Thursday, June 21, 2012

My Visit to Paradise

Last Friday I spent the afternoon with my sister Gay and her husband Stu at Paradise Arabian Farm in Lafayette, GA just north of Dalton. Although it was quite a trek for me to drive, I am so glad I made the trip.

I had no idea what the tour of the farm included, but upon being welcomed by Wanda, who owns the farm with her husband Gary, who is retired from the carpet business, I found myself walking through the barn where heads of Straight Egyptian Arabian horses extended from their stalls.
What is a Straight Egyptian Arabian horse?

These horses descend from the Arabians owned by the Bedouins who lived in the desert a thousand years ago. These horses were bred to be strong, hardy animals that can do any job needed. Their wide hooves helped them walk in the sand. Their bodies were made to handle the elements, wind storms, long treks with little water, and their wide flaring nostrils provided a gateway for oxygen to fuel their bodies. 

I did not know all this when I entered Paradise, but our tour guides, Matt, son of Wanda and Gary, and his wife, Misty filled my head with so many facts about this obviously rare and outstanding breed of horse, that I had to know more.

When I was a young girl, I read all the Black Stallion books by Walter Farley. I fell in love with the Arabian horse way back then. As I gazed out the window in school, escaping math class, I fantasized about one day owning such a horse. I saw myself riding this magnificent creature in woods, along trails, on the beach, anywhere my mind would take me, I rode.

I never owned an Arabian. In fact I had never been close to a real Arabian horse. Although I rode from the time I was a child, my horses were usually ordinary horses. The love of my life was a little chestnut mare I called Pretty Thing. We were together for thirty years. 

At Paradise I knew this was truly Heaven for horse lovers. The foals are handled from birth and have no fear of people. As we stood inside the huge arena, Misty and Gary brought out fine mares and foals for us to see. One after the other, a parade of champion horses pranced, ran around the arena, played with a ball, and came up to us to be petted and loved on.
My photography doesn't do this foal justice

One little guy only a few weeks old showed his superior breeding already. His small head held high, he scampered and ran full blast from one end of the place to the other with his mama beside him.

For one who truly loves horses, this was a smorgasbord of the finest, most beautiful horses in the world to gaze upon and dream about.

Gary said, "We have a horse on every continent in the world except Antarctica." 

Kings from the Middle East buy horses from Paradise and send them back to their homeland where this breed originated. At Paradise there are two reigning stallions. One is Scapa, a tall white horse that has sired many of the foals, and the other is The Singleton, the most perfect horse I've ever seen. He was brought into the arena for us to admire as he frolicked on the end of a long line held by Gary. Gary, an excellent horseman, had the bay stallion pose for us with his head held high on a slim bowed neck. The Arabian naturally holds its tail high because these horses are born with one less vertebra in their spines. 

Matt and Misty told us how the breeding program works at Paradise. Using the two champion stallions for stud, the mares have been bred in a sequence that will eventually produce a colt with the best of each of these sires. They breed for a short nose or bigger eyes, or a more dished nose, the sign of a true Arabian.

The public is welcome to come out and take a tour of the farm. The charge is minimal, and the experience is phenomenal. Gary and Wanda live there on the farm and host visitors from all over the world.

Matt learned the business from living and working on an Arabian farm in Texas, where the first Paradise horse was purchased. Matt gave a fascinating talk on the artificial breeding done on the farm. He was the breeding manager of Paradise until he became the Marketing Director. 

Have you ever met someone and right from the get--go, you found yourself on the same wave length? Matt and Misty made our trip to Paradise one of the best experiences I've ever had. I felt like I had known them forever. I think horse people are like writers. When we are with our own kind, we feel like family.
Matt and Misty Kenworthy
If, years ago, Barry and I had known of a place like Paradise, I'm sure we would have owned an Arabian. Matt says that owning one of these rare horses is an investment, not just a hobby. The expense of owning, showing and breeding a horse as an investment is tax deductible. Since I can't buy a horse at this time in my life, I didn't ask too many questions about that. But it sounds better than the stock market today.

Some of the rich and famous Arabian horse owners are kings and royalty from foreign countries, movie stars, musicians and country singers. The late actor, Patrick Swayze owned and rode Arabian horses.

One thing is evident at Paradise, they aren't only in the horse business, they care about the people who get in the horse business with them. They hold the hands of novice horse owners who purchase their foals and mares, and even board the horses at Paradise where they get the best of care and training. 

Part of the mission at Paradise Arabian Farm is to protect and expand this rare breed of horse. The numbers of the original breed are dwindling. I hope horse lovers will join this mission to keep Straight Egyptian Arabian horses around for a long, long time.

This beauty is one of the Paradise  horses


DJan said...

How fascinating! And what a beautiful beautiful horse this breed is. Thank you for the lesson and the fantastic pictures. I'm off to learn more now! Thanks for the links! :-)

JLC said...

Two of our closest friends in our Connecticut years (45+) owned a small Arabian farm, whose stallions were pure desert Arabians. We had a lovely little Saddlebred mare. It was when the Saddler/Arabian cross was popular. We bred our mare, and when the filly was born, she turned out to have a rather unpleasant personality like her handsome sire. thank goodness! Once she was green broke, we sold her to a young girl who showed her and trained her to jump!

I know just what you mean about horse people. One of the sons of our friends owns a training and showing stable specializing for Arabians in Culpepper, VA. Always wanted to see it. He was the one who got our filly started in spite of her resistance and stubbornness. A true horse whisperer, he often stands in the center of the ring and has his stallions performing on voice commands.

How I miss those animals! I envy you your trip.

Lise said...

I can see why it is called Paradise! The pony is just stunning, and giving you a real show!

Abbie Taylor said...

This post reminded me of a story I read when I was a kid. I don't remember the title, but it was about an Arabian horse tended by a boy who was mute. It detailed the boy and horse's journey from Africa to France and finally to England where the horse sired colts that won races.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Glenda Beall said...

DJan: I know you will enjoy learning about this fantastic breed.
Thanks for your comment.
JLC: You and I have some of the same interests and I'm glad that horses is one of them. I wish you could have been with us when we went to Paradise.

Lise: These animals are born beautiful and I think they know it., Thanks for stopping by.