Interview with Danny Barbary

15th February 2013
In 2010, in which month I do not remember, I met Danny Barbary at her farm and interviewed her hoping to publish her views on breeding in one of the Arabian horse publications. But I pinned my hopes on false nails, or perhaps I was a dreamer thinking that the views that do not promote the show ring business can find a place for them in the world of free press!
As all Egyptians were, I have been consumed heart and soul by 25th January revolution and its consequences. But now that I am shifting my track back to the world of Arabian horse, I decided to start with publishing this article.
Wish you an enjoyable reading!

Danny Barbary is known as a towering figure in the Arabian horse international society. Over forty years she has dedicated her passion, knowledge and zeal to preserve the heritage of the Arabian horse for future generations. Her credibility, integrity and extensive expertise entitled her to arbitrate in the prestigious Salon du Cheval championship numerous times.
Two years ago, she celebrated the birth of the eighth generation in her Shams El Asil stud; a stud that is worldwide famous and has always been the destination of Arabian horse lovers.

Rania: Danny, I do not expect to offer the reader a sum-up of fourty years of accomplishments, but I was hoping if you can share with us your breeding strategy and thoughts on the Arabian horse.
Mrs. Barbary: It is love! My love and passion for the Arabian horse guide me. I see this creature with my heart and believe me when I tell you that this is how I decided on buying Misk when he was only four days old and the reason behind urging the EAO Administration to keep Rashdan.

Rania: Who was a leading sire in the EAO, correct?
Mrs. Barbary: Yes! I saw him when he was six weeks old, and I said to the EAO administration: "Keep that colt and never put him for sale. And if you receive an offer, I am willing to pay the same amount and take him to my farm."
The same feeling had stricken me when I first saw Imperial Imdal. He took my breath away. I said to Barbara Griffith: "This colt is incredible, simply incredible!" And he became the world champion. I recall giving him the score of 20 all over.
Horses talk to you, and they deliver certain messages in their own way and you reply to those messages. It is a secret language that creates a bond between the horse and Man.
Besides sentiments, I seek knowledge and experience. When I decide to breed a certain mare or a stallion, I always stress on the quality of the dam. I use the pedigrees as a reference but never rely solely on them in my breeding decisions. I inspect the breeding potentials lying in front of my eyes rather than the breeding potentials on a piece of paper.

Rania: What are your criteria when you decide to incorporate a stallion or a mare in your breeding program?
Mrs. Barbary: The same criteria that the Bedouin abided by. My main goal is to preserve the history and the heritage of the Arabian horse intact.
Allow me to give you a glimpse of the history of the Arabian horse and the life of the Bedouin in order to visualize the environmental and social conditions that led to the emergence of this phenomenal creature.
The concept of Survival of The Fittest governed the life in the desert which the Bedouin had to face on a daily basis. He had to cut long distances on rough terrain under the scorching sun; he had to fight battles for either protecting food and water resources or raiding on other tribes to acquire them. Furthermore, he had to take part in maintaining the supremacy of his tribe over the other tribes. To face all these hardships he had to develop the fittest of all equine breeds.
He demanded a horse that would live on little food and water, swift as the wind,
of compact short back (with two less vertebrae than all other breeds), legs as strong as steel, eyes perfectly positioned offering a broad angle of view, not of significant height so that in time of danger the Bedouin would hop on it and vanish through thin air. On the other hand, the Bedouin needed a friend to be kept in the tent with his wife and children.
These are the criteria that the Bedouin set for breeding the Desert Horse, and that is what I consider to be the true name of the Arabian horse.
The Bedouin was decisive in dispersing a horse that suffered certain defects known to affect its performance and never incorporated it in the breeding program.
For instance, the Bedouin considered the white markings on all four hooves to be a defect because these markings indicated weakness in those areas; he also discarded horses with excessive concave nasal bones.

Rania: But I think that the concave nasal bones, as many others do, is a touch of beauty.
Mrs. Barbary: Incorrect! The Bedouin believed that such extreme conformation obstructed the smooth flow of air into the nasal bones, hence obstructing the whole inhalation process.
A Bedouin would never take the risk of possessing such horse simply because he would be jeopardizing his own life.
When it comes to breeding, the mare was given much significance than the stallion. A Bedouin wouldn't care about possessing a stallion. He knows about a reputable sire belonging to a sheikh or a tribe, crosses hundreds of kilometers to have his mare covered, and the offspring carries the strain of their dam.
Nowadays breeders do not accept that history as is, they want to change it. They seek more height, longer back, longer neck …etc, which do not conform to the features of the desert horse.
You can not change history, and you definitely cannot modernize culture. Once that history is lost, you cannot restore it.
Do you think it would improve the Sphinx if we placed a newly sculpted nose instead of the original one?
I remember very well when Douglas Marshall said to me: "Danny, I regret breeding the Arabian horse. When buyers visit my farm, they criticize the Arabian's features and nobody accept it as is anymore. I am to blame myself for taking part in that."
One day I read the term Industry in one of the Arabian horse magazines; I was appalled! It is then when I realized that my fears have come true. The Arabian horse breeding has become a business, not a history and culture to be preserved.
And that is perfectly reflected in the show ring, from the way the horse is presented with all that make-up and the hair clipping to the plastic surgeries!
I am a horse woman and I look for a moving machine not a beauty pageant.

Rania: Going back to breeding, it's been known that you oppose incorporating imported Arabians to those locally bred. Can you please explain why?
Mrs. Barbary: I want to point out that I love all horses and I am not against importation or genetic modulation. I have imported a Spanish Arabian stallion called Al Mansour to ride him for my pleasure, although he was disqualified from a competition at which I was judging. I bred him to one of my mares and the result was Al Shaymaa owned by Rabab stud, which won supreme champion mare twice. At first I disagreed with Khaled bin Laden regarding the participation of Al Shaymaa in the show ring. I believed back then that it was against our mission to participate in shows, but when Arabians from all over the world were imported to participate in the show ring, we decided that Al Shaymaa would compete, and she won.
I am against breeding the desert horse to the horses bred outside the Middle East.
When the desert horse is exported and bred outside the environment of the Middle East, by time the progeny becomes a hybrid.

Rania: a hybrid?!
Mrs. Barbary: Yes! Being bred outside the desert, the Arabian horse loses its features generation after generation, in time the progeny does not carry the same features of the original imports.
It is exactly like planting a strawberry seed in different types of soil. You cannot expect the same result, can you?!

Rania: But at certain phase of history the Arabian horse breeding faced a recession in the Arabian Peninsula when modern transportation means were introduced, and wars were fought using tanks and armored vehicles. Importing Arabians was the only method for the Arabs to restore their heritage. What else could they have done?
Mrs. Barbary: They can always take from the stock in Middle Eastern countries including the desert horse we preserved in Egypt.
The rule that should be followed is to use the source blood in Middle Eastern countries i.e. breeding the local stallions to imported mares, hence refreshing the blood.
And I stress on the natural method of breeding the Arabian horse as opposed to modern methods utilized now.

Rania: you mean like embryo transfer and artificial insemination?
Mrs. Barbary: exactly!

Rania: But why not utilize what modern science and technology can offer?
Mrs. Barbary: Breeding the Arabian horse is about selection and quality; it is about producing significant individuals, not producing numbers as the case is with cattle breeding.
Federico Tesio stated that artificial insemination should never ever be applied to breeding horses. And till this very day, neither artificial insemination nor embryo transfer is utilized in breeding the Thoroughbred.
We should follow the example that Bahrain has set. They have preserved their desert-bred horses intact. HRH, the King of Bahrain has gifted the EAO with two Bahraini stallions. On hearing such great news, I selected one of them to cover my best mare.

Rania: We will be waiting impatiently for the good news.
Mrs. Barbary: I know that my convictions are not pleasing and will definitely enrage many breeders. Nevertheless, I am obliged to convey them to the Arabian horse community as part of my duty in preserving the history and heritage of the Arabian horse.


Photo comment By John Willcox: this is gold! there are tears in my eyes.
Photo comment By beate: like it,verry nice foto
Photo comment By Jenny Boase: Loved this interview, so true about what is happening to horses in the ring, so many want to breed extreme dished faces, halter is now a beauty pageant, not a horse show.
Photo comment By Susan Mayo: This is the Arabian horse I fell in love with as a child oh so long ago. Not the designer horse produced these days. Thank you Danny for preserving everything about the original Arabian horse. I love their free spirit, intelligence, and kindness.
Photo comment By Pam Vaught: Great article, thanks for sharing. Photo is an excellent catch of beauty and action.
Photo comment By Cate Buchanab: Wonderful interview! So true about the dished faces. So many seem to want short heads that are dished. For two years I gave an old straight Egyptian mare her last resting place. Her head was broad, straight and long i.e. from eye to tip of muzzle. Her nostrils opened out each morning to greet me touching in the middle. I had never seen an Arabian like her before and she showed me how the true desert horse should look. She was not big either standing about 14.2hh at a push, but beautiful. So Danny Barbary's comments are music to my ears.

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