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An Affinity with Arabians

Ten years ago, a young girl asked her mother for a pony and despite not knowing anything about horses the mother agreed, taking the first steps on a journey that would lead them to Arabian horses and to the daughter developing into one of the top up-and-coming young handlers in Europe today. This is the story of Affinity Arabians run by Linda Lyall with support from her daughter Michelle. 

“At the beginning, I honestly had no idea what I was doing,” laughs Linda. “When I look back now at that time, it is incredible to think just how far we have come.”

Michelle’s first pony, purchased in 1996, was a Welsh/Thoroughbred cross called Holly and little did anyone know when Holly arrived that Michelle was now on the road to a career with horses. Having seen the fun Michelle had with Holly, Linda herself decided that she wanted a horse and, in a move characteristic of her “go for it” attitude, Linda threw herself in at the deep end and brought an 18-month-old, 15hh palomino.

“I couldn’t even ride at that time,” chuckles Linda. “But I fell in love with April Spirit (known as Spooky), learnt to ride and we had some fun together. By the time he’d finished growing, he was 16.2hh and was too much for me. I gave my on my dream of trying to ride him as I fell off so much and he was sold to a top dressage home. Spooky was so exuberant and that is typical of all the horses I have owned.”

Linda’s first pure-bred Arabian arrived in 1998, just before Spooky was sold: Darmeisha (by Sheikh Manuel), a six-month old filly. Having decided to have a go at showing her, Linda and the yearling Darmeisha were always in the ribbons and an affinity with the Arabian breed was born. “It was all down to Darmeisha that I got into and stayed with pure-breds,” says Linda. “I owe her a lot.”

By now, Michelle had outgrown Holly and so the family acquired Willow, a three-year-old Cob. This proved to be a good buy: Willow became the matriarch of the stud and nanny to the youngsters, having weaned foals and youngstock new to the stud in her paddock.

Having decided that she herself wasn’t really cut out for showing the horses, Linda made the decision that if she wanted to show her horses seriously, she needed a professional handler. It was around this time that Linda brought Fantastique (Zircon Nazeer* x Minuette) from Erik Dorssers and so she asked Ryan Jones to show her. Ryan agreed and showed Linda’s horses for a number of years.

It was Linda’s relationship with Ryan which proved to be a turning point in the life of the stud. Having been a small venture with a few selected horses, the association with Ryan took things down an unexpected path, that of owning a stallion and one of the most popular young horses in the UK at that time: Grando* (Grenlando* x Martina Nareena), brought in partnership with Linda’s sister, Dianne Lee (Dianne later gave her share to Linda when she went to live in Australia for a few years).

“Just before we brought Grando, I went on one of Erik Dorssers’ courses and came back full of confidence – and went out and acquired my first colt! Grando was a fabulous, fabulous horse. He had that very exuberant attitude which I like so much and he went on to win many, many things for us, always with Ryan as his handler.”

Having beaten both Psyches Spirit* and Aazari* as a yearling, Grando came to Linda when he was rising three. “He was electric when he went into the show-ring,” Linda recalls with a smile. “He was a very, very impressive horse and would give you Goosebumps every time you saw him. Even now when I talk about him or think about him, I can’t help but smile.”

Linda made the decision to geld Grando a few years ago as there wasn’t much demand for him as a stallion anymore and she then sent him to Liz Needham’s to be backed for the ridden arena. “I don’t believe it’s necessary to keep a horse entire when he is not being used at stud,” explains Linda of her decision. “The Arabian world follows fashions and while Grando was a great horse, times had changed and what people wanted in the show-ring changed as well.”

Having been gelded and backed, Linda gave Grando to Michelle as she loved him so much. It was natural for Michelle that, having been devoted to horses since she was 10 years old, that she wanted to work with them and the opportunity arose for her to go to work at The Arabian Garden in Belgium, run by Philip Looyens. Michelle took this opportunity and in 2006, spent several months working at the world-famous Sax Arabians stud in Germany. Here, she was given the chance to show some of their great horses throughout Europe, always accompanied by her special dog Jasmine.

“When Michelle left, we all knew that she wouldn’t come back and when you have horses, you have to be practical,” says Linda. “Grando was being wasted here as he needed to be in a ridden home. So we sold him at the end of 2005.

“I miss Grando a lot; he is a very special horse. If Michelle had stayed, then there was no way that we would have parted with him. But sometimes, you have to do what is right for the horse, not what is right for you.”

Looking back, Linda says that they have some good memories, such as the time when they took five horses to the British National Championships, Grando included, and all of them were in the ribbons.  But despite such success in the halter arena, Linda never intended to breed horses. That was to change, however, with the arrival of Spring Kantata (Normativ x Sunlea Kaprina), a horse whom Linda loves with all her heart and describes as “a very brave mare” due to her difficult nature. Linda has spent a lot of time and effort working with Kantata and the two now have an incredible bond.

“I brought Kantata from Alistair Leslie and put her in foal to Grando; it seemed the natural thing to do. I didn’t think that I would be able to part with any foals I bred, so I decided to breed for myself only. Grando sired two fantastic colts and having seen them both, I decided to sell one and keep one for showing, Keneesko.”

In his first show as a yearling Keneesko stood second to LVA Maximus*, an achievement of which Linda is very proud. Having been gelded, he went to the Wales and West Show where he won his class and went Reserve Reserve Supreme. “That was one of the first times Michelle showed the horses,” recalls Linda. “He was in a huge class at the Wales and West and he moved like a train!”

Keneesko was sold to Dianne, who had now returned from Australia, before being sold to a ridden home. “I am firm believer that horses have to be functional,” says Linda. “They all have a purpose in life and that has to be fulfilled. I don’t actually like showing. I don’t like to see horses kept in: they belong outside and nothing pleases me more than to see horses playing together and interacting in a field. I could literally spend all day watching horse and foals, in particular, play…”

With the stud changing and developing, Linda decided to purchase a horse who she had admired since he was a foal, Nabucco* (Nadir I*** x Nirvana*). Having first seen him on the Sax Arabians video, Linda followed this young colt’s journey intently and when she was presented with the opportunity go buy him, she jumped at the chance. A multiple champion abroad, Nabucco continued his success in the UK, winning his class at the British National Championships in 2003 and taking the Best Two-year-old Colt award and Reserve British National Champion title as well as standing Reserve Supreme to Psyches Spirit* at Rochdale.

Following the arrival of Nabucco in December 2002, Linda added another colt to the stud in January 2003, the yearling Psympatic (Psytadel** x Exotic Beauty). “I did what people should never do and I fell in love with a picture,” laughs Linda. “He was sold by Ffantasia Arabians and there were a lot of people after him, so I was very lucky to get him really.”

Instantly hitting it off with Nabucco, the two young colts became the best of friends although Psympatic never made it to the show circuit. “He was occasionally entered for shows but never taken as he always seemed to have a growth spurt just before a show, which would not have done him justice,” explains Linda. “He is such an easy-natured horse that we started covering mares with him when he was three and of course, he dropped weight. As a four year old, we didn’t think it fair for his first outings to be against six-year-old stallions and so he just never made it to the show-ring!”

As with Grando and Nabucco, Psympatic also proved himself in the breeding barn before being sold in 2006 to a riding home and Linda hopes that he will make his debut in the ridden arena sometime soon. Linda still has his daughter Psyndarella, a very feminine, beautiful filly out of Spring Kantata.

Having built up a wonderful stud, things changed for Linda in 2005 when Linda decided that she didn’t want to stand stallions at stud anymore, concentrating instead on building a strong base of broodmares to put to a global selection of stallions.

“It is very difficult when you have outside mares come to you,” she explains. “Over the years with having Grando, Nabucco and then Psympatic, I found that there was the odd experience which left you with a bad feeling. And I found that trying to mix having stallions at stud with showing horses a difficult thing to do and the welfare of the stallion has to come first. So I decided to sell half my share of Nabucco in late 2005 and in September 2006, I sold my remaining half to help finance the arrival of a new mare.”
Both halves have gone to Rick and Eddie Warner, long-term friends of Linda’s who loved Nabucco from the moment they saw him and who already own his daughter, Nanique. “Nabucco is such a special horse and it was very, very hard for me to part with him, even though he is only a short drive away,” says Linda sadly. “I couldn’t say goodbye to him when I left him at the All Nations Cup in Aachen: I knew that he was no longer mine.

“Deciding not to stand horses at stud was a huge decision; stallions become the heart of the stud and the barns feel empty without them. They always have such huge personalities and I do miss the presence that they bring.”

With her final share in Nabucco sold, the door was open for Linda to concentrate on putting the finishing touches to her broodmare collection and she acquired Antigua El Jamaal (Al Kidir x Athenais El Jamaal) from Sax Arabians. A beautiful grey mare, Antigua will be put in foal in 2007 to continue with Linda’s breeding plans. As with many people today, especially since the advent of artificial insemination has broken down continent boundaries, Linda has many stallions which she would like to use, all for different reasons.

“I don’t claim to be an expert – far from it – but I do put a lot of thought into the breedings which I choose to do,” explains Linda. “I think that I have had a lot of luck so far!”
Going into 2007, Linda feels that she is in a strong position with the bloodlines which her mares offer her. As well as
Antigua and Kantata, Linda also owns Yazmeena Estopa (Om El Azadik x Om El Shiva Estopa) and her daughter Bint Yazmeena (by Psynergy*), both very beautiful horses with a lot of natural flair. “I can’t wait to bring them out in the show-ring this year and I cannot thank Dean Ingham enough for allowing me to purchase these two beauties!” smiles Linda. “And my connection with Nabucco isn’t over as I still have Nadjana Bint Nadir, his full sister.”

“I never intend to sell my horses, but over time your breeding plans change as does your perception of what you want. Having sold my stallions, I am now in a position to look forward again. I have already had two super colts this year, both out of mares with beautiful bloodlines: Estoniah (Espano Estopa* x Preatoria) had an Ajman Monisione** foal in early January and then Naomi (Anaza el Nizr x Padrons Estrada) had a foal by Massimo Ibn Mirokan. We have one more due in July to WH Justice**.”

With 13 horses now, including the foals, Affinity Arabians has come a long way since its inception 10 years ago. Linda herself has developed a beautiful herd of broodmares and with her dogs, Buddy and Sasha keeping her company while she mucks out the barn, she smiles with the gusto and enthusiasm typical of her.

“It can be very easy to forget how much I enjoy having the horses when I get caught up in the day-to-day things,” is Linda’s final word. “It definitely is a lifestyle, not a hobby, but what a great lifestyle it is. What I lucky life I have found!”

text by Samantha Mattocks / The Arabian Magazine

Our Facilities ...

- a huge barn with 12 indoor stables 15ft x 12ft all have rubber matting and shavings
  and automatic waterers with talk grills either side

- Indoor school with doors each end and the stables are on both sides of the school

- two foaling boxes with CCTV 16ft x 16ft,

- a bathing/clipping room and an area for mares to be inseminated safely

- fully fitted kitchen and lounge area within the barn for visiting guests to sit and have a  
  coffee/snack in comfort,

-  6 outside stables 14ft x 12ft also have rubber matting a tack room and hay barn

- 17 acres of grass paddock, an outdoor menage is in planning for later this summer


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