Back to
Spanish History
Maria Paz Murga Igual
By Jim Porcher

Copyright 1983 by Jim Porcher. 
All rights reserved.  No part of this article may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of the author.  Used here with permission.

     The Spanish Arabian Registry is the oldest Arabian Registry in the world, dating back to 1847.  The Arabian horses imported into Spain in those early years were among the finest Arabians in the world.  The first recorded importation was in 1843 and, until recently, the last Arabian imported into Spain was in 1930.  The last 50 years of linebreeding, with essentially no outside influence, has resulted in the Spanish Arabian being unusually predictable breeding stock.
     Due to the loss of records during the Spanish Civil War in the mid-1930’s, certain lines encompassing a large majority of pure Spanish Arabians would have gone unrecognized had it not been for the efforts of several aficionados.  The Duque de Veragua dedicated his life to breeding Arabian horses, and his importation of three stallions and 13 mares from England had a profound influence on the stock in Spain.  The Duque was killed near the end of the Civil War in 1936, and his horses were confiscated by the military and sent to the Military Stud in Cordoba where they were infused into the existing herd of Arabians.
     Since the records had been burned, these horses were simply referred to as a de Veragua and were given names beginning with VERA.  One person was most instrumental in seeing that the Spanish Arabian, including the VERA horses, was justly recognized as a true desert strain and accepted by registries around the world:  Maria Paz Murga Igual.

Maria Paz as a child with a coachman driving the family pony.

     Maria Paz truly reflects the elegance of Spain.  Raised in an era when horses were a functional part of life, her father had coach horses in Madrid and also kept a small stable in the garden.  A bad fall ended her riding career at the age of 17, but her love for horses never abated and she always had one or two around.
     In 1950, she and her husband, a retired cavalry officer, went to live in Jerez where they discovered that the Military was worried because no one was interested in Arabian horses – the few private breeders seemed only to be breeding partbreds.  A huge sale was held at the Yeguada Militar of the fillies that could no longer be maintained and Maria Paz bought all but two of them.  By this time she already had acquired 11 mares from the Yeguada Militar and found it difficult to maintain close to 40 horses in her garden so she sent them to her farm in Granada.  During this time Maria Paz began to study the history of the Arabian horse extensively and began to ask questions that only much research could answer.
     Reflecting on her breeding program, Maria Paz had these words to say:  “I was always very selective and did a lot of research before mating two individuals.  I had a large wall at the farm in Granada and I would have the grooms lead them back and forth in front of that wall so I could study their outline and movement with no background to deceive me.  At times I think I may have been too critical of the young stock.  I did a lot of inbreeding and I considered Seanderich to be the best stallion line.  Seanderich’s pedigree shows that he is a Saglawy on both sides, his ancestors in all lines being in the hands of one family for many, many generations.  Ursus-bred horses are an excellent line, but there are so many here that I always tried to have horses with heavy Seanderich blood.  I knew I could always return to the Ursus horses.
     “Barquillo was a very important horse, a Seanderich grandson.  He was perfect – so dainty that when you saw him, you thought he was small, but when you measured him he was quite large.  Some of the best mares at Valjuanete were his granddaughters because they had a son of his, Jaecero, and later these daughters were mated to Zancudo.
     “The most important mares, to me, were Syria, Abisinia, and the Yeguada Militar mare, Galatife, dam of many great horses.  She was beautiful.  The stallion line is considered by many to be more important, but I don’t think this is true.  I feel the mare line is more important.”
     With 42 producing broodmares, Maria Paz soon found herself with too many horses and no market for them.  Someone lent her a copy of Arabian Horse World, and she realized there just might be a market for the Spanish Arabians.  Maria Paz wrote to World and explained there were only six breeders in Spain at this time (1962) and there was no local market.  Her letter was published, and a photo of the stallion Malvito appeared on the December, 1962 cover of World.  Response came from all over the world and soon Maria Paz was corresponding with breeders from Poland, England, France and the United States.
     During this time Maria Paz’s husband died and she faced financial difficulties that made her realize she must organize the Spanish breeders and develop a market for exportation.  Maria Paz began to visit the breeders asking them not to kill foals that were deemed superfluous due to limited space and feed, a practice that was common at the time.  She knew that the quality of the Spanish horses was good but it had to be known in other countries, and asked these breeders to give her a year or two to organize the exportation of these horses.

Maria Paz with Luis Ybarra y Ybarra,
considered by Maria Paz to be the most knowledgeable breeder in Spain.

     After a year elapsed, a group of Americans, including Dan Gainey and Tish Hewitt, contacted Maria Paz about visiting Spain to see the horses.  Upon arrival, the group was treated to a stallion show at the Stallion Depot in Jerez.  They were so impressed by the high quality of the stallions that they proposed that the American Registry accept the horses.  Although the Registry voted to accept Spanish Arabians, no horses of Veragua bloodlines were to be accepted.  This limited drastically the number of available horses for exportation to America since the Veragua mares were of the finest quality and accounted for the majority of the Spanish Arabians.
     Charlie Steen was the first American breeder to buy Spanish Arabians.  Twenty-four mares, some with foals and all in foal, were selected – mainly Ybarra horses and Yeguada Militar horses owned by private breeders, including two owned by Maria Paz.  Thus began the exportation of Spanish Arabians.

The Steen importation being loaded onto the airplane in 1965.

     In 1966, Dr. Gazder, an Arabian bloodlines expert who reads and writes in Arabic, came to Spain and was taken by Maria Paz to the Spanish Registry archives.  Dr. Gazder was impressed with the fact that no other Registry has as many records and papers, a collection which covers a period of 150 years.  He thought that the documents were excellent and the horses were of quality, and he gave his approval of the Spanish Arabian.  The following year, Dr. Gazder informed Maria Paz of an organizational meeting held in London for a world Arabian horse association, which she attended.

Manuel Guerro, Maria Paz, and the Portuguese delegate Fernando de Andrade in London in 1967
for the first meeting to the organization of WAHO. 

     In 1970, the World Arabian Horse Organization was formed and for this meeting, Maria Paz had been able to persuade more Spanish breeders to attend:  Pedro Salas, Marieta Salas, and Sr. Domecq, among others.  When discussions came as to where the next meeting was to be held, Maria Paz suggested Spain.  A dead silence came over the room.  As the Spanish Arabian had not been accepted totally because of the Veragua bloodlines, it would be difficult to hold the meeting in Spain.  However, Spain had its supporters and Seville was finally chosen.
     Maria Paz now called a meeting of the 18 people breeding the Spanish Arabians.  She knew that they must organize among themselves in order to try to gain acceptance from WAHO.  She explains, “It sounds simple but was not because the Spanish mind hates teamwork.  It was awfully difficult to get them to agree.  Happily they realized it was terrible important.”  By December of 1970 they had organized with Sr. Ybarra Domecq chosen as the first president, Maria Paz as secretary.  Diego Mendez was selected as treasurer – in Maria Paz’s words, “Not that we had any money, but it sounded good to have one.”
     Also at this time Maria Paz had asked WAHO to send a commission to evaluate and consider acceptance of the Veragua horses.  Mr. Ronald Kidd of England and Count Lewenhaupt of Sweden were members of the commission who came to Spain.  Among the many documents they found were telegrams from cavalry men, who had recognized the value of the Veragua horses, to the headquarters of General Franco asking permission to take the broodmare band of the Duque of Veragua from the front line to the Military Stud in Cordoba.  After reviewing these documents and getting them translated by an official of the British embassy, the commission sent these papers to all the Registries in WAHO so they could be studied before the meeting in Seville.
     In 1972, the first meeting of WAHO took place in Seville.  There Maria Paz gave a moving speech on what is was to have a civil war, a country in turmoil, and how dedicated breeders had used these horses because they truly believed them to be purebred; there was no doubt in their minds.  The next day a show was held in Jerez at the Stallion Depot.  The quality of these horses as a uniform group was so high that afterwards all the countries accepted the Veragua horses as purebred Arabians.
     If the countries had not accepted this bloodline, only 13% of the Spanish Arabians would have been eligible for recognition by WAHO.  The meeting in Spain was a true landmark for the Spanish breeder and was the result of many hours of work and dedication by a woman who truly loves the Arabian horse for its natural beauty, intelligence and history.
     Reflecting on the future of the Spanish Arabian, Maria Paz had these words to say:  “The Spanish government will always keep a small herd of Arabians, but they don’t want to go over 20 broodmares.  The future of the Spanish Arabian lies in the hands of the private Spanish breeder and the Americans who have Spanish herds.  I think in America you have the best horses from all countries, a melting pot, and the Spanish-bred horse will play a major part in the development of superior individuals."

The half-sisters Faquih and Chavali, the dam of Kadija (1978 Champion Mare of England),
and Ispahan (dam of *An Malik and *Malikitoa).
The foal is by Galero.  Both Faquih and Chavali were at one time owned by Maria Paz.
(Author’s note:  The foal is most likely *Makorr)


Back to
Spanish History
Website by Carousel WebDesign
Site last updated 12/07/2004