Memories of the Crabbet Stud

by Lady Anne Lytton

(reprinted from The Arabian Horse Journal, August 1963, Vol. 6, No. 2)
Appearing in The Crabbet Influence Spring-Summer 1998 issue

As a small child the names of my great-greatgrandfather Byron, the poet, my great-grandfather Bulwer Lytton, the novelist, left me strangely unimpressed; but the mention of MESAOUD, PHAROAH, SHERIFA, QUEEN OF SHEBA and others was quite a different story.

QUEEN OF SHEBA died the year I was born, 1901, and MESAOUD was sold in 1903. I wish I could say that I remember him, but alas I do not, although I recall episodes when I was under three years old. I do remember many of the first descendants of the famous ones, and the most outstanding was NEFISA, the great dam of 21 foals, the best being NEJRAN and NEJIBA by AZREK, NARGHILEH and NADIR by MESAOUD, NAWAB by ASTRALED, NASRA (a most beautiful mare) by DAOUD. Her last foal, a filly NUEYNA also by DAOUD was born in 1912. 1 can well recall my grandmother (Lady Anne Blunt) saying "this is her 21st foal" NEFISA died in 1913 aged 27. Her stock seems to have been rather bigger as a rule than the average Arab at Crabbet. According to Crabbet studbook records, two at least, by MESAOUD, NAREUK and NARKISE were well over 15 hands at maturity, and from a picture the former was a fine horse, very true to type. I wish I could have seen MESAOUD, and in my view his combined beauty of type and conformation exceeded anything else of his day or during the whole of my youth, and the only horse who approached him in perfection, quality and balance was RASIM. Dare I say that I preferred RASIM to the Polish-bred SKOWRONEK.

AZREK is another I wish I had seen. Lady Anne Blunt describes him in her studbook thus: "A grey with very black points and black mane and tail (at 7 years) after - and became white and fleabitten. A magnificent horse in every way, grand head and neck, powerful shoulder, with unrivaled trotting action. Seen approaching at the trot one saw underneath the hoof. Enormous strength of back and quarter, up to any weight. Tail set very high and splendidly carried. Legs absolute perfection, the sinews literally like steel to the touch. Great speed and impossible to tire. His stock superior to any other." Not much over 14 hands, he measured 7 and 7/8ths below the knee. After her lyrical description of this unique horse, one learns that he was sold to the Cape of Good Hope. How terrible to contemplate!

PHAROAH I feel I have seen, for my grandmother's life-sized oil painting of him hung in the drawing room at Crabbet and must have been a perfect likeness. The reproduction on the cover of "The Authentic Arabian" by Lady Wentworth was from a watercolour copy painted by myself, and therefore less valuable as a record.

AHMAR was another stallion I wish I had known. He was a brilliant bay and appears to have had splendid action and a very beautiful head. He is entered as having a "black line on quarter." He was sold too as was also that typical and lovely grey horse SEYAL. A very beautiful and now unknown horse ROALA was sold at the age of four and he was certainly a great loss. Another horse I greatly regret leaving the country was SHAHWAN, exported to America in 1895. 1 hope there are descendants of this horse, who appears to have been quite as beautiful as SKOWRONEK and of the same pure white. SHERIFA is of course legendary with a head of such beauty of shape and quality that it was renowned even in the desert. It has been drawn to perfection by Lady Anne, and SHERIFA's skull set up by her also was in its glass case here. It is now on permanent loan to the Equine Research Station at Balaton Lodge, Newmarket, where it has been properly mounted, and the rather fragile bones treated to preserve them.

My grandparents seemed bent on selling many of the most precious Arabs they had been at such pains to obtain. SHERIFA had few foals, and all in turn were sold, but by great good fortune the blood of her daughter SHEMSE by PHAROAH has been preserved through a mare called SHEEBA, purchased by Sydney Hough. This mare was by BEN AZREK whose sire was AZREK. SHEEBA's dam RIAD goes back to HAGAR through the sire and to KARS through her dam, and therefore combines some very precious blood which has been handed on, the champion MIKENO being a direct descendant. He was out of NURSCHIDA (bred by Lady Yule) by NURI SHERIF who was out of SHEEBA, her dam SHEMSE out of SHERIFA. I have two fillies by MIKENO, and Mrs. Linney has my MIFARIA's colt EL MELUK by him, and I hope this blood will be preserved.

Looking back I can remember more bays than any other colour in the Stud. Quite a few of the mares of this colour were rather dull and uninteresting in shape and often had poor quarters and bent hocks, and not a few had plain heads. It is a mistake, I think, to assume that the early descendants of the first importations all had perfect shape and the highest quality. I have always thought that the really beautiful heads were rather rare compared to the less distinguished rather ordinary types. This may well have been partly due to some distortion caused by worm infestation in the young colts and fillies, more in the latter because they are not brought in and cared for the way colts are. It is a fact that starvation in children causes their heads to grow abnormally large, and it certainly is the case with horses, judging from my experience. There seemed to be no way of coping with bloodworms and according to entries in the studbooks, quite a few foals and yearlings died of worms; and compared to the present day, the mortality among young horses was high.

As I said, bays were more common than chestnuts, fleabitten greys quite numerous, several browns; chestnuts came next to bays in numbers, and when Lady Wentworth took over the Stud I think she found that the quality among the chestnuts was usually much higher, with a few notable exceptions. At the time of her death there was not a bay left at Crabbet. She was not very fond of bays, or I think FERDA would never have left the Stud. This was my mare and I loved her especially because she was a bay, but that is a digression!

One of the earliest mares to impress her personality on me was MESAOUD's daughter SHIBINE, a rather big chestnut mare with a very strong will, and not very well schooled. I was placed on her back when I was six, and she bolted at once with me. I can remember my terror lest she should leap over a very high gate with perpendicular heaven.wo

In an interview with the Press representative of the Pall Mall Gazette July 12th 1893, Wilfrid Blunt says this of the Arab: "I make it a rule now, after much experience, never to buy unless at first glimpse of the animal walking by, I have felt a certain almost electric thrill, the sense of sudden admiration. The thrill of course may deceive you on a nearer inspection, for you may discover defects, but without it, and the power of thus 'striking the eye' an Arab horse can hardly be of first quality. He may be speedy, he may be sound, he may be useful, but he can hardly be the horse to breed from." That is, I think, the essence of a true Arab. Of such was NASIK and before him IBN YASHMAK - a horse that impressed me greatly in my youth-all fire and beauty, but with very few defects. He was foaled in Egypt by FEYSUL out of YASHMAK by SHAHWAN out of YEMAMA. His sire FEYSUL while being only 13-3 nevertheless measured 8 inches below the knee.

The best-looking mares I remember as a child were RAMLA, RIADA, and KARINA. I had much to do with these three. The fleabitten greys BUKRA and BEREYDA, and afterwards KIBLA, I remember only as broodmares in the stud. RAMLA was, I think, only part broken, judging by her behaviour, and she would be brought in from a field blown out with grass and could not therefore be girthed up firmly, so in order to keep the saddle straight, a crupper was added, which she took strong exception to and would kick in frenzied bouts. Even now I can almost see the ground as it appeared before her vanished head. I would hold on to everything but did not enjoy it at all. RIADA gave me the first perfect ride I ever had, and she was sweet and gentle. I loved her dappled brown colour and the black penciling of her nostrils below the tan. My grandmother taught me to drive her, and that was a great joy to me. RIADA was by MESAOUD out of ROSEMARY. The awful tragedy of her death is something I do not like to think of even now. I watched her die of twisted gut in agony- that sweet and gentle mare.

KARINA must have been the prettiest chestnut daughter of FEYSUL, and she remains in my mind because my grandfather drove her everywhere, and we sometimes had expeditions to the Downs on Chantonbury Ring, about 14 miles from Newbuildings and she would take that great climb of about 800 feet at a non-stop trot and canter. She died either at the beginning or during the first World War and was buried in quick lime quite close to this house. Her skeleton was to have been sent to some museum in America but it was never done. I know the very spot, but now it seems better to leave it where it lies.

When we were children my grandfather used to ride a small bay mare ABLA by MESAOUD out of ASFURA. He taught her to walk faster than any horse I have known -we had to run to keep pace with her. He would take her round the woods and fields or in Worth Forest, and she was quite tireless. At other times we rode with him, and he even put my sister and myself on three and four year old stallions while he rode ABLA. This was quite an adventure which I enjoyed, being blissfully unaware of any dangers, but my sister was less horse-minded and therefore somewhat scared, but also very courageous of and we survived these adventures without mishap.

Certain horses I recall for different reasons. RIJM because of his size he was 15-3 when fully matured, and compared to the quality and beauty of the best, he was undoubtedly coarse, as I have described. He was beautifully schooled to saddle, and whatever his faults his head perhaps the worst-he sired some fine stock, his fillies being better than his colts. By way of contrast there was the dark bay BERK with his superb action which has been handed down very persistently to his descendants. He was a bit flimsy, with very light bone, but his blood has been most valuable.

ASTRALED and RUSTEM made an impression because they had no white marks with their very dark bay and brown colour. The FERIDA line might have been noted for straight profiles. FELUKA and FEJR (chestnuts) I recall well, and my bay FERDA, had a fairly straight head too, though not unpleasant.

Among the horses we used were the "near sisters" BELKIS and BALIS. BELKIS was by SEYAL out of BEREYDA and BALIS by SEYAL out of BUKRA. The former was also a half sister to the Endurance Test winner BELKA who was by RIJM. Incidentally BEREYDA and BUKRA were full sisters by AHMAR out of BOZRA. BELKIS was the most beautiful of the three and BELKA probably the strongest. BELKIS was my father's favorite mare and he could make her perform at dressage-though it was not called that. She and BALIS were driven as a pair, and were most spectacular in harness.

I could go on far longer about these early horses but I have said enough for the present. My opinion is that the general standard is higher now than in the early days, and our very best are probably even better than the best ones of the past, but these are always rare. At present there are not many-the Crabbet Stud has still the great ORAN; and that masterpiece of Lady Wentworth's breeding, INDIAN MAGIC, a big horse with perfect type; as well as one or two very promising young colts, the best a yearling of very great beauty by SILVER VANITY. Mrs. Linney has MIKENO and his son EL MELUK out of my ORAN mare MIFARIA. Then there is Miss Wolf's BLUE DOMINO bred by Miss Yule, who has proved himself to be an outstanding sire, and his son MANTO from my mare MIFARIA. MANTO is a horse of great strength and equal quality, due, no doubt, to the ORAN blood; and BLUE DOMINO's other Junior Champion son BLUE MAGIC from an INDIAN MAGIC mare, showing the same strength of limb. The only other really outstanding stallion (not counting colts under three years old) is a son of GENERAL GRANT by RAKTHA, GENERAL DORSAZ. A few Polish Arabs have been imported to England, and if used in the right way they should help our blood greatly. Two very lovely mares are Miss Lindsay's KARRAMBA and Mr. Hutching's TRYPOLITANKA. As I have already said, I bought from Miss Lindsay the fine colt GROJEC by COMET, of whom I expect great things.

 


Original note by Gladys Brown Edwards:

The foregoing was written by Lady Anne Lytton on my request and I am sure it will be of great interest to everyone having Arabians tracing to Crabbet bloodlines ... and most American Arabians do, even though some may have only one such line.

Lady Anne Lytton is the daughter of Lady Wentworth and accordingly the granddaughter of Lady Anne and Wilfrid Blunt, founders of the world-famous Crabbet Park Stud in England. Lady Anne Lytton owns the Blunt Arabian Stud, on the grounds of the old "Newbuildings" place, and her stallion MANTO is a joy to behold. A dark liver chestnut, he is the essence of type and quality. The name of the Crabbet Stud itself was taken over by Cecil Covey, former manager of Crabbet before Lady Wentworth's death, and he is the lucky owner of the magnificent stallions and mares so long identified with Crabbet. Their progeny and descendants still dominate English shows.

Of the horses mentioned by Lady Anne, most need no introduction, but others are less well known. For instance RIADA was the dam of RAYYA, who produced *RASEYN. I have never felt that AZREK was given his due in the usual histories with their emphasis on MESAOUD, MAHRUSS and the like, so it was gratifying to see this report by Lady Anne Blunt herself, crediting that stallion not only for his ability to trot (the main reason he is remembered, now) but also for other good points. RAMLA certainly eventually became well broken, for she won one of the U.S. Official Endurance Rides here, and of course having lost her "grass belly" needed no crupper. The Polish colt GROJEC was Reserve Junior Champion at the 1962 Kempton Park horse show (all-Arabian); MANTO was second to SILVER VANITY in an entry of 18 stallions; KARRAMBA won the senior mare class (and NAWARRA, another Polish mare, was second).