In Memory of Louise Firouz
Born Washington DC 24th December 1933 – Died NE Iran 25th May 2008
"And as I was riding along, my heart resounded in the lawn-dampened steps,
resounded in the snorting and champing on the bit by my grey, and a
blissful happiness lit up my heart and I knew: If I now dropped out
of the world, I would fall into heaven."
Baron von Munchhausen
Louise Firouz was the sort of person who was able to relate fully to anyone in any walk of life and make them feel special. She was much loved by all who knew her.
Louise Firouz, nee Laylin, was a phenomenon; a charming, intelligent, adventurous, American woman, who married a Persian Prince from the Kajar dynasty. Her courage and amazing energy enabled her, against all odds, to discover and re-establish the original Oriental horse, at the same time pursuing its history, running a large riding school and raising a family through revolution, war and intrigue.
She devoted her life to the preservation of all Oriental horse breeds.
Her love for her eventual resting place at Ghara Tepe Sheik in north eastern Iran was moulded around her childhood:
“I was brought up on a farm in Virginia. This was before the days of beltways and asphalt roads leading into the wilderness of the Virginia countryside so that when it became time for my two brothers and me to go to school we rode horses to the two room red brick school house. In fine weather, especially in the autumn when the chincopin nuts were ripe we found it hard to abandon the horses so instead we abandoned school along with similarly inclined friends also mounted and sped towards the Potomac river and its heavily forested banks. We spent the days swimming and speculating what we would do with the rest of our indolent lives.
As the second world war was in full swing no one paid attention to our lack of reading or writing skills. As long as we were up in time to milk the cows, make sandwiches for lunch and were off on the horses in the direction of school our Mother was too pre-occupied with her war work to notice our pristine exercise books. To this day, even with a college degree, I cannot write long hand but continue to print.
Eventually our parents divorced and after a short, unhappy for me, stint in New York City my Mother bought a small farm in New Hampshire. Our farm was ten miles away on a dirt road with nothing else in sight except pastures, forest and deer. My brothers, John and David, were sent off to boarding school while I was enrolled in the local grammar school. At first, when the weather was fine, my Mother drove me to school but when the snows started we were stuck. We bought a small Morgan mare, a sleigh and a buggy and this was our transportation. Getting up in the dark each morning to hitch up the mare and drive the ten miles to school has given me a life long aversion to arising in the dark. Whenever I have to catch a plane at an ungodly hour I shudder and remember the valiant little mare, Rhoda. I was moved on to a private school in nearby Peterborough but still had to drive Rhoda to Hancock, put her in the church stable and take a taxi for the next 12 miles repeating the process each evening. Eventually, I passed the College Board exams in Latin, Maths and English and was accepted by my college of choice, Cornell University.
My Sisyphus was incline planes and no matter how much I puzzled over rates of acceleration and deceleration I could not understand it. So, I was rejected as a candidate for Veterinary College.
My brother and I applied to the American University of Beirut for a junior year abroad. There were three other Americans there that year and we were soon taking excursions into the Bekaa valley and up to the ski slopes with other friends from Damascus, Aleppo and Jerusalem. We had classes in classical Arabic, Middle Eastern history and politics.
A serious misunderstanding with college administrators over the antics of one of the Americans whom I had defended led to my expulsion from the University. I took a job at Khayats books store editing in their publishing business and also retraining horses at the Beirut race track. Apart from my one moment of glory when I was crowned snow queen of Lebanon 1954, I eked out a living and learned to live on doggie bags from Sam’s restaurant. Mother joined us in the late spring and suggested that while John wanted to return to the U.S. we two should take a quick trip to Iran which she would finance.
We took a plane to Tehran where we were met by a friend who introduced us to Narcy Firouz, a Persian Prince of the Kajar dynasty.
Cornell was still there when I returned and the administrators were kind enough to allow me to enrol in the Liberal Arts College. I majored in English literature and minored in Classics; Latin and Greek. I graduated in 1956 with the coveted BA and agreed to meet Narcy in Paris.
We were married at the farm, Hidden Springs, in Virginia and had two daughters, Roshan and Ateshe and a son Caren.
Narcy had bought two properties in Shiraz; one was on the outskirts of town where we built a house and began a chicken business; the other was 15,000 hectares of scrub steppe an hour away which we called Big Lou and where we planted wheat and fruit trees. When both were seconded by the Government, Narcy’s father gave us 130 hectares of bare land west of Tehran called Norouzabad and suggested we start a new farm.
In the spring four friends and I made the trip to Amol, found the small horse we were looking for and there started a saga that changed the world’s perception of the Oriental horse.
The discovery of this little horse, which I called the Caspian after its provenance, caused a landslide in the archaeological, archaeozoological and genetic world. As research proceeded we understood how the Arab horse came about, what the Central Asian Turkoman was all about and finally all the little pieces fell into shape.
The Revolution was a revelation. Narcy and I would sit having morning coffee looking at the Kayhan International newspaper watching for news of friends and relatives. One morning the house was raided and we were taken to prison where I stayed for two weeks in solitary confinement answering questions. Narcy returned after three months.”
From a manuscript written by Louise Firouz
Following Narcy’s death in 1994, Louise formed a new herd of Caspians on behalf of a friend, John Schneider-Mercke, but eventually had to concentrate on the larger Turkoman horses in order to support herself and her horses, which she used for taking international trekking parties out on her beloved Steppes up to her death at the age of 74.