Overcoming obstacles was the specialty of a versatile Arabian who started out ponying Thoroughbreds, but ended up as a field hunter and a sire with a remarkable show record. Aazrak AHR #10821 was foaled on July 22, 1956, and died in the summer of 1975. He was registered as a roan, although he was in fact a chestnut with considerable roaning in his coat. His sire Aaraf was by *Raffles out of Aarah (Ghadaf x Nadirat, by *Rizvan). His dam Aazkara was by the Rahas son Azkar out of Aarah, making his sire and dam half brother and sister.
He had a blaze extending over his muzzle to his lower lip, white on his right hind fetlock, roaning behind his elbow and on his flank, and a tail light enough to call flaxen. He stood 14.2 1/2 hands, was wide between the eyes, had small well-shaped ears, a big jowl, good bone, good-sized feet and powerful hindquarters with good tail carriage. Aazrak was clearly a very handsome horse with a sterling disposition and great athleticism.
THE ONLY ARABIAN
A product of prominent early breeder Blanche M. Tormohlen’s program, Aazrak spent the first 11 1/2 years of his life on the farm of Indiana Th oroughbred breeder Richard F. Gieselman. Although he had only one Arabian on his farm, Richard cared very much for Aazrak. When someone else put Aazrak away hot with too much water to drink – an incident that resulted in founder – Richard loaded the little horse into a trailer and drove hours to the University of Kentucky to save his life.
At the Gieselman farm, Aazrak earned his keep from the time he was 3 as a “pony horse” for the Thoroughbreds. Pony horses – which are used to lead and/or exercise other horses – are nearly always older, steadier geldings with some size. The mere fact that he was used as a pony horse at such a young age speaks volumes for Aazrak’s disposition. By all accounts, he was smart and brave – although his intelligence, boldness and knack for opening latches got him into trouble more than once. On one occasion, he suff ered bad cuts to a hind fetlock when he escaped and became entangled in wire. All in all, he had more than his fair share of knocks as a youngster, including splints, founder and injuries that resulted in “boggy” hocks. Later on, he injured a nerve in one front leg, which sidelined him for several seasons.
Aazrak also banged up his knees working as a teaser stallion on the Gieselman farm. During teasing, he was apparently handled with a chain through his mouth, a risky practice that can severely damage the mouth and tongue. This – and a lack of quality riders early in his training – gave the stallion a hard mouth. The miracle is that all of his early injuries didn’t leave him permanently lame. The fact that he was a real hard-luck horse makes his lifetime accomplishments that much more impressive.
Young Ann Harnly became aware of Aazrak when galloping horses on Gieselman’s farm one year. Soon she was working with the stallion, schooling him as a pleasure horse and potential racehorse at age 4. Aazrak did make one start in an Arabian race, but because of his scarred mouth, the jockey could not rate him – and this ended any hope of a racing career, although he showed plenty of speed, which was an asset later on.
When Ann decided not to return to college that fall, she persuaded Richard to lease Aazrak to her. Ultimately, she leased him for six years, moving him first to New Jersey and later to Maryland before Richard finally agreed to sell the stallion to her in 1968. In the meantime, she went to work for Jim McKay and eventually married him.
AN EXCEPTIONAL PARTNERSHIP
Ann McKay and Aazrak formed an exceptional partnership that pro-duced an amazing show record. Aazrak was the horse to beat in hunter, jumper, dressage, hunter hack, English pleasure, Western pleasure, pole bending, stock horse, trail horse and harness classes at all the Arabian and all breed shows all over the East Coast. He was champion or reserve champion in numerous competitive trail rides at 25 and 50 miles, qualified for the Arabian national championships, and was a New Jersey High Point award winner in the early 1960s. In addition, Ann hunted him regularly for years with the Elkridge-Harford Hounds, where he was much admired for his impeccable manners and calm bravery over all obstacles. All through these years, Aazrak stood at stud and covered a half dozen or so mares a year. He was also a family horse, and Ann’s young daughters hacked him bareback through the fi elds of horses at home. He understood all his various roles.
In September 1970, Ann sold Aazrak to Raymond H. and Helen G. Smith; it was under their ownership that he sired eight of his 13 pure-bred offspring. Altogether, Aazrak sired 28 get, who in turn produced 69 grand-get and countless great-grand-get, so chances are good that he will continue to contribute to his breed in some small way. In addition to his purebred off spring, Aazrak also sired at least 15 partbreds: seven half-Arabians and eight Anglo-Arabians. Many more are not registered.
One of Aazrak’s greatest accomplishments was impressing respected horsewoman and author Margaret Cabell Self so much that she included him in the 1973 edition of her book The Hunter in Pictures. Aazrak is the only Arabian profi led, although Self gives credit to the Arabian influence on the Thoroughbred and most other light horse breeds. She also used a photo of a half-Arabian Aazrak daughter, Wickeri, in the section on crossbreds and half-breds. Margaret stated that Aazrak was a prepotent sire who passed along “all his good qualities and his jumping ability.”
With his exceptional disposition, tough constitution, and talent, Aazrak was the kind of horse who won friends for the Arabian breed wherever he went. When he was older, he even befriended an orphan foal that had been rejected by all of the mares and geldings on the farm. The foal was depressed from loneliness and in danger of dying before Aazrak was tried as an equine companion.
As a stallion, his continuing influence can only benefit the breed as a whole and the Arabian sport horse in particular. Unfortunately, he died in the summer of 1975 as a result of breaking his neck in a freak accident at the relatively young age of 19.
A PUREBRED LEGACY
Aazrak’s three oldest daughters between them produced 23 purebred off spring in the first generation and 139 in the second. Aazfreya, a 1962 chestnut mare out of Freya by Al-Marah Rooz, produced 10 foals, among them the reasonably well-known sire Aazkaborro, who stood in the U.S. and Canada and sired 44 purebreds. His son Hotai Ibn Aazrak started out as a mount for Ann’s young daughter Patricia, then competed at open hunter shows quite successfully.
Of Aazrak’s younger get, the stallion Sunset Enzio, a 1972 chestnut out of Lamia-Kay (Ibn Baruk x Never Die Holly), has been the most prolific, according to the Arabian Horse Registry. He sired 29 Arabian, 16 half-Arabian and 24 Anglo-Arabian get, with the youngest foaled in 1996. As of today, Enzio has 38 registered grand get, including six purebreds, 22 Anglo-Arabians and 7 half-Arabians.
Enzio was euthanized in the spring of 2000 after suffering a mild stroke. He was nearly 28 years old. Ann McKay wrote that, as a young horse, he showed as much working ability as his sire. She regretted that she never had the time, money and health to take him as far as he could go. (Ann’s back was permanently damaged by a bad fall one year, which eventually ended her ability to ride over jumps. Her husband died in 1975, leaving her a 35 year-old widow with two small daughters, Patricia and Chris.)
Although he may not have reached his full potential, Enzio did compete successfully in dressage through 4th level, eventing through the preliminary level and participating in combined driving and even some competitive trail events. Few horses given every possible chance in the competitive arena accomplish as much or show such versatility. Enzio also inherited his sire’s exceptional disposition; Chris described him as her mother’s best friend and a true gentleman. The last year Ann evented Enzio – at Training level, to spare his rider’s back – they finished second three times to a United States Equestrian Team rider, with less than two penalty points’ difference between them for the three events. In the early 1980s, Chris also competed Enzio at preliminary level before his retirement from eventing.
Enzio’s success as a sport horse is hardly surprising, given his sire’s show record and his dam’s breeding. Lamia-Kay was out of Never Die Holly, a product of the renowned Asmis breeding program. Carl Asmis and Never Die Holly’s sire Rafmirz were well-known for their elegant exhibitions of Federatio Equestre Internationale-level dressage (the family is still very involved with dressage today, sponsoring a United States Dressage Federation scholarship to allow talented American riders to study in Europe). Lamia-Kay’s sire Ibn Baruk was a great-grandson of *Sulejman and *Fadl, who were bothathletic and versatile riding horses. Ibn Baruk also had lines through his dam to action sire *Berk and mul-tiple crosses to the exceptional hunter *Naomi through the inbred mare Haaranmin.
THE ANGLO ANGLE
With his youngest purebred offspring 11 years old, it is possi-ble that Enzio will be the strongest contributor to Aazrak’s legacy of purebred Arabian sport horses. But the purebreds are only part of Aazrak’s dynasty. The crossing of Aazrak with Thoroughbreds to produce Anglo-Arabians became a major part of his legacy.
The first, and certainly not the least, of Aazrak’s Anglo-Arabian off -spring was Arzab, a gelding foaled in 1965 out of a Th oroughbred mare named Fable-Lass. Arzab placed quite a bit in halter classes as a 2-year-old, and McKay started him out in baby hunter classes after she had him going under saddle. She had become interested in combined training and dressage but hadn’t had an opportunity yet to take lessons in either. However Louise Bedford, the founder of the Elkridge-Harford Pony Club, had “C” rally-sized fences built around the hunt club, so McKay was able to school there. She also built smaller copies of fences she saw pictured in The Chronicle of the Horse.
With this background, Ann entered Arzab in their first event, the New England Three-Day Championships, at preliminary level. Arzab placed fifth in spite of one stop in the cross-country phase and a dropped fence in the stadium phase that was chalked up to his youth and inexperience. His next outing was at Fair Hill, where he had another stop cross-country, but a clean round in stadium despite bad weather con-ditions. Next, Ann entered him in an event at the old Potomac Horse Center near Washing-ton, D.C. Here, Arzab was brave and jumped clear on the cross-country, but Ann came off at a big log fence on a curve – the only time she ever fell during an event. Arzab was startled by the sudden appearance of two jump judges chatting in the landing zone and made an enormous, twisting leap over the log, unseating Ann enough that she slid off when he landed. She remounted and they finished the course.
About this time, Ann and her husband Jim, who had operated a foxhunting and teaching barn together, stopped making their living with horses. Ann also injured her back during this period, and as a consequence, was unable to ride nearly as much as before. So she lent Arzab to Essie Perkins in Vermont for her daughters to ride.
Beth and Bea Perkins both evented him, one going to preliminary level and the other to advanced. They took him to training with the USET team at Gladstone, New Jersey, and a couple of their working students also evented him. Arzab stayed with the Perkins family for eight years, eventu-ally coming home to enjoy a harem of mares, do some hunter trials and even win the Masters Class two years running at the Elkridge-Harford hunter show. He showed a few times at all-Arabian shows, where the one horse who beat him was another Anglo son of Aazrak. In his 20s, he was still winning 25 to 50-mile Eastern Competitive Trail Ride Association competitive trail rides. Obviously, he inherited his sire’s toughness and basic soundness, as the only thing that ever seemed to slow him down was a terrible knee injury from opening a gate and lead-ing his mares down a road, where he was once hit by a Jeep. Chris McKay did such a good job with his rehabilitation that he won the Masters Classes after the injury healed.
Waterfoot Larrikin, owned by Ann’s friend Jeanie Gore, was the Anglo that outshone Arzab at all-Arabian shows. He evented successfully up to preliminary level, when it was discovered that his hocks had arthritic changes. Accordingly, he moved “down” to foxhunting and was a regular with the Elkridge-Harford, winning a couple of hunter paces as well. As an older horse, “Larry” introduced several students to eventing at the beginner novice and novice levels, rounding out his career as a lesson horse for selected beginners a few times a week. Despite his arthritis, careful management allowed Larry to be ridden up into his 20s. Jeanie Gore evented two other Aazrak Anglos at preliminary level: Discotheque (“Sam”), out of Skilful Eagle by Talon, and Coreographer, out of a Cormac mare.
Two other Aazrak Anglo off spring owned and ridden by Chris McKay Donovan were Goshen, a full brother to Discotheque, and Gadd John Dee, out of Debbie-K. Goshen, who Ann describes as a “lovely big kind fellow,” was Chris’ Pony Club mount, and she evented him to pre-liminary before selling him as a foxhunter to pay for college. Gadd John Dee was a stallion that Chris evented up through preliminary as well, finishing “in the money” at Essex with him their last time out. Named after the well-known local vet John Gadd, “GD” sired 10 Anglo-Arabian get and 10 Anglo grand-get before his death. The announcement that the Enzio mare Jane Morganroth (named for a dear friend of Ann’s) was in foal to Gadd John Dee prompted laughter from the crowd that was present.
Fralik, an Anglo mare by Aazrak out Paul’s Dream, started out as a junior hunter in Maryland and Virginia, with wins under the coaching of Billy Boyce. Later shown in jumpers under the name Crack The Sky, she was sold to the Swedish national jumping team. This talented mare competed for them until she re-bowed a rear tendon first injured when she was a foal, ending her career as a jumper. She is believed to have stayed in Sweden as a broodmare.
Aazrak’s influence on the Anglo-Arabian continues today. The bay stallion Post Exchange, by Enzio out of the Thoroughbred mare Reregret, by Sun Again, competed in open hunter shows and then at breed shows. He was named Arabian Horse Association’s National Champion Half/Anglo Arabian Adult Amateur Working Hunter in 2002 and 2003 before retiring from competition at 20 years of age. Post Exchange, who is one of only a few stallions Ann has ever sold, is owned and ridden by Ann’s friend Peggy Ingles. He was sold primarily so he would get a chance to compete, as he is a very talented jumper. Besides his national titles, Post Exchange was also named USA Equestrian Horse of the Year in 2002. He has sired 16 registered Anglo-Arabians, with more expected this coming spring.
The handsome bay Anglo stallion Quartermaster, by Yankee Lad (who is also the sire of Olympic gold medal winner Touch of Class) out of the Enzio Anglo daughter Jane Morganroth (also out of Paul’s Dream), evented at preliminary level with Terry Gibson in Vermont. Quartermaster was the 1996 United States Combined Training Association/Arabian Sport Horse Association Arabian Horse of the Year and won the Arrowhead Hildago Memorial Trophy. Later, he was shown in jumpers and then hunters by a junior rider. He sired eight registered Anglos and many warmblood crosses who were successful in eventing, endurance and jumping. Sadly, he was euthanized in September, 2006 due to EPM, but bred a few mares here in Maryland in 2005. From his last foal crop is an Anglo colt out of Victoria Regina (Gadd John Dee x Thoroughbred mare) named Master Plan that Chris is planning to keep for herself.
BETTER BY HALF
Besides having a strong positive influence on East Coast Anglo-Arabians, Aazrak sired many half-Arabians. The first Aazrak foal that Ann McKay owned was a chestnut gelding out of a palomino Quarter Horse-type mare that she bought with money earned galloping race horses. She purchased him as a 2-year-old, gelded him and trained him initially as a pleasure horse. She later sold him in New Jersey, where he competed in local 4-H and pleasure shows. There was also the chestnut mare Wickeri, who was foaled in 1965, by Aazrak out of a crossbred mare named Lassy. Wickeri was purchased as a 3-year-old by Robin Stemler, who competed her successfully as a hunter in both recognized and unrecognized shows. Wickeri was champion and reserve numerous times at unrecognized shows her first season, and she also won in hunter trials. Robin and the mare were a solid team and well suited to each other.
More recently, Enzio grandson IC Blue Shadow (by Welsh pony Severn Westwind out of a Welsh/Arab mare) was a top show hunter, winning American Horse Shows Association Na-tional Horse of the Year honors in Small Pony Hunter for several years. Ann not only bred him, but also kept several of his get in her crossbred pony breeding program. Many of those get went on to become very successful show hunters and jumpers.
Today, there is a perpetual trophy named for Aazrak that is awarded each year at the Harford Horse Show to the registered Arabian or part-Arabian winning the highest number of points in performance classes. Not surprisingly, many of the past winners have been Aazrak descendants.Although far from complete, the above illustrates that Aazrak was a sire of strong merit whose descendants are still successful in the East Coast sport horse scene. It is hoped that his grandson, Admiral Harnly AHR #559453 (Sunset Enzio x SS Magsheba [An Magno x Tochi-ba]), a 1994 chestnut stallion named for Ann’s father, will carry on this line. Admiral Harnly was bred and is owned by Ann McKay and her daughter Patricia.
With athletic progeny such as Ironman, Falcon and Hornblower already proving their abilities in the Olympic disciplines, Admiral is the heir apparent to the Aazrak legacy of exceptional Arabian-bred sport horses. Ann and Chris believe he has just as much potential as his sire and grand-sire to pass on the stellar qualities that have made Aazrak a legend.
In April 2006, the last Aazrak gelding of which Chris and her mother had kept track died at the age of 38 – but they have also seen the birth of Admiral Harnly’s fine strong sons. Although Ann is retiring this season from her bustling breeding, boarding and teaching business, she will continue to stand Admiral and more foals are expected this spring. Thus, the sport horse dynasty begun by Aazrak continues.
THE BREEDERS WHO PRODUCED AAZRAK
Ben Hur Farms in Portland, Indiana, was owned by Herbert and Blanche Tormohlen, both extremely knowledgeable breeders. Its program, which lasted for more than 35 years, combined the breeding of two of the most successful programs at that time: those of the Davenport horses and Crabbet Stud in England.
An almost immediate reaction by older breeders to the “double A”-named horses is to think that they trace back to Aarah, and to a certain extent they are right. Bred by C. P. Knight Jr. of Providence, Rhode Island, and foaled in 1935, Aarah was by Ghadaf 694, a half-brother to Gulastra.
Aarah was acquired by Ben Hur in the early 1940s, and she foaled her first for them in 1942, a colt named Aaronek 2249, by Indraff . That year she was bred back to *Raffles 952 (Skowronek x *Rifala 815), and the following year she produced Aaraf 2748, a 1943 chestnut stallion who sired 125 purebreds.
Produce of the *Raffles/Aarah cross became the mainstay of the Ben Hur program. Aaraf was their chief stallion, siring foals from mares who were daughters and granddaughters of their original foundation mares. The first Aaraf foals were born in 1946. Aaraf also blended well with the Azkar daughters, in particular Aazkara (who was out of Aarah, too). Aaraf sired four sons and six daughters from Aazkara, one of which was Aazrak.
Aarah was the only horse at Ben Hur to be given a formal burial and a commemorative monument on her grave. Her 10 foals were directly responsible for some of the most illustrious champions and producers of her day.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the Arabian Sport Horse Association newsletter. All photos courtesy of Peggy Ingles.