Q: Is there really a crisis in the status of the Arabian horse?
A: Total registration of Arabian horses has declined more than 75 percent in North America during the past two decades. The Arabian Horse Association estimates that half of the purebred population is over 20 years of age and almost a quarter is aged 16–20 years. Breeding on other continents has grown, but not enough to offset the North American decline.
The number of Desert Arabians, always a small percentage of the total population, has also declined to alarming levels. The average age of the remaining breeding herd is more than 15 years, with fewer replacement foals being born each year. Despite advances in communication and information-sharing, herds of Arabian horses throughout the world remain isolated and fractured. Remnants of indigenous Bedouin-bred Desert Arabian stock across West Asia and North Africa are under-documented, and are in danger of being lost altogether as the current generation of caretakers passes and cultural identities merge and fluctuate.
Q: Why form The Institute for the Desert Arabian Horse?
A: In 2004 the founders of the Institute for the Desert Arabian Horse, all long-time advocates of Desert Arabian horses, recognized that the plight of the Desert Arabian horse was reaching points of crisis all over the world. Most preservation efforts focused on specific populations, constrained by geographical or chronological parameters, with minimal mutual contact or cooperation. The Institute stands as a response to the complex problems facing the Desert Arabian in terms of population, reputation, education, documentation, and communication.
Q: How is the Institute structured?
A: Incorporated in July 2004 as a tax-exempt public charity under United States Internal Revenue Service Code 501(c)(3) in the State of Delaware, the Institute is governed by a Board of Directors with advice and logistical support from a Council of Advisors. The Directors and Officers serve without compensation and pay all of their own expenses. As a tax-exempt public charity, the Institute is structured to accept tax-deductible monetary and material donations and bequests.
Q: Why do we need another conservation organization?
A: The problems facing the Desert Arabian are numerous and complex, requiring both immediate and long-term actions to ensure that these animals and their unique legacy will continue to exist. Existing organizations and conservation efforts can benefit from the Institute’s global perspective and network of contacts throughout the Arabian horse community, as well as its ability to collect and preserve archival and cultural materials and to encourage collective action. The Institute offers the conservation community new opportunities for coalition-building and collaborative projects that go beyond current bloodline, geographical, and cultural parameters. What we have done in the past and are continuing to do as isolated, insular organizations and conservation efforts is necessary but not sufficient; it does not address the decline in overall populations and in quality. What we need, then, is an organization to provide a context and a strategy that goes beyond those models with which we are familiar. We do not need to think alike, but we do need to think and act together.
Q: Does the Institute identify and maintain a roster of horses that qualify for its protection?
A: No. The Institute is structured as a tax-exempt public charity dedicated to protecting and conserving the cultural legacy and genetic integrity of the Bedouin-bred Desert Arabian horse regardless of individual participants’ definitions as to what constitutes their particular group of interest.
Q: Which horses are included in the parameters of the Institute’s interest?
A: Ancestors and descendants of authentic Bedouin-bred bloodstock worldwide constitute the horses of primary interest to the Institute. To that end we recognize conservation efforts with similar purposes and seek to establish collaborative relationships and activities with other organizations and breed associations whose interests coincide with ours.
Q: Given the horses of primary interest to the Institute as described above, how does the presence of the Institute affect other organizations’ future decisions and guidelines determining admissible bloodstock?
A: We honor, value, and recognize the rosters of individual conservation efforts and breed associations. The Institute does not interfere or compete with any other organization or informal alliance of breeders in the selection of admissible bloodstock to any roster maintained by that organization or conservation effort. Rather, the Institute functions as a repository for archival materials, as a vehicle for education, and as a sponsor of conformation and performance evaluation and of historical and scientific research.
Q: What is unique about the Institute?
A: The Institute offers the possibility of model-building—describing and piloting illustrative models for conservation other than those that are now widely used. Sponsoring a Babson Influence collection of articles or an in-depth study of an individual bloodline such as Heirloom has published would be prime examples. Performance-referenced conformation standards might be developed. Some efforts could be larger than any single specific organization would care to undertake on its own—for example, herd analysis in Middle East, sponsorship of scientific studies on closed-herd genetics, database development and maintenance, and archive/library development. The Institute is organizationally and financially structured to undertake such large-scale projects to compliment and complement the good work of existing organizations and preservation efforts.
Q: Talk is cheap. What has the Institute accomplished so far?
- Held six Symposia on educational topics ranging from conformation assessment to genetic disorders.
- Launched Reclaiming Memory, an Oral History Project to capture the memories of those who set the foundation for breeding the Desert Arabian horse in the West.
- Funds genetics research to resolve historic questions in the herd and to guide breeders on issues of genetic disorders.
- Maintains a mare-donation program (DARE) and semen-bank (AEGIS) to aid conservation breeding and research.
- Completed the 504-page monograph, The Babson Influence: A Retrospective.
- Presents annual awards for outstanding performance horses through the Drinkers of the Wind program, which also recognizes participation in local shows.
- Established a visual archive project to convert historic photos and video to digital form for an on-line, publicly accessible library.
- Published five issues of Al Khaima (the Tent), embedded in Arabian Horse World.
- Distributes the on-line newletter Al Majlis News via the website.
- Sponsors clinics on endurance riding, showing for beginners, and conformational assessment.
Q: What can the Institute do for me?
A: The Institute can raise awareness on the critical issues facing the worldwide preservation community. The Institute can foster education through articles in Al Khaima and Al Majlis News, and by publishing original manuscripts and sponsoring the re-printing of essential primary sources to enhance historical research. The Institute can sponsor genetic research to help breeders make sound decisions to conserve this critical gene pool. The Institute can facilitate communication and cooperation among individuals and organizations, creating an international network of those concerned with the survival of the Desert Arabian horse. The Institute can be a strong advocate and a voice for these precious horses to safeguard their cultural and genetic legacy.
On a more practical level, the Institute can provide much needed mechanisms for donating tax-deductible funds and making bequests and endowments; for maintaining property, materials, and images with historical, cultural, and archival value; and for establishing collections of frozen semen and other biological materials.
The future awaits us. We can continue to strive in isolation toward preservation goals, or we can meet the challenges facing us by embracing creative and innovative models of cooperation and collaboration. The Institute provides a framework for meeting those challenges today and tomorrow.
Q: To save the Desert Arabian for posterity, immediate and concerted action is needed. Will you help the Institute achieve these goals?
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