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The Schall Family Families In The Arabian Horse Community

by Gina Czupka

Families In The Arabian Horse Community

Schall

The Schall Family by Gina Czupka

It is disarming, if not a little surprising, to think that one of the halter and sales powerhouses of the industry started out as a young couple and their two blond little boys searching out a horse for a leisure time hobby. The Schall family of Shada Inc., had no background in Arabian horses—Dave Schall just had draft horses and working cow horses on the family farm on which he grew up in North Dakota—but when they found the Arabian breed, a love blossomed. That love continued to grow, and in doing so, it revealed natural talents, unwavering dedication, and an unshakable family bond.

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Dave and Sheila Schall came to the Twin Cities, attracted by the bustling job market, after Dave had completed college. They found work—Dave in computers and Sheila in real estate—and they worked hard to achieve their dream of moving to quieter ways outside of the city. “As soon as we could, we bought land and moved our young boys—they were 7 and 8—out to the country and got a couple of pleasure riding horses,” Dave says. The two mares were partArabians, and one of them was in foal. “We brought them back to our home, which is where we still have

Schall The Schall brothers enjoying horses at an early age.

The Schall brothers in March of 1973.

our training facility now, in Elk River, Minn.,” Jerry says. “We have never had a different farm.” When the first foal was born, Jeff and Jerry, like so many kids, were taken with the little horse. But their interest was something more than a common fascination. Dave and Sheila saw that their boys were not just interested—they had a special talent for working with that foal, and the two foals that would follow. They decided to pursue breeding more seriously, and on the advice of local Arabian breeders, they bought their first purebred mare. “We were going to then derive an income out of these horses; so, we started to breed them,” Jeff says. “So we went, the same four people again, in the car and headed off to find a stallion.” The breeding pursuit started off in a way that seems quaint, compared with the international, high-tech breeding world of today. “We were at a feed store in St. Francis, Minn., and there was a picture of a beautiful stallion named Mizsah,” Jerry continues. “We got directions and set out to see Mizsah, who was owned by Ward and Marva Ferguson. “They showed him and his full-brother My-Sahib to us, and we were hooked. That was what we wanted. They were beautiful stallions with beautiful eyes, and they made beautiful babies.” The connection that the Schall family made with the Fergusons was an important one, and led them into deeper involvement with the Arabian horse community in Minnesota. “We researched, looked and found the sire of Mizsah and My-Sahib, Halima Sahib. He was

David, Jeff, and Sheila Schall getting ready for a pleasure ride.

Jeff Schall on the lead in May of 1977.

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owned by the Walt and Carol Robilliard family, and we decided to breed to that stallion,” Jerry says. “He was one of our all-time favorites—he was a majestic, charismatic stallion and he started to mold our tastes, our ideal of an Arabian horse.”

Dave Schall showing his “first filly.”

Another key connection for the Schalls in the early days was the one they made with Louie Johnson, who owned the stallion TahZaman. “We developed a friendship with him and an expansion of our breeding philosophy,” Jerry says. This friendship with Johnson also pushed further open the door to show ring success, though that would come a bit later. “Jeff showed TahZaman at the MAHA [Minnesota Arabian Horse Association] show, and that was one of his first major wins,” Jerry adds. “That championship helped inspire Jeff to go on to the career that he has.” “Our first initial interest was strictly to breed a few,” Dave says. “It wasn’t training, because the boys were really young, so there was not any consideration of training or even showing at that point. It was just to start breeding and have a few of them for the family interest.” That family involvement, on a hobby-only level, still helped to make the Schall brothers into the horsemen that they are today. “Over the first two to four years, we had grown to have about eight to 10 horses,” Dave says. “That is a lot of involvement, in the physical, hands-on sense. Horsemanship doesn’t come from walking around wanting to train a horse, it’s from strict animal husbandry and taking care of the animals.”

Sheila Schall being “hands on.”

When the boys were still very young—Dave approximates that they were 9 and 10—Jeff and Jerry were involved in all aspects of taking care of the horses and seeing to their needs. “[Dave] took great pride as he coached them after school, in the evenings,” Sheila says. “They were all together. That’s where they really developed their care for the horses, their horsemanship, and the basics. A lot of kids miss that.” Dave says that, as much fun as the major successes in the business have been, the beginning holds a special place in their memories. “It’s been quite a journey,” he says. “The enjoyment, looking back, is different now than what it was on the actual day you were doing it. When we first started out, we would get up at 3, 4 in A young Jeff Schall practicing his technique.

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Schall The Schall family.

the morning and drive to the shows, whether they were in Willmar or Brainerd or wherever. They were outside and we’d show out of the trailer. Those mornings of getting up, the family all together—us taking our coffee and the kids taking their hot chocolates—and going to the shows, they were really special times. I think anybody that has had that start has the same feeling about that era.”

David Schall on the family farm.

The brothers add that those were formative experiences for them as trainers. “In the early years, we were these two little boys, standing at our parents’ sides,” Jeff says. “Unlike most boys, who are running around like crazy men … everybody commented on how well-behaved we were. We were like sponges; we were taking it all in. We were listening to everybody’s lingo and how they talked. We weren’t engaging in the conversation yet, but it was really a great experience and education for us.” The capacity that the boys showed for working gently and effectively with foals turned into something more as they became more interested in showing horses. “For three or four years, they worked with foals, and that was where they developed [their skills],” Dave says. “When they started training, the first horses we took to a show were foals.”

Jerry Schall showing at one of his first horse shows.

“What Jerry and I got for training and what we could get, were a lot of weanlings,” Jeff says. “The weanling classes were a big deal back then. We would take these little sponges, sometimes still on their moms, and we would train them to be little show horses. We would go in and not only win the weanling classes, but then some of the junior championship classes at some of the bigger shows.” Jerry Schall at the beginning of his successful show career.

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Schall Jeff Schall and his father, David, showing together.

People started noticing the special talents that the Schall brothers had with the young horses, and it was clear that if they could work so deftly with the most delicate horses, it stood to reason that they would do well with older horses. “You create your own opportunities and the babies, the weanlings helped us to do that over a couple of years,” Jeff says. “We got to be known not only for how good they were, but how competitive they were. [Those foals] helped develop our mode of training.” Jerry expands on that idea. “It’s that style that carries through—the time-tested patience that works for babies and that works for older horses that are searching for confidence. They are able to find that with us, with our program.” There was a pivotal moment in the history of the Schall family that came along with the recognition that the brothers were receiving. “It went from foals to yearlings and from that summer on, they got more options and it took off pretty fast,” Dave says. “That’s when Sheila and I made the decision to sell our stock, because when they were getting a stallion, a mare, 2-year-olds and were going to Nationals, there was no more room … it was a real conflict, and we weren’t large enough at that time, facility-wise, to do it.”

Jeff Schall proudly displaying show ring accomplishments.

Brothers Jeff and Jerry Schall.

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“We then developed the involvement with people like the Corrows,” Jerry says. “We were entrusted with Halana; that was one of Jeff ’s first great fillies. Other early stars were Bob Sigfrinius’s mare, ELCO Tah-Mara, Wally Alvarez with the stallion Cytosk, and Stolen Fire, which was a gelding owned by Ken and Debbie Cain. I would say that those four horses catapulted Jeff through the regionals and into his national appearances.” The first national champion for Shada was the Half-Arabian pinto mare CH Obsession, owned by Crete Harvey. “We had been on the scene for a couple of years and had had some strong Top Tens,” Jeff says. “She was the first one to wear the roses, and we got a taste of the highest achievement possible.”

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Dave adds a bit of humor to reminiscences of the early days. “Jeff was really talented with the horses … but it was a pretty competitive market [in Minnesota],” he says. “So in the beginning, Jeff wore red shoes when he showed.” The idea—or rather, the flashy shoes—certainly got Jeff noticed. “The judges would all stop and chat with him. They’d tell him they liked them or didn’t like them, but [the shoes] got noticed. They didn’t know his name yet; so, they called him ‘Red Shoes.’” Jeff and Jerry Schall preparing for a photo shoot on their farm.

You might have noticed, though, that Jeff hasn’t kept up the look. It just took one breeder and one horse to interrupt the habit. “In 1986, Al and Marion Corrow brought him Halana,” Dave says. “She was just a yearling, but she was pretty special and we knew it, and Al really knew, as an accomplished breeder. He said, ‘I’ve got the most special one I’ve ever raised, and I want you to train her and show her. But if you show her, you have to take the red shoes off.’ Jeff looked at her and said, ‘It’s worth it.’ So Jeff took the red shoes off to show at the Buckeye that year, and she was junior champion, out of 80 fillies, and reserve champion mare to Amber Satin, and he never wore his red shoes again.” After making the decision to sell their own stock and focus on providing their customers with a full-service training, breeding and sales facility, Shada (a take on “Sheila and Dave”) started to grow exponentially. “I think that people saw in us an innate sense of compassion for the horses and it didn’t just start out by us saying, ‘We want to be in the winner’s circle,’” Jeff says. “It started out from our prior experiences, saying that we want to see how much we can get out of these horses and in what fashion we can be

Jeff Schall with Echo Magnifficoo at the 1991 Scottsdale Show.

Just one of the early, creative stall set-ups by the Schall family.

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Schall Jeff Schall and Champion Stallion Eternety at the 1994 U.S. Nationals.

Jeff Schall celebrates his Scottsdale win with Echo Magnifficoo.

the most fair in doing that. We spent months and years really developing a technique, finding what worked best, lots of repetition, things of that nature. It was the horse foremost, rather than the prize, and I think that is still what we base a lot of it on, at our farm.” The family set out to provide four-fold service to their clients, and they have kept the idea going to this day. 286 | AR ABIAN HORSE TIMES

They were, of course, showing horses (and helping amateurs to show their own horses), but they also developed Shada to serve as a breeding facility—both as a place for stallions to stand and a dependable source for mare and foal care. The next piece of the puzzle was sales—an area where Shada has excelled and continues to be a leading farm. Perhaps there’s an indication of why that is the case in the fourth element: promotion. Jerry

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says that whether it’s pictures, video or advertising, for a show horse, a breeding stallion or a horse for sale, “There’s nobody better than Jeff and his team.” In 1994, the young family team—and the industry at large—saw the culmination of what that combination of elements—plus one great horse— could truly do. “We put it all together with Eternety,” Jerry says. “We put together all of my mom and dad’s ability to support, promote and advise; Jeff ’s ability to train; and my ability to sell breedings, babies and train the offspring.” The family had been working with the f lashy bay stallion for a few years, and their efforts were finally magnified for all to see when he, with Jeff on the lead, claimed the most prestigious title in the Arabian breed. “Eternety was the five-year course that we needed to develop a family of friends and clients,” Jerry says. “It developed from being Reserve National Champion for two years and through Scottsdale and Buckeye appearances, where people supported him and loved that horse. Then, in 1994, he was named U.S. National Champion Stallion, under a five judge system. Jeff came in as a virtual unknown; he rocked the show. It was an iconic night.” Jerry adds that the experience with Eternety—from the show ring to Shada’s development of an Eternety futurity program—was the beginning of a new chapter of success for the family, one they have continued to build on ever since. “Our first 10 years had been put in and we were rewarded,” he says. “Then, in our next 10 years, we just hit the ground running, with showing incredible horses for wonderful people, winning a ton and going against the best in the world.” He adds, in a way that demonstrates that the Schall family are sportsmen as well as horsemen, “We really recognize the trainers that we’ve shown against, they’ve been great competitors.”

Jerry Schall, the consummate professional horse trainer.

Shada has always been the very definition of a family business, with Sheila, Dave, Jeff and Jerry all taking on essential roles. “Since the inception, when we really became serious and built the facility and had the office, I’ve done the behind-the-scenes work, such as the bookkeeping, the file keeping, the paperwork and keeping everything organized, as far as the office and the business end of things,” Sheila says. Her sons are very obviously grateful. “No one knows better, from beginning to end, as to how it J U NE 20 09 | 287

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runs, than my mom. She’s a great detail person,” Jerry says. Jeff adds, “My mom is probably the greatest lady that’s ever lived, to be able to hold three guys together. She deserves to be called the glue of the Schall family.”

came aboard,” Jeff says. “He’s like a brother, and he is now a part of the trio of finishers (and starters). Austin has become very good at his craft because he’s talented, he’s a listener and he’s got a gift with the horses.”

Dave’s creativity and practical expertise are doubly helpful. “Our dad is the one who has created some of our events—notably our Shada Spectaculars—and our stall decorating concepts that have been second to none; he’s the mastermind behind that,” Jeff says. “He has knowledge on so many fronts that he makes Jerry and I look like one trick ponies. He has great foresight, and he’s able to help us look to the future.”

The finely balanced machine of Shada works well, because everyone does their part to make it the best it can be. “As much as we appreciate what [the boys] do, they appreciate what we do,” Dave says. “It’s a respect that goes back and forth.” He adds that they all function together so well because of their uniting passion for their work. “We truly all enjoy it. As much as it is our livelihood, there is real pleasure in being able to deal with someone’s horse and produce a champion, or care for it and have a foal. It’s never drudgery for us; it’s real enjoyment for all of us.”

Of course, there are more practical matters that he attends to—the details that make Shada a welcoming facility for both horse and owner. “I’ve always managed the barns and all the equipment, and everything to do with the mechanical side of housing close to 100 horses,” Dave says. “It takes a lot to house 100 horses in stalls and keep everything going, and we run a year-round operation—it’s 70 degrees inside in the winter. We try to keep at the top with safety; our trailers and trucks look aesthetically nice, but I don’t let a worn tire stay on a trailer … it’s safety first, and care for the horses.” To keep up with the demand for their services, and to keep Shada looking toward the future, a new face joined the team. “Three years ago, our assistant, Austin Miller

Jeff Schall with wife, Roxanne, and companion Boo.

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As well as Shada works as a training, sales, marketing and breeding facility, the Schall family works as a cohesive unit. It is nothing short of impressive that after 30 or more years, they all come together to work toward the same goal. When asked how they’ve done it, Sheila says it can be summed up in one word. “Respect,” she says. “Absolute respect. When you work together as a family, it’s a total commitment. We made a commitment to the animals, but we also made a commitment to each other. We’ve had some wonderful, wonderful times, and we’ve also had some real challenges to get through. We were always a support group, during those times.”

Jerry Schall with Anissa Weber.

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is the proud father, Jeff “[Jeff and I] worked the uncle with whom through some huge she likes to swim issues, when we were and play, Grandpa young, just teenagers,” Dave has helped her Jerry says. “We learned develop an affinity for not to fight and not classic cars, and she to bring in the things and Grandma Sheila that are counteractive are thick as thieves. to a good relationship. “She’s the love of my We learned, no matter life,” Sheila says with what, to tell each a giggle. Felicia’s other the truth—we interest in the horses could handle it. And is already shining we learned, no matter through—she’s taken what, to talk it out and riding lessons, and to talk the next day. she has a roster of There wasn’t anything favorite horses in the big enough or terrible barn. “It’s really, really enough to wreck a exciting to have a little lifetime relationship.” one involved with all Jeff adds, “There’s a of us adults,” Sheila commitment that every says. Monday morning is the start of a new week, Looking back at where regardless of what the they started, and the last one brought. Jerry heights they have and I know that we’re David and Sheila Schall with the next generation, granddaughter Felicia. reached together, Jerry working on different wonders whether fate fronts sometimes; yet, it had a hand in Shada. “It was supposed to be a hobby,” all comes back to the common good.” he says. “But what was supposed to be a hobby turned into a career. I always think, ‘Wow, was that choice Speaking with the Schall brothers, it’s very obvious that made or was it given?’ No matter what determined the way they get along is not just a front. They finish each the evolution of the family’s business, they have the other’s sentences, but just as often, they crack each other determination and the respect for one another that will up and break into high-speed banter with one another continue to ensure their success. “I like to share with that is punctuated by laughs. And it’s not surprising people that when you read our story, it is our story,” that Sheila and Dave are proud parents as much because Jeff says. “It is not just a feel good story, it is the reality of the people their sons have become as what they do of the situation—that is how it works. We’re four very professionally. “I enjoy Jeff and Jerry’s company,” Sheila passionate people, and I think that the reason that we’re says. “I truly enjoy them as individuals. I think Jeff has so good as a group is that we have strengths that really true character and I think Jerry has given a lot of humor complement one another. There’s a certain identity to my life, because he is one funny individual. The group that comes with our success that is important to us as a that we have—Jeff and his wife Roxanne, and Jerry whole, not just our personal success. We take great pride and Anissa [Weber] and their daughter Felicia—is a in something good happening, in any fashion, around wonderful thing. We have a great family around us.” here. We know that we’re part of that outcome. We’re a group of people working for the common good, rather The mere mention of Felicia, at 5 years old the youngest than the individual good.” ■ member of the Schall clan, makes everyone light up. Jerry


Schall Family