First printed in The Arabian Breeders’ Magazine Volume I Issue I September 2016. Please enjoy this interview with Frank Hennessey.
In every edition of The Arabian Breeders’ Magazine, we speak to a selection of breeders from around the world about their experiences and successes with their breeding programme. We are delighted to share some of these incredibly insightful features online.
The Arabian Breeders’ Magazine (TABM): Please share with our readers a short background to your farm.
Frank: In 2007, we made the decision to create an Arabian horse farm in Ocala, Florida, that would be completely devoted to the health and happiness of our Arabian horses. Our initial goal was to have an all girl farm and to breed for halter competition. This decision heavily impacted the selection of our foundation mares. Our intent was to create Arabian horses with outstanding conformation and structure demonstrated by an excellent athleticism. We would then add beauty to our growing herd. A chance meeting in Brazil with world-renowned judge George ‘Z’ led to a long-lasting relationship and friendship, and George quickly joined our team.
Ekstazia (Eukaliptus x Elwara). Credit Stuart Vesty.
TABM: What have been the bloodlines that you have focused on, and why did you choose them? Has this focus changed over the years?
Frank: George was the first to take us to his native Poland, and there began a deep love and respect for this particular bloodline was born. The tremendous connection that we made with the horses in Poland opened my eyes further as to how wonderful a relationship that we can have with Arabian horses.
So, we initially focused on Polish bloodlines, specifically and predominantly Eukaliptus (Bandos x Eunice by Comet) daughters. This was done to ensure length of neck and superior attitude. We created a mare book in which all relevant information about each mare – including genotype, phenotype, show record and production – was recorded. Then we analysed the strengths and weaknesses of each mare, and included a statement setting forth the reason why we purchased that particular mare. From there, we stayed focused on our original breeding goals.
The first three horses to arrive at Ocala were Ekzotyka (Goliat x Edessa by Wojslaw), Ekstazia (Eukaliptus x Elwara by Arbil) and Zorandze (Goliat x Zabrina VF by Wizjon). The following year, in 2008, the first foal was born, H Ekzquissite H (Equifor x Ekzotyka). The Polish influence continues to remain strong at Hennessey Arabians, through *Pepesza (Eukaliptus x Pestka by Probat) and her two H Angelo H daughters, H Pepa H and H Peppy H, and son, H Pepper H by Majik of Marwan (Marwan Al Shaqab x Lily Marlaina by Thee Infidel), with all three bred by us. Pepesza is best known worldwide for being the dam of the highest lot ever sold at the Pride of Poland, Pepita (by Ekstern by Monogramm out of Ernestyna), sold last year for €1.4 million.
1974. Credit Stuart Vesty.
TABM: What were your breeding goals when you first started? Have they changed over the years?
Frank: Our breeding goals were to create quality Arabian horses that could compete in a halter arena and would become the most important part of our future-breeding programme. Our breeding goals did change as we became more and more fascinated with the performance aspect of the Arabian industry.
From the off, we had some clear goals and objectives, and a commitment to excellence. Over the years, they have refined, but the core stays the same:
- Maintain a continuing commitment to excellence to achieve high standards of quality in all that we do.
- Breed horses capable of winning in the show-rings.
- Focus on maintaining athleticism and movement while ensuring Arabian type and beauty.
- Develop a unique breeding programme by searching the world for quality stallions to service our foundation herd.
- Maintain a herd of healthy, happy horses receiving superior care.
Above all, I breed Arabian horses because I love them, and I want everyone I know to experience them the way that I do. As I often say, ‘a horse for every home and a home for every horse’.
H Mobility. Credit Troxler.
TABM: Please share key moments that stand out in the early stages of your breeding programme?
Frank: Our worldwide travels enabled us to learn about various stallions and their breeding prepotency. We were able to mix various lines to our foundation herd to create the beauty that is an Arabian horse of today. It was incredibly satisfying to watch our mares foal babies, many of whom were perfect examples of what we were trying to accomplish.
The first foal bred by ourselves, rather than imported in-utero, was the 2009 colt H Verdykt H (Versace x Ekzotyka). Verdykt has gone on to be a superstar for our early Hennessey breeding programme, taking major titles in halter, sport horse in-hand, western trail and western pleasure. Just recently, he was named US National Champion Western Pleasure at the Youth Nationals. Then we have our second foal, H Zandra H (QR Marc x Zorandze), and she is one of our best producing mares. Both Verdykt and Zandra began the success of our breeding programme in both halter and performance competitions, as witnessed around the world today.
Developing into the performance side, we have H Mobility H (MHR Nobility x RY Fire Ghazi by El Ghazi), the 2009 US National Reserve Champion English Pleasure Futurity horse. He has since gone on to be a super sire of performance horses. To balance this performance giant, we have our own homebred halter sire, H Angelo H (Enzo x Angelina Showlee by SC Zimpatique).
H Pepper. (Majik of Marwan x Pepesza). Credit April Video.
TABM: When was it that you realised that you were a successful breeder? And what, in your opinion, defines a ‘breeder’?
Frank: A successful breeder has a vision of the Arabian horse that he wishes to create, and is successful when his product wins in the arena and others wish to buy it. Our first foals were born in 2008. We have since sold approximately 90 horses to various countries around the world. A breeder knows that he is successful when others recognise his programme. In this regard, we were proud to have won Region 12 Breeder of Distinction Award two years in a row, in 2015 and then again this year. This award was a result of our breeding not only great halter horses but performance horses as well.
TABM: As a breeder, how do you feel about the showing world? Do you think that changes are needed to celebrate breeders more?
Frank: Halter competition, in the United States, is, to me, a disappointment. Initially, halter competition was created to show off the breeding excellence of the Arabian horse. Today, halter competition rewards the trainer’s presentation and the judges desire to reward beauty rather than breeding qualities. This introduces abusive training practices such as hard stand ups, shanking, and aggressive intimidation towards the horse. This then results in recognition of the trainer first, the owner second, and sometimes the breeder almost as an afterthought. Breeders need to be recognised first in order to be encouraged to continue breeding and selling.
H Mobility / Frank Hennessey. Credit Stuart Vesty.
TABM: Do you think that breeders are a dying breed, pardon the pun?
Frank: There are fewer and fewer breeders breeding fewer and fewer horses. In the USA, most of the big breeders are in their maturing years and there are few replacements.
TABM: Do you think that breeders and dedicated breeding programmes still have a place in the world today?
Frank: More now than ever, breeders and their breeding programmes are critically important to the future of the Arabian horse. If breeders do not have a vision and they are not able to pursue this vision, you will have an industry with an ever-shrinking gene pool and will not be the next great Arabian type. Breeders without the programme will simply breed to what’s in fashion today and avoid risk taking.
Mares at Hennessey Arabians. Credit April Visel.
TABM: Over the years, what have been your key successes, perhaps the ones that define your farm?
Frank: At Hennessey Arabians, the health and happiness of our horses is paramount. Our horses are human friendly because they are loved and handled every day. Everyone who works here has an understanding that the horse comes first. We pay particular attention to caring of the horse by the rigorous programmes of vaccinations, supplements, quality feeds, veterinarian and farrier care, at all times.
In addition to the horses I have mentioned before, I must talk about The Jaipur Initiative, something that was founded in 2013. I always wanted to complement the Polish lines and I have long admired the lines of Ali Jamaal (Ruminaja Ali x Heritage Memory by El Magato), and so three years ago, The Jaipur Initiative was formed. Jaipur el Perseus (Perseus El Jamaal x Jullye El Ludjin by Ludjin El Jamaal) is an ultra exotic stallion imported by oOne LLC from Lenita Perroy’s world renowned Haras Meia Lua in Sorocaba, Brazil. Jaipur now stands at Christine Jamar’s Jadem Arabians in Belgium, and his foals are excelling in both halter and performance at a very young age on the international circuit. One notable son was the great Byzantium o (ex Clio Belize by Don El Chall out of Borgatta El Jamaal), a champion in Scottsdale and at Regionals, and now sold to China.
Of course, at Hennessey Arabians, we maintain an open door policy and allow visitors from all over the world to visit and discover more about these incredible horses that have changed Carol’s and my lives so much.
H Juliet H (Eklipse O x Maara HFR).
TABM: And finally, what is next for you and your breeding programme?
Frank: What is next for us is a breeding programme for Half-Arabians as a new division of our farm. At present, approximately 60% of our horses compete in halter and 40% under saddle. It is our intention to increase our performance programme.
We have also introduced a new initiative, the first online production auction of its kind. Quality breeding horses are offered and made available to the general public through an honest and transparent forum. The first year that we did this, ten of the fifteen horses offered in the auction were sold, with an impressive overall average sale price and very satisfied customers. The traffic generated to the farm, successful sales, and interest in the Hennessey programme was a welcome by-product to the efforts it took to put on the auction itself. Our next Hennessey Arabians Production Sale was held at the end of August, and we look forward to repeating the success next year.