Australian Crabbet Convention - Werribee Park 2016

A personal perspective from the Presiding Judge, Virginia Dean

Whilst judging at the Miniature Horse Nationals in Tamworth 2015,  I  was approached to be the presiding judge for the Australian Crabbet Convention Championship Show and guest speaker the following day. What a wonderful honour!  Held at the huge equestrian facility at Werribee, just out of Melbourne, the Convention took place over the 29th and 30th October 2016 with stud tours to follow.  I was thrilled at the invitation to be involved with this prestigious international event.  In the meantime,  on 16 April last year, I had a rather unfortunate riding accident and ended up in hospital for 8 weeks with 4 broken vertebrae, a pelvis smashed into several pieces, broken ribs and internal injuries…  but I wasn’t going to let a little thing like that stop me from judging at the Crabbet Convention!  It made a great incentive to get myself up and walking again (minus frame and crutches – not a good look in the ring…)  At least my lengthy recovery at home made a good opportunity for researching and preparing my talk.

A Crabbet Convention is held every few years around the world  and breeders, riders and enthusiasts all look forward to the opportunity of meeting with like-minded souls, viewing horses, discussing pedigrees, sharing information, the show, the family parades, the guest speakers, and the stud visits afterwards. 

I arrived in Melbourne just after lunch on the Friday and after a battle with my mobile phone and supposed roaming package, (I think it had roamed off on its own…) resorted to a public telephone(!) to arrange transfer to my lovely apartment. That evening was the Cocktail Meet and Greet so I had to content  myself with sitting in a corner and  not mingling, other than to talk with a few overseas people who were not showing the following day. Sometimes it is very frustrating being a judge!  

Saturday

Saturday the 29th, was The Crabbet Arabian Championship Show,  well supported classes with competitors and horses from all over Australia including a whole contingent from Tasmania.  Sadly some horses were unable to make it on the day as recent adverse weather and road closures had made travel impossible. The large indoor arena was festooned with bunting and flags and all sorts of stands with books and equi-nalia to tempt us. Waiting for the first horses of the day to enter the arena  was exciting,  the atmosphere was tense and expectant from the crowd of seated onlookers.  I was fortunate to have the very capable and friendly Kath Johnston, from the Kasdell Stud in Tasmania as my steward.   I was judging the pure Crabbet horses and  Australian judge, Gudrun Martini, was in Ring 2 judging the Crabbet-related horses – which in this instance, were 50% and over Crabbet blood.  (To work out your horse’s Crabbet percentage, there are many websites offering the Crabbet percentages of hundreds of horses – locate the nearest ones in your horse’s pedigree, add sire % and dam% and divide by 2 to get your answer.)

The first classes up were for youngstock and some very typey young horses beautifully shown, set the standard for the day. (It was great to be presented with the catalogue afterwards to see who I had placed and where.)

Arfaja Baylian (Mill Park Blaidd x Pevensey Baybe)

Grand Champion Youngstaock was taken out by a very smooth bodied and great moving bay colt, Arfaja Baylian (Mill Park Blaidd x Pevensey Baybe), owned by Leisa Stanford. (We are fortunate to have the Pevensey Baybe bloodline in NZ with pure Crabbet Pevensey Regent standing at Karan Lawrence’s stud.)

Binley Prince Iqbal (Prince Sadiq x Ismala)

Photo Credit: Louise Raymond

Moving into the intermediate section, it was well represented with such well known stud names as Inshallah, Shahwan Park, Monarch Lodge, Arfaja, Pevensey, Ebjarah, Kendra Park and Fenwick studs competing.  It was a pleasure to inspect these beautiful horses, all with enormous eyes, great type and substance, fantastic legs and feet, and oh! the movement. I was truly spoilt for choice.  I eventually awarded Grand Champion Intermediate to UK import Binley Prince Iqbal (Prince Sadiq x Ismala), bred at the Binley Stud by Caroline Sussex (daughter of Rosemary Archer)and now proudly owned by Jennifer Hawkins of Shahwan Park Arabians. (Sean Trafford has recently imported several horses from Shahwan Park for his Supre Arabian Stud.)  It was very hard to choose a grand champion for that section, they were all magnificent animals on show, the mares were gorgeous and feminine and all so nicely presented in natural stance by sympathetic handlers.  It was great to have the stallion classes well supported and I could happily have come home with any of them. 

The senior classes followed, also providing great choice with quality Arabians forward.  I chose Portia Benay (Sarafire x Santarabia Porfira)  a chestnut mare, as my Grand Champion Senior, bred by Leon Bennett and Rob and Yvonne Day, and owned and shown by Bridie White. (Leon Bennett is now resident in NZ.)

Portia Benay (Sarafire x Santarabia Porfira)

Photo Credit: Nicole Emmanuel

Then the suspense really came on as all my Grand Champions paraded for the Supreme Pure Crabbet Exhibit.  Well, I don’t know about the competitors and spectators but I even kept myself in suspense, walking up and down the line, deliberating long and hard about which magnificent Arabian to choose as Supreme.  Several people afterwards commented to me that they were glad I had to make the decision and not them!  Any one of the line up would have made an excellent Supreme but in the end, I chose … Portia Benay, who I felt was the very ‘essence’ of Crabbet in her type, her wonderful conformation, her attitude, her movement and her serenity.  Her win went down well with everyone, the crowd roared and clapped and a tearful and proud Bridie White ran forward with her precious mare to take the sash and garland, and accept the Paula Markey artwork and a rug donated by Aldersyde Arabians.  What an achievement for a wonderful mare who I later discovered was 20 years old.   I later felt wholly justified and thrilled in awarding her the Supreme as she  came out under saddle, and in harness, totally proving her versatility and temperament. 

After a break, I had all the ridden classes to judge, firstly the Crabbet Related exhibits , followed by the pure Crabbet horses under saddle.  The very professionally presented and worked Chase KA (Crave FF x Vaya) was my Grand Champion Crabbet Related winner, a young horse with a huge future and proudly ridden by his owner, Eloise Lando.  Impressive workouts in the pure Crabbet section resulted in Inshallah Mygirl (Inshallah Silver Guardian x Inshallah Golden Image) being Grand Champion and eventual Supreme Exhibit under Saddle.  She was owned and ridden by Judy Fry and had fabulous movement. (Inshallah Mygirl’s pedigree shares many lines with those of Louise Raymond’s imported mare, Inshallah Indiana  - who is also dam of Struan Duncan’s imported stallion, Inshallah Colorado).  These classes were followed by Bridle Path Hack and Show Hunter.

Inshallah Mygirl (Inshallah Silver Guardian x Inshallah Golden Image) 

Photo Credit: Louise Raymond

There followed the Family Group displays, led in by the flag bearers, one of which was Portia Benay.  It was interesting to observe the horses in their family groups and see the traits and characteristics apparent in the type.  Yvonne Downes narrated the parade, detailing  the breeding and accomplishments of the horses.

The evening classes – Harness, Western Pleasure, Costume  and Liberty were judged by Gudrun while we enjoyed a 3-course dinner. It had been a great Show and I was absolutely thrilled at the quality.  Overall my lasting impression was that of superb movement, huge eyes and excellent legs with bone, true Arabians who could go all day and be your best friend as well.

Sunday

Sunday was the Convention Day with a cross-section of guest speakers.  First on was Caroline Sussex who spoke on her memories of Crabbet Stud.  She grew up at the Worth Stud which borders Crabbet Park and her mother, Rosemary Archer, will be a name known to most of you.  Caroline also brought us up to date on the activities and achievements of the Crabbet Arabians in the UK with a grand selection of photographs.  I was next on with my talk on the history of the Crabbet Arabian in New Zealand and in particular, some of the interesting people who made those initial importations.  I had put together a power point presentation of over 60 historical photographs to illustrate my hour long talk and I didn’t see anyone nodding off so it must have been well received.  I certainly had some lovely feedback and several requests for transcripts afterwards.  Brendan Milburn and Virginia Dodson gave an interesting talk on Crabbet Arabians in the racing scene which is popular in Australia.  Sean Johnson of Kendra Park gave a well researched talk on the various Crabbet families and much of his work appeared in the Convention booklet which we all received in our goodie bags and will no doubt be appreciated for years to come as a valuable research tool.*  The day culminated with a talk by a vet who discussed some of the genetic issues facing horses today.

Then it was time to get dressed up for the evening meal.  It was great affair, finally being able to mingle and get to know people from all over the world.  It was my pleasure to meet Natalie and Mark Tindall from England and hear about the great website they have instituted – www.crabbet-heritage.com.  If you want to know anything about Crabbet horses, have a look – it is full of wonderful stories and information.  American visitors Kim and Mark Thomason, owners of the beautiful Magic Domino, had kindly donated two lovely trophies on the show day and a number of spot prizes for the evening meal.  Mark made an entertaining emcee for the evening and there was great hilarity throughout the night.  Australian Rob Scott had brought along some fabulous photo albums of Crabbet horses from the early days – what excitement looking through those – never  before seen images of horses in my own horses’ pedigrees. A real treat.  It was a fun night, good to catch up with the likes of Brother Peter McIntosh and members of the Crabbet Committee, meet up with competitors and answer questions.  A real Crabbet-fest!

Next day people were excited to be setting off on the stud tour.  As for myself, I was heading back to NSW  with dear friends Astra Temple and her husband Randall.  We drove back to their property Star Park, via back roads, our first overnight at a fantastic vineyard at Yea, then stopping at historical towns such as Yass, Holbrook and GlenRowan where infamous outlaw Ned Kelly met his end. All in all it was a fantastic convention, positive reinforcement of our love for the Crabbet Arabian; fellow breeders all aiming to preserve these valuable undiluted lines.  My thanks to the organising Committee, competitors and spectators for making a great Convention to be long remembered.    

I look forward to the next convention, wherever it may be held and would like to think that one day we will have enough pure Crabbet horses here to hold a convention in New Zealand.  Certainly there is an upsurge in interest in Crabbet lines of late which is inspiring and encouraging.  For those interested in finding out more about the Crabbet lines in our country,  Sean Trafford (Supre Arabians), Struan Duncan (Makahiwi Stud), Louise Raymond (Ranzau Arabians), Lynn Marshall (Aurora Stud), and Karan Lawrence (Lawrence Arabians), all have pure Crabbet breeding horses. We are fortunate to have this nucleus within New Zealand and I am sure our faith in these lines are going to be well rewarded.

                                                                                               

Virginia Dean

*Sean Johnsons family profiles are being added to www.crabbet-heritage.com