During a visit to one of Australia’s grandest Georgian homesteads, the historic Clarendon House near Evandale, Tasmania, a chestnut Arabian gelding taking part in a Tasmanian Lighthorse display caught my eye ...
Story: Jan Barratt | Images: Mishka Gora
Being an unashamed Arabian horse enthusiast, I sought out the gelding’s owner to learn more about this dazzling duo. The rider turned out to be Sam Downes and his Arabian gelding was Elphyn Jabez (Arfaja Silver Aura x Elphyn Shogression), fondly known as Bez.
During our chat, I learned Sam commenced riding at seven on an Australian Riding Pony mare who was too much horse for a beginner. Neither Sam nor his father were sure how to move forward with this little mare, so they undertook Natural Horsemanship training which revolutionised how they worked with horses.
At 11 years old Sam, with his Dad, met a lady who bred Arabians. She had a three-year-old stallion, Storm, whom she felt was ready to start under saddle. Her offer for them to take Storm on for a while was too good of an opportunity to miss. While working with Storm, Sam learned more about the Arabian breed, their history and endurance ability. The stallion had a beautiful temperament, was very gentle and turned out to be the catalyst for Sam’s love of Arabians. After Storm returned to his owner and with Sam having outgrown his pony, the decision was made to look for his next horse. Sam’s two requirements were for a young horse but not just any horse – an Arabian horse.
Sam and his Dad were invited to view the young stock at Elphyn Arabians, where they were shown a paddock of two year olds with one yearling colt, Elphyn Jabez, trying to keep up with the older horses. It was love at first sight. Sam was fortunate to have the time and opportunity to do plenty of groundwork, walking out together in-hand and liberty training with this intelligent young Arabian. Initially Sam’s goal was to do Endurance Riding but in 2007 both he and his Dad discovered the Tasmanian Lighthorse, which combined their love of history and horses and where they now ride side-by-side.
Due to Bez’s comprehensive early training, when they attended their first Lighthorse event in the city at a venue next to a highway, Bez took everything in his stride – nothing fazed him, not even a rifle salute. Sam recalls Bez’s response being close to boredom. In fact, he seemed more interested in trying to chew his reins than reacting to what was happening around him.
While Sam and Bez have never competed in Endurance Riding, they have many kilometres under their belt from time spent out on bush tracks. Sam says Bez has great balance and his downhill gallops are reminiscent of The Man From Snowy River. He describes riding Bez in the bush as “perfect freedom, it’s like we are one”. They even tried Roman Riding with a part Arabian joining their team.
The Tasmanian Lighthorse is where this impressive pair won the imagination and hearts of the public by flawlessly performing without a saddle or bridle. Onlookers are always astonished. Bez is a true showman and loves performing in front of a crowd. He has the knack of pulling out something special at each performance. Sam’s wife, Sarah, also rides Bez sidesaddle dressed as a nurse in Lighthorse displays. Sarah’s young Quarab will join the team when old enough.
The affinity between Sam and Bez is as amazing as it is beautiful. The pride and love shines through on this young man’s face whenever he is with his horse. It’s heartwarming and very special.
Elphyn Jabez shows all who see him perform just how kind, gentle and versatile the Arabian breed is.