Ansata’s 45th Anniversary Celebration
By Lynda Free

The 10-hour flight to Dallas was just the first leg of our journey, followed by another hour’s flight to Fort Smith in Arkansas, then a 90 mile drive by taxi to the small town of Mena and no, we were not there yet, we still had another 10 mile car ride to the Ranch, so when we finally got there on the morning of 9th October, I was seriously beginning to question my sanity.


My friend Pam Cooper and I sat in the diner of our motel and laughed as we contemplated an easier hobby, say breeding goldfish or collecting teapots! After all, once you have seen one Arab horse you have surely seen them all (as my husband always says), silly man! He said: “Why go half way around the world to see horses when you only need to walk out the back door? Talk about a Busman’s Holiday!”. This is from the mouth of a man who thinks every worthy thing should have an engine and preferably wings, so you can see what I am up against! But seriously, this was to be a pilgrimage for us, this was a once-in-a-lifetime journey to what I consider the ultimate Arabian horse stud and was it worth the stress? Cost? Sleepless hours on the aircraft? You bet it was!

We were greeted on the morning of the 10th by Sheila Theriot, Judith Forbis’s personal secretary, and given our name tags, Judith walked over and spoke to us, smiled sweetly and the miles melted into nothing, we felt at home immediately and knew this was going to be a memorable trip.

The three day seminar consisted of talks by prominent judges, Lisa Lacy, artists such as Karen Kasper, photographer Jerry Sparagowski (or Spare Gasket as Judith lovingly refers to him!), Anna Bishop Director of the Pyramid Society and several other interesting people. There was an introduction to the stallions about midday on the first day, my first chance to see those beautiful boys up close and personal. Ansata Sokar, Ansata Malik Shah, Ansata Sirius and Ansata Iemhotep, the senior stallion who was to me an ethereal vision and possessed that special magic few stallions have, that look of eagles, the look that says I am allowing you to gaze upon me even though you are not worthy. Oh, look, there I go again, drifting off the subject I started! Back to the three day seminar, I will tell you about the horses later.

The first introduction by Judith was to be Karen Kasper, artist and sculptor, who gave a very interesting talk relating to art and the connection between art and the art of breeding horses, believe me there is a connection and it gave some serious thought as to where the Arabian horse is going, after all, it is unique and shouldn’t drift too far from its original roots, the desert from whence it came. The Egyptian horse is more like the original desert horse in its physical appearance, that cannot be denied, however, it is man and man’s need that have dictated its evolution since leaving the desert and it now has to live and survive in different surroundings, which I might add it has adapted to very successfully. But we must think carefully about being too extreme in anything, just look at man’s intervention in dogs and cats! Too short legs, too flat nose, too much coat etc., have caused problems in most pedigree animals, so we must beware when desiring too much out of a change from the original desert horse. Anyway, that is a long and complex subject and one to be pondered by many a breeder when choosing their particular horse, be it Russian, Polish, English, Egyptian, or a mixture, they all came from the original desert bred horse.

I will leave that subject before I get stoned by the purists and go on to the next which was to be an interesting judging workshop, the speakers here were Lisa Lacy, a very nice young lady and a very knowledgeable judge, and of course, Judith Forbis herself who is a worldwide respected judge. Cynthia Culbertson gave a talk on Arabic literature and how it relates to the Bedouin view of how an Arab should look and so connect to the eye of the judge at the time
they are judging the horse. She had a calming voice and I felt myself drift off to the desert camp fires and palm trees, oops! Here I go again. Back to the judging workshop, after the talk ended we were given note books and pens and taken out to judge live horses, this was interesting and I found I was in agreement with Lisa Lacy at the end! Have I missed my vocation? Goodness no, I have no wish to be a judge, who wants to make one friend and ten enemies at every show? It takes a very special person to be a good judge and I know very few, however, it was a most enlightening workshop and one I will remember when the next show season comes around.

After lunch another feast of horses, this time at liberty when they showed themselves as the true beauties they are famous for, then we were taken back to our hotel to freshen up for the big party celebration, all posh frocks and yes, turbans! There was to be a turban wrapping contest which was hilarious, my sides ached with laughing, everyone had a good time and gifts were given for almost everything you can think of, we were given gifts for travelling to the seminar! and nice ones too, I shall treasure mine. Judith and Don cut the celebration cake and we all ate heartily, no expense was spared, we had a lovely meal and drinks flowed freely even though Mena is a dry town! (I suppose it’s okay to drink in your own home though). Pam and I were surprised to be told “No mam, no drinks can be bought here in the town”, I thought Pam was going to go into shock! “What, no glass of wine with my meal?!” ... she nearly had withdrawal symptoms! So we were happy when Saturday night arrived and we could have a glass or three! The last day started a little later as the party had kept us up late (most civilised), it was a very informal day, you could just wander around the barns, ask questions and generally soak in the atmosphere of the farm. I could see why Judith and Don lived there, a most peaceful haven nestled under the rich mountain in the Ouachita Valley, surrounded by pine trees. Ansata Ibn Halima is buried there, as is Ansata Ibn Sudan. In the warm sunshine I looked out over the paddocks and imagined those two famous stallions standing regal and magnificent, they had lived here, how I wish that I could have seen them in the flesh. But, of course, when you look at any of the Ansata horses, that’s what you are doing, because they are the embodiment of Ibn Halima.

Back to the barn and a most enlightening talk by Jerry Sparagowski on the art of photography and again I learnt a lot from this workshop and it was over too soon. I still had one more thing I needed to do, to interview the head trainer and respected horseman Steve Diamond. Although he was busy he found time to take me to his office and tell me a bit about himself. Although he has not been with Judith for very long he has been a top trainer in the States most of his life. He had his own Equestrian Centre and trained many famous horses. I watched him with the Ansata horses and he seemed very sympathetic and kind to them. He names Patrick Swayzee and his wife as very good friends of his, well, anyone who is a friend of Patrick’s is a friend of mine!! Just joking again. People kept coming in to the office and I felt I was taking too much of his time so I said my goodbye’s and left him to his busy life, although one day I would like to write about him in his own right, he was a fascinating man. So Steve, if you read this article contact me.

Well, all too soon it was over for me, I had to leave early to catch my flight back to Dallas where my daughter lives. I was to spend the rest of my visit to the States with her and her lovely 18 month old son, my grandson Connor. So I had to take my horsey head off and put my nanny head on (Worzel Gummidge, for those old enough to remember). I said goodbye to Pam who was to stay on a few more days (lucky thing) and also goodbye to all the friends I had made. Thank you Judith and Don for a most memorable visit to your wonderful stud, surely one of the highlights of my life.

Lynda Free


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