The history of the Arabian horse over the past five millennia is very much a reflection the history of mankind. Our stories – those of both human and equine – are inextricably interwoven in the ongoing struggle for survival and achievement in all corners of the globe.
Within the last half century, one resonating story of a visionary single-mindedly determined woman and her connection with an incomparably influential mare has inspired breeding programs all over the world and impacted the Arabian breed with infinite abundance. This fascinating story – of Sigi Siller and the Arabian mare Estopa – has forever positively changed and enriched the world, not only the world of the Arabian horse, but the larger world in which we are all fortunate to share.
ESTOPA was discovered by Sigi at the age of five in Spain at the farm of Don Miguel Osuna Escalera, the sagacious breeder who bought her dam, Uyaima, from Yeguada Militar in foal to Tabal. Aided most capably by Her Royal Highness Marquesa Teresa de Laula de Bourbon who arranged the farm visits on the inaugural visit, Sigi was instructed to seriously consider mares from the man Teresa considered to be “the best breeder in Spain”. Two mares, both daughters of Tabal, were presented and both were purchased on the spot. From this moment on, the Arabian horse around the world would be forever changed, as these two indomitable females joined forces to define the international standard of excellence for the breed.
Once home with Sigi at Om El Arab in Germany’s Black Forest, ESTOPA was mated to the farm’s other famous import – the Morafic son Shaker El Masri from Egypt. This concept of crossing Spanish Arabians with Straight Egyptians was a novel approach to breeding. Despite widespread skepticism in Europe, the subsequent success of the ESTOPA-SHAKER EL MASRI progeny earned this breeding approach the much celebrated nickname of the “Golden Cross”. Much imitated for decades after by successful breeders the world over, the “Golden Cross” originated at Om El Arab with the extraordinary vision of Sigi and the genetic prepotency of ESTOPA.
From her very first foal the value of ESTOPA was astoundingly evident. From 1973 through 1978, ESTOPA gave five foals in near succession by Shaker El Masri, all of whom would in turn set the standard in the European show ring and influence the breeding programs on every inhabited continent. The mares ESTASHA & ESTAWA would all be named champion at the prestigious Paris show at the Salon du Cheval, the precursor to the eventual World Championships. The sons, EL SHAKLAN & IBN ESTOPA, would also dominate at the same show, winning the titles of European & World Champion, and inspiring breeders, spectators and enthusiasts with infinite possibility and the future vision of the breed. From the late 1970s through the late 1980s, the Om El Arab-bred ESTOPA descendants dominated the Paris show, becoming the very first European & World Champions and defining the standard for the European show ring for the ensuing decades. In one memorable year, ESTOPA earned the coveted title of Produce of Dam Champion in Paris with ESTASHA, ESTAWA & EL SHAKLAN as representative progeny, while EL SHAKLAN earned the Get of Sire Champion title with his youngest superstar foals. To this day, no other breeding program anywhere in the world has had more influence on the championship line-up in Paris year-after-year than Om El Arab. Unquestionably, there is not a winner’s circle in Europe that is untouched by the remarkable contribution of ESTOPA – from the title shows of the All Nations Cup, European Championships & World Championships, to the prestigious international A & B shows as well as the National Championship shows of every single ECAHO member country. The positive influence of ESTOPA is visibly evident and celebrated everywhere the Arabian horse thrives.
The premature death of Shaker El Masri required a breeding change for ESTOPA and the bold decision was made by Sigi to breed her to her immensely popular eldest son EL SHAKLAN. Her next two foals, BINT ESTOPA & ESTOPA SON, were both intensely ESTOPA-bred and would leave an indelible impact on the breed in the United States and Germany, respectively. The unexpected departure of EL SHAKLAN from Om El Arab meant yet another breeding direction for ESTOPA, bringing Sigi full circle to Spanish stallions RASTANO - for full brothers ESTOPASAN & RASTANO IBN ESTOPA, and the popular AN MALIK, for the valuable daughter MALIKAH ESTOPA. Like their siblings before them, both ESTOPASAN & MALIKAH ESTOPA would also contribute to worldwide breeding in a positive and powerful way.
With her final two foals, ESTOPA gifted the breed with two extraordinary mares, coincidentally the only two to bear the universally respected Om El prefix: OM EL SHAINA (by World Champion Carmargue) and OM EL BENEERA (by Scottsdale Champion SHAREM EL SHEIKH). Fortunately for Sigi, both SHAINA & BENEERA (who was remarkably born to ESTOPA in her 27th year) have remained with her in Santa Ynez throughout their lives and breeding careers, blessing each generation with an increased standard of excellence and the current roster of internationally respected Om El Arab-bred stallions.
Rescued from obscurity by a young ambitious breeder, ESTOPA has unquestionably become the single most influential mare in the Arabian breed, not only in the last fifty years, but in the greater context of the 20th century. A remarkable feat indeed for a mare with only twelve foals to her credit and who was born in the latter half (1965) of the century upon which she would impact profoundly. Through both the exceptional sons and daughters of ESTOPA, the legacy of Om El Arab continues to thrive with extraordinary abundance, inspiring the Arabian breed throughout the world with the brightest vision for the future. Let us all celebrate and be infinitely thankful for the creative ambition and steadfast dedication of Sigi and her faithful stewardship of ESTOPA, the mare who has defined the modern Arabian horse.