Paz Murga Igual
© 1983 by Jim Porcher.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
considered by Maria Paz to
be the most knowledgeable breeder in Spain.
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
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.
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
Manuel Guerro, Maria Paz,
and the Portuguese delegate Fernando de Andrade in London in 1967
for the first meeting to the
organization of WAHO.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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
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)