Australia. Article by Anne Brown
Streuth, the Poms are here in force! concluded the Queenslanders when a large contingent of British breeders braved the 10,000-mile trip to Australia for the 2005 World Crabbet Convention in Toowoomba, sponsored by The Farleigh Stud.
With informal stud visits before the Convention itself and the official tour afterwards, delegates welcomed the opportunity to see the best of the best in the glorious setting of the Australian spring last November.
The three-day Convention comprising a show, a parade with dressage and driving displays, and a conference, plus lashings of hospitality - mostly of the barbie variety highlighted the enduring value of the Crabbet gene pool. The quality, beauty and versatility of the Australian Arabians, both pure and highpercentage Crabbet, greatly impressed us all.
The forebears of these Arabians were carefully selected from the horse-breeding tribes of Syria and the Middle East and the Egyptian Pashas by Wilfrid Scawen Blunt and Lady Anne Blunt in the late 19th century and imported to their home at Crabbet Park in Sussex. The Blunts were among the first breeders in Britain to create a programme crossing Arab with Arab, rather than just using an Arab stallion to improve native stock. Such was their eye for sound conformation and kind temperament and their skill in identifying the perfect nick, the progeny of these tough, athletic but docile desert horses continues to flourish throughout the world and excels in long-distance events.
Most Crabbet horses in Australia descend from pre- and post-War imports from the Blunts daughter, Lady Wentworth, by Dora Maclean who founded the Fenwick Stud on the outskirts of Melbourne in Victoria. Her granddaughter, the charming and enthusiastic Vicki Maclean-Johnson, now capably runs it.
Stock from the influential sires and mares Mrs Maclean bought in and bred, coupled with earlier Crabbet imports by Sir James Boucat from the Blunts at the turn of the 20th century, have provided Australia with the largest number of pure Crabbet Arabs anywhere in the world. Ironically, British breeders are now looking to the Antipodes to widen their gene pool, to recover many lines since lost to the home shores. Bay pure Crabbet horses, with almost no white markings, of outstanding quality and refinement are the norm in Australia, whereas they are all but lost in Britain.
I was privileged to join Trevor and Tina Mattocks, of Ivy Arabians, and Helen Turner, mother of top rider Stephanie, on a pre-convention tour of studs in Victoria and New South Wales before heading north to Queensland. Our visit coincided with the two-day Victorian Crabbet Show near Melbourne, but turn-out was disappointingly poor, partly because many of the finest horses or their owners were already en route to Toowoomba. However the influence of the Arfaja horses was evident in the quality of the youngstock classes and judge Diana Whittome picked out yearling Ebjarah Alysium as her Female Champion, with Kalem as her Male Champion and Volcano as Reserve.
The proximity of the Show to Roxanne Pidotos Ebjarah Stud allowed us to attend her Open Day and admire her brood-mare herd and two stallions, the flamboyant bright chestnut Arfaja Harlan prancing with his high white stockings flashing in the sun, and the more sedate elder statesman, Volcano.
We were joined at various studs by Diana Whittome, travelling with her sister Libby (an endurance rider from Scotland), and by Caroline Sussex, one of the speakers at the Convention, and a longtime admirer of the Australian Crabbet horses.
No trip would have been complete without a pilgrimage to Vicki Johnsons historic Fenwick Stud, built by her greatgrandfather in the 1930s. Major stallions included Fenwick Phantom, now 20 years old but still impressive and covering mares, and also the Fenwick Orion, a fouryear old typey sabino liver chestnut with masses of white. Walking through the rolling pastures dotted by gum trees, we spotted our first kangaroo with its joey.
The weather turned wretched for our visit to Leigh and Rosemary Jamiesons Seven Oaks Stud, a fairly new venture based on two distinct blood lines Crabbet and Egyptian. Rain lashed our group as we toured the smart paddocks on the 92-acre farm. Our umbrellas spooked the horses enabling us to see them move in all their glory as they splashed through the mud. Of particular note was the grey Crabbet yearling colt, Arfaja Rococo (Arfaja Robard x Arfaja Estella).
And to think that Leigh and his groom had spent all morning washing the horses for our visit!
The downpour continued the following day so a bulk-purchase of gumboots preceded the visit to Glenda Shrimptons Glendarra Park Stud. Her elegant mare Fenwick Silver Dawn greeted us with a stunning week-old grey colt by Arfaja Nassif, an under-used stallion whom we were to see later at Sean and Ken Johnsons.
Glenda has built up an impressive band of brood mares, who irritatingly keep producing colts. One of them, probably the two-year old Arfaja Rawdon (Rasham x Arfaja Laurina), will be retained for stud. Ron Ryan, the acclaimed founder of Arfaja Arabians, now retired, met us here as he was keen to see the results of his breeding at both Glendas and the Johnsons. His nephew, Steve Pearson, and Steves partner, Joanne Costigan, joined us for these stud visits with an eye to establishing their own stud in Victoria this year. Flocks of pink-fronted galahs screeched around us as we enjoyed a delicious lasagne lunch before heading off to the Johnsons at Kendra Park Stud.
Sean still a student teacher brings all the enthusiasm of youth to this new stud, which has been blessed with the acquisition of top Crabbet horses. On lease from Shirley Douglas-Greigs famous Mill Park Stud was Mill Park Zarifa proudly showing off her day-old colt by Arfaja Nassif. Another beautiful mare, Zita Benay, had one of the last fillies by Arfaja Haluj at foot, a real beauty and a tribute to the stallion who is another great loss to the breed in Australia. Seans personal favourite is Kendra Park Silvaria (Rasham x Veridan Zaaria), a pretty threeyear- old grey filly who has been covered by Nassif.
A long drive the following day over red dirt roads and through unusually green countryside grazed by emus - the country having suffered a four-year drought until the arrival of the Brits!!! took us to the two studs of Leon Bennett (Pevensey) and Rob and Yvonne Day (Moonlite). Where they breed jointly, the progeny carry the suffix, Benay, to reflect their surnames.
Leon Bennetts senior stallion, the brown Pevensey Safari, son of the influential but sadly deceased Sarafire, was on his way to the Crabbet Convention, but we did see his filly, from the lovely Petra Benay, and a colt from Liza with a Zee. The obvious matriarch was the imposing, bold, bay mare, Veridan Zaaria, with a bay filly, Pevensey Ghia by Ghazari, a valuable but now aged stallion based in Victoria. These two studs joint breeding programme is among the most valuable in Australia, producing consistent top quality working and show horses of 100% Crabbet blood.
Thursday saw us in bright sunshine at Larry and Marillyn ODays Inshallah Arabians. Their top-ranking mare, Inshallah Impression, was also en route to the Convention, but those who were left at home were impressive. Senior stallion, Tommie, remarkable for 31, still sound with good feet and excellent conformation, has been the backbone of the stud. The typey six-year-old Inshallah Guardian, will take his place, and a daughter, Silver Ilysium (13), a gracious grey, continually brings home the ribbons for this most successful of Crabbet studs.
Last stop before the Convention was to Fred and Fiona Seymores Wentworth Arabians, which stands the majestic Arfaja Robard, full brother to Arfaja Harlan. Despite his awe-inspiring trot and proud arch of neck, this all-white stallion has a kind temperament and growing family. His impressive four-year-old son Arfaja Alexi, with Rasham on both sides of the pedigree, will be for sale. Two pretty fillies, Bellisimo (sic) and Cara Mia won everyones hearts perhaps one will arrive in Wales shortly
And so to Toowoomba where the lady Mayor hosted a sparkling cocktail party for the Convention delegates.
Then the business side of the trip started on the Saturday with the Crabbet Celebration Show sponsored by Calga Arabians. In-hand classes filled the morning, judged by Diana Whittome from Great Britain, Mary Tylden and Jacquie Weby both from New Zealand, and Brother Peter McIntosh from South Australia. Judging for the exciting and exotic Western Pleasure, Working Stockhorse, Arabian Costume and Liberty jackpot classes was in the hands of Lesley Maxwell-Dowey and Astra Temple, both from New South Wales.
The reserve went to British-bred Prince Rasheyd, a flashy chestnut with jaw-dropping movement from Mr and Mrs Archers Worth Stud. This ambassador appeared in so many classes, in hand and under saddle and with such aplomb, he remains one of the abiding memories of the show for me and took the award for the High Points Championship of the Show.
The afternoon was dedicated to the Crabbet-related stock of almost consistent high quality, elegant looks and brilliant movement. Running away with the very large Liberty class was the high percentage Crabbet.
The length and arch of neck and the refinement of body allows many of these elegant horses to compete successfully in open Arab classes at top shows with great success. Horses like Inshallah Impression (below left) (Tommie x Fenwick Raahil), one of the mare class winners, fly the flag for quality Crabbets down-under. However, the overall winner of the pure Crabbet mares, the 16-year old Bernadine (below right) (Arabian Park Phaeton x Priscilla), was a serenely beautiful and tall white grey owned by Anneka Arabians, a stud fairly new to Arabs but very committed to promoting the breed. In fact, Diana Whittome had placed her sire, Arabian Park Phaeton, first in the Veteran class back in 1986 when she judged in Sydney!
Then came the family groups starting with the influential sire line of Skowronek, giving us the present-day champions Prince Benay and Zoë Benay, Pevensey Safari, Nadaji and the bright chestnut stallion SnowNFire, whose rider was scheduled to perform whip-cracking tricks. Crowd applause put him off his stride completely but back in the stabling area, he performed to perfection showing how calm and relaxed these Crabbet stallions are, even with bullwhips cracking around their ears.
The morning ended with the first family group based on the Mesaoud sire line through Bright Shadow, the afternoon being dedicated to the family of the influential 16hh bay stallion Riffal, and to decsendants of the other Crabbet greats: Dargee, Rissalix and Count Dorsaz.
An intense programme of valuable lectures filled the Monday, led off by a doyenne of pure Crabbet breeding in Britain, Caroline Sussex of Binley Stud, who spoke encouragingly of the value of Crabbet blood in todays endurance and performance horses.
In words and slides, Caroline almost overwhelmed the audience with the vast number of pure and high percentage Crabbet successes bred in Britain. These included all major endurance and showing awards for 2005 apart from the AHS Marathon. There were many high achievers but the top ones were Hachim, the current World Endurance Champion, Magic Domino, now a Living Legend in the USA, Dahlih, the current British Endurance Champion, Vlacq Khamul highest ever ranked British Bred horse on the FEI Worldwide Endurance rankings, Luhmahla Gold, top horse at the Golden Horseshoe Endurance event, and Muzonomy, the Supreme Ridden Champion at the national show and the current overall Ridden Arabian of the Year Ridden at the Horse of the Year Show, and of course, PHA Silvern Risalm who has swept all before him in ridden classes and is now competing in dressage to be awarded the first-ever WAHO trophy in 2005. Carolines list was too long to mention them all here.
Catherine McAlpine from Splitters Creek Arabian Sport Horse Stud, outlined the old Blunt and Colonial horse breeding that she and a few others preserve, based on very early imports. Dick Collyer spoke on the Australian Endurance scene, commending the Australian Silver Team medallists at the 2005 World Endurance championships and their previous team Golds in New Zealand and in Spain. We were later to see these horses at the Tofts Bremervale Stud, three generations of a family who have had such a positive influence on the performance horse scene with their Crabbet-based programme.
Lesley Dowey reminisced on the early Australian show scene, then equine reproduction specialist vet Prof Pascoe Snr captivated us all with his witty, succinct and highly informative talk on AI. He stressed the problems we face with collecting and shipping frozen semen halfway round the world and the subsequent difficulties with insemination.
A video show high-lighting many of these accomplished horses in action around the world followed a Gala supper.
The first post-Convention tours in the Darling Downs around Toowoomba included visits to Judy Wards Bellemere Stud standing Bold as Blazes from Indian Dreams line, and Lynn Halls Polish-bred Fen at Lyndall Stud, a spur of the moment visit as Shardell Stud had suffered a freak storm and barn damage. Judy Penfounds Sahalla Arabians followed with a heartstopping sight of dozens of her Arabs galloping towards us through the bush, tails high and manes flowing. At Nicky and Steve Forests Arabe Lavalle stud we admired their elegant bay stallion Boomori Kahlua, full brother to Dandaloo Kadet imported to the USA a few years ago by the ACABONA group to increase their pure Crabbet gene pool. Keen ACABONA members Marty and Geri Kirkhuff brought their brand of Arizona howdy enthusiasm to the Convention, part of the American delegation which included Magic Dominos owners, Mark and Kim Thomason, and Merrie Boone who is importing a pure Crabbet filly Ebjarah Silver Phantasia to the USA.
Next on the itinerary was Cameo Stud belonging to Coralie and Ken Gordon whose ground-covering grey stallion Hallelujah (owned jointly with the evercheerful Joan Flynn, one of the Convention organisers) impressed us all, until our attention turned to a koala up a gum tree - the first we had seen in the wild. Sorry, Coralie!
Another of their stallions, 20-year old Zanzibar (Somerled x Zaria who was imported from the UK and was by Argos out of Zahri by Dargee out of Ziree el Wada), has proved influential as an endurance sire with his offspring much sought after.
Janice OConnor, another of the amazing Queensland Crabbet Arabian Group which had put the Convention together, hosted us to her Comanche Lodge, proudly showing us the impressive veteran Silver Wind Van Nina and his foals.
Moondara Stud, owned by Ian and Deb Watson, and Charoway Arabians, owned by Wayne Beasley, with lines going back to the mare Bright Light (Bright Shadow x Shadowlight) jointly treated us to a ridden display in Western and Arabian costume - and a rousing rendition of the Australian national anthem on horseback.
At Alon Arabians, a goat joined the group around the corral to admire 26-year old Sindhcinatti (Sindhs last son at stud) and his latest son, a ten-day old colt out of Fenwick-bred Jirrima Rosette.
Last call of the day was to the prestigious Bremervale Stud, one of the oldest established and most influential in Australia, who certainly know how to present a show horse and throw a party with delicious food.
After a detour to Australia Zoo, created by the ever-enthusiastic Steve Irwin, who finds poisonous spiders crawling up his legs, crocodile snapping at his heels, and snakes dangling in front of his eyes, a positive pleasure, we spent time with endurance competitor Robyn Pembroke at her Mt Eerwah Stud.
We are all grateful to the stud owners who gave their time and hospitality so freely. Thanks are due both to the organisers and to the owners who brought their horses such vast distances to share them with us. The event was considered such a success and engendered so much enthusiasm that plans are afoot for a Crabbet Convention in 2008 in the USA, followed by a Convention in the UK in 2111.
With commitment like this, and the advent of artificial insemination with frozen semen, the future of the pure Crabbet horse is in safe hands.
Truly, a great celebration of the Crabbet horse!
Copyright: Anne Brown 2007