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"My original fear that the race was indeed a rare one
was in fact well-founded."
of the Caspian Horse - 1965
In the late 1950's Louise Laylin Firouz, and her husband Narcy, had
established a riding academy in Tehran,
the capital city of Iran, called the Norouzabad Equestrian Center.
This was a favorite
hang out for children of the well-off families living in Iran. Unfortunately, the Arabian
stallions, typically ridden in that part of the world, were not always appropriate
for her small charges and upon hearing of small horse-like ponies in the Elburz
mountains near the Caspian Sea, she chose to investigate the rumors.
In 1965 Louise Firouz set out on a horseback expedition with some female companions
to the mountainous regions south of the Caspian Sea. There she discovered small
horses both in wild bands and domesticated individuals
that were used by the local people to work the fields and pull their carts. Although
many of the domestic ones were malnourished and covered with ticks, there
was no mistaking the distinctive characteristics that resembled the small
horses depicted on ancient Persian friezes and seals -- animals long thought extinct.
and her husband lived close to the ancient Persian Capitol, Persepolis. On
the walls of this ancient palace, she had seen rock relief carvings of the Lydian Horse,
which had a small prominent skull formation found in many other artifacts resembling
the small Caspian. Her knowledge of these artifacts combined with her first sighting
of a Caspian Horse in that remote region of Iran, resulted in the historical rediscovery
of the ancient, lost breed of the royals - the Caspian Horse!
On that trip, she said, she watched the horse "trot serenely back into history."
During this first trip Louise rescued 3 horses, which were dubbed Caspians.
The former owners of these misused, over-worked horses had no idea of the ancient
breeds' near extinction!
Between 1965 and 1968, seven mares and six stallions were acquired
by Louise to form the foundation stock for a Caspian breeding center in Iran.
In spite of Mrs. Firouz' breeding successes, the Iran-Iraq War placed a heavy burden
on her endeavors. The Royal Horse Society (RHS) of Iran took over Louise's herd
War and Revolution
Louise started a second private herd in 1975, consisting of 20 mares and
3 stallions. In 1977, this second Caspian breeding center was forced to close
its doors and the RHS declared a ban on all Caspian exports. The RHS collected
all remaining Caspians. Sadly, due to the political climate, most of the RHS horses
After the Revolution was over, Mrs. Firouz once again completely redeveloped a third breeding center to save the Caspian
from extinction in Iran. This herd is now owned by the Ministry of Jehad and Louise
was often called upon to assist in management. She has also, in her final years, assisted John
Schneider-Merck, a German businessman, in establishing his small private herd of Caspians
With Iran's many political upheavals - the overthrow of the Shah during the
Islamic Revolution, bombing during the Iran-Iraq War, the very real threat
of famine, together with the Caspian's former association with royalty, their
survival in their native land has never been assured. The Caspian's fate
was ever in the balance between being considered a national treasure and being
seizured as wartime food.
Because of her efforts to save the Caspian horses from starvation and
slaughter by exportation during the early years of the Islamic Revolution,
a total of 19 foundation lines have been exported around the world. These consisted of
9 stallions and 17 mares.
The number of Caspians in Iran is still quite small. Additionally, there are
only about 1,600 Caspians world-wide as of 2008. Exportation out of Iran was
halted over a decade ago. The last exports occurred in the early '90s, with a small
shipment arriving in Great Britain, after a tortuous journey through the Belarous war-zone
where bandits attacked and robbed the convoy.
Louise's husband Nancy passed away in
May 1994. Due to estate settlement, and the financial losses
Mrs. Firouz incurred in the shipment of the last 7 Caspians out
of Iran into England she was unable to continue her breeding
program in Iran.
The remainder of Mrs. Firouzs Caspian
horses were sold to the Ministry of Jehad. The fate of the Caspian
remaining in Iran was once again in jeopardy.
More recently, in 1999, aided
by the visits into Iran and support of concerned individuals
from Canada and the United States, Louise Firouz, at the age
of 65, started what turned out to be her final Caspian breeding program on her
remote farm at Gara Tepe Sheikh on the Turkoman Steppes next
to the Turkmenistan border. On some of her last treks treks in the
spring of 1999, two foundation Caspian stallions and eight Caspian
foundation mares were gathered to once again be rescued by Mrs.
Firouz nurturing care. With her regal ability to overlooking her
often tragic past, seemingly overwhelming losses, she experienced until her recent
death in 2008, the joy of watching the newborn Caspian foals thrive under her ever
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