by Robin Marshall  

WADDUDA OF THE DESERT, by Jean Ivey. 230pp.

Wadduda of the Desert is the first book by US Arabian breeder Jean Ivey, and it was a long time coming.

Set in early 1900s Arabia, it tells the story of an Arabian mare and her handler, a slave boy named Saied.

Ivey first delved into Arabian pedigrees as a youngster living on a remote cattle ranch in the western United States.

"We had no radio or television reception and no telephone," Ivey says.

"I started doing pedigree research in the long winter evenings to entertain myself. It was the beginning of a life-long fascination."

Ivey became intrigued by one arabian in particular during her research -- the war mare Wadduda.  "There are photographs of her that clearly show lance marks on her neck from the ghazus (raids) she fought in the desert.  I have always wanted to know more about her life there," Ivey says.

She discovered the mare was part of the Homer Davenport desert exportations of 1906. Wadduda went to the United States with her faithful african handler Saied -- but that phase of Wadduda's life will be told in further volumes.

Ivey -- who has been a preservation breeder for 25 years -- found that Wadduda's lines had lived on, in many modern American Arabian pedigrees.

She owns several horses with Wadduda in their pedigree.

A preservation breeder uses only horses from Bedouin desert lines.  "I am  pleased that I have been a small part of that preservation effort, and when I  look out in my pasture I see the wonderful results of breeding Bedouin Arabian  horses.  I am sure of Wadduda's personality because all of my mares are her  descendants and they have a special way of looking at things that came, in part, from Wadduda herself."

As ranch horses, Ivey says these arabians were "very brave, and such  wonderful companions on long working days."

Back in those days Ivey wasn't even contemplating a book, but 25 years later, Wadduda of the Desert is the result of that research.

The book will leave readers wanting to know more about the brave mare and her young handler Saied. Once picked up, it is hard to put down.

While Wadduda's early days have not been recorded in the history books, the story is based on fact, from documentation of the period dating from the early 1900s. Future volumes will focus on Wadduda's life in the United States, and her part in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show.

"I researched politics of the period of the importation to try and get a feeling for why Ahmad Hafez (Wadduda's owner) and the Annazah tribe would let war mares leave the desert,"   Ivey says.

Exportations such as these had never happened before, as the best war mares were jealously guarded and prized by their owners -- and their tribes.

"Homer Davenport imported 26 horses from the Annazah tribe in 1906, and 16 of those horses have been bred on in what we call '100% Davenport',  which means no other blood has been introduced.

"I think the conclusions I came to in the book are probably true.  The mares  were being slaughtered by the use of guns in raids. The purist breeders wanted to save them."

Ivey says Davenport was at the right place at the right time to buy horses. The warring tribes of the time had gone through several years of drought and civil unrest. Davenport became a blood brother of Ahmad Hafez.

"Davenport was able to purchase horses that the tribes were using for breeding.  Truly unheard off, and something that never happened again, or before."

In his book "My Quest of the Arabian Horse" (1909) Davenport says that all the way to the ship, a trip which took several days, the party was followed by Bedouin with  their mares, who were to be bred to Haleb, a stallion in the importation.'

It is one of Ivey's ambitions to go to Arabia, and follow the trail of Homer Davenport's expedition.

Wadduda of the Desert brings to life the Bedouin desert of the early 1900, when warfare between tribes was becoming more sophisticated and times were changing. It was, perhaps, the end of an era.

Wadduda lived with Saied at her side to the end. Neither returned to the desert.


Wadduda web site