Just Who Was Senrab, Anyway?

Senrab and Jane Arrington competing in early 1960’s. George Axt photo.

One of the core ASHAI beliefs is that the Arab is an original sport horse breed. Created through meticulous selective breeding and culling to serve as cavalry chargers, the Arab was used for the improvement of cavalry mounts by many countries for centuries. Charter member, Kat Walden thought that the best way to encourage association members to prepare for and show their purebreds, partbreds, Anglo-Arabians and Shagyas in all-breed competition was to offer an award that they would want to win. Accordingly, she sponsored the Senrab Cup to go each year to the horse that had earned the most points in open competition. Eventually, so many horses were competing for the Cup that an entire Arabian Ambassador Awards category was created so that a Champion, Reserve and Top Ten could be recognized, but the Champion continued to receive the Senrab Cup.

But who was Senrab, one might ask, and why was he memorialized by the cup? Senrab was a 1953 14.3 hand chestnut gelding with a blaze, two white socks and a belly spot. His pedigree promised performance ability, representing a Who’s Who of early American Arabian breeding. For the first four and a half to five years of his life, however, Senrab seemed to be the black sheep of the family, having shown increasingly less tolerance for training, other horses, people and stalls. He was so notorious around Coos Bay, Oregon, that his owner could not even give him away.

Fortunately for Senrab, he ended up in the hands of a trainer in Southern California who refused to give up on him. Roy Traylor, head riding instructor for the Parnell Preparatory Girls School in Whittier, persisted with the difficult gelding until he succeeded. Once he finally had Senrab going under saddle, Traylor aimed him towards a jumping career by default: he was too unruly for pleasure or hunter and not considered pretty enough for halter. Senrab was hardly a natural jumper; in fact, he acted for months as though jumping was a cruel and unusual punishment. When he finally progressed far enough to trailer to shows, he would behave like a perfect gentleman until he entered the ring, and then would refuse the first jump or otherwise misbehave so badly that he never finished a single course in competition. Finally, at the May 1962 annual Rose Bowl Riders Show, with the highest jump set at four feet, Senrab finished an entire course in a class. That day the gelding learned that the better he jumped, the more people clapped, and oddly enough, a ham was born.

Within a few years, people were saying that Senrab counted the house before he took his first jump on course, and the bigger the crowd, the higher he jumped. He always charged into the ring with his tail up over his back and his head high. His jumping form was unorthodox but very effective. During the early and mid-1960’s, Senrab competed at all the major shows in the West, usually ridden by school riding instructor Jane Arrington but also by various students of the school. He won at Del Mar and Santa Barbara. He won the jumper stakes at Pomona and many children’s classes at Del Mar, in which he easily handled the size limit of 5’ over a 6’ spread (children’s jumper classes were tougher in those days!). He would and did jump nearly anything he was put to, from tractors to stacked-up wheelbarrows, and he earned the nickname “the jumping fool.”

Senrab was shown successfully in FEI classes carrying 165 pounds, and he cleared 6’4” walls in competition scores of times. For a number of years, Traylor offered $1000 to any Arabian that could out-jump Senrab, but there were never any takers for the challenge.

From the time that Senrab began to win in shows, his temperament mellowed, especially towards other horses. He began to act like the champion he had become, and he ended up a great favorite at the school.

The once-misfit gelding with an uncertain future responded to all the patient training invested in him by becoming a star performer for the school. His achievements as a jumper hold up well 30 years later, and it seems safe to say that no other Arabian in North America has met the big boys (mostly Thoroughbreds in the ‘60s) in FEI and puissance high wall jumping classes and come away the winner. Only one purebred today (Schzarad Thundor, aka Sher Khan) is known to be competing in Grand Prix level classes. So who better than Senrab to be the official ASHAI mascot and the namesake of the Senrab Cup?

A select group of horses has won the Senrab Cup since 1990. All of them, and all of the horses that have earned points in open competition, have been ambassadors for the Arab in the sport horse world. We salute them.

Senrab Cup Recipients:

1990 – Rollo’s Gambler, owned by Arlyn Winslow, Virginia

1991 – Mariah El Aaseef, owned by Vera L. Vann, Nevada

1992 – Keo Sika, owned by Tina Clark, Maryland

1993 – Sonny’s Mona Lisa (1/2-Arab), owned by Cyndi Craig Farson, Texas

1994 – Exquissite (?), owned by Candy Ziebell/Tricia Ziebell, Wisconsin

1995 – Brambletyne Valor+ (7/8-Arab), owned by Molly Wallin, Texas

1996 – Brambletyne Valor+, owned by Molly Wallin, Texas

1997 – Windkist On Fire, owned by Robin Haase, Pennsylvania

1998 – Windkist On Fire, owned by Robin Haase, Pennsylvania

1999 – Windkist On Fire, owned by Robin Haase, Pennsylvania

2000 – Havlin+, owned by Patricia Harper, Ohio

Senrab over a 5’6” wall with Jane Arrington. Fallon photo.

Senrab and 12 year-old Laurie Howard over 5’ x 6’ spread jump. Gloria Axt photo.