Two flashy, extravagant moving chestnuts with hearts of gold and bucketloads of talent are Snow’n’Fire and Portia Benay. Recognisable a mile away, these full siblings were bred by Rob and Yvonne Day and Leon Bennett and now reside in Victoria with different families. This dazzling duo were sired by the handsome Sarafire (Samiri x Devotion), who won over 113 championships in-hand, under saddle and in harness during the heydays of horse competition and their dam was the treasured broodmare Santarabia Porfira (Ruberto x Peridot). In this issue Bridie White, the owner of Portia Benay, and Nicole Emanuel, who along with Tanya Beacham and Aaron Thege leases Snow’n’Fire, talk about their beautiful and versatile Arabians.
These two chestnuts with wild white not only look very similar, but also have equally incredible temperaments that I believe has led to their versatility, continues Bridie White. Both have beautiful large dark eyes, great substance, excellent feet and powerful movement. The temperament of Portia Benay and Snow’n’Fire has obviously come from carefully selected bloodlines and knowledgeable breeding. Their trainability and kind nature has enabled them to be incredibly versatile and wonderful ambassadors for the Arabian horse in Australia.
I was fortunate enough to purchase one of the siblings, Portia Benay, in 2011 when she was 15 years young.
I had farm-sat several times for one of her breeders, Leon Bennett, and instantly fell in love with Portia, who was at the farm at the time. Her flamboyant movement was a standout amongst Leon’s herd of beautiful broodmares. I knew I had to bring her home! Neither of us has looked back since. Portia has been elevated from the bottom of the pecking order to queen of the property and is extremely spoilt.
Prior to purchasing Portia she was a proven broodmare foaling five progeny to a wide range of stallions – three fillies and two colts (one was gelded) and these horses have ended up performing various equestrian pursuits in all corners of the country. The 2017/18 breeding season will hopefully see her return to broodmare duties with a cover to our resident pure Crabbet Stallion, Saraad (Snow Leopard x Arfaja Evangeline).
A once in a lifetime horse and best friend, Portia and I quickly formed a strong rapport.
Her kind nature, unfailing willingness to please and trust in me has enabled us to take on many equestrian activities together – totally hassle free. We have competed together at agricultural and Arabian shows; however, my ongoing ill health meant she has only been campaigned lightly. Portia has been an incredible companion horse providing hippotherapy when I was wheelchair bound.
A perfect example of Portia’s kind nature and willingness was when she was broken in to harness at 19 years old. To celebrate her sixth time in harness we attended a clinic with the Victorian Tradesman and Delivery Group. Her exemplary behaviour and temperament drew countless comments about how well behaved and beautiful she was. This did wonders for the Arabian breeds’ reputation in open company!
At Victoria Arabian Youth Group rallies Portia has been given a number of opportunities to try various disciplines including games, jumping and polocrosse. Her efforts in polocrosse were commendable, taking to the racquet, ball and fast-paced contact nature of the game within minutes. I also recall she never flinched when we threw a costume on her for the first time – she just took it in her stride – “old-hat”. At her second time in costume she was paraded in the Rushworth Easter Heritage Parade amongst other costumed Arabians, heavy harness horses, vintage vehicles, tractors with large crowds lining the streets – she lapped it all up.
Just like her brother, Portia is a gun at mustering and really loves it. Our neighbours often ask if we are free to muster their sheep in – the old fashioned way proving much more effective than motorbikes and there is no shortage of enthusiasm from Portia. One day I decided to introduce her to my work mates in our local town. Not only did she cope with the busy atmosphere there, she also attracted quite a crowd of children and people in the streets. They just loved crowding around to feed her the carrots I supplied.
Due to my health issues, Portia was only ridden twice in the 12 months prior to the 2016 Crabbet Convention held in Victoria, where our most rewarding achievement thus far happened when she was named Supreme Champion Pure Crabbet. I was incredibly proud of Portia – she had put her heart and soul into every event for the whole show – gaining many admirers and proving her versatility. Only her third time in costume, she competed very kindly and we also proudly carried the British flag for the opening ceremony, needless to say she was nonplussed about the large flag flapping around her.
She also competed in the harness class, only her thirteenth time in harness and first time in competition – she wowed the crowd when driven in a viceroy by my mother, Elizabeth Fawns.
Winning Supreme at the Convention was extremely special for me because my mother won this very same award with her mare Bundarra Park Monria at the 2000 Crabbet Convention. Following in her footsteps with my own special mare was an emotional experience. My mum nurtured my interest in Arabians and in particular pure Crabbet horses. High quality horses have always been part of my life since birth and I even owned a few along the way, but none as exceptional as my beautiful Portia Benay.
Mum and I hope to pursue Portia’s harness career further this season before she retires. Turning 21 this year, she has never looked better and thoroughly enjoys her work.
If I had been fortunate enough to get Portia at an earlier age and had not been hindered by my health, I have no doubt she could have excelled to an extremely high standard in even more equestrian pursuits. She is a horse that can and would do it all – a mare for all reasons.
I am so lucky to own this wonderful Arabian horse. To me, she’s certainly worth her weight in gold.
Nicole Emanuel talks about Snow’n’Fire: Snowy as he is affectionately known, was special from day one with his curious nature and affection for humans. Turning 20 this year, he has had a decorated and versatile career under saddle. Started by Jack Dowell in Gundagai NSW, he came back into work a few years later under renowned trainer and horseman Geoff Willis. Geoff used Snowy for feedlot work until he realised the ability he had with cattle. Geoff was amazed at his trainability and cow sense and commenced training Snowy in cutting, reining and team penning. He competed in open company at events such as the Gundagai Giddyup, a stockmen’s challenge event where Snowy made the top ten!
At the 2005 Crabbet Convention in Toowoomba QLD, Snowy performed a memorable Man From Snowy River style horsemanship display with Geoff Willis. It was this video that stirred an interest in the stallion, and led to us going to meet him in the flesh.
We soon found ourselves driving to Wagga Wagga to catch up with dear friends Rob and Yvonne Day. As is the usual when visiting horsey connections, we were soon out in the paddocks inspecting the horses. Aaron Thege and I were both so impressed by the flashy chestnut that is Snow’n’Fire, legs of iron with big round feet and huge kind eyes. All stallion with presence and attitude, yet when being handled as quiet as an old gelding!
After only 20 minutes Aaron was cantering around bareback and bridleless. He was so impressed by Snowy’s willing attitude and impeccable manners.
Over dinner that night Rob and Yvonne generously offered him to us on lease and a few weeks later this amazing stallion soon arrived home to Grand Ridge Stud at Seaview, VIC, a large beef cattle property with steep hills and valleys dotted with rainforests and waterfalls. This was to be Snowy’s home for the next four years. He was never intended to just be a breeding stallion and soon became the ultimate workhorse. He was the first choice for mustering cattle on the steep terraced hillsides, he was surefooted and worked tirelessly and didn’t mind the stockwhip either! He went out numerous times checking cattle, fixing fences and spraying weeds and he was so trustworthy that anyone could ride him, including my four-year-old daughter. As a sire he bred only a few foals each year, but all have been superb types. They all inherit his big dark eyes, people loving nature, great bone and straight legs with beautiful big feet. Some of his notable foals include the spectacular flaxen sabino mare Fire’n’Ice (from Jirrima Ultra Minx), exquisite bay mare Samirrah (from F’Ahsan Tiffani) and the outstanding bay colt Grand Ridge Royal Fire (from Cameo Carillion).
Snowy competed in many seasonal campdrafts with Aaron often scoring over 20 for cut outs and an incredible 82 at his second draft. Geoff Willis and Aaron Thege both acknowledge Snowy is very ‘cowy’ and in his prime would rival some of the best working Stock Horses and Quarter Horses! Aaron has an affinity with Snowy and comments: “Most campdrafts he would stand alongside mares or other stallions and people couldn’t believe he was a stallion. I was always getting compliments that he was so well mannered for a stallion.”
At the Man From Snowy River Stockmans Challenge in Corryong, Snowy proved himself by competing against 50 other predominantly experienced challenge horses. Competitors’ horses were saturated with working Stock Horse or Quarter Horse blood and most were seasoned professionals. The event is made up of three days of gruelling horsemanship challenges, and it’s the last place you would expect to see a purebred Arabian – let alone a stallion! So the little red Arab made quite an impression in the 2km cross country course as most of the other horses were well over 15hh, many over 16hh! This was Snowy’s toughest challenge, and tackled at a flat gallop with 20 jumps all over one metre in height! Yet in true Snowy style he tried his heart out for Aaron. The dreaded coffin-jump near the end was one where many riders came unstuck, horses misjudging or baulking but Snowy sailed over with ease, completing the course. He scored in the top ten for stock handling, and the bareback course and campdrafting – resulting in many surprised faces from those who doubted an Arabian could do it! Aaron was once again so impressed, “He is such a quick learner, and he tries so hard to please.”
Snowy was called upon at the following year’s Equitana in Melbourne to perform a stockmanship display, demonstrating his ability with jumping, whip crack, roll-back, bowing, laying flat on the ground and stepping up on a log. That night Bedouin horsemaster Ali Al Ameri rode Snowy at the Equitana finale in front of a crowd of thousands!
Tanya Beacham, a renowned show and endurance rider from central Victoria was on the lookout for a stallion. She had always admired Snowy. She came over for a visit and had a ride and subsequently fell in love with him! Rob and Yvonne kindly granted permission for Tanya to co-lease Snowy and the following season he moved to Creswick Arabians, where with Arfaja Stud being nearby, he has had the opportunity to breed a few quality pure Crabbet foals. Tanya took Snowy out to the Western District Arabian Show where he competed in all the Crabbet classes: he won ridden stallion, led stallion, awarded Champion Pure Crabbet male and Grand Champion led Pure Crabbet and Crabbet related exhibit! She also brought Snowy to the recent Crabbet Convention in Victoria. A legend in his own right, even in-hand his commanding presence wowed the crowd! He was awarded a very special memorable trophy donated by Mark and Kim Thomason as the Champion Pure Crabbet Exhibit.
At this stage Tanya, Aaron and myself hope to be able to continue to lease this amazing stallion and share in his care and wellbeing. He will reside at either Creswick Arabians or Grand Ridge Stud where we hope in future to breed a few more special “Snowy” foals.