Back to the Roots
The Vision of the Arabian Horse Manifesto
A threefold Answer to the Uprooting of the asil Horse
All photos from the G.Eric & Edith Matson collection (American Colony of Jerusalem)
As one of the 32 founding members of the newly founded Arabian Horse Manifesto, which has its roots in the Arab world, I have the pleasure to introduce it and its vision on this website. Being a veterinarian I would like to present them in the way of a doctor. The Manifesto aims at healing the wounds that have to be noticed in a growing degree in the relation between Arab and non-Arab people and the Arabian horse.
Diagnosis: In the West, regressing numbers of members in the breeding societies and clubs are only a symptom of a morbid condition of the “Arabian” scene. It is only a symptom among many that reflects the widespread frustration among breeders here. The disease state is much more complex and presents itself differently in the Orient. There, enthusiasm is very high, even greater than the one in the West back in the 1970s and 1980s. Nevertheless many things are lying badly especially there. What is in the spotlight – a competition on the halter shows and race courses fueled by big funds and the urge to assert oneself, today threatens the few hidden and blooming oases of the original desert horses. Modern show- and racing lines are moving in and already a new name has been invented for them: “improved Arabians.”
Anamnesis: How could this happen? During the last 100 years a fatal separation took place between the Arabian horse and its former master, the Bedouin. This was addressed by Phillipe Paraskevas in his book THE EGYPTIAN ALTERNATIVE. With the vanishing of Bedouin society, the Arabian horse became a sort of refugee, a fate that it shares with millions of people in our time. On one hand it has found refuge with us in the West, but beauty ideals and racing sports and the introgression of foreign blood have changed the breed to a frightening degree. When these changed horses came back to the Arabian Peninsula, they were received with open arms and even celebrated as heroes. But they are basically foreigners in their own home country that has changed in an unprecedented way itself.
Past Bedouin Society
Those changes, I summarize them under the catch-phrase uprooting, are widely known and have especially turned society inside out. Human life in its communities, be it in luxury and wealth, or under poverty and war, has little to nothing to do with the past Bedouin way of life. Bedouin society was based on the principle of solidarity with strong family structures and coming from this the tribal structures. And it was characterized by an extraordinary relation between man and beast. Bedouins defined themselves by the camel. Desert life was unthinkable without the dromedary, even impossible. Science speaks of man being the parasite of the camel. The relationship towards the horse was quite different. It was a symbiotic relation. Horses could only survive in the desert with the help of man and his dromedary of which milk it was nursed in bad times. The horse meant a heavy burden for the Bedouin. But it was at the same time indispensable for combats and raids. The camel was the most important animal of the Bedouin, but the animal dearest to him was his horse. Thus a relation was formed between Bedouin and horse – and we should not forget the role of women and children in it – that was coined by a mutual love. The stress is on mutual. For me, the love towards humans of the Arabian horse and his unique character are one of its most important breed characteristics and the decisive reason why it could conquer the hearts of so many people on all continents. Thus the Arabian horse has become an ambassador for the Arabian world around the globe. The common love towards this breed has already insinuated countless friendships across all political, religious and ethnical boundaries.
Therapy: Back to the Roots
Why did I explain this to you? We cannot turn back the time. Bedouin life will not come back from the dead. But we can, by knowing and understanding the past, we have to preserve the valuable heritage that has been left of that past, a time that was characterized by a struggle for survival and uncertainness. This heritage by far transcends the Arabian horse and it plays a key role for identity of the descendants of the Bedouin in modern world. They can be proud of the fact that their ancestors have created a horse breed that has nothing comparable around the world, and that its extraordinary character is a mirror of the values of their past.
But how will Manifesto heal the wounds that uprooting, exile and alienation have beaten the Arabian horse? And how will it protect the threatened remnants of asil horses from bad influence from outside? Towards uprooting we answer with a simple wake-up call: Back to the roots! This motto is already included in the Arabic word asil that is translated as pure, coming from the roots. We give three simple answers:
Return to the principle of pure breeding
Recollection of the original characteristics of the breed including character
Restoration (there necessary) of the relation man – horse according to the model of the Bedouin.
A universal majlis on the Arabian horse
So far we are an independent “Think Tank” so to speak. 32 experts on all facets of the Arabian horse: researchers, scientists, breeders and riders from around the world with experience, knowledge, competence and relations, both in the East and West. The decisive difference to the already existing organizations Asil Club, Al Khamsa and Pyramid Society is not only the fact that the majority of us come from the Orient, but instead, the size of our vision and its rooting in the culture of the Bedouin. It is not about a new association, but a movement, a collection of all those who love the asil horse and want to connect with us. In the spirit of the Bedouin we call together to a universal majlis. The majlis of the Bedouin was the central place of pronunciation and discussion and at the same time the school of the desert in which the youth could learn everything important for life in their community. There every aspect of life was addressed, tribal affairs, politics, news, art in form of stories and poems, and the horse, of course. By the gathering of all men, and in rare cases also women, the majlis was synonymous with the oral archive of the tribe that encompassed both human and equine genealogies. There the self, the identity of each member and of the community was formed, including public opinion and also a common conscience. A sort of this place the Manifesto wants to erect. And because we live in the 21st century and in a globalized world, we want to do this by the means of a virtual platform in the internet, which will be - similar to the majlis - a virtual school and a virtual place for the meeting of people and discussions on all topics regarding the relation man – Arabian horse, including aspects of animal welfare.
A central part will be a universal roster for asil horses. This is not intended to replace the individual national registries or WAHO but should be an addition. Furthermore an educational platform on the Arabian horse is planned, similar to Wikipedia, and a social platform for discussion and the maintenance of contacts and friendship. Those ideas we discuss intensively and begin to implement step by step. But we have not forgotten real life and plan to promote horse presentations and performance tests in the tradition of the Bedouin. Above that we will promote intensive scientific research, especially in the field of genetics. And like the tent of the Bedouin, the place of the majlis, could be enlarged by widening, will our internet platform be enlarged with time by the new arrivals of men and women and their inputs.
This virtual and universal majlis will be open to anyone who wants to support our goals. It will create a public consciousness and a conscience in order to preserve the original identity of the asil horse. That encompasses pure origin and original appearance as well as the promotion of its preservation. We want to create a home, if you like a place of protection and a safe haven for the asil horses and a place of meeting of all who love it. The more people connect the louder our voice will be and the more impressive our influence.