Ben Rabba, photo provided by Jewell Cantrell.

Cantrell Arabs and the ‘Ben Rabba Collection’

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A Significant Contribution to Crabbet American Bloodlines

By Pamela Biery

** Originally published in the January 1999 Stallion Issue of The Crabbet Influence in Arabians Today magazine.

Many years ago, between appointments and errands, I went by Cantrell Arabians hoping to see the latest foal crop. Standing by the fence with Jewell Cantrell chatting about this and that, I suddenly felt a chill. We were surveying some fifteen to twenty Ben Rabba daughters, granddaughters and old-line Crabbet mares. I looked again at the pasture dotted with exquisite mares and back to Jewell, shaking my head. I was astounded not only by the beauty of the scene, but by the potential impact of the ‘Ben Rabba Collection’ on Crabbet breeding. (Ben Rabba is pictured at the top of page as the article/header photo, photo from Jewell Cantrell’s collection)

Cantrell Arabians today has only four Ben Rabba daughters, the others scattered like pollen on the wind to breeders and amateur owners throughout the world. Again, I am compelled to pause and consider, “What if Jewell had not found Ben Rabba?”

The Carmel Valley breeders tended to keep it to themselves, so it was just a fluke that in 1966, Ed Hubbert brought his two year old Arabian stallion to show in Stockton, California. Even then, Jewell was taken by the presence of Ben Rabba, and made bold to ask Ed if he realized how much of a horse he had at the end of the lead shank.

A few years later, a show in Watsonville included a Legion of Merit presentation honoring the famous stallion, Aurab. During this ceremony, something happened that firmly cemented Ben Rabba to Cantrell Arabians future breeding plans. As part of the ceremony, Aurab sons were brought out with their broodmares and foals. Ed Hubbert was proud of his horse and has bred Ben Rabba to virtually any mare that he encountered in those early years, so the mares were a pretty unseemly, mixed lot. But the foals! Each foal was as gorgeous as a gazelle, with swishy heads, long necks and strong hips. Jewell remembers, “They were just breathtaking! Each one more beautiful than the one before it.” Many were the brilliant chestnut so closely associated with Crabbet lines. A look at these mares, Ben Rabba and the foal crop, gave Jewell Cantrell all the information she needed. The next spring Cantrell Arabians began the breeding program with Ben Rabba which still continues today through his sons and grandsons.

Top Ten US Nationals Western Pleasure AOTR double Ben Rabba mare La Contezza (Robby x Ohadi Antezza) with Susan Gillen, DVM, aboard.
Top Ten US Nationals Western Pleasure AOTR double Ben Rabba mare La Contezza (Robby x Ohadi Antezza) with Susan Gillen, DVM, aboard.

Cantrell Arabians first foal sired by Ben Rabba was Pazzaz out of their Crabbet mare Safie. A show and pleasure gelding, Pazzaz achieved Legion of Merit standing in only four shows. Many outstanding champions were to follow, culminating with the 1997 US Nationals Top Ten win of La Contezza (Robby x Ohadi Antezza), ridden by Jewell’s dear friend, Susan Gillen, DVM.

Jewell Cantrell has been breeding horses for 55 years now, 43 of these years dedicated exclusively to the Arabian horse. It has been 28 years since the tall, willowy stallion Ben Rabba became an integral part of the Cantrell Arabians breeding plan. This year 1998 at the Region III Championships, she was presented with the Heritage Breeders Award in recognition for her thirty plus years as Arabian horse breeder. She was represented at the ceremony by Viva La Ribba (Ben Rabba x Serena), who went Top Five at the Chamionships in five different classes with on Championship and two Reserve Championships. When Jewell was asked what she had done right over the years, she responded simply, “I fell in love with the Arabian horse, and in particular Ben Rabba. It was love at first sight and the rest is history.”

History indeed. In the glamour of the show-ring moment, it is easy to think this is what breeding horses is all about. But anyone who has spent time on a ranch knows there is a measure of pain in the process. These moments in the sun are the fleeting reward for sustaining hard work, sorrow and real loss. How many at the US Nationals last year could know that Susan Gillen, who rode La Contezza to her Top Ten placement, would lose her dearest horse, the champion mare Rabbiana (Ben Rabba x Serena) in the spring? When we consider the measure of joy of the many fine foals born, we must also factor in the grief of saying good-bye to a friend like Ben Rabba, who now rests under a fine shade tree looking out to the mare pasture at Cantrell Arabians.

Cantrell Arabians is located in Gridley, California, on the ranch which has been in the family for over 100 years. It is here Jewell first learned to ride and by grade school had as a constant companion, her half-Arabian pinto mare, Snowball. Trained by a previous owner as a circus horse, Snowball was a regular at school pageants and parades. Jewell rode Snowball to school and the school trustees built a special tie-out for her next to the bike rack. Snowball and her young rider were part and parcel of life in this rural farming community. Perhaps it is Snowball, and her usefulness, that has kept Cantrell Arabians moving toward a horse that is not only refined like portraits by Frederick Herring of the desert horse, but a real pleasure to live with, ride and use. Today, after persevering for 43 years breeding Arabian horses, Jewell Cantrell advises simply, “Breed horses that you would like to live with and ride yourself.”

Ben Rabba, photo provided by Jewell Cantrell.

Cantrell Arabians has shown that the Crabbet horse excels in conformation, performance and character. This is clearly demonstrated by the many champions which so amply represent Ben Rabba and the Aurab line in virtually all competitive classes. Currently standing at stud are Robby (Ben Rabba x Ohadi Abbie) and Ohadi Indian Fire (Ohadi Ben Rabba x Ohadi Abbie). Breeding close pedigrees for over ten years, Jewell finds consistent traits becoming stronger from generation to generation.

This spring (1998), four fine foals were born at the ranch. Three foals have multiple Ben Rabba lineage in their pedigree. “I see refined characteristics showing up even more strongly than in the sons or daughters. To me, these horses are preserving fine, athletic Crabbet pleasure horses,” states Jewell. When asked about other breeding plans, Jewell mentions her double Ferzon mare, Blue Rose. Her foal this year by Cantrell sire Ohadi Indian Fire, brings this important line back into the pedigree. This very successful out cross produced a gorgeous colt, selected by Epic Arabians of Idaho. Epic is looking forward to crossing this young stallion with their lovely band of Freshen and Abu Farwa bred mares. Cantrell Arabians shares in their excitement over this plan, “We wish them much success in their program.”

Significant Cantrell Arabian foundation mares include: Oo La La (Ben Rabba x Love), Hadji Mama (Ben Rabba x Tamarlane), Dazzle Me (Ben Rabba x Kashmir) and Hadji Mia (Ben Rabba x Tamarlane) and the dam of many award winning foals, Shimmering Flame (Druska x Wai-Shahira).

As I stand admiring the new, fancy foals from 1998 at Cantrell Arabians, I ask myself again, “What if Jewell Cantrell had not found Ben Rabba?” While we cannot know the answer to this question, those interested in preserving the Crabbet Arabian horses can share my feeling of thankfulness that she did. Note: Cantrell Arabians can be found online at and on Facebook at and on Twitter at

Jewell Cantrell is still running Cantrell Arabians and they are standing the 2008 Ohadi Indian Fire (Ohadi Ben Rabba x Ohadi Abbie) son out of Dazzle Me (Ben Rabba x Kashmir), Honkytonnk Cowboy.

Last Updated: September 16th, 2019

** All of the articles included in the re-launched 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 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.**

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