Study The Past
by Michael Bowling
(Reprinted with permission from Michael's post to the
ArabianPreservation Mailing List,
August 25, 2002)
"What is past is prologue."
"And those who don't understand the mistakes of the past are condemned to
All those are certainly familiar, and valid, slogans--but it is important
to understand the past in its own terms, and not impose the values of a
later time where they did not exist. That doesn't mean history can't be
interpreted, but it does mean history happened then, not now; people then--
by definition--could not know what we know now.
The point of understanding the mistakes of the past _is_ that we not repeat
them; it's not necessarily to condemn anyone, though of course there are
places where criticism is appropriate.
It is easy to look back on Arabian breed history and perceive a kind
of "betrayal" but that is not what was happening at the time: in general,
and with a very few exceptions, the breeding elements and the kinds of
horses we are preserving now, were the popular "show horse" breeding of
their day. Ferseyn and Abu Farwa and *Serafix were leading sires of halter
champions. Arabian breeders produced "beautiful generalist" riding and
companion horses, and they showed some of them.
Breeders in the 70s by and large went on to "the next popular sire"--they
did not turn their backs on the breeding philosophy with which they had
started. What changed was the nature of the shows and the direction of
judging, as trainer-judges came to dominate the breed. Arabian horses were
promoted as tax shelters and new people came in who did not understand or
simply were not exposed to the breed's history and tradition. What became
different was the extreme specialization and the exaggerated presentation;
the goal became the show horse, and everything else was a reject. It was,
and is, no longer possible to go to a show training barn and count on
finding a riding horse and companion Arabian.
When that system crashed it took many of the horses with it, and as a
secondary development, many formerly high-end show horses and their
offspring suddenly became available and were incorporated into most of the
breeding programs that did persist.
Preservation breeding in Arabian terms is a special case of genetic
conservation, and that is a modern concept; if you like, it's possible to
make a case that modern preservation breeding is a survival of the
traditional approach to Arabian breeding.
THE CMK HERITAGE
(Editor's note: Fall,
2003): We thank Michael Bowling for his generous sharing of time and
knowledge with us. If you have the opportunity to be in the Sacramento,
California area, please be sure to visit him and see for yourself these
beautiful CMK riding horses he writes about and is breeding at his
New Albion Stud. ~spm)