Mumtaz Ali Tajddin S.Ali
HORSE is an important and valuable member of the Mammalia. Among the earliest evidence of the importance of the horse to human culture are the unearthed wall paintings in the caves of Lascaux, in southern France, dating around 30,000 B.C. The horse first became useful in welfare sometimes before 1500 B.C. when Mesopotamian people began to use horses to pull their chariots. There is however a question raised by Canon Taylor in his "Origin of the Aryans" (p.161), whether the horse was at first used for drawing chariots or for riding. He, and William Ridgeway (Academy of 3rd January, 1891) says that, "At first the horse was very small and incapable of carrying man and that it was after generations of domestication under careful feeding and breeding that the horse became of sufficient size to carry man on his back with ease." According to Max Muller, it appears from the Vedas that, in India, it was used both for chariot-driving and riding.
The thoroughbred racehorse, whose remote ancestor, Eohippus, was a small, hoofed quadruped about the size of a fox, is the most beautiful animal bred by man. By a careful process of selection through the race-course test over a period of two hundred and fifty years, a noble and courageous beast has been fashioned in the hands of skilled breeders, from an original blend of the imported, pure-bred Arabian, and so called Turkish or Barbary sires, and the English hybrid mares existing in Europe at the end of 17th century.
The earliest dates for horse-racing have not yet been confirmed. Such contests were however held in Babylonian, Syria and Egypt. Clay tablets excavated in Cappadocia in Asia Minor, written in 1400 B.C. reveal on the training of horses for racing. The four horse chariot races were introduced into Olympic Games of Greece in 23rd Olympiad, or about 664 B.C. It was 33rd Olympiad that the race for mounted horses was first introduced about 624 B.C., and the first race for saddled horses was held in the games of 564 B.C.
Horse-racing is derived from warfare, chariot racing, and the chase, and it is not without significance that, at the time of the Roman occupation of Britain, Queen Boadicea and her people, the tribe of the Iceni, lived on Newmarket Heath and that their gold and silver coins were stamped on the reverse side with the effigy of a horse. The earliest horse-race in England, of which a record still exists, took place at Netherby in Yorkshire in about A.D. 210 between Arabian steeds brought to Europe by the Roman Emperor Septimus Severus Alexander, who made special arrangements for the shelter and training of these delicate horses. In the reign of King Richard I, the horse race became a fashionable pastime for the barons and knights. It was not until the reign of King Henry VIII that the first race-course was officially established on the Roodee at Chester in 1540, and an annual prize first instituted, which took the form of a silver bell; and moreover this monarch did much to improve the royal studs and the breed of the horse in general throughout the country.
The Arabian is regarded as the oldest pure breed, but its exact origins remain unproven for lack of scientific evidence. Antique sculpture and ancient rock drawings depicting horses of Arabian appearance found in the Arabian peninsular, as well as wall inscriptions in Egypt, confirm that an Arabian type has existed in the Middle East for well over 3000 years. These Eastern or Oriental, horses are considered to be the taproot stock of all Southern hot-blooded equines, as opposed to the Northern cold-blooded.
As an old pure breed the Arabian is extremely prepotent, and for centuries has been used up-grade, with the result that there is hardly a breed of light horse that does not contain some Arab blood - the most outstanding breed to evolve from Arabian sources is the Thoroughbred. The foundation stock was an admixture of Eastern mares and stallions, and Gallowavs and other British horses. Three phenomenal stallions -The Darley Arabian, The Godolphin Arabian and the Byerley Turk - dominated Thoroughbred ancestry, and every Thoroughbred traces in the male line to just these three.
Originally most Arabians were nomadic. With a climate of extremes, scarcity of food, and the hard work expected of horses, it was a cast of survival of the fittest. In the days when the tribes were constantly at war or raids were a regular occurrence, the Arab relied on the speed and endurance of his mount for his very survival. Mares were used for forays against enemies, as stallions could not be relied upon to remain quiet, and the Arabian mare thus became a most treasured possession of their owner.
When fighting the rider carried a lance (which in some Northern tribes could be as much as 6 meters long) and the mare had to be extremely agile, able to stop dead in her stride, spin on her hocks, and dart off again. The mares were kept tethered in the Bedouin camps and sometimes shared a tent with their master. Centuries of living in close proximity with humans have endowed the Arabian with an exceptional ability to form strong companionships with people. It is probable that there were no horses in Arabia prior to the Christian era, and that they are direct descendants of the wild Libyan horse of North Africa, which was domesticated in Egypt. Ridgeway states the kings of Egypt had these horses 1500 years B.C., and they probably came to Arabia through Palestine between the 1st and 6th centuries.
According to "Encyclopaedia Americana" (14:391), "Horses begin to appear in Arabia in the 1st century B.C., and by the time of (Prophet) Muhammad a distinct and unique type of Arabic horse had evolved." The Holy Prophet used horses to great effect in the holy wars. They proved faster and more maneuverable than camels. It was the Prophet who directed that horses should be bred by the faithful, so that they would be better prepared to gallop out and spread the Faith of Islam. The Order from the Prophet, enshrined in the Koran meant that horse breeding began to spread among the Bedouin and the true Arabian breed began. Historian Ibn Khallikan (3:476) writes that "We know that in the 12000 Berber cavalry who disembarked in Spain under the command of Tariq bin Zihad, there were twelve Arabian horses. Hence the Arabian horses introduced into the West." Thus, Arab became the home of England's Derby.
The common Arabic word for horse is faras, whether stallion (fahl) or mare; as a collective al-khayl. The word khayl for horse occurs five times in Holy Koran. The title and the first verse of Sura 79 (Those that Draw, al-naziat) and Sura 100 (The Runners, al-adiyat) are probably further references to horses. The title of Sura 37 (Those who Dress the Ranks, al-saffat), Sura 51 (Those that Scatter, al-dhariyat) and Sura 77 (Those that are Sent, al-mursalat) may also refer to them as well.
According to the Holy Koran:
"By the "adiyat" that run panting,
Most of the commentators suggest the meaning of "adiyat" as "panting horses" on the authority of Ibn Abbas.
"And (He created) horses and mules
The Arabic word "zina" or "zinat" means "ornament, amusement, or entertainment." Hence, the horses, mules and asses, in which horses are prominent; are meant not only for riding, but breeding and racing.
The tradition has it that the first to ride a horse was Prophet Ismael. Others again claim that the Arab horses are descended from those of Solomon. The latter inherited 1000 horses from David. It is said that the tribe of Azd once came to Solomon and asked for a present, he gave them one of the steeds, to which they gave the name zad al-rakib; from it are descended all the Arab horses.
An ancient race who came to prominence with the rise of Islam. They have bred closely guarded pure strains of hot blooded desert horses for centuries - it is said an Arab can recite the pedigree of his favourite horses going back to 600 A.D. The best horses were never sold and never left Arabia. God is said to have created the horse out of the south wind, and some Arabian horse bear the Prophet's thumb mark on their neck, where Mohammed was supposed to have touched them
Horse Racing (sibak al-khayl or ijra al-khayl) had been a major sport and a favorite pastime in pre-Islamic Arabia. It was a part of equitation (furusiyya), regarded as essential for military training and also as an object of entertainment for the people from all walks of life. During the Islamic period the breeding, maintenance and training of horses became one of the means of facilitating the prosecution of the holy war. The Holy Prophet regarded horse-breeding as a meritorious calling, and assigned to it a share in the booty obtained on the battle field. This religious sanction fostered a competitive attitude amongst the breeders and encouraged the augmentation of the stock, which suffered considerable depletion in the course of the wars of that time. Cavalry was in fact to become an important factor in the military success of the Muslims.
Kunwar Muhammad Ashraf writes in "Life and Conditions of the people of Hindustan" (Karachi, 1978, p. 187) that, "Horse-racing was just as popular. It had the additional advantage of the blessings of the Prophet who had prohibited other amusements and gambling in no uncertain terms, but was indulgent towards betting on horse-racing. A regular literature soon sprang up on the study of the habits, the foods, the nourishment, the care and the training of horses, which does credit to the scientific methods of the age. It is quite reasonable to infer from these facts that the number of pedigree horses was quite large in the studs of the Sultans and the nobles. Special Arab horses were imported for racing purposes from Yemen, Oman, and Fars. Each animal is reported to have cost from one hundred to four thousand tankas."
It is therefore not surprising that a rich literature came into being which contained information on hippology, horse-breeding, the genealogies of horses and their various categories, on race-courses, horse-racing, farriery and equitation. No other animal evoked from the writers of the time so large a number of literary works, both in prose and in poetry. Ibn Nadim in his famous catalogue of Arabic books, compiled in 377/987, "Kitab al-Fihrist" (tr. by Bayard Dodge, London, 1970, pp. 80-213), mentions the following works on the horse and on matters relating to it: Kitab al-Khayl by Abu Ubaidah (d. 210/825), Kitab al-Khayl, Kitab khalq al-faras and Kitab al-sarj wal-lijam by Asma'i (d. 213/828), Kitab al-Khayl by Ahmed bin Hatim (d. 231/846), Kitab khalq al-faras by Ibrahim al-Zujaj (d. 310/914), Kitab khayl al-kabir and Kitab khayl al-saghir and Kitab al-sarj wal-lijam by Ibn Durayd (d. 321/925), Kitab al-khayl and Kitab nasab al-khayl by Mohammad bin Ziyad al-Arabi (d. 231/846), Kitab khalq al-faras by Abi Thabit, Kitab khalq al-khayl by Hisham bin Ibrahim al-Kirmani, Kitab khalq al-faras by Kassim al-Anbari, Kitab al-khayl al-sawabik by Khawlani, Kitab khalq al-faras by Washsha (d. 325/930), Kitab al-khayl by Hisham al-Kalbi (d. 207/822), Kitab al-khayl wal-rihan by Madaini (d. 215/830), Kitab al-hala'ib wal-rihan by Ahmed al-Khazzaz (d. 258/871), Kitab al-khayl bi khatt Ibn al-Kufi by Mohammad bin Habib, Kitab al-fursan by Abu Khalifa (d. 305/909), Kitab sifat al-khayl wal ardiya wa asmaiha bin Makka wa ma walaha by Abu al-Ashath, Kitab akhbar al-faras wa-ansabuha by Abul Hasan al-Nassaba, Kitab al-khayl by Qadi al-Ashna'i, Kitab al-khayl by Attabi, Kitab al-khayl by Utabi (d. 228/843), Kitab al-khayl al-kabir by Ahmed bin Abi Tahir (d. 280/894) and Kitab jamhara al-ansab al-faras by Ibn Khurdadhbih (d. 300/904). Masudi (d. 345/950) in his "Muruj al-Dhahab" (Paris, 1861, 4th vol., pp. 24-5) refers a book, called al-Jala'ib wal Hala'ib by Issa bin Lahi'a, a work which, according to him, included a detailed description of almost every race (halba) of pre-Islamic and Islamic periods.
In the "Hidayah" (2nd vol., p. 432), it is said that horses are of four kinds: 1) Birzaun or Burzun (a heavy draught horse brought from foreign countries). 2) Atiq (a first blood horse of Arabia). 3) Hain (a half-bred horse whose mother is an Arab and father a foreigner), and 4) A half-bred horse whose father is an Arab and whose mother is a foreigner).
Long maydans (hippodromes) were set apart for this purpose in Arabia. According to "Hilayat al-fursan fi shi'ar al-shujan" (Leiden, 1872, p. 142) by Ibn Hudhayl, "Islam forbade gambling (maisar) but allowed the placing of wagers on archery (nasal), foot-racing (qadam) and horse-racing (hafir)" The Egyptian scholar Isa bin Lahiah (d. 762) is already credited with a book entitled "al-Jala'ib wal hala'ib" in which he mentioned every race, where horses were run in pre-Islamic and Islamic times. The work of al-Asma'i, "Kitab al-khayl" (ed. Haffner, Vienna, 1875) and "Kitab al-Sarj" of Abu Ubaidah are very rich to provide the relative informations.
According to "Fadl al-khayl" (p.389) by ad-Dimyati (1217-1306), "Contrary to the hadith of the Prophet which permitted competitions with camel, horse and arrow (khuff, hafir, nasl), some people even contented that racing for stakes was permissible only for horses, as this was what the Arabs of old were accustomed to." We may also quote what ad-Dimyati has to say in the 5th chapter of his "Fadl al-khayl" that:
"Ibn Banin (1181-1263) has mentioned in his book that the Messenger of God raced horses with garments that had come to him from Yemen as stakes. He gave the winner (sabiq) three, the second horse (musalli) two, the third horse one, the fourth horse one dinar, the fifth horse one dirham, and the sixth horse a rod (qasabah). He said: "May God bless you and all of you, the winner (sabiq) and the loser (fiskil)".
Abul Hasan Ahmad bin Yahya bin Jabir al-Baladhuri, Ibn Sad, al-Waqidi, Abd al Muhaymin bin Abbas bin Sahl bin Sad, his father (Abbas), his grandfather (Sahl), who said: "(Once) when the Messenger of God raced horses, I was riding on his az-Zarib. He gave me a Yemenite cloak."
He (al-Baladhuri) said: I have been told by Muhammad bin Sad, al-Waqidi, Sulayman bin al-Harith, az-Zubayr bin al-Mundhir bin Abi Usayd, who said: "Abu Usayd as-Saidi raced on the Prophet's horse Lizaz, and he gave him a Yemenite garment."
Al- Khuttali reports in his book a tradition of Ibn Lahiah, Bakr bin Amr, Ibrahim bin Muslim, Abu Alqamah, the client of the Banu Hashim (stating) that the Messenger of God had ordered the horses to be raced, and he put up as prizes for them (sabbaqaha) three bunches of dates from three palm trees. He gave one bunch to the winner, one to the second horse, and one to the third horse. They were fresh dates." (vide "Fadl al-Khayl" by ad-Dimyati)
According to Dar-Qutni (2:552), "Sanjah was another horse the Prophet used to ride on. Once it was made to have a race. It won and the Prophet was much delighted."
The first horse which the Prophet ever possessed was one he purchased of the Banu Fezara, for ten ounces of silver, and he called its name Es-Sekb (running water). He was mounted on it at the battle of Uhad. He had also a horse called Sabaha, he raced it and it won, and he was greatly rejoiced thereat. He had a third horse named al-Murtajis (neigher).
According to "Encyclopaedia of Seerah" (London, 1987, 5:579), "Ibn Umar reported that the Prophet organized horse races and gave a prize to the winner. All this was done by the Prophet to encourage competition in sports involving physical exercise and discipline."
Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal writes in his "Masnad" that Anas was asked, "Did you bet during the time of the Prophet? Did the Prophet bet?" "Yes" Anas replied. "By Allah, he bet on a horse called Subbah. The horse won the race and the Prophet was very pleased about it." Bukhari (4:121) recorded a tradition on the authority of Abdullah bin Umar that the Holy Prophet arranged a horse race, which had not been made lean; the area of the race was from Ath-Thaniya to the mosque of Banu Zurayk. Abdullah bin Umar also narrates that he also participated in the race.
The Holy Prophet accordingly, favored and encouraged horse racing, and made the following utterances for horse:
"There is blessing in the forelocks of horses." (Masnad)
According to "Encyclopaedia of Islam" (1965, 2:953) that: "The Prophet did not forbid racing, which fostered rivalry between breeders and encouraged the preservation and increase of the stocks of horse so much reduced by the wars. During his lifetime, he made regulations for them, and by his advice tried to establish what were for the most part open competitions by making the size of the field uniform and fixing the distance to be covered according to the age of the horses taking part. The traditionalists relate that he organized races at Medina, from Hafiya to Thaniyyat al-Wada (60 ghalwa) for mature horses and from Thaniyyat al-Wada to Banu Zurayk (10 ghalwa) for young horses. He himself presented substantial prizes for these competitions and entered his own horses." While Qabisa, Safayan, Abdullah and Nafiya narrate on the authority of Umar that the Prophet held racing of trained horses (khayl) from Hafiya to Thaniyyat al-Wada; and from Thaniyyat to the mosque of Banu Zurayk for the untrained horses. Umar further narrates that he himself took part in it. Safayan narrates that the distance between Hafiya to Thaniyyat was five or six miles and one mile between Thaniyyat to the mosque of Banu Zurayk." (Bukhari, 2:84)
It has also been recorded that the horses to be raced were given adequate training under certain conditions, called "tadmir" or "idmar". According to "Encyclopaedia of Islam" (2:953), "Training lasted in Arab 40 to 60 days; and had the effect of bringing the horse into good conditions by a suitable system of feeding, while excessive weight was sweated off under blankets. Horses thinned down in this way were called "hinad", and the sweat they lost "sirah". On the other hand, Dar-Qutni (2:552-4) provides us system and manner of Arabian horse racing as follow:
"Hazrat Ali used to look after the arrangement for horse-races. He assigned this duty to Surqa bin Malik as his deputy and formed certain rules of proceeding which are as follows:
1. The horses should be made to stand in a row.
Hazrat Ali would place himself at the farthest end of the plain, would draw a line and post two men at each of the line. The racing horses had to cross the line between these two."
The conquest of Arabs under caliph Umar brought them into contact with foreign equestrian traditions and led them to organize new tactics for warfare on horseback. These foreign traditions were that of Iran, Turkey and Greek.
Under the Umayyads, racing would seen to have been a passionate interest. The people in general being unable to meet the expenses of animal racing, held competitions involving horses, camels, donkeys, mules or dogs. The two-hemped racing camels were known as bukhti. Yakut (d. 626) writes in "Irshad al-Arib ila ma'rifa al-adib" (London, 1907, 4th vol., pp. 116-17) that the Umayyad caliph Hisham once organized a grand race, in which four thousand horses are reported to have participated over a distance of 250 ghalwa. A hundred tokens were placed and the row of horses stretched over a distance of six bow shots. Masudi in his "Muruj al-Dhahab" (8th vol., pp. 359-72) recorded a poem which describes the merits of the horses participating in a race, a description which underlines the keen interest of the Arabs in horse-racing. A similar poem with slight variations can also be seen in Ibn Hudhayl's "Hilayat" (pp. 144-6).
Horse-racing during the early Abbasid period was much popular. Even the caliphs, the princes and the vizirs vied with each other in the breeding of race-horses. The scattered material at our disposal does not throw sufficient light on the organization of these races, the financing of them and their frequency. Jahshiyari (d. 331) in his "al-Wuzara wal Kuttab" (Cairo, 1938, pp. 207-8) however notes that in the court circle such races were arranged at the bidding of the caliphs. Thus, Jafar al-Barmaki organized a horse-race at Raqqa in response to an order from the caliph Harun ar-Rashid, a race in which the horse of the caliph was beaten by that of the vizir. In another account, given by Masudi, it is known that Harun ar-Rashid was overjoyed when he found that his horse came in first and that of his son second. The favourite horse of Harun ar-Rashid was named, Mushammir.
According to Asma'i, the length of the course was fixed according to the age of the horses as follows: at two years, 40 bowshots (about 7500 metres); at the three years, 60 bowshots (about 11300 metres); at four years, 100 bowshots (about 18800 metres).
Ibn Abd Rabbih (246-328) in his "al-Iqd al-Farid" (1st vol., pp. 194-5) writes that in a race held in the year 185/802, the caliph Harun ar-Rashid having won the race, asked the grammarian Asma'i to extol his horse by describing the various parts of the horse's body in a poem : a poem which contained a rich vocabulary of technical terms relating to the horses.
It is also evident that one man could enter more than one horse in a race. Khalid al-Barmaki is said to have won the first three prizes in a race organized by the caliph Mansur. At a start of the race, as a rule, the horses were arranged side by side in a line, the straightness of that line being determined by stretching in front of them a long thread known as miqwas. It appears that during the period under review, two methods of horse-racing were in vogue: long distance races and hippodrome races. In the former a bamboo pole was fixed at a point far distant from the starting-post and the horsemen who first plucked it from the ground was considered to have won the race.
In a maydan (hippodrome) race the field (halba) consisted of ten horses. Seven tokens (qasab) were placed on lances set within an enclosure (hujra) large enough to hold only eight horses. The tokens were generally such articles as pieces of clothing or an embroidered garment, or purses containing silver. The first eight horses in the race were allowed to enter the enclosure. Seven received prizes according to their final placing in the race and only the eight was denied a prize, its admission to the enclosure being regarded as a sufficient reward. According to the order of finishing each of the ten horses was given a special name. Masudi in his "Muruj al-Dhahab" (8th vol., pp. 359-72) and other writers have listed names:
1st : Sabiq, the winner.
The Muslims used to fasten a rope around the last horse and place a monkey on its back with a whip in its hand to lash the horse, thus putting its master to shame and humiliation, while the owner of the winning horses were welcomed with ovation and received robes of honour ("Muruj al-Dhahab," 7th vol., pp. 371-2).
Before competing in a race, a horse had to undergo a period of training, termed tadmir or idmar, which lasted for some forty to sixty days. Special care was taken by the trainer to get the horse in good condition. It was supplied with fodder early in the morning and evening: with grass and barley for a week, and then the quantity of grass was gradually decreased, until its fodder consisted only of barley. The horse was ridden daily for a shawt (round or course) or two. The excess weight of the horse was sweated off under a few blankets, a process known as ijlal. Before being entered for a race, horses were generally given a trial run over the distance specified for the stake. If the horse was not over-exhausted and panting, it was considered well-trained and fit for the competition.
With regard to the qualities which the Muslims prized in a horse, Asma'i states that a thorough-bred should have a high belly (batn) and a short back (zahr), long shanks to the front legs (tul al-wazifatain fil rijlain) and short shanks to the hind legs (qasr al-wazifatayn fil yadain). Other good signs of a horse were the blaze (ghurar), the stockings (tahjil) or white, markings above the hooves, and the dawair, tufts of hair growing in different directions. The shape of the upper parts (al-a'ali), the underside (al-safil), the fore-quarters (al-muqadim), and the hind-quarters (al-ma'akhir), its posture, its manner of walking and trotting, its speed and stamina: all these points were taken into consideration by horse lovers. In addition, full knowledge of the principles of equitation was necessary for riders wishing to compete in a race. The advice given by mediaeval Arab writers to aspiring riders was simple. The main points observed by the riders were the firmness of the seat (thubat) and the evenness of the reins (taswiyat al-inan). There was no specific period for training in horse-riding. The firmness was acquired by riding bareback (alal ari), the rider being held in position by the grip of his thighs. As soon as the rider had some measure of experience, he was advised to use the saddle-and-fork seat. The rider had to practise riding over short and long distances regularly until he mastered the art and became an efficient rider. The Turks were regarded by Jahiz as the masters of horse-riding and of fighting with bows and arrows and other weapons.
During the Bahri period (1250-1382) there was a considerable number o hippodromes in Cairo and its vicinity, where horse training were carried out under Sultan Baybars (1260-1277). In the state, there were following hippodromes:-
1. al-Maydan al-Salihi built in 1243 by Sultan al-Salih Najm al-Din Ayyub.
Kansuh al-Ghawri was the only Circassian Sultan who constructed a hippodromes in 1503 in Egypt.
On the analogy of the legality of horse-racing, Imam Abu Hanifah and Imam Shafi regarded it as lawful to organize races and to place wagers on them. Imam Malik and Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal, however, discouraged races of camels, donkeys and mules, and regarded horse-racing as the only lawful hafir (hoof) game mentioned in the famous Prophetic traditions.
Sayed Amir Ali in his "Short History of the Saracens" (London, 1955, p. 447) writes that, "Horse-racing has always been a passion with the Arabs, and was so in Baghdad, as in Damascus." He further admits that the betting on horses is the only game permissible (mustahal) under the Muslim ecclesiastic law. (Ibid)
The Ismaili Imams in present age retained the interest of horse-breeding and racing, which they inherited from their forefathers. Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah, the 48th Imam said in his "Memoirs of Aga Khan" (London, 1954, p. 192) that, "My interest in horses, their breeding, training and racing, has been with me all my life and is of course also part of the tradition that I have inherited, the environment in which I was bred." He further said, "Neither my grandfather, my father nor I have ever looked on our racing as simply a money-making matter, but as a sport which, by careful attention and thoughtful administration, could become self-supporting and a permanent source of pleasure not only for ourselves, as owners, but for thousands…indeed for million…who follow our colors on the turf; and we have considered our studs and our training stables as sources of wealth for the countries in which they are maintained and of practical usefulness from the point of view of preserving and raising the standard of bloodstock." (Ibid. p. 189)
An intrepid horseman and hunter, Imam Hasan Ali Shah started the tradition of racing and breeding in Bombay. His stables housed the world's finest Arabian blood and the stud in the valley of Nejd produced superb animals. No expense was too great to improve the bloodstock; leading trainers and jockeys were engaged. Bombay racecourse was one of the few public places where he showed himself - the stand from which he watched his horses were preserved by Bombay's leading club. Later on, the interest of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah in racing was developed in his very early years. As a mere child of three to four he was frequently taken to race meetings in a great coach of his grandfather
His success as an owner and breeder of horses in India was well known. Queen Victoria gave him a Royal Household badge for the enclosure at Ascot race-course. When he went to register his colours he found that this had already been done as a courtesy by one of his English racing friends. The colours turned out to be not green and red, which were not available, but green and chocolate instead. They became so successful that he never changed them although elsewhere his horses raced under green and red colours which his son and grandson adopted.
He was not an owner who took but a cursory interest in his actual stables. He displayed the utmost regard for every animal that is called upon to carry his green and chocolate hoops. More frequently than not, it was he who said how a difficult candidate should be ridden, in order that the best might be got out of him. His knowledge of horses was inbred and it was his love for the horse, coupled with a desire to raise the standard of horse-breeding in India, which first drew him to the Turf.
His well known colours were first carried on the racecourses of India, and one of his first major ventures in that country was an attempt to win the Viceroy's Cup. His "Beadsman" won for him many races in Calcutta, Bombay and Poona. He however first came into prominence on the English Turf as the owner of the "Tetrarch" filly, "Mumtaz Mahal."
"Ah!" said Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah sometimes, "is there anything so poetic and beautiful as a man riding a beautiful horse, riding it to perfection; the man and the horse like a centaur, carved out as one?" This remark fairly sums up his over-riding passion for sports, and explained why he was so devoted to this field.
He was also a creative artist glorying in the creation of things of beauty. To plan the mating of finely bred horses and to watch horseflesh grow into a sleek, powerful affair is a source of infinite joy to him and gives him unbounded creative satisfaction.
He raced for the love of the game, for the sheer joy of seeing a scientifically trained horse fight its way to victory. He explained his interest in horses in this way: "I am not an artist; I cannot paint pictures or make beautiful poetry. So I asked myself: How can I do some creative work? And found the answer in horses. There you choose and try and mate, and make an artificial creation."
To make a success of his racing industry he soon evolved the theory that scientific breeding was necessary and it was essential to employ the best brains and spare no expense in producing fine horses.
He treated his racing staff, people who helped him raise horses which were the envy of the world, very generously. After his Tulyar won the Derby in 1952, he declared that the 20,000 pounds of prize money would be divided among the winning jockey, the trainers and the stable boys. "They have worked a whole year for this success and deserve the money," he said. "I am glad just to get my share of the honour and glory and, of course, the new value of the horse."
In his interview in "Clipper" (October, 1979), the present 49th Imam said, "Racing was totally foreign to my education and upbringing. But it had been a family tradition for three generations and no other relation could keep up the racing establishment. For me the two questions were: Could I find time - racing is time consuming - and could I maintain the level of success? There was no sense in keeping up a family tradition if it was going to decline into insignificance. After six months of difficult decision-making, I decided to go on."
In his another interview with Roger Prioret (March, 1975), he said: "With the education I had, I was totally disinterested in horse-racing until the death of my grandfather and father. It held not interest for me. It was on my father's death I asked myself this question: here is a traditional activity should I interrupt it or not? I had doubts of all the obligations, which I had taken over on my father's death and asked myself if they were compatible with the interest I was able to muster for horses. And than I became determined. Finally I understood that it would be a pity for valid traditional enterprise to die after three generations. The stable continues therefore. I knew nothing of horses and have tried to learn. What was originally a sport has now become an industry bringing in very important sums.