Written by Yvonne Downes
Crabbet horses travelled from all the eastern states to be there and it was heart-warming to see most were shown by their loving owners. Enthusiasts came from all over the world to attend this get together of like-minded people and to admire and appreciate the quality and beauty of the horses in Australia. Australia was well represented with large numbers from Victoria and New South Wales plus a contingent from Queensland as well as several Crabbet devotees from South Australia and Western Australia. A shipload arrived from Tasmania!
On Saturday Virginia Dean (New Zealand) judged the Pure Crabbet ring while Gudrun Martini (Victoria) judged the High Percentage Crabbet (or Crabbet related) ring. The show ran smoothly and professionally with a busy Secretary’s desk in operation just inside the main door to the arena, close to the delightful selection of artist and photographers’ stands and with refreshments just outside the main door. It was refreshing to see such a strong roll up of lovely horses being shown comfortably by their owners. There were plenty of beautiful ‘‘typey’’ horses with powerful movement – true riding horses.
The Werribee indoor arena provided an excellent backdrop for the event with its spacious arena easily accommodating two rings. The spectator gallery was well filled for the entire show and with two rings positioned side by side, eager onlookers were able to observe the action in both rings if they wished, or concentrate on one or the other.
The appreciation and applause was spontaneous and genuine. Observers warmly admired every horse that worked well, or was thought to be special. There was no obvious “rent- a-crowd” or “artificial approval” shown for any horses. Both judges commented on the positive reception each horse received from the crowd.
Later in the afternoon the parade of Crabbet families was held and it was a joy to see. These families all traced back to an original stallion or mare from the Crabbet Arabian Stud and generally tended to show a family resemblance and on the whole, carried similar characteristics. Some families only had one or two representatives, which was unfortunate and meant family traits and qualities were difficult to see, but others had five or six horses which made looking for comparisons much easier.
At the end of the parade two special presentations were made. Kim and Mark Thomason (USA) generously donated two absolutely wonderful memorial trophies. They were large hand painted brass statues of their horse Magic Domino. Kim and Mark watched all events at the show including the parade. Kim selected the Pure Crabbet winner while Mark chose the Crabbet Related. Snow’n’Fire (Sarafire x Santarabia Porfira), a well known and decorated flashy chestnut stallion, who famously featured on the cover of The Arabian Horse In Australia and New Zealand Vol VII, was a popular winner at the Crabbet show winning the Pure Crabbet Trophy. He was bred by Leon Bennett and Yvonne and Rob Day and is leased by Tanya Beacham, Nicole Emanuel and Aaron Thege and shown by Creswick Stud. The Crabbet Related trophy went to Tracy Nutting’s stallion Acaciavej Shadowy Prince (Arundel House Bey Rashan x Capleach Shadowy Lustre). He had previously been champion led and reserve champion ridden at the show and Tracy was overwhelmed to be chosen to win this special award. I was very proud to be able to tell the world he was a Tasmanian! Kim and Mark surely got it ‘‘right’’ as applause was deafening when these two magnificent horses paraded with their beautiful awards.
There were many ‘‘stand out’’ horses at the convention. Portia Benay (Sarafire x Santarabia Porfira), a delightful chestnut mare and full sister to Snow’n’Fire, was very successful in both the halter and saddle classes. She proudly carried the flag at the beginning of the parade and gave an almost faultless exhibition in harness. Volcano (Bakos x Victorine) strutted his stuff and looked much younger than his 27 years while Binley Prince Iqbal (Prince Sadik x Ismala) imported from Great Britain caught everyone’s eye!
Saturday evening saw two costume classes, a demonstration of a Sporthorse class and a liberty event. The horses in the liberty class all seemed to return to their handlers right on cue. These events added to the variety and fun of the show.
On Sunday we met at the Werribee Racetrack and were treated like superstars in a wonderful venue. There we had a full day of well-respected and very interesting speakers.
First up was Caroline Sussex (GB) whose mother Mrs Rosemary Archer of Worth Stud was closely entwined with the Crabbet Arabian Stud. Caroline’s talk encompassed a lot of personal details into the day-to-day world of the Crabbet Stud and gave us all a much closer insight into the majority of the ancestors of some of our cherished horses today. It was accompanied by a large array of photos shown on a large screen, a variety of famous horses from the past. I told Caroline I was very envious of her growing up with legends of our breed on her doorstep.
Virginia Dean spoke on Crabbet horses in New Zealand. It was of great interest to follow some of the Australian horses which have gone ‘‘across the ditch’’. Virginia also showed a number of photos of horses, mostly imported from England but some from Australia and other countries and of course, some New Zealand bred.
Brenden Millburn spoke briefly on NARA (National Arabian Racehorse Association of Australia) and the success of Arabian racing in Australia and the exciting prospects for the future. Virginia Dodson spoke about the Crabbet horses shining in Arabian racing in Australia, both currently and in the recent past. Photos of horses racing and in the winners’ circle accompanied her talk. She pointed out some horses have come from successful show careers or from an Endurance Riding past and have proven to be very successful on the racetrack.
Sean Johnson showed us a glimpse of his encyclopaedic knowledge on Crabbet families and related them to those who had paraded the day before. Again, there were a selection of photos of famous horses on the screen and I, for one, was gobsmacked at the wealth of knowledge about bloodlines and the passion for Arabian horses in this young man.
Finally, there was a very informative talk by equine specialist vet, Christina Marth who spoke on genetics and genetic diseases, complete with a short video of a lavender foal. It was so sad – I hope I never have to see one in real life.
Mementos from the weekend include a truly beautiful Convention Catalogue with a lovely compilation of three paintings by Victorian artist Paula Markey on the front cover. It depicts three Crabbet Arabians influential to Australian breeding; the stallions Greylight and Sindh and the lovely mare Perfection. The catalogue is chock-a-block full of photos and fascinating information on Crabbet horses in Australia and their ancestors. It includes a chapter written by Gudrun Martini entitled Photographic Reflections. This is well worth reading and gives readers a brief encounter of some of her personal experiences of some of the most well-known and influential Crabbet horses in recent history in Australia. There is also a wonderful story written by Mel Somerville on The Miraculous Melandah Twins and an interesting report by Chris Ros about Western Australia’s Crabbet Heritage.
The show catalogue is also a keepsake with a fabulous cover and information about the horses competing in events at the show as well as some special advertisements, mostly from studs represented at the convention.
It was a brilliant weekend, full of wonderful memories, renewed friendships with new ones forged. It’s a huge undertaking to try to stage an event like this and I commend the very small group of ladies who pulled it all together on a shoestring and made it all happen.