February 13, 2013, Iran ~Shirin Salartash, member of the Iran Asil Association, had a special kinship with the late Mary Leili Ghargozlou. Their farms were next door to each other near Kordan northwest of the capital, Tehran, 75kms away, at the foot of the Alborz Mountains.
A staunch defender of the rare Asil Arabian, every spring, Mary Gharagozlou supervised the 450 km journey to take her horses from Aghili on the lowland plains of Khuzistan to the summer pastures high on the Zagros mountains at Varkane, the trip taking 14 days each way.
Ms. Salartash submitted to Horsereporter her story and photos of one memorial ride, A Journey to remember our legendary Mary.
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Describing the terrain of Iran.
“The terrain we rode was stony and a little hard, but our horses do very well. This terrain is typical of this area near Tehran. West of Iran you can find grass areas, stone and soft terrain. Actually you can find all types, including forest. Then in the central part we have sand, and North near the Caspian sea it is like Europe, all grass and green. In the south it is a mixture with all kinds of terrain there. But generally speaking the terrain in Iran has a lot of variety, the east being flat with a little grass.”
“The horses spent the night grazing freely on the mountain, just up from the farm, Taleghan (our destination) at the foot of the mountain. (see the picture of the mountain range. There was no picket line, corral or enclosure. It was just wild nature. Of course the grass is not green as in Europe, but yellow and they like it. We have really tough horses maybe a little hard to explain how tough they are. We knew our horses could manage the night. so no one stayed with them. They had water from the mountain streams.
“In that area we don’t have predators – just in winter wolves and they have never attacked anyone or any animal. It was easy to catch them the next day. Yes, two hours down for us the day before, and the men who went up to fetch them were good mountain climbers.”
“There are nomad horses who live freely just like that. Every year they have their own races, it is a different department. Nomad ladies ride and race, and in some cities in Iran the endurance riders keep their horses (Iranian breed) just the way the we did in the ride. All the time they are up in the mountains and when there is an endurance ride -one or two weeks before they bring the horses down and they are always the winner with an average speed of 20km.
The Pure Asil horse of Iran
Asil horses are zealously guarded for purity. In the years 200 -2012, there is an estimated 300 Asils active in breeding and being trained. The Asil Association is active in halter shows (ECAHO), endurance and flat racing.
“Importing is permitted and it is very easy,”according to Salartash. “For two years we tried to stop or control it and so wrote letters to Iranian organizations and had meetings with them and after that this year they have limited the importation, but in those two years we had 400 horses imported.”
“There are now many farms (newer farms) with imported horses.There are several farms that import horses or horses with imported blood. They used to breed straight Iranians with the imported ones and now after a lot of effort many are now convinced not to breed Asils with the imported horses.”