As Al Khamsa proceeds to re-do its website, we have been exploring how best to use the website as an asset for the Al Khamsa horse and owner, and that has meant re-thinking many of our goals.
Sometimes you truly cannot see the forest for the trees. In our case, we are losing trees, and before too long, our forest will not be the healthy, diverse environment that it has been. We have already lost Foundation Trees (or Horses!) and now we are looking at losing swaths of the forest. While the Khamsat has been featuring articles about vanishing and lost lines, Alkhamsa.org can greatly expand our reach in preserving rare bloodlines. The plan is to divide this section of the website into web pages specializing in our rarest lines, keeping track of precious new foals, locations, gains and losses.
To move this plan forward, we established a new Al Khamsa Preservation Task Force, spear headed by Edouard Al Dahdah and currently chaired by Jeannie Lieb and Carrie Slayton, to take us from planning to action.
First, we had to agree among ourselves what ‘rare’ is as far as the Task Force is concerned. After some discussion, while we agreed that there are rare breeding groups and subgroups within breeding groups in Al Khamsa that need preserving, the Task Force decided that the most urgent call was to preserve rare Al Khamsa Foundation Horses. When a Foundation Horse is gone, that bloodline is lost to Al Khamsa forever.
Second, with that decided, the Task Force used the Al Khamsa Online Roster to research our existing Foundation Horses, and rank them according to number of descendants since 1990. This was an eye-opener, and no mistake, to quote J.R.R. Tolkien. Of the 159 Foundation Horses listed in Al Khamsa Arabians III, 21 have fewer than 100 descendants since 1990. Four are down to one. Besides these, the Crane group of three Foundation Horses, the Europa Ancestral Element of 62 Foundation Horses and the Borden Ancestral Element of three Foundation Horses are also on this “Code Red” List. These lines are hanging by a thread, and if the thread snaps, Al Khamsa will lose over half of its Foundation Horses.
Third, with list of rare jewels in hand, volunteers have researched what is left, identified those descendants, some of which appear on multiple lists, and are now trying to locate these descendants. Everything on the “Code Red” list is being worked on, but the “Code Orange” list, covering Foundation Horses with between 100 and 500 descendants since 1990 is not far behind in urgency. Twenty-five more Foundation Horses, plus the entire Ayerza Ancestral Element of nine Foundation Horses, are represented on this list. Volunteers are welcome to help with this project!
Fourth, the Task Force is identifying reasons for preservation. Those skeptics who argue that rare lines are rare because they were not good enough are simply mistaken. Experienced breeders know that while this might be so in isolated cases, the vast majority of rare lines are worthy of our utmost respect and efforts. It is also true that if Al Khamsa loses more of the genetic material it is supposed to be safeguarding, it restricts options for breeders in the future.
When Joe Ferriss spoke at the Tribute to Saudi Bloodlines at the Davis Open House, he had made an outline for the Spirit of Preservation. This was so apropos that it is included here, along with the editorial by Charles Craver that led the first preservation issue of the Arabian Horse World in 1993.
The Khamsat will continue to run features on rare breeding groups, vanishing lines and lost lines, and will continue to focus a spotlight on these special horses. It will continue to show that these rare lines are worthy of our best efforts. The new Al Khamsa website will provide more tools. But in the end, it comes down to individual actions, saving one horse at a time.
In summary, this article is meant to announce the formation and rationale behind the Preservation Task Force, to list the horses on the Code Red and Code Orange lists, to stir our consciences as Al Khamsa breeders, to solicit volunteers to help with the locating of the relevant descendants, and to begin to encourage Al Khamsa supporters to take on a project horse as a way of “Paying It Forward.”