We had overnighted at Calne, which is the site of one of the White Horses that were carved into the chalk hillsides of the Wiltshire region around the early 1600s-1700s.
The Calne White Horse has recently been re-furbished and it looked very smart. These horses were carved without benefit of modern technology or machinery and are certainly a credit to their designers and the workers who produced them.
The English farmers have recovered well from the Foot and Mouth outbreak although they were gutted at the time with the senseless destruction of their herds and flocks, many of course had been generations in the same family ownership. I don't intend to go into the whys and wherefores in this piece, but for many that we spoke to, they felt that the animals were unnecessarily put down and that the call to vaccinate instead of slaughter were ignored. Interestingly enough, in the closing days of our stay in the UK, it now looks as though animals will be vaccinated, in readiness for, god forbid, another outbreak. Television and newspapers were featuring the Countryside March which was scheduled for the following Saturday through the streets of London. More than 600,000 people marched, including a bunch of kiwis, protesting a whole range of country issues including a ban on hunting and fox destruction, loss of rural jobs and services and a general downturn following foot and mouth for those living in the country. The march received loads of exposure in the media - the politicians (apart from those in support!) chose to ignore it.
The lobby at the Holiday Inn (location of the CC 2002), started to look like an international meeting place on the Thursday afternoon and the accents of those registering for the conference included South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Argentina, Switzerland, Sweden, all parts of the UK and Europe. Thursday night we collected our conference packs and geared up for the tour to Crabbet Park set to depart 8.30am Friday morning.
Crabbet Park Tour:
Crabbet Park is the ancestral home of the Blunts, Lady Wentworth and of course, Crabbet horses. A full bus load of international "pilgrims" split into two groups on arrival and our group was escorted by Leslie Thacker, chairman of the Crabbet Convention committee and an arabian owner. The other group was escorted by Caroline Sussex, daughter of author and historian Rosemary Archer, who together with husband Dick and their other daughter Elizabeth, lived at South Lodge on Crabbet Park up until recently when they moved to St. Mary Bourne.
Memories of videos and books flooded back for all the delegates when we walked towards the Orangerie, also known as the Tennis Courts, which has now, thanks to the software company Macro 4 who own both Crabbet House and the Tennis courts, been totally restored. We were not able to visit either building, however, by standing on the beautiful lawns, under huge and stately trees, we imagined the doors being opened and Lady Wentworth coming out. Just the stuff dreams are made of!
From Crabbet House and the Orangerie, we walked back along the driveway to the Coronation Stables. Sadly, the encroachment of progress will likely see these historic buildings demolished in the very near future. They are the original stables, so well known through the picture of Lady Wentworth standing under the historic Stables Gatehouse, now missing the famous weathervane. The area where Lady Wentworth used to parade her horses in front of the Gatehouse is now a car park and is mooted to soon follow the rest of the area (apart from the two stately buildings) and become part of a big hotel/leisure/casino complex.
The Crabbet Estate was cut in half by the new M23 motorway in 1972, but even before this had taken place, the stallion paddocks and the complex known as Caxtons to the West of the main house, had been taken over by a large housing estate. Historic names such as Frogshole and Maidenbower, part of the Blunt Heritage, have already disappeared with the demand for more building land. The old Maidenbower Farm has been renamed Maidenbower Village. We also saw a signpost to New Bridges railway station where the horses used to arrive at and leave from. The large fields leading to Crabbet, although still complete with horses, are also being neglected and one can only speculate that these will soon be taken over for housing development. South Lodge, Caxtons Cottages and long time head groom Fred Rice's house named Oran's Paddock still stand but again are surrounded by modern buildings.
The bus tour wound up with a visit to Worth Church, the Parish Church for Crabbet Park and one of the oldest English Churches. When it was built and why in the location that it was are two frequently asked questions, and whilst there is no definitive answer to either question, expert opinion has dated the existing building to the years between 950 and 1050AD. The church was constructed in a clearing of the Great Forest of Anderida or Anderedes Weld and dates from Saxon times. It has been beautifully maintained and features several stained glass windows.
Crabbet Convention Parade 2002 - Merrist Wood
Not since 1985 have so many Crabbet horses been together and when the organisers of the Convention started to put the "lists" of likely horses on paper, some long-hidden treasures started to come out of the woodwork. Bear in mind too that to be eligible for the parade, all horses (including the saddle horses), had to be 75 per cent or higher, (preferably higher) and each candidate nominated was viewed by independent judges before the final selection of over 120 horses was made.
At this point, it is worthwhile noting the internationally accepted definition of a * Pure Crabbet horse: "A * Pure Crabbet horse is one which traces in all lines of its pedigree to Arabian horses bred or owned by Lady Anne Blunt, Wilfred Blunt, Lady Wentworth, Cecil Covey or The Crabbet Stud."
* Pure Crabbet is also the same as 100% Crabbet and Straight Crabbet.
The Parade was held on Day Two of the Convention and horses were shown in family groups interspersed with groups of saddle horses including endurance, arabian racing and mares and stallions under saddle.
Opening the parade was the silver stallion Imad, owned by Diana Whittome (whose stud we visited in the post-convention tour), ridden by Jane Herries and carrying the Union Jack. Imad, a grey led a parade of ridden stallions including PHA Silvern Risalm (Silvern Sceptre x Rislina), Al Mesdam (Silvern Idyll x Sherifah), Ikoni (Prince Sadik x Silvern Image), Bright Cavalier (Bright Crown x Soumana of Fairfield), Silver Satyr (Silver Chastindi x Shamasque), Arisoto (Imad x Anselma), Indian Banner (Silvadoris x Xarifa), Samhire (Samtyr x Sapphire Lady), Silent Storm (Imad x Starlite Rose) and Vivek (Samyr x Saphire Lady). The stallions were beautifully behaved and the inside arena of Merrist Wood provided a great location for visitors to view what was unfolding before them.
The first of the seven in hand family groups represented Rissla (1917), one of the greatest ever Crabbet mares, with sons such as Rissalix and Irex and daughters such as Risslina and Rissalma. The Rissla groups were then broken down into sub-groups represented by Indian Flame II, Gleaming Gold, Ludo, Farette, Irex, Irex + Nuhra, Irex+ Sainfoin and Ben Rabba. There were certainly some leading lights in these groups with standout mentions for Nations Cup champion stallion Shogun, UK National Supreme Ridden Championship winner Chalyska and Khairho, fresh from representing UK at the World Games in Spain.
Next, the ridden show geldings Chivalry, Dhahi Dancer, British National Champion - Kharuss Ibn Sadik, UK International Champion - Vikta, Bright Sceptre and Sambuka. Their display was great and of course, all the ridden horses were linked into the in-hand groups that were displayed throughout the parade.
The eighth of the Rissla family groups represented the famous US-bred chestnut stallion Ben Rabba. He was Kellogg bred and lent back to England to restore a lost Crabbet line. A great cheer went up from the US delegation when this line was introduced in the arena and his very worthy descendants included AHS Premium stallion Aurelian, Bright Sceptre and Marlak Magic Aura.
A very informative and entertaining endurance demonstration was staged in the arena after the Ben Rabba group and featured the top endurance horses Kairho, AHS Premium stallion Shaded Silver, Tigre and Shiffalia. The arena virtually became a mini endurance vet check, runout area and the display was designed to tell the non-endurance folk in the audience just what occurs in one of these events. Sitting with us was Sue and Toby Crockett, just back from Jerez and the World Games in Spain and enroute home to Australia. Sue had ridden the former New Zealand horse Jonah at the Games.
The very influential Crabbet mare Razina (1922) provided three family groups and opened the afternoon's parade. The first group were descendants of the exquisite Raktha, a highly influential stallion and son of Razina. These horses belonged to the Indian Magic Group - Indian Magic being, of course, a son of Raktha. Bright Cavalier, Indian Fanfare, the glorious Silver Saytr, Marillion Platinum Wings, Mousika and Dhahi Dancer comprised this group.
The Oran Group followed and Oran, bred by Lady Yule, was a grandson of Razina through his sire Riffal (Naufal x Razina). Riffal of course is well known to Australians and New Zealanders through the Fenwick and Santarabia Studs. Oran's page in the catalogue stated "The modern Crabbet Arabian would be a very different thing if it were not for Oran."
Oran left a fantastic legacy including Oran van Crabbet (a famous US Park horse) and Grand Royal (for Australia). The final of the Razina Groups was the Bright Shadow family. Bright Shadow was one of Lady Wentworth's purchases from other breeders (Mrs Mounsey-Heysham), however, he traces to all Crabbet bloodlines. Australia's Greylight is a member of this family, as is Odessa, the dam of Padron. There were seven representatives for Bright Shadow.
Breaking the groups again was a ridden display, this time a lineup of Arabian race horses, featuring Indian Idyll, Razif, Rawen, The Silver Gambler and Sellwyn. These horses are no slugs on the race track and collectively have won many thousands of pounds in stakes. The horses were in racing trim and jockeys were in owners' silks to add to the colour of the display. Bear in mind too that all the ridden horses were 75 percent or higher in Crabbet blood, following the same qualifying selection criteria as the inhand groups.
Nasra (1908) provided the next family group and this mare has left a huge worldwide legacy. Descendants include Irex, Serafix, Sindh and Indian Magic.
One of the Nasra groups included the glorious mare, 27 years young Dancing Queen owned by Jane Kadri of Al Waha Stud. D. Queen paraded in her Princess Muna saddle having just won, along with other members of her family, the prestigious UK National Title of Best Family Group. She was a glorious mare, one to grace any paddock. Nasra's third and last group traced from her great grandson Naseel, who spent his life at stud in Ireland. He was responsible for giving the UK not only purebred Arabians, but more famously, the noted Arabian pony Pretty Polly.
The second to last ridden group were the ridden mares and again they were a star-studded lineup. Each ridden group reinforced the fact that Crabbet horses really excel under saddle.
The final five family groups were descended from Silver Fire (1926), sired by Naseem from Somra. The first family group was through her great-grand daughter Silver Grey and there were eight representatives including the mare Summertime Blues, Moonlight Farella and Shaded Silver.
Imad, who had opened the parade, headed the next group and he was one of only two living stallions to have their own "group" at the Parade. He is a glorious horse and was well represented with his outstanding sons Ariosto, Silent Storm, the superb mare Sarafiah, also owned by Diana Whittome, Sumadi and Canzonetta.
Prince Sadik, the second living stallion with his own group, bred by Rosemary Archer and owned by her daughter Caroline Sussex, is from Princess Alia (by Indian Flame II). He was bred to produce riding horses and we would see him closeup later on the post-conference stud tour. Prince Sadik had six representatives including Silver Pearl, the 10th and last foal of the now retired brood matron Silvern Dream, who is still owned by her breeder Rosemary Archer.
Hanif, the last great Silver Vanity son headlined the penultimate Silver Fire family. Bred by Cecil Covey at Frogshole Farm, he was one of a small group of Silver Vanity sons and daughters bred in England before his sire was exported to America. Hanif was a true show star and was noted for his most vibrant and vocal personality in the showring. For many years he virtually had a mortgage on the title of Veteran Stallion at the British National Arabian Championships. The Hanif group comprised five representatives including Imperial Silver Star, a glorious grey stallion owned by Geoffrey Plaister at Imperial Stud. I. Silver Star traces to Hanif through his maternal granddam. We visited this stud on the post-conference stud tour.
Wrapping up the family groups was the last of the Silver Fire horses, the Silver Ripple family. Silver Ripple was bred by Rosemary Archer and is yet another descendant of the Rissla granddaughter Risira. Silvern Idyll, PHA Silvern Risalm, Silvern Enchanter, Silvern Princess, Mil Gracias, Samino and BijBij were the very worthy representatives of this group.
The day then ended as it had begun, many hours earlier, with a ridden display. This time, it was Arabian costumes and middle eastern music, with stirring displays by both horses and riders. Peter Upton had provided an excellent commentary throughout the day and I am already looking forward to my video which should more than renew special moments throughout the parade.
Delegates crowded into the venue for conference day (Day Three) and certainly weren't disappointed with the range of material presented to them.
First speaker was Coralie Gordon of Australia who gave an excellent address, supported with photographs, on Australia's Crabbet horses. Coralie went right back to grass roots and showed many historical photos that have not been previously seen. Her address closed on horses with Crabbet blood that were representing Australia, virtually as she spoke, at the World Games in Spain.
Geneticist and Preservation Breeding exponent Michael Bowling (USA) gave a detailed address outlining the value of preservation breeding and he was followed by Alexia Ross of the UK on the state of ensurance in that country. Betty Finke (Germany) and Gari Dill-Marlow (USA) outlined the far-reaching strands of Crabbet blood. Research by these two showed that all "straight Egyptians" are at least 20%-30% Crabbet, most "Russian Arabians are at least 25% Crabbet and without Crabbet, there would have been no Khemosabi, no Bey Shah, no Padron's Pysche and certainly no Nazeer, who is considered the most influential "Egyptian" sire in the 20th Century.
Last speaker for the day was renowned UK artist, arabist and author Peter Upton, always a crowd favourite, who treated us to an intimate and revealing portrait of Wilfred and Lady Anne Blunt. Peter has known this family for many years and was able to access family records, letters and photographs, some of which he shared with us at the Convention. It was a different slant on the family and he held the delegates enthralled right to the end.
And so we were at an end of three days of Crabbet horses, a cameraderie of common interests and an establishment of new friends. On Day One we felt the spirit of the Crabbet Stud founders as we wandered through the grounds of the once great estate, as we stood under the Coronation Stables Clock Tower and felt the disappointment of how a great tradition can be allowed to disappear through the encroachment of progress.
Day Two took us to Merrist Wood and a virtual feast of Pure Crabbet or those with 75% Crabbet blood who qualified and were selected for the Parade. There was beauty, indomitable spirit, strength and sheer atheticisim in the arena that day.
On day three, the speakers with a gentle reminder to make good breeding decisions that will propogate the most essential qualities valued by the Beduoin and honoured by the Blunts. What we do now will surely create the future. The late Margaret Greely's opening address to the 1985 Crabbet Convention held in Britain included this statement: "This Historic Occasion is not merely a wistful pilgrimage into the past, it is a proclamation for the future."
Certainly a very timely and correct statement in 2002. Plans are already under way for the next Convention.