• Document: Presenting The Personalities
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Presenting The Personalities Shirley And Charlie Watts, Haldson Arabians, Part II by MARY KIRKMAN The first thing you need to know about Shirley and Charlie Watts’ breeding program at Halsdon Arabians is that Shirley, who is its guiding force, is breeding for a good horse. Yes, her homebreds must satisfy high standards of Arabian type—no question— but also, they must be capable of holding jobs. Watts has been a horsewoman for much of her life, used to riding her horses as well as breeding them, and she knows temperament and conformation as thoroughly as beauty and type. Last month, AHT prof iled the owners of Halsdon Arabians. This month, we take a look at its world class horses and the breeding program that has made it famous. Unlike many people in Arabian horses today, Watts did not intend to become a breeder. She slipped into it naturally late in the 1980s, and more seriously as the 1990s got underway. It all began when an equine advisor asked if she had ever thought of having a stud farm. At the time, with her riding horses comfortably occupying a nearby “yard,” she replied, “No, actually, I haven’t. Don’t think I’d really like one.” But intrigued, she remarked on the suggestion to Charlie, and unexpectedly, he replied, “Why don’t you? It would be a good idea.” “So, we started buying and we built the stables,” she says. “I still had my own little yard, my riding horses, and I bought a couple of stallions that I put there. And I went to America, had a look around, and bought a couple of very nice mares. It just sort of went on from there.” “Went on” is an understatement; today’s Halsdon Arabians encompasses 700 acres of lush Devon countryside and is home to nearly 300 horses. “The original intent was to have 20,” Watts says dryly. “I’m not good with math.” needs to be corrected and which stallions can eradicate the weak points. It was a huge learning curve, to realize From the start, she has pursued her vision of a what I liked and then to see how I could achieve it, horse, adding and blending bloodlines from various and then to search for the right horses to do it.” other programs as her knowledge grew and her taste developed. Signally, although her preferences have Her travels led her not only around Britain, but run closest to the Polish program—she has purchased through Europe, to North America, on to South regularly there for more than 20 years and leased America, and eventually to Australia. “I got to see how stallions to the state studs—other ancestries are different they were,” she says, “what they wanted in prominent in the program as well. Straight Egyptian, America and what you want in Europe—what they Russian and Gainey horses all play roles at Halsdon. asked for.” Always, she saw not only how the horses looked, but also how they moved. While the pedigrees have evolved over the years, Watts’ methods have remained basically the same. “I just Watts is straightforward in evaluating the results watch the horses and see what they produce,” she says of the crosses she tries, and when some don’t meet simply. “I would say that most of the mares are Polish, expectations, she wants the foals to be able to find so I do watch what the Poles do. I look to see what work as riding or driving horses outside the Arabian A r AbiAn H orse Times • 2013 show ring. So, from both a practical and a personal standpoint, it is rare that she repeats a match several times unless it confirms its promise early on. What she is able to do that many breeders are not, is give all the foals time and space to grow up. That is helpful, she observes, because often the lines she selects do not mature quickly. The predominantly Polish foals especially take a few years to reach their potential, and there she has all the patience necessary. Establishing The Foundation: The Stallions The seeds for Halsdon Arabians as more than just a collection of Shirley’s riding and show horses were sown in 1986, when she and Charlie attended the European Championships in Ostend, H alsdon a r abians Belgium, and were introduced to Pilarka, already a World of Piechur’s foals, standing one after another on the wall Champion Mare (1983), and Penitent, Polish National of one of the barns.) Champion Stallion (1985). The two

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