured remembrance of his remarkable virtues. Rik Van Lent Jr., was the last artist with a camera to portray him at Al Shaqab in 1994. His beautiful portraits and thoughtful observation provide an everlasting memory, “Halim Shah never died. He
will always live on and his remarkable influence will always be there.”
Ansata Halim Shah
“Here and Now,” “All Around the World,” “Nothing Compares 2 U”
Nothing compares to you
Cause nothing compares
Nothing compares to you.
(Lyrics by Prince)