Articles

Introduction

This third Volume of the Persian Asil Stud Books covers the period from 2000 to 2003. It comprises 746 horses born in this period, by merging all progeny from the two prior ones, namely I and II in one.

All the earlier stud books were compiled from close to scratch by Mary Gharagozlou in selfless and untiring endeavour. To this her achievement is not only owed Iran’s recognition by the WAHO in 1975, but also the trustworthy reputation of the Persian ‘Asil’ Arab Horse through the years until now.

Without Mary, who passed away on 14th September 2001, this could not have been brought about. Her life was most densely involved in the history of the Persian Arab Horses, from the beginning named also ‘Asils of Khuzestan’, the province of their origin.

Breeding Asil Horses has been a tradition for many centuries with all tribes of the province of Khuzestan. As summers are very hot in the lower parts of the region it has also been a long tradition for the Lorish and Bakhtiari Nomad tribes to move up to the pastures of the Zagros Mountains in the end of May using their horses, and same way return in October. These torturous annual migrations over highlands, on unsecure grounds plus the exposures, to changes of climate and altitudes, formed highly courageous, sure-footed and tough horses with a lot of stamina.

One of the most eminent breedings belonged to a Khan family of the Bakhtiari tribe. Towards the end of the 19th Century Sardar Motashem Bakhtiar, the chief of the tribe, inherited the horses from his father Haji Il-Khani Bakhtiar. Word is of a total of more than 300 Asil Arabs, and all of them were participating in the tribe's migrations. When in turn he died, the horses were apportioned to his four sons.

The youngest, Dr. Majid Bakhtiar erected stables for his horses on his grounds in Khuzestan in the vicinity of Aghili, situated between the town of Shushtar and the Karoun River. 1954 he married Mary Gharagozlou, a passionate rider also, who - through tribal migrations and the traditional gazelle hunting on horseback – became friends with the Khuzestan Asils and started to foster their preservation and improvement through her lifetime.

Mary, born in 1927, led a complex, fascinating, but at times difficult life. Her father, Naqi Khan, was a doctor who came from a long line of Persian landlords and statesmen descended from the Gharagozlou tribe. Her mother was Katherine Ladd, an American librarian at University of Baltimore. During her life with Majid Bakhtiar, Mary became Iran’ s foremost expert on dry farming also and a tireless worker for the benefit of the nomadic tribes in all of Iran, earning the greatest of respect from all who knew and worked with her. For some years she acted as the head of the Iranian Nomad Ministry.

After Majid’s death in a sports plane crash in 1969, and for various other reasons, Mary’s circumstances changed greatly but she never gave up her striving to bring the Arabian horse of Iran to the attention of the WAHO and the world of breeders.

1970 Majid’s children from his first marriage followed Mary's suggestion and dedicated the stud at Aghili and the horses remaining from his breed to the RHS, the Royal Horse Society of that time. They were then joined with some more from Majid’s brothers and also from Mary, until about 50 horses formed the stock of the ASK ‘Asil Stud Khuzestan’ at Aghili.

Mary was invited to take responsibility for the Asil Horses and as head of that department, the later Iranian Horse Society, she began to develop the ASK, consequently also heading that from then on.

She continued the traditional breeding and kept to the two seasonal migrations; albeit have changed to 12-days-trecks to the elevated pastures of her homeland close to Hamadan instead to the traditional summer quarters of the Bakhtiaris.

In 1979 the ASK was moved to Tehran, where it operated until 2008, now named Shohada Equestrian Center. In 1974 Mary Gharagozlou had attended her first WAHO conference; in spring 1975 the first WAHO Inspection was hosted at Aghili. As a result the approval of the ASK Horses was recommended. The 1976 WAHO conference then saw the first volume of the Iranian Asil Stood Book in orderly hardcopy print.

Volume II of the Stud Book was meant to cover privately-owned registered Asil Horses of Khuzestan. During summer 1977 the second WAHO commission adjudged the horses in Khuzestan, which Mary had carefully checked before, apt for registration. For preparing the stud books, especially in the early days, she roamed the length and the breadth of Iran on her own, interviewing owners and breeders, recording pedigrees, taking markings, arranging for blood-typing and freeze-marking, and taking every opportunity to learn all of the history of the horse that had become center of her life’s work. The WAHO however suspended the approval because of concerns about permanent control of the horses, as they were mostly owned by the tribes.

Extraneous circumstance then delayed the procedures until 1999 when in the end she had reached the final acknowledgement for these horses. Volume II of the Iranian Asil Studbook can be regarded her due memorial.

Mary's foremost concern was the survival of the Asil Arabian Horse as such. Even when occasionally she had to, forced through circumstances, use a non-Persian Arab for outcrossing, she took care the successors be bred back to Persian bloodlines. Apart from that she definitely preferred the purely Persian bred horses and of the great number of horses she dealt with in her life, the Khersan Mir mare ‘Khanum’, her wedding gift from Majid Bakhtiar, and her descendants were her dearest.

In1992 the ‘Asil’ Egyptian Stallion Mobarak (Myrna/Salaa El Dine) was imported from the renowned German breeding stable of the head of WAHO Dr. Hans Nagel. Mary as well as other experienced breeders thought it necessary to refresh the Asil blood, be-cause in the 1940s the African Horse Plague had destroyed more than 80% of the Khuzestan stock and the war in the 1980s again cost a tribute of numerous horses. Mobarak - carefully chosen by Dr. Nagel - gave the Persian Asil breed what had been hoped for: height, great Arabian flair and stamina.

In the autumn of her life Mary built a traditional arched house at the foot of the moun-tains near Karaj, west of Tehran, where she lived surrounded by her horses. She had no interest in material possessions, other than having sufficient feeding for her horses and people. But struggling and striving she had ruined her health. She knew she could not go on forever and was deeply concerned about her horses and the future of her life's work, namely the Iranian Studbook.

I enjoyed the privilege to become acquainted with Mary Gharagozlou more than twenty years ago. Over the years she has infected me with her enthusiasm for the Persian Asil Horse, thus transferring her commitment on me. I am glad to contribute to this work and thus kept to my promise.

My sincere thanks are owed to my family, who supported me and took over an increas-ing part of this work, and to all friends who cannot be named here for their contribu-tions and their patience.
Katharina Gottstein-Ghalavand