According to Mrs. T

By Kelly Fenstermaker (September 30, 1934 - June 25, 2010)

Sixty years in the horse-breeding business has taught Bazy Tankersley a few things. Among them is a common sense attitude about how to breed, raise, and care for Arabian horses that is sometimes at cross-purposes with what is popular today in the show ring.

"So many of our halter horses never do anything but a token something under the saddle," she complains. "Some of these horses have those extremely long necks that are difficult to bridle up and maneuver. You have a bit on the end of an angleworm. Also, they put such an emphasis on a fine throatlatch that I think they are making a smaller wind pipe. A big loose-hanging windpipe has a lot to do with air-exchange, which makes these horses able to gallop so well." She also believes that some breeders don't put enough emphasis on bone and put too much on height. She, herself, has never paid attention to size. The average height of her Arabians is fourteen one to fourteen two. "I think if it's a good horse, it's a good size,: she says, emphatically. "Until somebody can show me something a fifteen-three horse can do that a fourteen two horse can't do, I'm not convinced we need that height." To make her point, she mentions a fifteen-year old client who rides a fourteen-one Arabian that her parents bought from Bazy. The girl was third in the nation in dressage this year. "So much for size!", says Bazy.

In 1942 Bazy founded Al-Marah Arabian Horses, one of the world's largest individually owned Arabian horse farms. Since then, this energetic woman striding boldly into her octogenarian years, has worked to produce some of the finest Arabians anywhere in the country. Bazy, or "Ms. T" as her staff affectionately calls her, has definite ideas about what she wants out of her breeding program. This includes athletic ability of all kinds, and it is no accident that Al Marah consistently turns out champions in disciplines that include cutting, reining, endurance and dressage. "I think horses were meant to ride and they can be superb athletes," she says. "The glory of owning an Arabian horse to me is that they can do almost all the athletic sports and do them well."

AM Good Oldboy - Rider: Gary Furguson

Bazy breeds for type as well. "If I see a horse on the horizon, I want to be able to tell that it's an Arabian, and I don't mean just a pretty face", she says. "I want a lovely tail carriage and the overall silhouette." The head is important to her, too, not only for its aesthetics but because the very large eye of the Arabian gives it tremendous peripheral vision. "I like the dish face," she adds, "but more important to me is a short head with big widely spaced eyes and trim little ears. Sometimes we don't get them on our favorite mare, but when we do, it's icing on the cake."

When asked why so many Arabians show up in the ring these days with shaved eyebrows and oiled faces, she snaps, "You don't see mine with that! I don't know why they are doing it. I think they're ugly with those shaved faces." Neither does she care to show her stallions at halter because she refuses to threaten and excite them to create drama for the audience. "We do not like to show horses that are nervous and scared," Bazy emphasizes, "so our horses don't show like that and they don't win. I would prefer for them to stand quietly with their ears up. If people in the stands don't like it, that's fine. But when people book studs, they often go by who is winning. They're doing it to re-market the foal. They're just confused because they won't be able to market a six-month-old foal that's running around scared in the pen and won't come to you. But I guarantee you could market a foal that lets you rub his belly and then follows you around the pasture," she says, referring to one of hers with which I had done just that. "Our colts would not win as much because they are not as frightened or as tight in the halter," she adds, About when they get to be four and you get to ride one, you're gonna have a wonderful horse."

Bazy laments the decline in people breeding "good usable horses." When it started out, she remembers, a lot of people with Arabians used them on working ranches. "You don't see that much anymore," she observes. "I see a great loss of type. Even the ones with a nice eye may have long faces and loss of bone. But I'm a perennial optimist and think things are coming around."

Basically, Bazy breeds Crabbet horses, but is not a purist. "The genetic pool has gotten smaller and smaller," she explains, "and we need to be more international in exchanging genes." After extensive research by her, and a visit to Australia by her manager, Jerry Hamilton, she leased five mares from that country, all related, to which she will breed her stallions. (The mares stay put, are bred by artificial insemination, and Al-Marah gets the foals.)

Because she refuses to follow fads in breeding, her horses, although always in demand, have not been a hot item for many years. Now they are. "We're getting excellent prices and almost have a waiting list for the reining horses," she says proudly.

As for future trends in showing Arabians, Bazy sees the greatest growth in reining classes and an increase in hunt seat classes. "Most people are riding their own horses now, and this is bound to be good for the horse, too," she says. "The amateur-ridden horse is better and more humanely trained, and those people are going to stay in the horse business for the love of it rather than what it can do for them socially." She hopes that more and more amateurs will ride. With this in mind, her trainer, Gary Ferguson, has all the apprentices at the farm ride the 40 to 45 horses he has in training. She explains, "When we sell it to an amateur, it won't say, "Oh my God, I don't have Gary on my back! What will I do?""

Al-Marah Arabians lies on the outskirts of Tucson, Arizona, totaling somewhere between 80 and 90 acres over which spread a network of pastures, barns and training pens. Several eighteen-wheelers are parked under a sizeable shed, an indication of horse hauling on a very large scale. A winding road that ends at the back of the property in a shady grove of trees reaches the main office. Upon walking into the large reception room, I was dazzled by a profusion of show ribbons, plaques and sliver trophies squeezing into every inch of space on the walls and tables. Sixty years of wins. Bazy must be doing something right.

On a tour of the ranch, Jerry Hamilton, Bazy's foreman and employee for the last 20 years, stops by two adjacent pastures where mares grazes contentedly with their new foals. According to Bazy, this years crop is unusually big and strong, the best ever, due to good feed, management, and, "a lot of luck." Earlier she had said that they are breeding almost a new horse, and are on the verge of taking a quantum leap. Most of the foals we saw here will be taken to Bazy's Hat Ranch in northern Arizona to be turned out on large acreage where they can toughen up and develop strong bones and feet. When they reach about two and a half to three and a half years, they return to Al-Marah for training.

After touring the ranch with Jerry, I posed one last question. What exactly are you striving for in your breeding program at Al-Marah? He replied: "We are striving to keep Mrs. T happy."

Ruth "Bazy" Tankersley (March 7, 1921 - February 5, 2013)

The new contact information for Al-marah:
Al-marah Arabian Horses LLC
11105 Autumn Lane
Clermont Fl, 34711
(352) 536-1502 (352) 536-1502
Office & Fax:
(352) 536-1502

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