Sugar Hill Farm: The Clown Prince

by Shirley E. Cunningham
Sugar Hill Farm
Rt 2 Box 1920
Ashville, Alabama, 35953

all right reserved
used by permission of Shirley E. Cunningham
Arabian Visions May 1972

It was a lovely winter morning in November, 1982 when Regina Booth’s trailer pulled into our yard, bringing Fiddlesticks, a five-year-old Davenport stallion, to his new home. The story of our acquisition of Fiddlesticks had begun years before in 1977, when my husband Russell, and I had visited Craver Farms to choose a colt who would ultimately be bred to our blended-source Al Khamsa mares, to produce a pure-in-the-strain Saqlawi foal with both sides of the pedigree tracing to *Urfah of the original Davenport importation. Our goal, to breed our blended source Saqlawi mares and ultimately add a Davenport mare to produce straight Davenports of the Saqlawi stain.

Because of our admiration for Tripoli, we chose a bright chestnut colt we named Vesuveus. His sire was Tripoli, and his dam, Verona, and on the map, Vesuveus is halfway between! Red, as a weanling, grew to maturity, was trained to ride, and sired two lovely fillies. We were just becoming completely comfortable with each other when an accident took his life. In addition to the emotional loss, this was a severe set-back to our breeding program. At the time there were very few Al Khamsa stallions in our area and none of the proper Davenport strain.

A search began for another stallion for Sugar Hill, with letters and phone calls to breeders across the country. The two excellent fillies by Vesusveus, made us consider another Davenport. In addition, we had bred our mare Dahriefa, by Dahrecho, to the Sirecho son, Joramir, to produce Dahmira and Sugar Hill Sassy, and were extremely pleased with those results. So a stallion with heavy Sirecho breeding to concentrate that line might also be a choice. We traveled widely in the summer of 1982 and ultimately chose the Sirecho-bred colt. Abay-Hami, as our new stallion. However, we were unable to forget the very attractive liver chestnut Fiddlesticks, then at home at the Cravers. He was so handsome, so vital, so very much a Tripoli son. Two stallions to replace one? Well, why not? And so Fiddlesticks came to Sugar Hill.

But if Fiddle was ready for Sugar Hill, we were soon to learn that Sugar Hill was not quite ready for him! Abay-Hami was occupying our one stallion stall. We were ready to begin construction of a new barn, but rains had put that project on hold. We had fixed a place for Fiddle in a shed which had a small turn-out area. Regina said he had been a perfect gentleman on the trip down and he remained so until the mares were turned out into the adjacent pasture several days later. He suddenly began to spend a lot of time on his hind legs. To see if this had been a previous characteristic Russell phoned Charles Craver. “Charles, have you seen many horses with their noses and two front feet on top of a 7-foot wall?” Charles allowed as how he had not, but he didn’t think he would climb out. We remained unconvinced.

Even if we managed to contain him we were fearful that he would topple over backwards and injure himself. The awesomeness of the whole situation led us to quickly make arrangements with a young man who was training Dahmira to bring her home and send Fiddlesticks in her place. That would allow us time to build our barn with proper accomendations for this lively fellow.

A fact of life in a large public training barn is that stallions are not allowed to vocalize their desires in a loud and raucous manner. Never a shrinking violet, this was perhaps a harder lesson for Fiddle to learn than carrying a rider. On one visit, we were standing with Fiddle and his groom when a particularly fetching mare came by, Fiddle gave a very sexy, low, throaty nicker. The groom said, “He doesn’t holler any more, but he still whispers.”

Our barn was ultimately finished and Fiddle came home to begin his breeding career. We didn’t know quite what to expect. As is his custom with young stallions before sending them to new homes, Charles Craver had exposed Fiddle to a mare in heat. Fiddle responded with his usual enthusiasm. Mounting frm the side, he proceeded to somersault completely over the mare, landing on his back. Fortunately, we had no more such gymnastics and Fiddle proved to be an excellent breeding horse and sire. He has to date bred four mnares, siring four lovely fillies.

Many horses teach their owners more than the owners teach them. Fiddle was no exception providing us with the lesson of importance of personality and disposition in a breeding program. His first foal was not only a beautiful, affectionate, sensible mare who really likes people better than other horses. We are coming to believe that these characteristics should assume at least equal importance with the more tradtional features we all strive for.

Lest this profile begin to sound like one of those holiday newsletters where life is lived in a silver-lined cloud, our experience with Fiddlesticks has had its serious side. but even there he had to be different. Our daughter Beth Brown, is Fiddle’s very special friend and has been riding him over the years. In the spring of 1986, she began to feel that he was having back problems. More serious symptoms began to appear, but a veterinary consultation and laboratory tests yielded no definitive answer until he went down attempting to pass a bladder stone. This was removed surgically, and he seemed to recover well until he began a program of exercise, when the same symptoms reappeared. This time we knew what we were looking for. The veterinarian found an additional stone in his bladder. Probably a portion of the original stone, for it was too soon for another to have developed. This was successfully removed in a laparontomy, and so far he has been symptom free. Our veterinarian, an experienced and excellent equine practitioner, had seen only one other case of bladder stone in our part of the country, where they were extremely rare. No ordinary medical problem for Fiddle!

What makes Fiddlesticks so special? I don’t really know, but he is. I know many Arabian horses are friendly, but how many of them lick you on the face to say hello? Many are the kittens I have taken from his stall, very damp from his gentle care. I know many Arabian horses are beautiful, but how many have a fine coat of chestnut color so deep it takes on a purple sheen, with a strawberry blonde mane and a tail which touches the ground. I know many Arabian horses move beautifully, but to see Fiddlesticks at liberty is to make all the hours of less than pleasant barn tasks worthwhile. I know many Arabians are special, but there is special ant then the is SPECIAL. Fiddlesticks is SPECIAL!!! The combination of his buffoonery together with his vitality, macho behavior, affectionate disposition, beautiful color, regal bearing, and overall charisma have earned him the title of the Clown Prince of Sugar Hill.

But let me show you. Come with me to the barn. A new pony mare has arrived at the farm for our granddaughter. She is a stunning brunette with four white socks and Fiddle is very interested. Not being the tallest fellow in the world, he has moved his feed tub in front of his paddock door, turned it over, and is standing on it with his front feet, looking out. He calls to the pony. I ask him what he thinks he is doing, “The better to see her, my dear.” he answers.