Horses of the Desert in the Show Ring

Copyright by Carol Lyons, all rights reserved

from ARABIAN VISIONS, May 1990


        Davenport Arabians: authenticity, antiquity, history, pedigree, beauty and kindliness all wrapped in a coat of such natural sheen and iridescence that it needs no enhancers. Add to this, the association with the grandest group of fellow Davenport enthusiasts, and what more could one want? Just the privilege of seeing the mares and foals romp and play in the pasture, watching the stallions express their pride and joy in life is enough for some.         [Sir (Tripoli X Dharebah)age 33]    The kindly but dignified  disposi-                   led by Alice Martin]                  tions which allow close association with the whole family is bonus for all. For some, a quiet trail ride with their trusted equine friend, or the rewards of competitive showing in any one of a number of Arabian Performance classes adds another dimension to Davenport ownership.

        When watching Davenports at liberty, one is reminded that these are truly horses of the desert: the wonderful way in which they carry themselves with such pride and assurance, as they effortlessly change gaits, speed and direction. One can close the eyes and get a mental image of a
Bedouin riding for his life in a raid, or matching stride for stride, turn for turn, with the elusive quarry of a hunt, or perhaps partaking of the Bedouin game of cantering around a spear planted in the ground. The person who really enjoys riding a fine horse can't help but think: "What balance! What agility! What power and natural cadence!" And then, in the words of Charles Craver: "Oh, to ride such a horse!

        In 1837, John Lloyd Stephens commented about the Arabian horse and the Bedouins in his book, "Incidents of Travel in Egypt, Arabia, Petraea, And The Holyland": "One can imagine how warm must be the feeling when, year after year, the best of his race is the companion of the wandering Arab, and the same animal may bear him from the time when he can first poise a spear until his aged frame can scarcely sustain itself in the saddle."

        In the modern world, the owner-horse association described by Stephens is no longer possible. Davenport owners seem to get so attached to their horses that they are very reluctant to send them out for professional training and showing, especially if it means being apart for more than two or three months maximum. Yet there is something about a Davenport that seems to say: "Do something with me. I want to be useful and to be a partner." How best to utilize this attitude and not have to be separated for a long time? One of the equine activities which appears to be made to order for Davenports is the art and sport of Dressage which provides the opportunity for the type of advanced training which requires an athletic horse with a good mind. Since Davenports tend to live long and stay sound into their 20s or even into their 30s occasionally, they can provide many years of learning and working together in a partnership which may be as close to, and as enduring, as the companionship of Bedouin and his Arab as is possible today.

Au Contraire and Javera Thadrian
with the sisters
Craver Farms Open House 198

        According to the IAHA poll published inInside International."fully 20% of responding members indicated that they were using their horses in Dressage. This compares to 14% who are involved with the more familiar show classes and the 2 % who are racing Arabians! The results of this survey are in keeping with those done in 1989 by the Illinois Horse Council.

        The respective results of those surveys found 21% and 23% of those surveyed listed Dressage as their primary activity. The competition can be very stiff! It is not unusual for Training and 1st Level classes to have 50 entries. Each horse and rider team performs a standardized test and is scored on each movement. The final score is based on an average of the cumulative scores of the test. Generally speaking, any score over 55% is a good score. There are no excuses about the judge not seeing the horse.

        Most Davenport owners are personally involved with their horses in the feeding and day to day care, and many are active in their training, riding and showing, both in Dressage and other forms of competition. There are others who may not feel personally capable of doing justice to these equine athletes, but who nonetheless feel the need to give their horses the opportunity to develop their inbred abilities. These owners usually have someone else start or continue the training and showing, while knowing that they can still enjoy riding them whenever they want. Davenports are by nature very forgiving of less than talented riders and combined with their willing attitude, make them excellent candidates for the Owner-Amateur classes.

        A horse which is well started in Dressage can easily adapt to other forms of competition if that's a goal. A shift to Pleasure classes for Training or First Level horses is a simple matter since the 1st Level horses perform movements beyond these which the English and Western Pleasure or Park Horse are required to do. Hunter, Show Hack and Trail classes are also options. Competitive or non- competitive trail riding are other logical extensions to the enjoyment of a Dressage trained horse. Conversely, a good moving horse that has already had training and perhaps showing in any of the Pleasure categories can make a good Dressage horse with some retraining.

        In preparing this article, I spoke at length with Alice Martin, an Illinois Dressage trainer and instructor. Her opinion of the capabilities of Davenports as compared to other bloodlines or breeds is insightful and meaningful due to her impressive credentials. In her lifetime she has ridden over 1,600 horses and has trained close to 400 mostly in basic Dressage, but also for the Pleasure classes. Most have been Arabians but she has also trained Thoroughbreds, Morgans, Quarterhorses, Appaloosas, and Warmbloods. She estimates that she has ridden about 35 Davenports and has had a long term relationship of at least two years with 10 or 12. The number of half Davenports she has worked with is even greater. In her own breeding program she has done considerable top crossing with Davenports. For the past ten years she has been the proud owner of the Davenport stallion, Sir (Tripoli x Dharebah) who still gives a good ride and is still siring foals at age 32.

        Alice remarked that in Dressage, there are three important principles which apply throughout the levels: "The rider must push with his legs, the horse must be in self-carriage, and it must not resist the rider's hand!" She feels that in general, Arabians pose some training problems because they are so sensitive and respond so quickly to the leg or the hand, much more quickly than the more cold-blooded horses which are so successful in Dressage. The rider of any Arabian needs to become as sensitive as the horse.

        Many Arabians also have difficulty achieving self-carriage. The balanced conformation with powerful hindquarters and freedom in the shoulder make Davenports likely candidates for Dressage because they are built to be able to attain self-carriage under the rider. In addition, many are spectacular movers. There are Arabians of other bloodlines which are magnificently built and naturally very athletic, but not all have the disposition for the very demanding work above the 1st level. Alice commented that she would take the horse with what she describes as heart any day over the horse with perfect conformation and a less than willing attitude. Horses with heart come in all sizes, shapes and breeds, but it's by no means common, except in Davenports.

        According to Alice, the thing which sets the Davenports and half Davenports apart is their dispositions, minds, and that indefinable thing called heart. "You can't see it or measure it, but if it is there, you know that when called upon, that horse will give its all for you. It will try! Most important, every Davenport that I've ever known has had heart! Some Davenports are very friendly, while some are more aloof, but they are always trustworthy, and they all have heart. It is their common denominator. They pass it on to their part Davenport foals. I'll take a Davenport for training any time I can get one. Some, like Au Contraire (Dharanad X June), or the upcoming Leander (Lysander x Ianthe), have so much talent! I just can't believe how lucky I am that people actually pay me to ride such wonderful horses."

        The following Davenport success stories give an inkling of the potential these horses have to offer in the Dressage and in the show world in general.

        I first became interested in Dressage in the early '70s. We knew a young woman. Belinda Nairn (Boudin), who was just beginning to ride and show her horse in Dressage, and asked her if she wanted to work with our three-year-old Davenport stallion, Anchorage (Ibn Alamein x Alaska). As time went on we found that she had a world of natural talent. (Belinda was on the U.S. Olympic Dressage team in 1988.) In 1975, she started Anchorage and two years later made IAHA Top Ten in both 1st and 2nd Levels based on scores in open, all breed competition. (At that time the IAHA did not yet offer the classes at the Nationals, so the Top Tens were named on the basis of scores, earned in Arab or Open shows, which were submitted to them.)

        In 1978, before we sold him, Anchorage was doing very well in 3rd Level. He was never defeated by another Arabian and over half of his ribbons were blues, primarily against Thoroughbreds and Warmblood competition. In addition to being a Dressage horse, he was ridden for pleasure and on the trail by myself and our daughter. Anchorage is now owned by Keatha Senyohl of Washington, who has shown him to several wins in Open Dressage and in 1987 and 1988 to wins in Arabian Country English Pleasure, Show Hack, and Hunter Pleasure. Keatha is a professional trainer in Dressage, Hunter-Jumper, Western Pleasure, etc. and plans to start Anchorage in Harness this year at age 18!

        A number of years ago, a young Davenport stallion was sent to Alice Martin's stable to be sold after his owner had died. Mr. Bob Allen happened to stop by. He had always wanted to ride, and had heard that Alice gave lessons. He fell in love with Au Contraire (Dharanad x June), and bought him, though he hadn't even started his training. They would learn together! "AC", as the stallion is affectionately called, was left with Alice for training, and Bob started riding lessons. "AC" has a very powerful trot, and being green as grass himself, was an unlikely candidate for teaching someone over thirty to ride. After only a few months, Bob was taking lessons on AC, and within a year was showing him in Training Level, while Alice showed him in 1st level. Unfortunately AC suffered an injury at the 1988 Nationals where he was competing in 2nd Level. Bob has since advanced to 1st Level riding and is learning the 2nd Level movements, while AC was twice Champion 3rd Level horse in 1989, with average scores of 64%, and is well into 4th Level work. AC is also shown in PAS de Deux, or Dressage pairs, and has taken part in several of Alice's locally famous Quadrilles which are made up of eight grey Arabians, mostly Sir offspring, and in the ten horse Quadrille made up of nine Davenport stallions and one Davenport geldings.

                                                          Au Contraire (Dharanad X June) 1991 photo                                                                            ridden by Alice Martin

        Kathleen Dailey is the owner of StarSirGalahad, half-Davenport gelding by Sir, and shares training and showing honors with Alice Martin. At the Nationals in 1988, Galahad was Top Ten in 1st Level with Alice showing.

        Another Sir son, Star Sir Galadar is owned by Laura Cadagin who bought him as a very green Western Pleasure horse. She did his training and showing under Alice's tutelage. In 1988 he won the top award for the United States Dressage Federation Training Level All-Breeds competition. In 1989 he had fine scores in 1st Level in Open and All-Arabian shows.

        Judith Franklin from Michigan has trained and shown her two Davenport stallions to several wins with very good scores. Major General (Tripoli x Major Barbara), is showing in 1st and 2nd Level while the younger Chataqua (Monsoon x Verona), is in Training and 1st Level. Judith also uses both her stallions for trail riding.

        Dosia Mann not only bred her Davenport gelding, Kenz (Lysander x Rehadla), and raised him on a bottle, she has done all his training and showing, Kenz has been several times Champion at 2nd Level and has also done extremely well at 3rd Level with limited showing. In addition to the regular tests, Dressage offers the opportunity to perform freestyle tests which are set to music which are called Kurrs. Kenz certainly has musical talent. He will pick up the rhythm of any music and will alter his stride to match the music. It's as though he has a built in metronome and Dosia has done well in Kurrs with her gelding.

        According to the propaganda, Arabians are supposed to live long lives and stay sound and useful. I don't know about Arabs in general, but Davenports often prove to do so. I mentioned Sir as being still hail and hardy at 32. He won an English Pleasure class the last time he was shown, five years ago. I don't believe he was ever shown in Dressage, but his successful get and grandget make up for it. His brother, Janan Abinoam

began his Dressage career at the age of 18 and continued to show until colic surgery cut short his competitive career (but not his life) at 22. His owner, Joyce Hampshire often gave 3rd and 4th Level demonstra- tions with this fine old gentleman. Before starting his dressage career, "Binnie" was successfully shown in English Pleasure classes and was the sire of a number of part Davenport show winners on the East coast. Another Davenport stallion owned by Joyce is Hellas (Ibn Alamein x Ionia), the 1989 Massachusetts High Point Arabian in 2nd Level in Open shows and Hi Point Dressage horse at the Massachusetts All Arabian Show. Hellas was Reserve Championship in both Hunter (over fences) and Hunter Pleasure classes and has given a number of exhibitions in which he performs 1st Level tests, including serpentines across the arena and halts from the trot, without a bridle.

        Over the years Charles Craver has trained and successfully shown more than a score of his home-bred Davenports in English Pleasure and Park Horse classes. Although he still does his own training and rides as much as possible, his busy schedule rarely allows him to show now. One of his former EP Champions, Monsoon (Tripoli x Ceres), began his Dressage training with Alice at age 17. At the age of 21, he was Regional Champion in 3rd Level.

        North of the border, Frank Haneschlager of British Columbia, trains and shows his Davenport stallions in Dressage Driving, as well as Obstacle and Cross Country Driving competitions. Mariner (Prince Hal x Iras), Briganteen (Tripoli x Portia), and HB Aurelius (Briganteen x Octavia), as well as several half Davenport sons of Mariner, have all competed both as singles and in double harness. Briganteen and Mariner also took part in the triumphal march in the opera Aida last year, along with tigers, an elephant, and other assorted animals.

        Our daughter, Diane, has a Davenport gelding (Monsoon x Tara) which she has had since he was a yearling and she was seven. Except for his first two months under saddle, she did all his training, mostly on the trails with friends. She showed him in every class she could think of. She never had a competitive attitude about showing, but showed for fun. When she was 13, she entered the Arizona Dressage 1st Level Futurity. There were 16 entries, and while she was the only rider under 21, placed fourth, and was the only Arabian to get a ribbon. Years later, after a four-year layoff while in college, she showed him to a 1st, a 2nd, and a 3rd om 1st Level.

        Eighty-four years ago when Homer Davenport went to the desert to obtain Arabian horses, a horse with heart as well as agility would have been essential and a great asset to the Bedouins. Their very lives depended upon these horses! It's interesting that Davenport made a special effort to acquire only those animals which the Bedouins themselves would use for breeding, rather than those which might be for sale to anyone. Perhaps therin lies the explanation of why Davenports have heart. Today's living Davenport Arabians are the result of breedings made only within their own group since 1906.

        Davenports are superbly satisfactory show horses in Dressage or in any other equine activity, plus they have everything a Bedouin Arabian horse should have; pedigree, balanced conformation, type, temperament and heart!


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