ILLIAD … Tribute to a Special Davenport Stallion

Illiad: 1975 – 1991

By Amber Finnigan
El Khala Arabians
Knoxville, Maryland
Arabian Visions May 1991

Although he was only with us for a very short time, none of us at El Khala Arabians will ever forget Illiad (Ibn Alamein x Oriole). He came here on lease from Jim Gribben in May, 1990. His reputation for being in Jim’s words, a “Breeder’s Dream Stallion,” preceded him and he certainly lived up to his reputation. In fact Lad, as he was affectionately called, would have been anyone’s “Dream Horse.”

IlliadNeither my husband Dave nor I had met Lad before he came to live with us. We had seen pictures of him and thought he was very handsome. However, the muscular, glistening bay Davenport stallion that pranced off the trailer trumpeting his arrival to our other horses that day in May, was even more spectacular than we had imagined. Lad was a very dominant stallion, in that his very presence said to everyone here (Horse and human), “I’m special. I’m ‘King’, I’m your protector.”

Illiad was all stallion but never mean, or aggresssive. He got along fine with our other two stallions. There was of course, the usual snorting and trumpeting on both sides, but it was obvious that both Sheikh and Watir accepted Lad and had no need to challenge him.

Our mares adored him immediately, and he them. Lad would have been an excellent herd stallion in the wild. He watched over his mares and was not happy unless they were within his sight. If the mares wandered to the other side of their pasture, he would call them and run up and down the fence line until they returned to him.

If it began to rain and Lad was in the barn, he would watch out his stall door as each mare was led into her stall. He would call to us as if to say, “Hurry up, get my girls in out of the rain.” Until all his mares were in their stalls, safe and dry, he would be worried and watchful. As soon as he was satisfied that his herd was taken care of, Lad would settle down and start munching on his hay.

In a group of Arabians, where the Davenport is known for its excellent disposition, Illiad stood out as being very special. He was a sweet, gentle stallion, and always listened to what we were saying. Even when he was excited by a mare or another stallion, all we had to do was speak to him and he’d do what we asked. Lad was such an angel that even a “chicken” like me could lead and handle him.

During his short 15 years, Illiad sired many fine Davenport foals. A prime example is Carol Lyons’, Carol Tummonds’ and Marge Smith’s stallion Audobon (Illiad x Audacity). Besides being very handsome, Audobon seems to have inherited Lad’s super disposition. As reported in an article entitled “Homer Davenport Days” in the August, 1991 issue of Charles Craver’s, Our Quest, Audobon participated in the Davenport Days activities held in Silverton, Oregon. Davenport Days are held in honor of Homer Davenport, who imported the original “Davenport” Arabians in 1906. Audobon was ridden in the Davenport Days Parade by one of his owners Marge Smith. To quote Carol Lyons in part from the above mentioned article: “The Davenport Days Parade was his first parade and his first time in Native Costume, and he loved it! And the hundreds of people lining the streets loved him. They cheered and clapped as he came prancing by…

“It has been a tradition of this Fair to have a horse-petting area set up, where people can see and pet Arabians which have at least one line to a horse imported by Homer Davenport. There were two part-Davenport stallions in the petting, but it was Audobon with his wonderful people-oriented disposition who attracted and kept the largest audience. Audobon just loved it! You all know the wonderful Davenport eyes, and how these horses make eye contact with people. Well, that’s what Audobon did… for two and one-half hours. He would look at the visitors and they would just melt. With little children, he would put his head down low so they could feel his soft muzzle, explore his nostrils and ears and pet his face. He even licked a few hands which everyone thought was rather amazing…”

All of our mares we were planning to breed to him, were maiden mares. As anyone who has ever bred horses knows, maiden mares can sometimes be a challenge. Lad made it all so easy. He was gentle with mares, but didn’t let them get away with any shenanigans. At breeding time, Illiad was all business and got the job done expertly, quickly and efficiently. Both Jauhar and Annie (as Copper Hill Lilae is affectionately called), were left leaning against the fence dreamy-eyed and in a kind of daze when Lad was finished breeding them. Because of their expressions, you could almost hear them sigh and say, “What a guy!”

Unfortunately, due to mares not coming into season and Dave being out of town a good bit of the breeding season, especially when mares were in season, we only managed to breed Lad to two of our mares last year, Jauhar El Khala (Sportin Life x HB Tiffany), and Copper Hill Lilae (Flight Plan x Nymphaea), leased; and one outside mare LD Rubic (Plantagenet x Taarla), for Tom and Leslie Detweiler. We were looking forward to breeding several more mares to him this Spring. Unfortunately that was not to be. Lad became ill and despite all efforts by our vet and ourselves, and many helpful suggestions from other Davenport people such as Charles Craver and Mike and Sherman Stinson, he didn’t get well. The vets at Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center finally diagnosed him as having lymphosarcoma. We lost him on February 12, 1991.

The day before he died, all the mares stayed close to Lad on the opposite side of the fence. Several times that day we observed them filing past him at the fence. Each mare in turn would pause a few moments and touch her nose to his, as if saying “good bye.”

In the nine short months Lad was with us, he touched our hearts and souls. We loved him very much and miss him terrible. Sometimes when I go out to the barn to feed, I almost expect to be greeted by Lad’s resonant trumpeted greeting. We feel very privileged to have known Lad and to have had him live with us, and look forward to the birth of his foals this year. The untimely passing of Illiad is a great loss to us, to his owner Jim Gribben and to Davenport breeding in general. He will be greatly missed.