BY SIDNEY COUCH,
me fatalistic, but I knew early on that when it came to Arabians, I wanted
a Davenport. My friend Peggy had loaned me every book in her library, and
Homer Davenport's My Quest of the Arabian Horse compelled an immediate
and visceral response. Yes, the Egyptians were exquisite. The Crabbet Arabians
were lovely. The old California
and American lines were classic. But the Davenport--well, a comman
man with a dream up and went to Araby, and he trafficked with the common
man of the black tents, and brought home the common desert-bred horse,
undiluted and un-Anglicized, shaped only by the desert and the hand of
the ragged bedu. This tough, wiry, scrubby bit of flint and silk was exactly
what I wanted.
In addition to loaning me books, Peggy lured me with "Geym," (as in gem), her old Arab gelding, whom I rode for a summer. At 25, he was as game as any horse I'ld ridden, a grand old gentleman. Geym was Peggy's Special One. "There'll never be another Geym," she says.
Over time I looked at many horses. I corresponded with folks and made friends. And when I made the trip to Upland Farm in Massachusetts, I was convinced that I would purchased a horse from Joyce Gregorian Hampshire. Here were Davenports in the flesh. Now these bits of flint and silk were a far cry from what I was used to looking at in the big magazines. Definitely not Anglicized. There were not Disney horses.
Joyce's hands down favorite, Janan Abinorim, was what I would call down-right funky. That is, this horse was perfectly square on his feet, but his head - well, that nose! To be polite, people say things like "What character!" But as Joyce began to tell me about this Davenport, and what she could do with him, I began to seee his beauty. As I watched him, the obvious monarch of the farm, I began to understand why he was exquisite. It was in his eye.
The bedouin knew this. They always judged a horse by his head. And I realize now that they were peering intently into the eye, which is the window to the soul, to the beauty burning brightly within. We in the West are over-consumed with the flesh, the most outward physical beauty. We are snared and deceived by it, and try to snare and deceive others with our posing and clever handling, our shaving and shadowing.
The bedu were never taken in with this type of posturing. True beauty always comes from within. They saw with deep eyes the poetry of the soul, the psalm of the spirit, and judged the horse by the head, while the Westerner, poor fellow, was busy studying the feet; perhaps wondering what the horse would bring on the block.
That is why the desert-breds are so unspoiled. They have been amply blessed by those who comprehended them. They have been guarded by those who zealously valued blood over coin, convenience, and reputation. These are diamonds in the sand, inherently worthy; not representing merely a means of exchange. All this is borne of an attitude in the heart of man.
The day came when I notified Joyce my intent to buy a horse. "Please consider March Tempo." Joyce wrote. "He is not happy here - he needs someone special." This was more than I was prepared for. I vaguely remembered him -- a white glimmering wisp of a stallion, fretting in his stall, thin from the impatience of waiting so long for the special one who never came. A stallion? I was filled with excitement and terror. "We'll put silver glitter on his hooves and ribbons in his tail, and deliver him to your door." she offered. I finally called her back, and as soon as I heard her "Hello?" I shouted " YES! " There was a momentary silence, and then as she realized who it was and what I was saying, warm, delighted laughter bound us together.
"March has the most spiritual head of all my horses," she told me. "I call him my porcelain horse. He's so finely drawn, not like my Kuhaylans. He is Saqlawi by strain, and you are just the right size for him."
So I met the horse. I let myself into his large dim stall and he backed up a few steps, deep eye upon me. He moved like a cat, I thought, like a big reticent cat in a horse suit. There was something reserved and expectant in his manner.
"Are you the One?" It was a mystery we had become party to. "We'll see," I breathed. "God willing, I am the one."
Two years have passed, and just as laughter bound Joyce and me together that day on the phone, March and I are bound together, by brush and by bit, by bucket and baling twine, by wind and the thunder of hooves on the ground. What beauty is his! How pleasing he is. When he moves, a poem. When he runs, flint and sparks! Fire! Silken wind. I take good care of his feet, but I study his head. I ponder, I peer into the window of his soul. I pray for his good.
"March is my Geym." I said to Peggy the other day.
"I know," she answered, and added, "There's only one problem with that."
"What's that?" I asked.
"As much as I love my other horses, none of them will ever hold a candle to Geym," she replied, "And it will be the same with your. No other horse will ever be as good."
She is probably right. March is my Gem, my diamond in the sand.
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