By Alexia Ross (article and photos)
** Originally published in the January 1999 Stallion Issue of The Crabbet Influence in Arabians Today magazine.
Breeders have been sounding the death knell on Straight Crabbets since long before I started to take an interest. Nonetheless they are still with us and still contain amongst their numbers some outstanding horses. This is despite the fact that so many of their best have been outcrossed out of existence generations ago. It says much for the quality of the gene pool that the limited resources available to a breeder of Straight Crabbets today can still produce superb horses, and a small number of breeders are continuing the effort to preserve that heritage.
In just ten days during June of 1998, I visited four Arabian stud farms within a day’s drive of New England, ending exhausted but delighted by the standard of horses I had seen within what is a minority interest group in the USA in the extreme.
(pictured at top of page as the header/article photo is: RAS Bint Vanity (Silver Vanity x Blue Sal) 1977 grey mare owned by Rhodes Arabian Stud)
Rhodes Arabian Stud
Karen Rhodes runs the longest established Arabian stud farm in the USA that is devoted entirely to horses of 100% Crabbet breeding. She has seen other programmes come and go and is still here.
She started with the stallion Al Marah Ibn Oran (Oran x Radeyra) and still speaks of him with great fondness and enthusiasm. His daughter RAS Orana (from Blue Sal) is still at the stud although she was heavily in foal the day I was there and, in fact, foaled that night. Nonetheless she is clearly a correct mare with a good front who reminded me of some of the Ludo daughters one still sees amongst Crabbet broodmares in England. The other older mares were the Al Marah Ibn Oran granddaughter, Mi Royal T and RAS Orana’s half-sister RAS Bint Vanity by Silver Vanity. The latter is a grey with an exceptionally beautiful head which she seems to pass on to the majority of her stock.
Senior stallion today is the imported Silvern Magic (Silvadoris x Silver Ripple), bred by the Worth Stud in England, and most of the current youngsters are by him. This tall, stylish grey is closer in type to his sire Silvadoris, with the Oran and Indian Magic blood much in evidence, rather than his maternal grandsire, Silver Vanity. RAS Orana’s two year old chestnut filly by him, Oranastasia, is very promising with a super front, with yearling fillies out of Mi Royal T and RAS Bint Vanity (see article photo at top of page) also looking encouraging. Orana Rose (Silvern Magic x RAS Orana) is already breeding herself and has an interesting yearling colt by BL Majestic Gold (Silver Vanity x Al Marah Sola Mia) by the name of Crimson Gold, a flaxen maned chestnut by a bay stallion out of a grey mare – one of those gentle demonstrations of the tricks genetics can play on you.
Two daughters of the Indian Magic son, Indian Silver, remain at the stud. They are RAS Orana’s daughter, Oramira, and Dargee’s Magic (from Fire Opal), a mare with a double cross to the stallion Dargee. Dargee’s Magic had a surprisingly dainty colt at foot by Silvern Magic while Oramira was sporting a strapping grey son.
Karen is now talking of using the imported stallion Seffer (Prince Saraph x Sa’Lilah) and leasing the stallion RAS Crown Prince, a bay stallion by RAS Royal Bay (Al Marah Ibn Oran x Shaybet), in order to try and expand the bloodlines she has available and reintroduce the bay colour from RAS Royal Bay, which she no longer has at the stud at the moment. It is hoped that these projects bear fruit as it would be a great shame for the Crabbet gene pool to lose access to this extremely consistent family group.
Clipper Winds Farm
Helen and Mark Lewis’ stud nestles in the wooded green of Massachusetts, near Amherst, and is very much a family operation. The horses’ temperaments are attested by the fact that Helen’s mother is in charge much of the time while Helen is at work and everything runs like clockwork.
Helen has imported the Crabbet stallion Star Reflection (Indian Reflection x Sapphire Star) from England. He has inherited his sire’s superb self-carriage. A smooth, well made horse with good tail carriage, he moves with the balance and natural flexion at poll and loin that put one in mind of an advanced dressage horse. His first foals seem to be inheriting his smooth elegance and way of going. It is no wonder the Crabbet horse has always had a reputation as a performer.
Star Reflection has displaced Helen’s foundation stallion, now gelded, RAS Royal Magic (Silvern Magic x Royal Heiress). She has retained both a son and daughter but could not bear to part with ‘Pistol’ who is the family pet. His legacy is an exceptionally powerful loin and hind quarter, and this shows particularly in his son Promise of Gold (from Golden Sunfire by General Gold), a big grey three year old colt with quite outstanding body, limbs and movement. This young stallion’s yearling brother, Fire Reflection (by Star Reflection), is another one to watch for the future.
The third stallion at Clipper Winds Farm is another three year old. He is a bay Seffer son out of the RAS Royal Bay daughter, MC Bint Nizila. His maternal granddam was a Nizzam daughter and it is this type that has come through very strongly, giving a quite different look to one’s more usual conception of a Crabbet horse. The few Crabbet bay lines around are more often linked to Queen of Sheba rather than the Crabbet ‘N’ line, as here, and his dam’s similarities to old Crabbet photos of mares such as Nasra is quite striking. Revelle himself is a very showy, refined horse with a sweet nature and a froth of mane and tail. I would happily have packed him up in my suitcase and taken him home!
Helen’s mares were an interesting and varied group although tall athletic chestnuts seem to predominate. All, other than MC Bint Nizila, are imported or bred from recently imported bloodlines, with sires and grandsires familiar to English breeders such as Silver Vanity, Silvadoris, Majal, Manto and General Gold, plus an unusual granddaughter of Sengoran. Silver Noel GB by Rayyan (Silver Vanity) was probably the most elegant of the group with Golden Magic (Majal) taking the prize for powerful, ground covering movement.
This is an interesting programme at the early stages of its life. The homebred stock have been mostly colts so far with the young stallions showing considerable promise. Surplus stock are sold as performance riding horses in good Crabbet tradition but the breeding stallions are easily show quality for a European style show ring. It just goes to show that being unfashionable does not stop a horse being a good horse.
Meadow Ridge Farms
Sam and Carol Carabetta’s stud is quite a contrast to the family run comfort of Clipper Wind Farm. It is a big immaculate establishment with superb facilities that concentrates predominately on Polish bloodlines. Nonetheless the love and care is evident with happy, relaxed horses.
Meadow Ridge does have, however, two fascinating Crabbet mares. Grand Fast (AM Count Fast x Silver Grand) is an old lady with two crosses to both Grand Royal and Silver Gilt, dam of Silver Vanity. She is a deep bodied grey with an elegant front and a talent for producing top class foals. Late in life she was bred to the Nizzam son, Lewisfield Nizbit, and now shares her domain with her extremely pretty grey daughter, MRF Silver Lace, a successful show horse. The decision was then taken to continue to breed these two mares for replacement Crabbet foals.
Grand Fast herself is in her mid-twenties now and due to be retired, but both mares were bred in 1996 to Star Reflection, producing a colt and a filly. The chestnut yearling filly, out of MRF Silver Lace, is particularly striking. MRF Silver Charm is smooth, already deep, and with a spectacular trot which has her destined for a show career. The Carabettas are so pleased that her dam has been returned to Star Reflection for a 1999 foal.
As a preservation effort, the breeding of these two mares to Crabbet stallions is laudable in itself, but, in addition, they are very good quality mares indeed who have more than paper connections to Nizzam, Silver Gilt and Grand Royal to recommend them.
Robin Hinton’s farm is different again with an emphasis on performance that is quite refreshing. The horses here all get trained for dressage, show jumping and eventing before they start breeding foals. Three fit and trim straight Crabbet geldings out of illustrious mares, such as RAS Bint Vanity, were dozing in a paddock taking it easy between competitions.
Three straight Crabbet stallions rub shoulders with a variety of Arab and part Arab performance horses. Regius is a grey three year old by RAS Royal Bay from RAS Bint Vanity who has not yet started on his performance career. He inherits his dam’s outstanding head. Next time someone tells you Crabbets are plain, take them to see this horse!
The other two stallions are older but new arrivals, bred in England, who are being ridden but not competed just yet. They are the grey stallion Storm Silver (Silver Scimitar x Golden Fantasy) and Silver Senator, a dark chestnut by Silvadoris from Senfleur, a Sengoran daughter. Storm Silver is an extremely sweet natured horse with a strong look of his sire and Bright Shadow about him. Silver Senator, on the other hand, is a substantial, athletic horse with a very calm outlook on life.
The only straight Crabbet mare on the place is a half-sister to both the older stallions. She is a very tall, long necked grey called Silver Gold (Silvadoris x Golden Fantasy). Her spectacular filly foal was only 99% Crabbet! This enchanting filly was sired by Robin’s remaining stallion, a son of RAS Royal Magic out of an unusual Electric Storm mare, Stormygal, who carried one Old English line that was not Crabbet. The sire, Bodacious Storm, is a striking dapple grey with a good front and hindquarter and a strong cadenced trot that my American friends tell me is natural Park action. His body type and colour put one rather in mind of Raktha.
Background and Omissions
There is an impressive concentration of America’s remaining 100% Crabbet horses in the North East but, of course, not all are conveniently located in the area.
Sadly the Silver Vanity son, BL Majestic Gold, passed on before I could get to him and California was just too far to go to see Seffer, who I have not seen since he was a yearling. I remember him as a spectacularly stylish horse with considerable refinement and outstanding movement and live in hope of visiting him another time. His full brother Sa’Ika and half-brother Seyad (by Silver Scimitar) were also scattered too far as was a fascinating remnant of Electric Storm blood in straight Crabbet form up in Canada. They will all have to wait for another time.
A striking feature of the whole tour was the feeling of history and continuity. All the studs were reliant on other breeders efforts for their own foundations and sometimes, as with the Carabetta’s, a single breeder can make a massive difference to the survival of a bloodline in straight Crabbet form even though they do not breed huge numbers within this particular group. For a minority group such as straight Crabbets, every breeding can make a difference.
One contributor who deserves mention at this point is Caroline MacKenzie, whose Flying M Ranch bred Crabbet Arabians for just a few short years. An English woman who bred Crabbets in England and then imported the young stock to her ranch in New Mexico, her first homebred foals arrived in 1985 and the last in 1990. She died too young to pursue her dream for long, but Helen Lewis has four mares that she bred and two colts from another that Caroline bought and imported. She also bred Storm Silver, Silver Senator and Silver Gold at Windswept Farms. At this stage in the history of Crabbet these numbers are quite significant and make available a whole series of bloodlines that are not available in Straight Crabbet form in North America through any other stock. The British National Champion stallions Majal and General Gold, and the bay Oran son Sengoran, are just some of the bloodlines in question.
It is a shame that in the past it has been fashionable to consider Straight Crabbets as good enough to breed to other bloodlines but not to each other. Many superb horses have been lost to this group in this way including horses well known to CMK enthusiasts such as Gulastra, Ferseyn and even Lewisfield Sun God. Many tantalizing ‘might have beens’ exist with horses such as the Ferseyn son Regis (from Farnasa by Nasik) still breeding into the early ’80s but never being sent a Straight Crabbet mare.
The good news is that there are a small number of breeders in America who are still trying to preserve a resource of Straight Crabbet Arabians and are doing so with some very nice horses. Standards vary, as in any bloodline group, with some plain heads and rough couplings in evidence but good temperament and athleticism is pretty standard with more than enough exotic heads and smooth bodies to offer a positive future. On the whole, limbs, length of shoulder and movement are better than the norm that is accepted in the show ring these days with long ground covering strides on offer instead of the stylized, but not particularly functional, high knee action which is becoming fashionable now in Europe.
I thoroughly enjoyed my mini Crabbet tour and left for England feeling encouraged that the Crabbet Arabian still has a future in North America in its most concentrated form. I saw some outstanding horses that anyone would be proud to own and much evidence of the characteristics of style, movement and rideability for which these classic bloodlines have always been known.
From Anne Brown of Gadebrook Stud, Summer 1998.
Some good news from the other side of the Atlantic! At just four and 15.1hh, my bay straight Crabbet stallion HACHIM has passed the British National Stallion Association’s stiff Performance Test, and is the youngest Arab ever to win the Arab Horse Society’s coveted Premium. Our president, Christina Roebuck, was one of the judges. Another judge was Jenny Lauriston-Clark, the Olympic medalist and world-class dressage champion.
It was a grueling two days, involving: a dressage test, after which Hachim was ridden and jumped by the judge (the first time anyone else had ever been on his back!); an in-hand conformation and movement exam by three Arab judges; rider-less loose schooling; then a complex 36″ show jump course of doubles and trebles; a two-mile cross country course; and a final tough vetting.
Just as well his owner’s heart wasn’t checked – I’d never have passed! All credit to his trainer Paul Nunn who had only three months to back him, get him fit, and teach him dressage, jumping and loose schooling. Credit also goes to Jackie Pringle, his groom.
Also congratulations to Sheri Stewart of Vancouver, Canada, who owns Hachim’s 10-year-old 16hh grey brother MAGIC DOMINO (straight Crabbet and also bred here at Gadebrook Stud). Last year, Magic Domino was the first Arab ever to become the Canadian National Sport Horse Champion.
After giving me four filly foals, Hachim will stand at public stud for the first time in 1999 to the best six mares. The owners will all receive monetary premium from the Arab Horse Society on registration of the resulting foals.
Last Updated: September 18th, 2019
** All of the articles included in the re-launched Crabbet.com site from the original website, Georgia Cheer, Silver Monarch publishing, and The Crabbet Influence magazine are shared here with permission of Georgia Cheer given May 16, 2012. **
**All of the articles included in the re-launched Crabbet.com site from the original website, Georgia Cheer, Silver Monarch Publishing and The Crabbet Influence magazine are shared here with permission of Georgia Cheer given May 16, 2012.**