To ‘Sir’ with Love

To ‘Sir’ with Love
By Debra Mackie all rights reserved
Used by permission of Debra Mackie

He wove his tale full of adventure and danger and the winning of noble horses. He told of his dreams of noble horses. He told of his dreams of the herd that could be and the realization of that dream as years had passed.

He had spent a lifetime creating this treasured herd – as would those who came after him. He grew silent as he looked across the encampment at his mares and his fiery stallion. Engulfed by his thoughts, he was aware only of thundering hoofbeats echoing through his mind, out onto the desert, and across the sands of time.

Lifetimes later and worlds apart, I also heard the echo of those hoofbeats, not on the desert sand but on Midwestern soil. I saw the vision of a Bedouin’s dream – the southern wind made flesh. I saw a horse named Sir.

These are the images that swept through my mind the first time I saw Sir. As this issue is being dedicted to Davenport Arabians, I felt it would be somewhat incomplete without mention of Sir, who is the senior living Davenport stallion.

At the age of 27, he seems to remain impervious to age. And, “Insh’ allah” (Allah willing), he will remain so for many many years to come.


One cannot help but see visions of the noble Arabian steed at the sight of Sir #14317 (Tripoli X Dharebah). That first image is indelibly pressed on my mind. Five years ago, I was searching for a stallion to breed my unregistered three-quarter Arabian mare and through an acquaintance, I learned of Alice Martin and StarWest Stables (New Berlin, Ill)

I made an appointment to visit StarWest, and thus began my introduction to Al Khamsa and Davenport Arabians. The concept of breeding for the well-rounded athletic horse of the Bedouins appealed both from a practical and, I must confess, a romantic point of view.

Being a “family horse” owner, I wanted an animal that could meet whatever demands I placed upon it – whether it be dressage, jumping, Western pleasure, driving, trail riding, companionship, or just aesthetics. (All I was looking for was the perfect horse, right?)

I was intrigued by the idea of preserving the desert-type Arabian. The hardy, versatile little horse that had not only survived in the harsh desert environment, but had actually thrived. The kind of horse with which the Bedouins formed life-long bonds – each dependent on the other – even to life itself. So, I went to StarWest to meet the descendants of such horses.

Because the entrance to the barn was beyond my view, I heard Sir’s rhythmic prancing before I saw him. Suddenly, there he was, galloping around the end of the lead rope as though his spirit was too great to be controlled.

He tossed his head as though to challenge any to deny his worth. He was obviously enjoying every movement of his magnificent body. His eyes seemed to glow with the liquid fire of his spirit.

I was sure he would explode beyond control at any moment. But at a quiet word from Alice, all the power was controlled in one smooth transition – his whole body supercharged with vitality.

By then, I was close enough to gaze deeply into his eyes – which were like huge dark pools that seemed to contain the mystery of untold ages. His eyes stared back at me with such gentleness and intelligence that I could hardly believe they also contained such fire. Then he tossed his head and pranced about with a playfulness that seemed almost irrepressible.

I found myself amazed that anything could contain such seemingly unconstrollable energy and yet control it at will. Then came the realization that it was exactly that – his will – which ruled that dynamo of energy.

He chose to keep this energy checked within acceptable bounds. It was a part of his very nature to be aware of, and responsive to, the human beings around him. Sir genuinely enjoyed human companionship.

His beauty won my admiration the moment I saw him, but it was his character that earned my respect. He was and is – first , last, always – a gentleman.

As I left StarWest that day, I took with me the impression of a timeless ideal. For a split second while watching Sir, it was as if I had glimpsed the embodiment of that ideal.

I had touched a moment that links past with present and present with future. Those huge, dark liquid eyes continued to haunt me. Later, I learned of the Bedouin practice of judging a horse first by the face and eyes as they would a person.

The qualities found therein were believed to best reveal an animal’s character and breeding. I thought of Sir and understood what they had meant.

Now I find myself writing about this very special stallion. As I began to consider the form this article would take, I wondered what first impressions Sir had made on others.

So I decided to ask those more knowledgeable than I. It seems Sir creates quite an impression regardless of whether you are an expert horseman or a novice.

Alice Martin, of StarWest Stable, met Sir in 1963 at Craver Farms in Hillview, Ill., where he was bred and raised. She was a sophomore in high school at the time, shopping for her first Arabian.

She and her father made an unannounced stop at Craver Farms, and Charles Craver, the owner, kindly showed them around. She remembers seeing an “absolutely gorgeous 4-year-old stallion” by the name of Sir.

Her voice filled with excitement as she described him as being “extremely regal in presence, with a lot of energy,” but what amazed her the most was the way he contained that energy in order to walk beside Craver.

It wasn’t until he was turned loose that he exploded into action – leaping, turning, prancing, and pawing. But, when it was time, he obediently allowed himself to be caught and once again “walked quietly and regally” alongside Craver. Alice kept remarking on how there was “so much energy within him and yet it was so controlled.”

Alice was so impressed by Sir that years later she returned to Craver Farms to have the first Arabian mare she owned bred to him. The mating produced Star Sir Tristam #45118 (Sir X Ramiri [Ferseyn’s Rasim x Amiri Hanad]), a 1967 bay stallion who today is one of the pride and joys of StarWest.

After establishing her own training and breeding stable, Alice made arrangements to lease Sir. Today, through the generosity of Craver Farms, Alice is his proud owner, and Sir calls StarWest home.

Alice and I definitely are not alone in our admiration of Sir. Dr. Fred Mimmack of Smoky Hill Farm in Aurora, Colo., recalls being struck by Sir’s being “an outstanding individual, distinct from his full brothers.”

He described him as having a “lot of presence and great personal charm.” To quote Mimmack, “Sir just shouts Arabian type!” Sir represents “all the qualities that attract people to Arabians – beauty, balance, huge eyes, tiny ears, flaring nostrils, athletic ability, soundness,” etc.

But at the same time, he describes him as a “horseman’s horse” appreciated by horsemen regardless of their breed preferences. He recalled having ridden Sir and how very athletic he is, and yet so very light – “just fantastic to ride.”

Mimmack first saw Sir in 1971 and has followed his progress ever since. The beautiful foals Sir produced for Craver Farms encouraged him to breed Sir to his foundation mare, Maedae #7463 (Ibn Hanad X Gamil).

Mimmack intends to always retain Sir blood in the breeding program of Smoky Hill Farm. Perhaps he summed up Sir’s special charisma best when he said, “If I could have only one horse, Sir would fit the bill.”

As if to confirm Mimmack’s appraisal of Sir, I recalled a story Alice Martin had once told me. Alice rode in a clinic instructed by the internationally renowned Mexican horsemen, Adolfo Rodriguez, a rider accomplished in dressage, as well as a noted polo player.

Alice was so impressed with the knowledge of horses (his preference being Thoroughbreds) that she was particularly pleased when he genuinely admired the Arabian stallion she rode, Star Sir Tristan. Afterwards, while discussing “Tristy.” she showed him pictures of his sire and dam.

He stopped at Sir’s picture and said, “There is a horse in any man’s language.” Sir does know how to make an impression!

In 1968, Bazy Tankersley, of Al-Marah Arabians (one of the premiere Arabian breeding farms in the country), was so impressed with Sir that she arranged to lease him from Craver Farms for one breeding season. While there, he was bred to a representative selection of Al Marah mare.

Mrs. Tankersley described him as being “magnificently balanced from his deep hip to his tiny ears,” and valued him for his rare and concentrated bloodlines.

It was this desire to preserve those bloodlines which led to the breeding program that produced Sir. Alice Payne of Asil Arabians, one of the leading American breeders of Arabian horses and noted for her *Raffles #952 (Skowronek X *Rifala) program, began a breeding program that was continued by her son, Pat, which resulted in the famous Davenport stallion Tripoli #4591 (Hanad X Poka).

Mrs. Payne was of invaluable assistance and influence to numerous Davenport breeding farms, among them Craver Farms.

Craver Farms, established three generations ago by Charles C. Craver, is today continued by Charles C. Craver III and his wife, Jeanne Hussong Craver, both devoted to preserving the integrity of the Davenport bloodlines.

During the 1950’s Charles III and his father, Charles C. Craver Jr., began a search for breeding stock descended exclusively form the 1906 importation of Bedouin horses by Homer Davenport. (This is whole other story in itself.) As a result of that search, Tripoli was acquired by the Cravers in 1955 and became one of their foundation sires.

On July 21, 1958, the mating of Tripoli to Dharebah #3848 (Dhareb x Antarah) resulted in a medium-sized grey colt, whom the Cravers named Sir. Charles tells me there was nothing much to distinguish that day from any other Midwestern July day.

He especially assures me that, despite the fact that it was the momentous day of Sir’s birth, “the earth did not stand still!” (I, however, still retain some doubts on this matter – Charles does tend to be modest.)

The Cravers have always kept veterinary journals, in which brief entries are made of the day’s events. When I expressed an interest in the entry made at Sir’s birth, the Cravers generously consented to locate it for me.

Unknown to me at the time, this entailed scouring the attic. The search was successful, and the 1958 journal was found. The entry read as follows: “Dharebah dripping milk. 12:00 p.m. stud colt born…pronounced grey hairs around eyes and throughout body. Very vigorous.”

As the great horses before and since, Sir must have been a typical wobbly-legged, scrawny newborn. (May all our newborns turn out half so grand!) I can envision his struggles to stand, to walk, to nurse.

His experiments in running – trying to get all those gangly limbs to move in sync. Within hours, he would have been exploring his newly expanded world – celebrating the joy of running, kicking, jumping, and any other movement he would think to try.

I can picture the wide-eyed innocence and vast curiosity of the newborn foal – so many new experiences, the reassurance of his mother’s touch, the pleasure of her warm milk – all the pleasure of touch and sight and sound and smell – the sheer exuberance of life!

His childhood was spent at Craver Farms along with the other youngsters of that year’s foal crop. He was a good-looking, healthy colt. And, as with all such foals, Craver felt hopes stir.

What would maturity bring? Perhaps this gawky, adventuresome youngster would mature into something special. He certainly had the breeding for it.

As the years passed, Sir did in fact mature into a very special horse and gained a personal charisma or “presence” which is unmistakable. Craver described him perfectly when he said, “Sir has an inner quality that radiates out through every pore! It’s just incandescent.”

Sir is unquestionably “asil” or “pure from the root,” in the Bedouin sense. Of the 27 horses registered as imported from the desert in 1906 by Homer Davenport, the bloodlines of only 19 are found to be extant in today’s Davenport pedigrees.

Sir’s lineage trace back to 10 of these 19 horses. *Abbeian (1889, grey stallion), *Abeyah (1896, bay mare), *Deyr (1905, bay stallion), *Haffia (1906, chestnut mare), *Hamrah (1904, bay stallion), *Jedah (1902, brown mare), *Muson (1899, grey stallion ), *Reshan (1896, grey mare), *Urfah (1898, bay mare) and, last but not least, *Wadduda (1889, chestnut mare).

Through a combination of happenstance and deliberate planning, American breeders for the most part maintained the strain breeding principles of the Bedouins in the pedigrees of Sir’s ancestors. We have the following breeders to thank for continuing that breeding so horses like Sir were not lost to us once the desert-bred Arabians reached U.S.soil: Homer Davenport, Hingham Stock Farms (owned by Peter B. Bradley, Davenport’s financial partner), Davenport Desert Arabian Stud (owned jointly by Homer Davenport and Peter B. Bradley), F.E. Lewis II (from whom W.K.Kellogg purchased his Davenport stock), W.K. Kellogg. J.G. MacConnell, Alice Payne and her son Pat, and of course, Craver Farms.

Sir’s “tail female” strain is Kuhaylan; his sub-strain is Haifi, and his predominant strain (as personally evaluated by Carl Raswan) is Saqlawi.

Before continuing the discussion of Sir’s particular strain breeding, a few brief definitions may be necessary to help clarify matters for those not familiar with the terms of Al Khamsa strain breeding. Strain is the term for the Bedouin system of identifying a horse’s ancestry and generally signifies the “tail female” strain.

A foal inherits the strain name of its mother; thus, the strain is passed from a mare to all of her offspring, regardless of the sire’s strain. The sub-strain, in turn, further defines the ancestry of the horse by indicating the particular branch of the primary strain to which it belongs.

Substrains often refer to a well-known ancestor or the Bedouin tribe which originated the substrain. Bedouins did not consider a horse to be of breeding quality or “asil” unless both its strain and substrain were known.

The term “predominant strain” refers to the one strain which “outnumbers” the others in a horse’s pedigree. To clarify, a horse’s pedigree is often found to contain a greater percentage of individuals from one particular strain. This strain then “predominates” over the others.

The preponderance of the Saqlawi strain in Sir’s pedigree has allowed him to be doubly important to strain breeding within the Davenport group. In the 1950’s, when a conscientious effort was made to preserve the integrity of the Davenport Arabians as a breeding group, there was found to be a shortage of Saqlawi mares.

At Craver Farms, Charles Craver was able to locate only one Saqlawi mare, Antan #3377 (Antez x Gamil). Due to incompatible blood types, it was not practical to breed Antan to Tripoli (the wonderful stallion bred by Alice and Pat Payne and later acquired by Charles Craver).

So, it was decided that Antan would be bred to Tripoli’s son, Sir, whose predominate strain was Saqlawi. The purpose of this was to achieve a concentration of the Saqlawi type in the offspring, thus preserving the strain as a viable and separate breeding unit.

Dr. Fred Mimmack’s breeding program is based primarily on continuing the Saqlawi Jidran strain. The beautiful foals produced by Sir and Antan were extremely influential in determining the direction his breeding program would take.

He decided to breed Sir to his foundation mare, Maedae (Ibn Hanad x Gamil), and produced his stallion Sir Marchen #42555. Now, as then, Sir’s blood is present in Mimmack’s breeding stock. A good example of this is Persuasion #120029 (Kamil Ibn Salan X Periana), a great-grandson of Sir who has produced some of their very best foals, like Mattie Silks #265992 (Persuasion x Molly Brown). Mimmack told me that Sir qualifies as a “true breeding stallion, producing foals as good as, or better than, himself.”

At Craver Farms, Sir has been used to produce Kuhaylan type, Saqlawi type, and “intermediate” type foals. When bred to Saqlawi mares, he produces very fine quality “intermediate” type offspring, as well as high-quality Saqlawi type offspring.

When bred to Kuhaylan mares, he produces extremely “typey” Kuhaylan foals. He helped produce the foundation stock of both the Kuhaylan Haifi and the Kuhaylan Kurush strains in modern Davenport breeding.

I asked Charles Craver when he first knew that he had a really special sire in Sir. He told me that at the birth of Sir’s first foal (Rosaline, #19649) the mare, Antan, was having some difficulty and it was neccessary for him to assist with the birth. Upon reaching inside the mare, he felt the foal’s head.

It was so “dishy,” so “extreme” that he remembers thinking, “We really have something!” He said he didn’t even have to see that foal; he knew Sir had produced something special as soon as he touched that lovely head.

An indication of the quality foals he produces is reflected in the fact that when Alice Payne (whom Craver describes as the best American breeder of Arabians) visited Craver Farms in 1962 she was asked to name her foal preferences, and she chose Sir foals exclusively.

After having seen both Sir and his foals, she decided she would like to buy a Sir filly, keep her at Craver Farms, and eventually breed her back to Sir. She felt the results would be particularly rewarding.

Mrs. Payne considered Sir to be “the grey Hanad.” (Hanad #489 [*Deyr x Sankirah], Sir’s grandsire, was a 1922 chestnut stallion of the Saqlawi-Al-Abd strain who was highly influential to both Davenport and domestic Arabian pedigrees.) Although she was unable to convince Charles to part with such a filly, her idea was carried out by the Cravers with excellent results. The mating of Sir and Silvia #23094 (Sir x Tara) produced Pennelope #39884 and Eden #45796.

Sir, “the grand ol’ man” of the Davenports, is the proud patriarch of quite a family. As of May 1985, he had sired a total of 61 registered full Arabians. His progeny include 32 mares, 18 stallions and 11 geldings.

Of the 61 horses produced through October 1985 registrations, 44 were grey! Of the remainder, 14 were chestnut, while only three were bays. His descendants are found throughout the United States and as far away as Costa Rica, Venezuela, Sweden, and Tunisia.

….#1A245369{Sir x Shahin]) who will be celebrating his third birthday this June. And, in addition to the physical characteristics inherited, I am continually amazed by the personality traits genetically acquired from Sir.

Charles and Jeanne feel Sir passes on a particular “genetic package” which includes both physical and personality traits descended from his ancestors and traceable to the famous “listening horse,” *Muson. *Muson #27 was a desert-bred 1899 stallion of the Kuhaylan Abu Muhsin strain noted for his unusual habit of listening intently to distant sounds.

His concentration was so great when drawn to something that he would become oblivious to everything else around him and freeze into statue-like immobility. Descendants who exhibit this trait received the “listening gene” as part of a “package” which includes among other things *Muson’s vitality, his little pricked ears, and his particular color of grey.

Pictures of *Muson and reports of his character reveal the striking similarity between himself and Sir. The continuity of these desert-bred genes, passing from *Muson to Sir and, in turn, from Sir to his descendants, is truly remarkable – a tribute to Bedouin breeding.

The Bedouins strove to achieve more than just a horse with a specific conformation and well-defined bloodlines. Horses were an integral part of Bedouin daily life – a gift from Allah, a bastion against enemies, a measure of wealth.

Their horses’ mobility, speed, and endurance provided a means of safeguarding all they possessed, including their lives. In return the Bedouins provided for their horses’ necessities, whether it meant sharing their tents in times of storm or the last of their water in times of drought.

They required their horses to be durable, intelligent, and human oriented – and to breed true to these qualities. Allah blessed them with such horses, and today we are blessed with their descendants – horses like Sir.

Durability to the Bedouins was longevity combined with continued soundness and useability. The Bedouins greatly prized longevity, maintaining their horses should remain usable well into their advanced years.

A war mare, if unharmed by their perilous raids, might carry her Bedouin warrior to the hunt and into battle for most of his adult life. Sir, despite his age, continues to demonstrate his durability by being a useful riding horse and a handsome mover.

He is ridden three times a week in good weather and is still known to show off his exuberance with a good-natured buck or two. His trot is square in the diagonals, and he has an effortless and, as Alice Martin describes it, “sumptuous” canter which he passes to his offspring.

His vitality is so great than even when seen among a group of younger horses, it’s still Sir who draws everyone’s eyes. He is shown lightly each season at StarWest, rarely missing an Al Khamsa Fun Show.

In 1979, at the age of 21, he was Al Khamsa High Point Performance Champion. At the 1985 Spring Al Khamsa Fun Show he received third in English Pleasure and third in Kuhaylan Type Bedouin Arabian, losing to his son Lysander #39882 (Sir x Dhalana) who took home the blue, while his granddaughter Daborajeslyshada #109922 (Lysander x Sharmer) won the Intermediate Type Bedouin Arabian.

1 thought on “To ‘Sir’ with Love”

  1. awesome! My cousin is Alice Martin and i so appreciate your writing! Sir & offspring are magnificant!

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