The Backyard Breeders of Davenport Arabians

By Carol Lyons Copyright 1981 All Rights Reserved
The Arabian Horse Journal April 1981
Used by permission of Carol Lyons.

An Arabian horse! The term conjures up the picture of a noble, beautiful, and graceful animal in a Desert setting; it embodies a sense of history, mystery, and even awe. The would-be Arabian owner rushes out to buy the first available Arabian horse and loves him or her dearly, with an emotional attachment unequaled with any other breed. Yet the average person will own Arabians for less than ten years before selling out for one reason or another. During this period several widely differing types and bloodlines will vie with each other in the showring, and for popularity in sales and stud service. Few owners will be fortunate enough to own Arabian horses of a type that truely satisfies them, and which possess a pedigree which will allow a consistent continuance of that type.

Breeders of Davenport Arabian horses don’t concern themselves much with the changes in type brought about by the showring for they are fortunate to have found that the old ‘Desert’ type satisfies them, and they know that they can reproduce it consistently. They are not interested in “improving” on the type of horse that the Bedouin found so useful.

There is a recurring theme in the stories of most of the Davenport breeders as to how they first became interested in this line of Arabians. Most of them had Arabians of mixed ancestry before they got their Davenports, while the others were, at the very least, familiar with the various lines available to them, and they were dissatisfied with the widely fluctuating types among the near relatives of the horses they owned or admired in the shows.

Research in one form or another into the origins of the ancestors of these horses often included reading what Carl Raswan had to say about American foundation animals. At some point they were additionally influenced by the visual impact of individual Davenport Arabians.

These breeders wanted horses which would continue to reproduce their own type when bred to others of similar background. They wanted, in addition to pedigree, horses of sound “using” conformation with dispositions which would allow the owners to do all the daily handling and training on a strictly amateur basis. All wanted only a small breeding program. Other available Arabians might be prettier, or of more fashionable bloodlines, and many Arabians have athletic ability and wonderful dispositions but that wasn’t quite enough for the Davenport Arabian breeders.

The first of these small breeders, both in terms of time, and effort in securing certain bloodlines are Fred and Barbara Mimmack of Denver, Colorado. Dr. Mimmack had been to the Kellogg Ranch several times when he was just a young, but very inquisitive, boy of about 10. At that time he also read much of the controversial information in articles by Carl Raswan which were published in the Western Horseman, and he read the books by W.R. Brown, and Blunts.

This information, and his memory of those early Kellogg Ranch Arabians, was filed away until the early 1960’s when he was at last in a position to start a small, backyard breeding program. He visited local Arabian ranches and attended shows, but the horses of his childhood were nowhere to be seen. He returned to the books, and studied pedigrees, then made a trip to California where he visited Alice Payne and other long-time breeders. Mrs. Payne told him that he could, indeed, still find the horses of his childhood at Craver Farm in Illinois.

A visit to the Cravers confirmed this and Fred began a search for another foundation mare, of the Seqlawi Jedran strain. He eventually was able to locate and buy the straight Davenport mare MAEDAE (Ibn Hanad X Gamil), a half-sister to Craver’s ANTAN. Obviously it was not enough to have the mare if the only stallions available in the Denver area would change in some way the type of the foals she would produce by them, so he leased her to Charles to be bred to TRIPOLI and SIR. In the late 1960’s the Mimmacks were able to track down and buy the stallion KAMIL IBN SALAN (Salan X Schada) whose line of descent from *URFAH represented a valuable “out-cross” within the Davenport Seqlawi group. Two lovely daughters of KAMIL IBN SALAN are pictured with the Craver Farms article.

The Mimmacks are maintaining their backyard program with about six or eight horses, several of which are currently out on lease to the Gribbens family in Ohio. Fred’s memory of the Arabian horse of his boyhood, and his persistance in locating horses like them, enabled him not only to establish a fine, though small breeding program but to make a valuable and lasting contribution to the Davenport Arabians of future generations.

We (Jim and Carol Lyons) were living in Arizona and had a mare and stallion of non-Davenport lines. Although we liked these horses we felt there was something missing, and I managed to borrow the Raswan Index through the inter-library loan system. In 1965 we became the proud owners of PORTHOS (Aramis X Asara), a young Davenport stallion of great beauty and gentleness, mixed with a highly developed sense of mischief. We eventually got the mare THEA ISIS (El Alamein X Portia) through Charles Craver’s generousity and also her lovely LYSANDER daughter JAL ATHENA, as well as our Davenport gelding DON CAMILLO (Monsoon X Tara).

Rene Feuille of Prescott, Arizona had seen a picture of the stallion SIR(Tripoli X Dharebah), and was struck by his beauty and seemingly unique “desert” type. A few weeks later we met Rene and when he saw PORTHOS he immediately made up his mind as to the type of Arabians he wanted. Within a year he had LADY GREY, a full sister to SIR, to breed to PORTHOS (and eventually, ANCHORAGE).

The story of LADY GREY and Rene is typical of the bond which sometimes is established between a horse and its owner. LADY GREY was eight when he got her, and a year later he started her under saddle. The trainers and other horse owners where she was being boarded stood around to watch the circus which they were sure would follow this folly of attempting to ride a nine-year-old mare of considerable spirit. But LADY GREY moved off with a sure stride and the willingness so typical of the Davenports. I don’t believe she ever bucked.

Over the years she has been used on quite a few cattle roundups in the extremely rugged mountains of the Prescott National Forest. The mountains range from 3.000 to 8,000 feet in elevation. Day after day she’d work her heart out and come in with her tail flying, eagerly looking for more of those semi-wild cattle to bring in. The cowboys would shake their heads in amazement at this little, fine-boned mare that could out-cow and outwork any three quarter horses. (She was responsible for a number of Quarter horse mares being bred to PORTHOS!). When When LADY GREY was 13 or 14 Rene decided to train her to pull a buggy, a task accomplished in just one day, and one that she still enjoys in her 20th year.

The Curt Lindners of Clarkdale, Arizona, were also strongly influenced by PORTHOS and by our gelding. They were interested in endurance riding and wanted horses of obvious athletic ability, and cooperative dispositions, as well as beauty. They waited several years to get what they wanted and now have two young Davenport fillies of the Krush strain by PORTHOS, as well as a young Krush stallion of their own.

Jackson Hensley of Taos, New Mexico had several pure-in-the-strain breeding programs going when he discovered that within the Davenports there were some animals of the Krush sub-strain. This sub-strain is mentioned in early literature as being held in such high esteem by the Bedouins that even the wealth of Abbas Pasha of Egypt could not buy a pure-in-the-strain Krush mare. Using horses he either bought or leased from Craver Farms, he is the first person outside of Arabia to produce pure-in-the-strain Krush horses which are totally of Asil bloodlines. The tragic loss of TYBALT (Tripoli X Asara) left him without a Krush stallion so in 1975 we very reluctantly let him have our PORTHOS so he could continue his strain breeding. We do have a young Krush mare by PORTHOS, and in our hearts PORTHOS will always be ours. Jackson has continued his strain breeding programs with considerable success.

Ed and Hope Skinner of Little Rock, California, and George and Fran Dewey of San Miquel, California, have played a very important part in bringing the stallion DHARANTEZ into the overall Davenport breeding program.

Ed and Hope have had a long association with Arabians having acquired a Half-Arab FERSEYN daughter in 1948, and their first Arab mare in 1954. Over the years they did considerable pedigree research on the various horses they saw at shows. They had met Carl Raswan through Alice Payne, and they became good friends of the Max Pollocks who owned DHARANTEZ. Their friendship with the Pollocks resulted in their eventual meeting with Charles Craver and the acquisition of their first Davenports in 1968.

George Dewey first read about Davenports in the Raswan Index while researching the pedigrees of the Arabians he owned at that time. The idea of adhering to the Asil, classic types appealed to him and he wrote to Craver who suggested he contact the Skinners and Pollocks to see some of these horses in the flesh.

In 1971 the Deweys purchased the mare SILVIA (Sir X Tara) from Charles and worked out a lease agreement )and the eventual purchase) of the mare TYRANAH (Tybalt X Dharanah) The plan was to breed both mares to DHARANTEZ in order to obtain more of his blood. However, Mr. Pollock would only allow DHARANTEZ to be used on mares who would stand very quietly in hobbles, and TYRANAH at that time seemed to feel that hobbling was beneath her dignity and would have none of it. The decision was made to try to breed her to NAHAS (Kasar X Anlah) another old (24) stallion of straight Davenport lines but of the Hadban Inzihi strain.

Ed and Hope Skinner had seen this horse a number of years previously at a show. NAHAS was not there to be shown — he was babysitting a young filly at her first show! They didn’t know who he was but he had the biggest eyes they’d ever seen and wonderful balance and symmetry. When they got home they looked up his pedigree and filed away the information for future reference. As it turned out, TYRANAH produced the only straight Davenport foal (a filly) sired by NAHAS as he died before he could be used again. He carried lines to two of the imports which are very rare in the straight Davenports, namely *HADBA and *GOMUSSA.

TYRANAH eventually accepted hobbles and she had the only Davenport daughter of DHARANTEZ. His four other Davenport foals were all colts. The Deweys now have 10 Davenports, while the Skinners have six including the stallion SAID ABDULLAH (Prince Hal X Portia) plus a mare on lease from the Cravers. Neither the Deweys nor the Skinners have been interested in showing, but they enjoy riding their horses for pleasure on the trail. Ed and Hope ride their stallion, SAID ABDULLAH and their mare SUGAR PLUM (Aramis X Jessica) and both horses will pack deer out of the mountains.

The Skinners frequently are called upon by the Sheriff’s Posse to bring their horses and help search for people lost in the nearby mountains or desert. When asked what they liked best about these horses the Skinners replied, “they are uniformly good horses, some of them are magnificent. Some of them are pure in the related classic strains which to us is something special. To us they come the closest to the real thing as explained by Raswan.” The Deweys added, “We think it’s important that a few of us nostalgic nuts maintain a gene pool relating only to the true Bedouin horse.”

The Deweys have not had a stallion of their own but have used SAID ABDULLAH and IONIAN (Lysander X Ionia), owned by the Clifford Turks, since the deaths of NAHAS and DHARANTEZ. A picture of IBN DHARANTEZ out of the Deweys’ mare SILVIA appears with the article on Craver Farms.

Dr. Turk met the Deweys and Skinners through the all-Arab functions in California, and became interested in the idea of breeding Davenport horses. They, too, have about 10 horses including the mare ALEUTIA (Ibn Alamein X Alaska), who has been shown with considerable success by the Turks’ son Bill in both English pleasure and western classes at the Arabian shows in California. Incidentally, this is the mare which appears in the ads for ‘JON TU’ perfume.

The Turks did some experimental outcrossing by breeding some of their Davenport mares to stallions of straight Egyptian lines last year. These foals are due in 1981 and should make exceptionally nice show horses with the advantage of valuable bloodlines on both sides of the pedigree for future breeding stock.

The Frank Hannesschlagers of British Columbia, Canada, had Arabians of several popular bloodlines starting back in 1966. Their former stallion had an enviable show record including many many championships at halter. In spite of this the Hannesschlagers didn’t think he was of real breeding quality, primarily because of the inconsistency in his near relatives. Frank did a little research and reading, and finally wrote to Craver who sent him the first Davenport film. Here at last were horses of consistent type, horses which actually resembled the centuries-old paintings of Arabians in the desert.

Frank purchased the young stallion MARINER (Prince Hal X Iras). Shortly after that he sold all of his other Arabians and bought two young Davenport mares for MARINER. His only regret is that he has not had the time to do any showing, but he hopes to change that in two or three years. One of his mares, H B OCTAVIA (Ibn Alamein X Portia), was trained for riding when she was about seven and Frank says she is pure pleasure. MARINER has been trained under saddle and has also been trained to go in double harness with a “Blue Star” stallion owned by a neighbor, which says something for the disposition of both stallions.

Harriet and Horst Haenert of Scales Mound, Illinois, really didn’t consider any other bloodlines when they got their first Arabian stallion, GRAND PASS (Sir X Portia), in 1967. Harriet’s sister had two young Davenport mares, which she was breeding to Egyptian stallions, and the Haenerts had visited Craver Farms several times with her. They were impressed by the overall correct confromation of these horses. Since their primary interest was in creating Anglo-Arabs for competitive trail riding, and as pleasure horses, disposition was also of paramount importance.

GRAND PASS apparently suffered a broken bone in his pastern as a young horse and the Haenerts hesitated to push him for this type of activity where the ability to remain sound is so important. Nevertheless, in 1977 when he was 11 years old they found they needed another horse to campaign. He completed and placed well in six competitive trail rides that year, and ended the season in the upper Midwest Competitive Trail and Endurance Ride Association Top Ten with the points he garnered on those rides. In addition he completed two 50-mile endurance races in sound condition and good time.

In 1978 the Haenert’s daughter, Sue, rode an Anglo-Arab daughter of GRAND PASS to the half-Arab Top Ten in the International Arabian Horse Association Competitive Trail Ride. In 1980 another GRAND PASS daughter, BINT BELLE, was National Champion Half-Arab on the IAHA Competitive Trail ride ridden by Guy Worthington, who had leased her from the Haenerts. The mare had been under saddle for less than a year when she made her win.

During the summer of 1980 the Haenerts were able to purchase the 14-year-old Davenport mare LETARLAH (El Alamein X Trisarlah) from Harriet’s sister. This mare and her older full sister WADDARLAH, now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Grier of Lexington, North Carolina, are the only two Davenport females of the Hadban-Inzihi strain. WADDARLAH has produced several Davenport sons by OBERON (Tripoli X Dhalana) and these horses, together with BINT NAHAS, represent some very rare bloodlines. It is hoped that one of these two mares will soon produce a straight Davenport daughter to continue the strain name.

The Haenerts also have two lovely young fillies from the Cravers and have two young stallions from the Cravers which they are preparing for competitive trail and endurance riding.

Jim Phares of Whitehall, Illinois, had an Arabian stallion and one day back in 1971 he stopped by Craver Farms to see the horses. He was immediately impressed with their dry “deserty” look and arranged to buy the young colt ADRIAN (Prince Hal X Adriana), and the mare MAID MARIAN (Prince Hal X Jessica). Jim has enjoyed showing ADRIAN in English classes and in native costume, and ADRIAN has been a justifiably popular horse at stud. He is especially well noted for his lovely Seqlawi head. Jim now has several daughters of MAID MARIAN, and another young stallion, AMEENE (Dharanad X Ionia). Jim has started him under saddle and laughingly says, “I’ll show him in park classes if I can stay with this powerhouse.” He is indeed a “mover.” Jim wouldn’t trade his Davenport program for anything.

Grover and Kathy Smith of Rochester, Illinois, have OUR QUEST, a full sister to Jim’s stallion, and several of her foals including TRIPOLI’s last foal, BY REQUEST. The Smiths saw Charles showing TYBALT a number of years ago and decided on the spot that they wanted Arabians that looked like that to grace their backyard.

Mrs Richard Mann of Winchester, Illinois, has had a long association with the Davenport horses. For at least 16 years she’s been riding the mature Craver stallions two or three times a week as the only “non-family member” to help out in keeping the “gentlemen” excercised. She also has the exciting young stallion KINZ (Lysander X Rehaldla) to keep her busy.

The Andrew Loves of St. Louis have purchased quite a few Davenports in the past few years, planning to train and show them in hunter classes. They spent more than a year visiting the various large farms throughout the Midwest and West looking for horses which displayed uniformly good conformation, athletic ability and disposition to match. They plan to do some showing in the Arabian English Pleasure classes but don’t expect to place, as they will be showing in hunt attire. They also expect to show at halter. The Loves are delighted with their horses’ dispositions and easy acceptance of training.

Jim and Beverly Gribbens of Bloomingdale, Ohio, are another young couple who set out to establish a breeding program based entirely on horses of recorded Bedouin-bred descent. A visit to Craver Farms after an Al Khamsa meeting in St. Louis several years ago resulted in their purchase of the well-trained mare CONFECTION (Sir X Culpurnia) and in the eventual purchase of lease or additional horses from both the Cravers and the Mimmacks.

Dr. Jerry Embry of Knoxville, Tennessee, first became aware of the Davenports through Dr. Mimmack. In 1974 the Embrys purchased the full sisters NEBLINA and LUZ DEL SOL (Lysander X Miss America) and the stallion ODYSSEUS (Dharanad X Ceres).

Two years ago their son Jim, who was 12 at the time, decided to train NEBLINA and show her in the large pony hunter classes, i.e. 14:2 hands and under. Young Jim did all of her training herself and had to accept the frustrations of showing a green mare against the professionally trained and often expensively priced show ponies. His own obvious talent combined with the talent and willing Davenport disposition paid off in 1980. NEBLINA was named Large Pony Hunter Champion for 1980 from points accumulated in six shows.

This past October Jim and NEBLINA entered the two-day Pemrose Event which consisted of three phases of competition in the two days. They had a clean go of the stadium jumping and only one refusal on the timed cross-country jumping phase and they ended up placing eighth overall of the 26 junior riders. Young Jim knew almost nothing of the dressage phase of this test before he entered this show but I think it’s a safe assumption that he and NEBLINA will be prepared for the dressage section of their next two-day event.

Here I feel I have to mention our own gelding’s accomplishments with our daughter Diane. Diane was just about 12, and DON CAMILLO was a four-year-old with two months saddle training to his credit when she took over. No one else either rode or trained him after that point and together they won many nice ribbons in western pleasure, stock seat equitation, English pleasure, saddle seat equitation, hunter under saddle, trail horse, native costume, and western riding, in all-Arab and open shows. She rode him in parades and won a competitive trail ride, all in tough Arizona competition. DON was usually the only strictly “backyard” horse not the product of a professional trainer.

When Diane was just under 15 she entered DON in the Arizona First Level Dressage Futurity. Here she had the distinct advantage of being able to watch our Davenport stallion ANCHORAGE, who was by that time showing in second and third level work. DON placed fourth out of the 16 horses of all breeds which were entered and did it with the commendable score of 59. He was the only Arab to place, and Diane was the only rider under 21 to place. The judge was Hilda Gurney, the U.S.Olympic Bronze medal winner in dressage, and she was not inclined to give points away to Arabians at open shows.

Davenport horses with their balanced action and sensible dispositions seem to be natural for dressage. In 1974 we bought the stallion ANCHORAGE (Ibn Alamein X Alaska) specifically for showing in dressage. In two years of showing in 34 classes (all but two of them open to all breeds) ANCHORAGE son 21 blues and seven second places. He was never defeated by another Arabian. In 1977 he was IAHA top Ten in both first and second levels. His 1978 showing was cut short when we moved to Missouri and he was sold to the Ron Latvahos of Ephrata, Washington, for use in their blue list breeding program. We miss him, and hope to have a daughter of his someday to partially fill the void.

Deborah Hansen and her Davenport stallion HALTAN (Prince Hal X Cressida) placed in the IAHA Top Ten in Training level dressage in 1980. Like ANCHORAGE and DON CAMELLO, he has also won or placed very well in the open all-breed dressage shows. As yet, Debbie has no mares, but she likes her HALTAN so much that she has recently acquired two more straight Davenport sons of PRINCE HAL.

There are many other new and enthusiastic owners of Davenport horses, and their stories are much the same. The backyard breeders of Davenport Arabians enjoy their horses in much the same way as the hundreds of other small breeders throughout the country. The primary difference lies in the choice of bloodlines.

A pedigree tracing to a single importation does not, in itself, make a good horse, or a good Arabian, anymore than having a halter champion for a sire necessarily makes a good horse. But these Davenports are good horses when judged on conformation and the ability to do what ever is asked of them. The importance of the bloodlines is of value only within the following context: Do these horses still retain the attributes which the Bedouin himself either admired, or found essential for his own survival? To answer that we must know just what the Bedouin’s horse was like:

The mare was the important gender in the desert. She was intelligent, responsive, easy keeping, and perhaps most important, of trustworthy disposition. Like all creatures of the desert, she had a dry, clean, quality about her. She had thin, sensitive skin and a fine coat. She was fine-boned, her leg structure efficient, with well defined tendons, large joints. The war mare was not a heavy-boned or ground pounding horse. Her balanced conformation provided her with the ability to cover ground with a lengthy stride, and made her agile. Her close-coupled short back was strong, her shoulders were well angled, long and deep, her hip was long and smoothly muscled. Her gracefully elevated tail carriage completed the picture of the harmoniously flowing curve of her outline.

Her head was her hallmark, identifying her as an alert, durable product of the desert. she had active ears to catch all sounds, finely shaped nostrils capable of great expansion to literally “drink the wind,” widely spaced clean branches of the jaws to allow free flexion of the head without restricting the well developed tracheaor windpipe which led to equally well developed lungs.

The eyes were large and placed far apart to allow her to see to either side as well as straight ahead. The head admired by the Bedouins was not necessarily a short, dish-faced head, but it was a head which appeared short because the eyes were set so low; midway, or below the midpoint between the poll and the end of the nasal bones, a unique feature which allowed for greater cranial capacity and which the Bedouins believed gave her the intelligence for which she was noted.

While the horses of some strains, particularly the mares, did have the pronounced jibbah, or forehead, and/or a deep dish below the eyes, the profile was more often straight or only slightly concave. The illusion of a deep dish was created by the prominent, boney housing of the eyes, together with the way in which the nostrils were slanted, and flared above the nasal bones. If you look critically at the old paintings of Bedouin Arbians you will find this to be uniformly true.

Judged by these criteria, the Davenport Arabians still adhere to the original desert standard, even after 75 years of American breeding. There are many types within the Arabian breed today, and a few of these types are represented by consistent breeding groups. It is however, the strictly desert type which primarily appeals to the backyard breeders of Davenport Arabian horses.