When people in Kentucky mention horses, the first thought is usually the racing breeds, Thoroughbreds or Standardbreds, and then American Saddlebreds, the stars of the Lexington Junior League Horse Show. But the horse industry here encompasses many other breeds.
One of the less often mentioned equine breeds is the magnificent Arabian. Breeders and owners across the Bluegrass sing the praises of the versatile Arabian for its beauty and willingness to please people.
“I fell in love with their beauty and type and personality,” said Jeff Caldwell, an Arabian breeder. “Arabians are a more social breed of horse. When you groom an Arabian, he gives you affection back. They want immediate attention and affection.”
“I love the type of the horse and also the history of the horse,” said Mark Wharton, co-owner of Peregrine Arabians, along with Quentin Naylor. “Arabians have a very personable nature. They’re very responsive to people.”
He added, “You can teach them something, and they’ll remember the next day, so they can learn a bit more. With other breeds, you have to teach the same thing the next day because they’ve forgotten it.”
Wharton and Naylor had worked with different breeds of horses in their native Australia before deciding to focus on Arabians. Over the years, Wharton worked for major Arabian farms in Australia and Brazil.
After moving to the United States, Wharton worked for film director Mike Nichols with his Arabians. After working for a major Arabian farm, he and Naylor decided to have their own Arabian breeding operation.
With 60-some Arabian horses (and some Thoroughbreds), Peregrine is the largest Arabian breeder in Kentucky. It’s also one of the largest in the eastern United States.
Caldwell had Quarter horses as a child and showed horses through 4-H programs. When an older friend introduced him to Arabians and they later bought an Arabian together, he switched breeds. Through showing, competitive trail riding competitions and breeding Arabians for other people, Caldwell has stayed involved with Arabians.
That involvement includes his current service as president of the Society for the Arabian Horse in the Bluegrass (SAHIB). SAHIB has about 75 members, including breeders, owners who show their Arabians or ride for pleasure, and people who are interested in Arabian horses.
SAHIB is one of three Arabian clubs within Kentucky, all affiliated with the regional and national Arabian horse organizations. People who want to show Arabians must belong to such a local group.
Caldwell works with other members to promote interest in Arabians. Marketing strategy includes appearances at equine events, such as the new Kentucky Round-Up (Feb. 2 at the Kentucky Horse Park), which is focused on getting children involved with horses.