By Emma Bennett
** Originally published in the November – December 1987 issue of the Crabbet Influence magazine.
Margaret Murray was loved and respected by many people and she has never had the recognition she deserves for the contribution she made to Arab horse breeding in the United Kingdom.
Perhaps the inspiration to own and breed Arabs came from Margaret Murray seeing her mother drive a pair of South African Arabs in a phaeton, for in 1932 she bought a grey two-year-old colt from Mr. T.C. Armitage’s stud at Taunton in Somerset. This colt was Sahban, by *Aldebar 1864 (bred by the Prince of Wales) out of the Crabbet mare, Seriya (Skowronek x Somra). Sahban was the start of a long friendship between Margaret Murray and Tom Armitage who was president of the Arab Horse Society three times. Sabhan was used mainly on pony and Thoroughbred mares and only sired a few purebred foals as at that time Arabs were used mainly to improve other types of horses. It is amusing to see the advertisement in the Arab Horse Journal 1938 standing Sabhan at stud – his stud fee was 6 guineas ($3.72 today), keep was 4s 6d (4 schillings, 6 pence)!
Sabhan proved to be a marvelous riding horse and was asked to appear in the film, The Four Feathers, which was made at Denham film studios. He was so good he was offered a part in the Wizard of Oz, but his screen career was cut short by World War II.
It was not until 1937 that Mrs. Murray bought her first purebred mare. She went to the Crabbet Stud to see Lady Wentworth and there she was offered Rishima (Radi x Rishka), a mare she did not consider top quality so she did not buy here. She was advised to go back and ask Lady Wentworth to show her Risslina (pictured above as the header/article photo) and this she did. Risslina was then 12, a very beautiful golden chestnut mare by Rafeef (Nasik x Riyala), one of the loveliest stallions ever bred at Crabbet but who left relatively few offspring in England as he was sold to Argentina. Risslina’s dam was even more illustrious – Rissla (*Berk 343 x Risala), the dam of Rissalix and Irex and the granddam of *Raffles 952. Rissla was well known for her brilliant action at the trot which she inherited from her sire, *Berk, and this she passed on to her offspring. Risslina had already produced *Rissletta 1201 (by Naseem) who had been exported to the Kellogg Ranch in America and was the dam of the great Abu Farwa 1960, (by Rabiyas 1236), Margaret Murray immediately recognized that Risslina was the mare she wanted but in order to buy her she had to agree to take Rishima also and not to sell any of Risslina’s offspring without first informing Lady Wentworth. Risslina was to prove an outstanding broodmare, not only for the Painswick Lodge stud but through her descendants which formed the nucleus of other important English studs.
Risslina’s first foal at Painswick was the lovely grey Risira, who was by Naziri and so was a full sister in blood to *Rissletta; Risira alone, would have given Risslina a secure place in history.
In 1941, Risslina produced a colt, Rifari, by Faris, a 3/4 brother to Rissalix who inherited the marvelous Rissla movement. He was much coveted by Lady Wentworth who wished to own him. In 1949 she wrote to Margaret Murray, having seen Rifari beaten into second place by her own stallion, “I was of course pleased to see Dargee win, but personally should have put Rifari at the top. His action is superb.” Rifari was a great character and loved applause. He was not used extensively at stud because of the war but he had a profound effect on breeding in the UK. One of his sons, Rifaria, bred by Tom Armitage, out of Meccana, was the sire of two geldings, Rikki and Khada, who dominated the Ridden Arab events at the Arab Show for many years.
Lady Wentworth bought one of Risira’s colts, Risslin (by Rissam), which she later sold to Siam (Thailand) where they were so pleased with him that six years later they wrote and asked Mrs. Murray if she had a mare of similar breeding. By then Risslina had produced a filly, Risfara, by Rifari (her son), and this filly followed Risslin to Siam.
Risira was an incredible mare. She produced three half-sisters – Risseefa, Gleaming Gold, and Nerina – who are responsible for some of the best Arabs to be found in the UK. Risseefa was foaled in 1943 and was by Faris, the sire of Rifari. She was sold to Lady Wentworth who later sold her to Rosemary Dykes, now Rosemary Archer of the Worth Arabian stud. Risseefa was a very good riding mare, as well as a broodmare; she won the riding class at the Arab Show in 1951 and 1952.
After Risseefa came a chestnut colt, Iman, by Rissam. He was sold to a lady who decided his hocks were not all they should be and she sold him on to Bertram Mills circus. Margaret Murray used to tell and amusing story of how he danced on those hocks for 15 years and never showed a sign of stress or strain. He was a great favourite of the troups and in his old age was bought back by Mrs. Murray in conjunction with Miss Stevens, the talented artist of the Pelere Stud in Cornwall.
The next foal was *Rissalira 12531, by Rissalix, who was sold to Canada where she did well in ridden Arab classes. She left a daughter, Risanira (by Manasseh, the sire of Dargee) who became a mainstay of the Impney Stud belonging to Joyce and Fred Smith. In 1948 Risira had a filly by Grey Owl, Ghanimeh, who was sold, in foal to Rifari, to New Zealand.
Risira had another daughter by Rissalix in 1950; this was Nerina. In 1952 Margaret Murray showed Nerina with tow of her other fillies at the Arab Show, all in the same class – one was 1st, another 3rd and Nerina was 6th. That evening Lady Wentworth asked the price of Nerina. Thus, Nerina was sold to Crabbet where she produced Noran, by Oran, Champion stallion of Holland in 1959 and the sire of National Champion *Achim NSB 300044 (out of Tehoura). Nerina was also the dam of Nerinora (by Oran), National Female champion in 1958 and dam of the full brothers Indian Star and Indian Flame (by Indian Magic).
Risira’s last daughter was Gleaming Gold, by the wonderful broodmare sire Indian Gold (Ferhan x Nisreen). She had all the characteristics of Crabbet horses – a lovely chestnut colouring, brilliant movement, and presence. She was a good show mare, winning the Junior National Championship in 1954 abd the Princess Muna Saddle of Honour for the best family group in 1971.
Gleaming Gold had four sons, Gold Moidore (by *Count Orlando 18313) who won the Ridden Stallion class at the Arab Show in 1966 (his daughter, Countess Amarilla, out of Countess Nina, was exported to Australia), Gold Rex (by Alexua, a son of Irex), with a very beautiful head, was sold to Miss Steven’s Pelere Stud, now disbanded but with stock still surviving in other studs today, and Brandreth (by Oran), who never covered the mares he deserved. Gleaming Gold’s other son was Ringing Gold, by the Hanstead stallion Mikeno (Rissalix x Namilla). He was sold to the Impney Stud where he sired the three full-sisters Royal Destiny, Royal Serenity and Risanina (all out of the Risira granddaughter Risanira). He was also the sire of Silver Sword (out of Silver Sheen). Sadly, Ringing Gold was sold to Australia – a great loss to England.
The first foal Gleaming Gold had was a filly, Crystal Dew, by Rifari – she was therefore double Risslina. She was 2nd at the Arab Show as a 3 year old in 1960 and was sold to Mrs. I. Scott who bred a colt from her by Blue Domino. He was called *Golden Domino 26163 and carrid three lines to Rissla. As a yearling he was Junior National Champion and was then sold to the United States. Sadly Crystal Dew died foaling the year after he was born. 1963 was a good year at the Arab Show for Risira’s family as, apart from *Golden Domino’s championship, her great-grandson, Narim (Bright Shadow x Nerinora), won the two-year-old class and her granddaughter Silver Ripple (*Silver Vanity 22555 x Risseefa) won the three-year-old filly class.
Gleaming Gold’s next two daughters were both by Blue Domino. Dreaming Gold and Golden Treasure were not prolific breeders but the foals they produced were outstanding. Margaret Murray did not live to see the foals from these mares but the formed part of the foundation of the Foxbury Stud belonging to Margaret Murray’s daughter-in-law, Caroline. One last filly was born to Gleaming Gold. She was foaled after the death of Margaret Murray; this was White Gold by the National Champion stallion, Rajmek (Mikeno x Nuhajjela). White Gold went to Margaret Murray’s daughter Iona Bowring’s Chedglow Stud.
This, then, was Risira’s family but there were others at Painswick Lodge.
Rishima, bought with Risslina and totally eclipsed by her, had been bred in Ireland by Mrs. Carroll. She was by Radi, the sire of Bright Shadow, and produced three foals – Shimrix by Rix, the great-grandsire of Starlight Shadow (by Bey Shadow) who produced the lovely Yakouta (sired by the Crabbet stallion, Shades of Silver), Rishaya by Fayal, and Rishiana by Sahban. They were all sold: Rishima and two of her offspring went to Scotland.
Margaret Murray bought the Hanstead mare Fallujah, by Rissam out of Sulka (Nassem x Nurschida). She had a colt by Rifari called Falarif whom Lady Wentworth bought; unfortunately he died young. Fallujah was sold to Mrs. de Beaumont, a very well known pony and Arab breeder. She bred the lovely Shallufah, by Indian Gold, which Margaret Murray bought. Shallufah had a filly by *Count Dorsaz 14388 named *Golden Haze 16214 who was sold to North America in foal to Rifari – she had a bay filly called *Golden Zerahif 16671. Shallufah was later sold to Capt. and Mrs. Biggs stud where she proved a good broodmare producing the colt Manfah, by Manto, exported to Sweden in 1964, and Lufahla, by Darjeel.
Another mare to come from the Hanstead stud was Manzana. She was by Nauful out of Nurschida, therefore a half-sister to Fallujah’s dam, Sulka. Nurschida was not entirely Crabbet as she traces through her sire to Namrood, a son of Miss Dillon’s marvelous performance stallion, Maidan. Manzana was the dam of Rifana, by Rifari, whom Margaret Murray gave to the wife of her elder son, George, who lived in Kenya. Rifana went with her foal Marania, by Raktha, to Kenya where she was 1st at the Royal Show, Nairobi. Maizana was also the dam of *Moraea 16183, by Irex (Naseem x Rissla) a pretty bay mare who was sold to Penny Molteno in Scotland, Mrs. Murray’s niece.
Sahban had gone to live in Scotland with Penny Molteno in 1947 by which time he was 17. He had been used extensively at stud in England and Wales on pony mares and 1946 covered 78 mares in Wales when he was 16! He was a perfect gentleman and could be ridden by children in the company of mares. When Penny Molteno decided he should learn to pull the pony cart, she backed him into the shafts, led him 100 yards, then got in and drove him. He also pulled the toboggan in the snow, when the only brake was for whoever was driving him to get hold of one of his hind legs. Sahban covered *Moraea who produced a chestnut filly, Shamara; the latter was the dam of Miksham, by Mikeno, who was sold to Sweden. When Penny Molteno married Count Lewenhaupt of Sweden she took with her to Sweden Kariba, a two-year-old colt by Rifari out of *Moraea, only the second Arab stallion to be seen in Sweden. *Moraea was sold to the USA in foal to Rifari where she had a colt.
Of completely different bloodlines was the mare Gehenna, owned in partnership with Miss Patricia Lindsay. She was by Doktryner and was one of the early imports from Poland. She came in foal to *Naborr 25472 and produced a filly, Gazella, who became a very good broodmare for the Marchioness Townshend.
Margaret Murray’s friendship with Tom Armitage extended beyond just Sahban. Mr. Armitage had a 3/4 sister to Sahban at his stud; this was Shabryeh, by Algol. Mr. Armitage bred some good foals from Shabryeh, including a colt by Riffal, *Victory Day II 4347, who was Champion at the West Coast Canada show in 1957. His daughter, Victorys Coronatta 8405, was Reserve Champion. Shabryeh was also the dam of Shifari, by Rifari, who was an incredible performance horse in his own right, never unplaced in Point to Point races over fences; he was also the sire of the good performance gelding Splenour of Scind (ex Scindia). Most notably though, Shifari was a sire of broodmares – including Parthia (out of Bint Yasimet) whose grandson, Georgian Silver, won at the Arab Show in 1980, Saidi and Yasmina, full sisters (out of Dil Kushi), respectively the dams of Shah Jehan (by Sha’ir) exported to Switzerland, and Ghibi (by Ludo) twice International Champion of Belgium, and Mafari (out of Marishna) dam of International Champion Sheer Magic, now in Australia, who is the dam of Crystal Magician (by Crystal King).
Shabryeh’s most famous daughter was Shabrette who Mrs. Murray bought when Mr. Armitage had to give up his stud. Shabrette had three foals – Hediat Betros, a colt by Rifari, Orania, a filly by Oran, who unfortunately died when she was a two-year-old, poisoned from eating woody night shade, and thirdly the most famous, Farette, by Rifari. Farette was sold to Mrs. Monica Brown who kept her all her life. She was a wonderful broodmare and her influence continues strongly, her great-granddaughter being Junior National champion this year, 1987. Farette was sold in foal to Indian Magic, and by him produced her first foal, the lovely filly, Fairy Magic. The latter was dam of Christmas Fairy whose son, Manex, was a National Ridden Champion. Fairy magic was also the dam of Magic Argosy by the Polish stallion Argos (*Naborr x Arfa). Magic Argosy won the Veteran Stallion class at the Arab Show in 1984; he is the sire of the beautiful grey mare Vonitsa (out of Marinella), Junior National Champion in 1977, and Vandella (out of Vanda), as well as the stallions Crown of Argosy and Danaus (out of Shadowrose).
Farette’s second daughter, Farissla, was by *Count Orlando 18313 (*Count Dorsaz 14388 x Umatella) and was bought by Mrs. Murray and then sold to Penny Lewenhaupt who took her in foal to Sweden where she produced a colt, Magic Flame. Farissla is still alive today and living with her many descendants. In 1961 Farette produced a colt, Bey Shadow, by Bright Shadow, who is the sire of Starlight Shadow and Velvet Shadow (out of the Thriplow mare Nasim); the latter has nicked well with White Lightning (Burkan x Latawica) to produce the champion full brothers Rostam and Carmague.
Farette had two more daughters, Farella (by National Champion El Meluk) and Farosa (by General Dorsaz). Farosa is the dam of the full sisters by Crystal Magician – Junior National champion Spey Crystal and Crystal Farifi, dam of this year’s Junior National Champion, Fazleta (by Gai Gazpacho 143446).
Pride of Place of Farette’s offspring must go, however, to the stallion Fari II, by Blue Domino. Fari II had three crosses to Rissla. He had all the presence and movement of his forebears. A lovely bay stallion, he was bought from Monica Brown by Margaret murray and her daughter-in-law, Caroline. He was to sire some of the finest Arabs in the UK from the Painswick mares and others and Part II of this article will show his influence, together with that of Risseefa, Glemaing Gold and Farissla, among others.
Margaret Murray died in 1967. She left behind her a wonderful legacy of Arabs – a careful blend of Crabbet and old English bloodlines.
Mrs. Iona Bowring
Arab Horse Society News
Last Updated: August 25th, 2019
** All of the articles included in the re-launched Crabbet.com site from the original website, Georgia Cheer, Silver Monarch publishing, and The Crabbet Influence magazine are shared here with permission of Georgia Cheer given May 16, 2012. **