Historical Research

An Oral History of the Desert Arabian Horse

Around Bedouin campfires, accounts of famous horses were told in story and song and poem. Knowledge of breeding practices was passed from generation to generation.

RECLAIMING MEMORY, the Institute’s current historical research project, extends the oral tradition of the Bedouin to the West, making recollections of Western breeders, trainers, and other individual associated with the Desert Arabian horse available to the public, researchers, historians, and future custodians of the breed.

We have already lost too much. Many who played key roles are gone. The memories of others who were instrumental in the growth of Arabian breeding have never been recorded. Much that has been written is not readily available. It is time to reclaim that which remains. Key features of this five-year program:

  • Focus on the crucial period from 1950-1990, when imports to the West reached new records and breeding reached unprecedented levels.
  • 200 hours of interviews with individuals whose length, breadth, and depth of knowledge of the Desert Arabian horse can best inform future breeders, custodians, and others captivated by the magic of the Desert Arabian horse.
  • Conducted according to the highest scholarly standards of the Institute for Oral History, Baylor University, Texas.
  • Text and video products available to the Arabian breeding community via periodicals, monographs, video, and text+video via the Web.
  • Publicly available archive of materials that includes interviews, videos, photographs, and other material.

The project is directed by principal investigator M. Kent Mayfield, MA, M. Div., PhD., L.H.D. and guided by an Advisory Committee that includes:

  • Robert Arndt, editor of Saudi Aramco World;
  • Joe Ferriss, equine author and historian;
  • Peter Harrigan, historian and author;
  • Lisa Lacy, researcher and daughter of Jarrell McCracken;
  • Mohammed Jassim Al-Marzouk, breeder and authority on Bedouin horse-breeding traditions;
  • Hans Joachim Nagle, President of WAHO;
  • Geo. Walter Olms, President of the Asil Club;
  • Mary Jane Parkinson, long-time editor of Arabian Horse World.

A budget of $250,000 covers travel expenses for volunteer interviewers; interview processing, transcription, and production; and archiving. Additional funding will be sought for text and video products.

Complete project description is here.

For more information: 

Help RECLAIM MEMORY – make a generous, tax-deductible donation to capture our history before it is gone.

Your donation pays for minimal transportation costs for interviewers (all interviewers donate their time) and for the cost of transcribing, editing, and archiving the interviews.

Please drop us a note ( ) if you have photos, videos, books, or other materials that would supplement this research.


The Institute’s first historical research project was completed in 2009 with the publication of the 504-page monograph THE BABSON INFLUENCE: A Retrospective. This project compiled 75 years of material that focused on the breeding program of Henry Babson begun in 1932 with his importation of horses from Egypt. The monograph includes reprints of historical articles and new material, 600+ photographs (many never before published), herd and sire- and dam-line charts, and complete indices of people and horses. This limited edition is available in our online shop. Photographs acquired during the research comprise the foundation of the Institute’s archive.