By David Gillett
Arabian horses have been described as people-oriented, sensitive, intelligent, affectionate, gentle, loyal and courageous, all traits that anyone of sound mind would look for in a companion of any species
These traits have travelled with these horses from their home in the desert, across Europe, into Africa, America, Australia and onto the rest of the globe. This was the horse that became Bedouin legend. The Bedouin depended on his warhorse to literally ‘watch his back’.
The Arabians’ larger lungs and heart enable them to have more endurance than other breeds of horses, as is proven on the endurance trails in every country. They also have a slightly larger brain than most other equines, which may account for their versatility and certainly for the way they respond to humans. These are the traits that set the Arabian apart from other breeds.
Not all of us are breeders, in fact most of us are not. The vast majority of Arabian horse enthusiasts own perhaps one, maybe two horses, and these horses fly the flag for their breed across multiple disciplines and communities. In more cases than not, the humble gelding fills this role as ambassador for his kind, and fulfils this charge with humility, skill and glory.
If you’ve ever had a gelding, you probably already know how consistent their moods tend to be.
Geldings are easy to work with, trainable, understanding, tolerable and responsive, and best of all, not affected by the urges and subsequent behaviours of nature and reproduction. I spoke to several AHSA members who own geldings to find out what makes each of them so very special.
Well known competitor Viv Motbey has had many successes over the years with her geldings, the purebred River Oak Prominence (River Oak Prestige x River Oak Regal Girl) and palomino Part Arabian Wishlist (Ray of Light x Escarda Spozobella). ‘Royalund Jeramiah was my first purebred gelding. He gave me the insight into the versatility, temperament and beauty of the Arabian,’ says Viv. ‘I have always owned a purebred gelding since that time.’
With River Oak Prominence and Wishlist, Viv has competed successfully in Open Dressage, and won multiple Royal, East Coast and Australian National Championships. Her Part Arabian gelding Wishlist is the current WAHO Derivative Ambassador of the Year. Her attention to detail on not only the presentation of her horses, but also to their individual needs, are second to none. ‘I love showing horses but I prefer training saddle horses. Showing is just a means to demonstrate your conditioning and training. I love both halter and saddle classes. I also love the social aspect of showing. I compete regularly in dressage, which I find much more challenging, and when successful, much more satisfying.’
Queensland-based endurance rider Melieta Dart has been lucky to own two very special geldings. ‘In 2009 we purchased a property backing on to riding tracks for our horses, and by 2011 we had tried endurance riding and were hooked! Growing up we had pintos and Quarter Horses, but we knew our next step was to buy an Arabian if we were going to take this new sport seriously. My husband researched the breed and chose “The Cameo Stud”, owned by Ken and Coralie Gordon. When we went to visit they had two six-year-old geldings set aside for us, and I knew the moment I saw Cameo Rhodezia (Cameo Zhivago x Cameo Moonminx) he was the one I wanted. It was destiny. We had a little ride on them, loaded them both up and headed home…and it was the beginning of a lasting friendship with many miles under our belts.
‘I have recently purchased another purebred gelding named Gazal El Adien (Eukariont x Gehenna) and he is as beautiful as he is talented. We did our first 80km in March 2018 and even though he came in 4th he was awarded Best Conditioned in the Lightweight division with a returning heart rate of 48. His rides just got better and better, and in late 2018 he placed 1st again, and was awarded a trophy for Best of the Best Conditioned Horses. I was so proud of him. It’s always nice when the work you put in shows.
‘We’ve been working hard this year to overcome his fears and he is doing really well. He is so smooth to ride and that makes it such a pleasure to ride him. He loves getting out on the rides and never complains about the pressure and distance. He’s forward and sensible when we head out. I love that about him.
‘Sadly, due to an injury (of mine!), I am unable to compete with him at the Tom Quilty this year. That said, he will be competing with one of my friends on top, and I will be cheering them all the way. My dream is to compete with Gazal in the Quilty, and hopefully the next twelve months will see that dream become a reality.’
Destiny…it is a common theme amongst the people that I interviewed for this article. Samantha Forster of Sydney is a well-known halter competitor who has much success bringing on young horses as weanlings and taking them through to adulthood. ‘For those that love horses, we will love every horse we own, but there is always one that stands out…that one horse we call our “heart horse”. Diamond Road Supremacy (Ray of Light x Fortissima KEI) will always be that horse for me.
‘I was in search of something special to take into the show ring. I wanted a buckskin, high percentage Part Arabian, but when an image of a poised and proud palomino colt foal caught my eye, I had to enquire. He was three weeks old, and by the time he was four weeks old he was mine…sight unseen and upon arrival, he did not disappoint. It was just like everything was as it was meant to be, looking back now it feels almost magical. Very quickly, he ruled the roost in his new home, we did many shows together and achieved so much, including East Coast Champion. He never went through an “ugly” stage…he has been extremely beautiful and correct every day of his life. The decision to sell Supremacy was not taken lightly, but he was heading towards the age to be broken in and I wasn’t going to be able to offer him a ridden career. He moved to Queensland, continued to take the show ring by storm, and I tried my hand at other youngsters in a bid to replace him. I was even inspired to breed a couple of foals after Supremacy.’
Such is the case with many Arabian breeders, who start off by owning a gelding. Indeed this was the circumstance for Jessica Bollen of Boxwood Estate, who began by simply purchasing a gelding to ride, then finding it was her passion. ‘Nevel (Nazzai x Nyraanah) was a giant of a horse, both in size and personality. He was one of those once-in-a-lifetime kind of horses, the kind that leaves a mark on your soul. He was the fulfilment of a young girl’s dream – my very own Hawley Arabian. Nevel was trained in Western Pleasure and Reining, and being so calm, so brave and so sensible, was a delight to ride. Often confusing my non-Arabian horse riding companions of his breeding both due to his size and sensibilities, I would watch them watch me, with a puzzled look on their face as they witnessed this beautiful horse, leading the way through treacherous riding trails ahead of his often more experienced, yet fearful equine companions. The extreme face and giant eyes whose expression pierced your soul were unmistakable. It was always such a thrill to dispel their misunderstandings of Arabian horses.’
The gelding is often the first choice for young horse lovers when they finally come of age and can make their own purchases. After securing her first job at 17, Brittany Jessup went searching for her dream horse. ‘I was looking for something sired by Klass (TS Al Malik x Karmaa) in particular as I loved watching his progeny at the shows and had always wanted to own one. I wanted a gelding that would be fun to show in halter and later under saddle, and when I explained this to Julie Farrell she suggested Parlance MI (Klass x Parada) may be suitable. A week or so later we travelled to Scone where I met a stand out young horse with a beautiful, long blond mane, he was everything I wanted.’
While Brittany watched and practised her craft, Parlance MI was then shown for a year by some of Australia’s most notable handlers, culminating in a Gold Australian Championship win. By the time the following season was upon us, Brittany felt confident enough to prepare Parlance MI at home, something that she is extremely proud of. ‘It meant everything to prep my horses at home, and to have that daily contact with them. I found that now I had the right training, it was actually quite possible to condition the horses to the necessary standard amongst my other commitments. That first year Parlance MI was again Gold Australian Champion. In 2019 we travelled to our first interstate show at Boneo Park in Victoria with Parlance and Trend MI (Allegiance MI x DM Marcedes True Love) my yearling purebred gelding… as you know you can never settle to have just one! It was a very special moment, Trend MI was unanimous Australian Champion Yearling Gelding and Parlance MI Australian Champion Senior Gelding. Parlance was the youngest senior gelding in the class, in a class full of beautiful geldings which I have admired for many years. Parlance is now going well under saddle. He has made so many dreams come true, and he is just four years old.’
Most of the people I interviewed preferred to buy their geldings, rather than breed them. When asked why, Viv Motbey offers the following advice. ‘I buy my horses as foals. Not only is it much cheaper than breeding, I also have full control over what I buy. I can buy a horse that is the right colour, the right sex, exhibits the characteristics I desire, and is free of deformities. Essentially, I decrease my chances of being disappointed exponentially, compared to breeding something.
‘What excites me is bringing a young horse on to become a high class saddle horse. If I was to breed, I would need to buy, feed and breed a mare. If I simply buy a foal, not only am I a year ahead, I also save money on service fees and vet costs. Particularly in today’s market, I see breeding as too much of a risk. I like geldings…what happens if you breed a filly?’ Viv says with a smile. ‘Absolute disaster!’
I remind Viv of that time she did breed a foal. ‘Yes I did. I leased a mare and she foaled a grey filly. Great breeding! I sent the foal back with the mare. All jokes aside though, there are enough horses in this world so unless you are born to be a breeder and have access to the best of the best, always buy. Be patient, the right horse will come along.’
Others though, prefer to breed and campaign their own geldings, such as Jaymee Lord of Excalibur Park. Her homebred Arabian Pony Excalibur Park Golden Secret (Ralvon Secret x Kim- Dande Analieze) is well known on the show scene, with multiple Royal and National wins on his resume. ‘There isn’t much this horse hasn’t done,’ says Jaymee. ‘He excels in dressage, jumping, breed shows, mustering, western, costume, babysitting (both two and four legged kids), teaching beginners how to ride and is currently undefeated in working equitation. He is the current National Working Equitation Novice Champion.’
Excalibur Park Golden Secret is nearly 90% Arabian blood, and is the product of a serendipitous breeding opportunity that catapulted Jaymee into her life as a breeder. ‘I was very generously offered a free service to the very successful endurance stallion Ralvon Secret (Ralvon Mark x Ralvon Ami) who was at the time owned by my dear friend Monique Lincoln and her family. Her older brother Luke literally led the stallion to our house out of his car window to cover my muchloved champion mare. Upon being caught out, I promised my parents I would sell the resulting foal, but when a gorgeous buckskin colt was born, I couldn’t bear to part with him. I advertised him for the sake of my non-horsey father’s satisfaction, but I always used terrible photos so I wouldn’t get a call. Low and behold, almost 10 years later he has moved out of home and into married life with me, and is here to stay for good.’
Lisa Tomlinson too thought she may give breeding horses a try, after many years of having owned and shown Arabians that she had purchased. ‘The second foal I bred was from a maiden mare Jayay Just Because, and by a local but well established Riding Pony stallion Fairlight Acres Kristian. I am one hour from the nearest vet. The delivery itself was fairly traumatic as the foal’s legs had not straightened before foaling and with the mare exhausted I made the decision to unfurl his legs, one by one, and aid with his entrance into the world. He was born with severely contracted front fetlock tendons and could not stand so it was imperative to aid with his feeding for the first few days. He was also confined to allow his tendons to relax and enable him to walk normally. After three weeks thankfully he recovered fully, however he adopted the name “Forest” as in Gump, as for a while we thought he might need leg braces to aid his recovery.’ Suffice to say breeding isn’t always smooth sailing.
‘Forest’ became the very successful Half Arabian Gelding Oakley Manor Xaphan. Shown for many years as a Part Arabian, he was a successful youngster shown by Future Farms to an Australian Championships as a two-year-old, before being turned out. ‘I then took him to Future Farms to produce as a five-year-old and he won Supreme Led at Goulburn Valley and Supreme Part Arabian at the Victorian Classic. In that same year he took his second Australian Championship, and also Australian Champion in the Amateur Handler with myself which was very exciting.
‘The following year he won the coveted award of East Coast Champion of Champions for the first time. This for me was the absolute highlight of his showing career, the excitement and joy hearing his name called was just incredible, for me as a small time Arabian enthusiast to have bred the winner was just amazing.’
Nicole Henricus had this to say about her gelding. ‘A Prince DA (Allegiance MI x Anna Queen MI) is the first homebred foal for us at DaMar Arabians. He very conveniently blessed us with his presence mid-morning in August 2017 and we have adored him ever since. He was first shown as a colt and won his class however we made the decision to geld him to offer him a better life. We have not looked back on this decision as he is loving living with the girls and we enjoy watching him play. We have continued to show him very successfully and he is an important part of our team.’
Courtney Whittaker also chose to geld her stallion The Palms Monsoon (Maa’zoox x St Could Park Mona) to give him an easier life. ‘Monsoon is a true testament to the Arabian breed. I bought him sight unseen many years ago, having complete faith in his breeders having had a gelding from them previously. He was broken in as an eight-year-old stallion but due to time constraints his ridden career was put on hold until 2018. At his third outing he won Champion Open Galloway in open company. Now that we are off and running I’m really looking forward to going out competing and just enjoying him. He is the most well behaved, laid back horse I have ever had the pleasure of owning and is a wonderful representation of his breeding and his breeders, The Palms Arabians.’
Perhaps you may have noticed another interesting thread throughout these interviews ... that many gelding buyers go on to buy a second gelding from the same breeder or family. Jessica Bollen remembers, ‘I poured myself into Nevel, attending training clinics and giving him every opportunity to be the best he could be. When his full brother Al Shebet was born, I felt a compelling need to add him to our little family. The thought of having two Nevels was a dream I had to pursue. I used to ask myself what if something ever happened to Nevel, how would I ever find another horse like him? And so Al Shebet came to live with us, and learned all he could from his big brother. Little did I know my fear of losing Nevel was like a fateful prophecy, after he was fatally struck by lightning. I had ridden him only a few days before his death, and I recall that sense of tranquillity as we strolled up a beautiful sandy track, the reins resting on his neck, my feet dangling out of the stirrups. I petted him and whispered to him, ‘Nevel you have made it. You are everything I hoped you would be, all my work has paid off, you are amazing, I love my time with you.’ It was a crushing blow to lose Nevel, but Al Shebet quickly took up his new role, no longer in Nevel’s shadow, head of the herd and King of the farm. He is equally as delightful as his brother and a very important part of our lives. I owe my involvement with Arabian horses to these two amazing geldings. They have bought such joy to our lives.’
The Arabian can find his way into our lives in a myriad of ways, it just takes that magical moment, that initial discovery, to enhance the passion. For Christine Millar, introduction to the Arabian was ignited by the most unlikely of sparks, cancer. ‘I moved to Bungendore in 2000 and met Ally and Ray Hudson a year later through our journey with breast cancer. I went to Arabian horse shows with Ally and Ray, helping them with their horses at the show. I then met Doug and Kath Jones who had a beautiful gelding at their farm who I went to visit. Very excited, I purchased my baby. He is now rising 17 and is still as stunning as the day I purchased him. His first show was at Hall and he was Champion. He was also Champion at National Capital, and a Reserve East Coast Champion amongst other wins. He makes me feel so proud, and is and will always be my special boy. I have my best mate at my side.’
For some, sharing their Arabians with friends and family is where they feel the most joy. After Samantha Forster sold Diamond Road Supremacy, she did not have the same success with her other purchases and before long, they had all been sold on. ‘I still remember the phone call when Supremacy was offered back to me. As much as I wanted him, I was reluctant at first as I still wasn’t in a position to ride him…but I now had an 11-year-old daughter that might be? For a while there, people thought I was crazy giving a young, green broken four-year-old Arabian to an 11-year-old rider…but I had a sixth sense about it. Now, two years later, Makayla and Supremacy have accomplished so much. Whether it be at pony club, jumping, interschools, dressage or the show ring, they are working hard together, and my heart horse is now also shared with my daughter.’ Like Samantha, Lozzy Toll Elliot shares her purebred gelding El Alazan with her daughter. ‘I purchased him as a weanling when I was 14, with my pocket money, for $150. Life got in the way, but I did ride him at the Classic as a three-year-old. He’d been broken in just six weeks and we came second in my rider class. We are still competing in HRACV and now, 23 years after I first bought him, my daughter now rides him at pony club and shows.’
Sue Savage found her heart horse in a case of serendipitous circumstance. ‘I first met Metaxa W (Avondale Cruise x Ajmala Mulahn) as a yearling at the Aussies and loved him. A few years later my good friend Katie Smith came down from Sydney in search of a gelding. We saw a few, but it was Metaxa that Katie decided on.
‘Twelve months later, I was home sick and saw him advertised for sale. I immediately rang Katie and said I would love him. From the onset he wormed his way into our hearts with his lovable character and personality.
‘In the early days I was very weak after my illness, so my very good friend Clint Bilson agreed to ride him for me and in our first twelve months under saddle he won ten out of his ten newcomer classes, plus multiple championships under saddle. Just recently at the Australian Championships, we took out National Champion Bridle Path Hack and Reserve Champion Preliminary Dressage Horse. I am so excited for our future, at only six years old he has so much more to give.
‘I have had some exciting horses in my life, but I think Metaxa W goes to the top of the list. He is such an incredibly smart horse with such a willing nature to learn. Sometimes too eager, and thinks he knows it all, but don’t all the good ones?’
Lisa Holahan owns the gelding Rose Gum Crown Allegiance (Chelleason Crown Jewel x Rose Gum Ellustria). ‘I crossed to the dark side after years of having derivatives and now understand why “every girl should have a purebred gelding!” This boy has taught me patience and perseverance and guided me through some pretty tough times. He had over a year off the show ring due to injury and we have only recently started back showing. Lots of hiccups, a few triumphs but so very grateful to still have my beautiful little “seahorse”. He makes me laugh daily, frustrates the hell out of me often, but I just love my little “Alii Bear” to pieces.’
When I decided to write this story and asked people to be involved, I was overwhelmed by the response from those I contacted…too many in fact to include them all. What was overwhelmingly apparent was that gelding owners love to talk about their horses, to share their stories, to be the ambassadors of the Arabian horse world.
And such incredible ambassadors they really are. When describing her horse Wishlist, Viv Motbey probably said it best, and the same can be applied to just about all of the geldings who feature in these pages. ‘Yes successful, yes beautiful, and yes versatile. He reminds me every day that training and competing with horses must be a partnership, and mutual respect is the key ingredient. He has achieved more than I could have imagined and for that I am grateful every day. I love my horse, and I love spending my life with him.’