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A Bygone Era – Delos & Abiram

Delos ridden by Dave Cox. Photo: E. Staunton

By Rob Scott

In the modern age, when one can readily admire Arabian stallions being ridden in myriad events, from dressage to costume to endurance, it seems inconceivable that this was not always the case. In days gone by – the events of the 1960s and prior – it was quite the opposite, with many early shows expressly forbidding stallions being ridden in the ring. However, there were notable exceptions to this rule.

One such exception was the dressage competitions, where two Arabian stallions, Sirhan and Rami, performed with aplomb. Sirhan, under Mrs Luckock’s ownership, placed in the first Dressage competition at Melbourne Royal in 1950. Similarly, Rami achieved many accolades when ridden by Malcolm Barnes. Witnessing the splendour of these Arabian stallions under saddle, and indeed, in open competition with other stallions, was a sight to behold.

These early pioneers paved the way for others to impress, and the horse who captivated all who saw him in the 1960s was Delos. His grace and majesty earned him Supreme Arabian Exhibit at Sydney Royal in 1967, 1968 and 1969. An impressive accomplishment in anyone’s estimation.

Bred and owned by the NSW Department of Agriculture, Delos was handled and shown by his lifelong friend, Dave Cox, Studmaster at Wagga College. Dave took real delight in riding Delos, and in those days, it was in the exercise yard, and out into Centennial Park, where many miles of tracks were available for riding horses. Elizabeth Staunton’s photograph, taken in 1969, the day after judging at Sydney Royal, showcases Delos’s magnificent movement – an action he could maintain the whole time he was being ridden. Furthermore, Delos had a superb temperament, and enjoyed the company of other horses when being ridden. He sired a long line of performance horses, and would still be in demand today, if available.

Another talented sire of the time was Abiram, who was imported from Holland by Mrs Elwyn Bligh and her daughter Elizabeth, for their Bostocks Stud in Queensland. An iridescent dark bay, Abiram was not ridden as much as Elizabeth would have liked due to the demands of running a large stud, which included four stallions. However, he did enjoy being under saddle as the photo taken at Brisbane (again in the exercise yard) shows. Abiram subsequently sired a multitude of excellent broodmares and riding horses from the Bostocks broodmares; his descendants are much sought after today, especially in the endurance field. He too had a distinguished record in the show ring, being awarded Champion Arab Stallion at Brisbane Royal in 1968 and 1969.

Abiram eventually went to the Dawson’s Iraki Stud, and later returned to Queensland to the El Shalao Stud of Bob and Grace Carmichael and family, where he was reunited with Laodicea. She had previously produced Kimaao to him, and this time, the union brought forth Shelemieh, who sired a long list of successful endurance horses including Rahfire, a Tom Quilty winner in 1996, with what is still a record time of just over eight hours.

Despite different backgrounds, Delos and Abiram were two Arabian stallions who relished being ridden, and more importantly, they were two Arabian stallions who would go on to sire a line of impressive saddle horses for the future. Those of a bygone era have given us much to admire today.