I think many of us with a passion for the Arabian horse can remember the obsession beginning with a childhood dream; I am no exception. As a young child, my family moved around a lot for my dad’s job so our only pets were a dog and the occasional fish. I still remember being 11 years old and my dad coming home one day to tell us he had just bought a farm house in Northeast Ohio. Not only were we going to have a new permanent home, but the house also came with two quarter horses and a duck. This was simply beyond my wildest dreams and thus began my fantasies.
In the beginning we boarded out the horses and my brothers and I took lessons and learned how to take care of them. Not long after we brought the horses home my brothers lost interest in them, but my obsession had already begun. In efforts to convince my dad not to give them away, I gladly agreed to take on full responsibility for them. It was when I was 15 that I was first introduced to Arabian horses. I saw my first half-Arab, Sequoia, one day and I was enamored by how beautiful and charismatic she was; I simply had to have her. I started working to pay for her and showed her and eventually other half-Arabs and saddlebreds. My family thought my obsession with these beautiful animals was crazy (and still do for the most part), but they seemed to understand my passion.
My first attempt at breeding came about when I was 19. By then I had been studying pedigrees for several years and was ready to breed my first horse. I leased a pure polish mare for two years and bred her to Pro-Fire. I showed both of her foals in English and eventually sold them after acquiring several blue ribbons, each. After that it was one mare at a time, breeding and selling the babies to buy another mare. I was both working and going to school full time to support my hobby, but I wanted more.
By the time I was 23 I was working 80-90 hours a week as a hair-stylist, but I still had a lot of dreams to fulfill. I was finally able to buy an old run-down horse farm located about 20 miles south of Cleveland, Ohio. It took a few years of hard work, but I rebuilt and added on stalls and an indoor arena. In the beginning it was strictly a training farm with two trainers and we showed about 35 horses. In addition to running my own hair salon and the training farm, I was showing horses and traveling all over the country so I didn’t have much time for breeding other than still having the one foal per year.
My passion has always been in breeding purebred Arabians so by the time I was 30 I decided to branch off into just breeding. My first big success with breeding was a lovely colt, Phinally Phantom (SH Phantom Echo X MS Behavin). He did quite well showing halter and hunt seat and was later gelded and sold to Don Shackelford in California. Not long after that I purchased Major Debut (DS Major Afire X Ames Valerie) as a young yearling. Mike Neal showed him for me at U.S. Nationals in 2001 where he earned the title Sweepstakes Yearling Colt, Reserve National Champion.
I haven’t personally shown a horse for quite some time now as I still work the same hours I did when I was younger, and we all know how Father Time slows us down over the years. Nevertheless, my passion for breeding grows ever stronger. I often find it hard to explain what my breeding program consists of. I love playing around with pedigrees and seeing what happens. My breeding program consists of quite an array of different bloodlines and I don’t always breed the latest fad. I tend to breed what hopefully will be around for many generations beyond what I have done. Yet, there are a few breeders whose breeding program I closely follow. For years I have been inspired by breeders like Sigi Siller, Michael Byatt, Richard DeWalt, Stan Keeter, Sheila Varian, and Roxanne Hart. I admire them for their honesty, breeding practices, and their excitement and passion for what they do.
In the years since the rise in popularity of embryo transfers, I have often been asked why I “have such an incredible group of mares and don’t do embryo transfers so I can get as many foals out of them as possible”. The answer I give is always the same; I’m old fashioned and I believe in my mares carrying their babies, one baby a year. I believe they all have a heart and soul and that I don’t own any of them, I’m just the person that loves and takes care of them.
My breeding program is mostly centered around my brood mares. Mares have always held a special place in my heart.
Many of my friends and family still consider me crazy for working nearly 80 hours a week to pay for my ‘hobby’. What they often don’t realize is that what may have been a hobby when I was younger, has since turned into a life-long passion. I may be a small breeder, but each year nothing excites me more than the foaling season, whether I’m having one foal or seven that year. At the end of each day there’s nothing more that I look forward to than spoiling my horses with their evening carrots. I consider myself to be an old-fashioned person that likes to believe in the past and the future and that true breeders, whether large or small, will be around for many generations of horses. I’ve accomplished what I could have only dreamed of as a child, yet I’m convinced the best is still to come.
~ Christopher LeVoyer