Who better to write a book about the origins and history of the arabian horse in Jordan than HRH Princess Alia, the eldest daughter of the late King Hussein, and noted artist and author Peter Upton?
by HRH Princess Alia Al Hussein and Peter UptonMedina Publishing, July 2011
210 x 218 mm Portrait, 264pp hardcover, cloth bound
RRP £35 – Buy now
Both need no introduction to the arabian horse world – indeed, they hold various important positions in the arabian and horse worlds, and, closer to home, are both patrons of the New Zealand Arab Horse Breeders Society.
Following the foreword by her sister, FEI President Princess Haya, and some background on the history of the nation of Jordan by Prince Rashid Al Hassan, Princess Alia takes us into the world of Jordan’s Royal Stables.
In settling on a format for the book, Princess Alia decided to write about her memories and experiences in her own words, thus avoiding what can often be a dry chronological style. This has been successful as her resulting section “The Story so Far”, is an engrossing read. It’s not just names and pedigrees, as is so often the case in a “breed” book.
So Royal Heritage is part personal memoir and part history – and told in a most readable and fascinating way.
The book is full of photographs – both historic and modern day – there is always at least one image per spread. The student of breeding and conformation will enjoy seeing the family’s personal collection of photographs of people and horses.
The beginnings of the Royal Stud and the arabian horse’s subsequent history in the region were not without drama. For example, at one time infusions of thoroughbred blood added by racing enthusiasts up to the mid 1980s proved “disastrous to the pure Arab horse and largely responsible for its near extinction in its homelands”, Alia writes.
Other dramas including death and revolution also shaped the stud, but it stayed true to its aims thanks to those dedicated to the preservation of the breed.
Stories of favourite and influential horses are retold, including Mehrez, Bahadur, Bahar, and there is the interesting story of the arabian mare Shamah, who was given to Ursula and Santiago Lopez. The couple, who worked at King Hussein’s Royal Stables for many years, were the most influential “outsiders” involved with the stud.
As well as the horses, there are anecdotes on the people who were involved with the Royal Stables over the years, famous and infamous visitors, and horses who were bought, gifted and received as gifts. Interestingly, these have included breeds other than arabian, including three Galiceno horses, appaloosas, and a couple of palomino “tanks”.
Princess Alia’s extensive section draws to a close telling of her involvement with horse sports in recent years, and an acknowledgement of the forces – horse and human – that have shaped this book.
Peter Upton’s great knowledge of the arabian horse and the arabian people also shows through. In his shorter section, he looks at the breeding of the horses and the important bloodlines that have shaped the arabian in Jordan – and the breed overall.
A talented artist – not just of equine subjects – Upton also paints a picture in words of Jordan’s Hashemite kingdom, its struggles and triumphs, and its sought-after horses, from the early days in the 18th and 19th centuries when travellers came from far and wide in search of the arabian horse. These visitors included Lady Anne Blunt and her husband Wilfrid from England, Ali Pasha Sherif from Egypt, Prince Sherbatov and Count Stroganov from Russia, and representatives from Poland and Hungary.
As expected, Upton’s section is packed with both historic images and his own art work of the horses and the country.
Royal Heritage is not just a book for the arabian enthusiast – it also earns its place on the bookshelf of collectors of equine history.
Without the arabian, where would the horse world be?
Princess Alia bint Al Hussein of Jordan is the daughter of King Hussein of Jordan and his first wife, Sharifa Dina bint ‘Abdu’l-Hamid.
As well as several non equestrian interests, Princess Alia is director of the Royal Stables of Jordan, President of the Royal Jordanian Equestrian Federation since 1993, a patron of the Brooke Hospital for Animals, and a governor of the British Arab Horse Society. She initiated the festival of the “Arabian Horse at Home” in 1988 (now a yearly event). She also organized the Middle East Championships for Purebred Horses, Jordan.
Peter Upton studied art and art history at college and university, but considers that he really learnt more from his uncle, Charles W Cain, the well-known etcher of Arabia in the 1920s, and from studying the work of those artists he most admires, notably Stubbs, Munnings, Edwards, Sorolla and the Pre-Raphaelites. Peter Upton is best known for his paintings depicting the desert scene and the Arab horse. He has held one-man exhibitions in Britain and abroad, and his works, including many private commissions, are in private collections around the world.
A past President of the Arab Horse Society of Great Britain, an international judge, and a recognised expert on the history of the Arab horse, his passion for this breed goes back some 65 years to his first pony, a white part-Arab. He writes regularly for the AHS News and other magazines, has been involved in films on the Arab horse, and is the author of Desert Heritage: An Artist’s Collection of Blunt’s Original Arab Horses (1980), The Classic Arab Horse (1986), The Arabian Horse – History, Mystery and Magic (1998) and The Arab Horse.
First published on Horsetalk on November 9, 2011