I have invited my Saddlefit 4 Life colleague Cathy Rothery to introduce two inspiring horsemen she met last month while attending the 2016 American Horse Publications conference in Orlando. Thank you for sharing your visits with these outstanding equine professionals.
While attending the annual AHP conference, our gracious hosts Chris Brune and Judy Lincoln arranged a visit to several world class equine facilities in Florida. Today I will introduce you to the leading breeder of Arabian horses in the US (and no doubt the world). Mark Miller boarded our bus in Orlando, and our 45 minute trip flew by as this master story teller shared the history of his family and their herd of award winning horses. For 25 years, Mark was founder and owner of the world famous Arabian Nights Dinner Attraction in Orlando, which he closed in 2013 to focus on Al-Marah. We were captivated by the energy and passion of this soft spoken humble gentleman, who called himself ‘custodian’ (not owner) of the Al-Marah herd. Situated on an isthmus on the outskirts of Clermont, Al-Marah is the oldest, continuously bred, privately owned band of Arabian horses in the world. We spent a delightful morning as guests of Mark and the Al-Marah family.
The legendary Al-Marah Arabian horses are bred foremost to be a friend and companion and to “do anything your heart desires”; they are intelligent, willing and gentle. Every trainer, handler and member of the Al-Marah family provides the utmost care and love to each horse, which clearly evident as soon as you enter the gate. We were delighted to watch several skillful demonstrations: freestyle by head trainer Kassie Barteau and Mark’s step-daughter, Keeley Clark, a hunter jumper demonstration with Camille Reid and a reining demonstration. They even recruited an AHP delegate to learn training cues for several stunning ‘Arabian Nights’ tricks.
Mark’s mother Bazy Tankersley started breeding Arabian horses in the late 1930s, and in 1942 founded her Al-Marah Arabian horse farm in Tucson, AZ. Since 1956, Al-Marah Arabians has been the principle breeder of the Arabian horses first gathered from the desert. The horses are direct decedents of the first and greatest gathering of Bedouin horses from the Arabian Desert by Turkish Governor of Arabia, Abbas Pasha in 1815. An industry leader with vision, Bazy invited Cornell Veterinarians to conduct the first Cogins tests ever performed in the US with Al-Marah herd. Mark proudly calls his mother the best breeder of in the world; she began imparting her knowledge to Mark when he was 10. Since 1958, Mark is the 6th person in the third family over the last 200 years to have complete custody of this classic herd. Trivia buffs will know that Walter Farley (author of the Black Stallion series of books) bought all his horses from Al-Marah.
To achieve their goal of breeding the warhorses of the desert, the standards of Al-Marah horses include:
- Great athleticism with endurance, agility and the heart of a warrior
- Beauty with great Arabian type
- Wonderful dispositions – safe, affectionate & willing
As steward of the herd, Mark describes the Al-Marah horses as “amazing athletes, yet drop dead gorgeous, smart, and willing. They just want to be your partner”. Al-Marah’s reputation is stellar. They have bred less than 1% of all Arabian Horses in America, yet 17 of the 80 horses have won the rarest and most prestigious Arabian horse award – the Legion of Masters and Excellence (approximately 1 in 6 were bred by Al-Marah). Al-Marah is proud to be recognized as:
- #1 Breeder of Arabian Horses winning at the Nationals
- #1 Owner of Arabian Horses winning at the Nationals
- Owner of the #1 sire of Arabian Horse Champions – Bremervale Andronicus++++//
- Owner of the AHA High Point Arabian Horse of the Year – Al-Marah Swift++++//
- Winner of more than 40 National Championships in the past 2 years
- The home of ‘Pegasus’, the University of Central Florida’s mascot
In June 2016 Al-Marah announced their newest venture – The Al-Marah School of Equine Management. The ultimate in equine educational programming – veterans will be offered an Associate Degree program in Equine Management. Alan Alford, VP of Fighting For Our Heroes Foundation shared his excitement for this life changing program. “Over the years I have seen hundreds of Veterans with PTSD and /or TBI’s have life changing results through Equine Therapy programs. I have also unfortunately seen so many of our returning Veterans unable to maintain stable employment and the struggles they often endure with returning to the classroom to retrain into the next phases of their lives. What excites me most about this program is that each veteran will be learning multiple disciplines of equine management directly from leading experts within the field, while simultaneously being in an environment that is conducive to working with, rather than against many post military struggles they may have.”
We also met Ryan Heard, Director of Veteran Students, who told us more about the program and the assistance available for veterans (Rheard@FloridaIntlCollege.com 321-508-1369). Courses are 12 weeks long with 4 back to back semesters so that students can be awarded their degree in 12 months. They are inviting applications for full and part-time faculty and instructors (with Bachelor’s Degree in equine management or related practical experience email@example.com).
Watch this video containing demonstrations and appearances of their stallions, highlights of Al-Marah Arabians Homecoming Celebration and captivating footage of the arrival of the remaining herd of mares from Arizona being released into their new pasture. ‘Feel the love’ at Al-Marah! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsucPG6-Gn4
Whether you want to compete, or just enjoy your horse at home and on the trail… you will find the horse of your dreams at Al-Marah.
Many thanks to Mark Miller and the Al-Marah family for their gracious hospitality during our visit to Al-Marah!
~ Cathy Rothery