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Arabian Horse Times At 35

Arabian Horse Times at 35 A History of Growth Within an Industry by Mary Kirkman


Arabian Horse Times At 35

Arabian Horse Times at 35 A History of Growth Within an Industry by Mary Kirkman

his month, Arabian Horse Times celebrates its 35th Anniversary. Throughout the decades when the industry enjoyed its most stratospheric growth, and its years of radical readjustment, the Times has been there. Calmly, steadily, without interruption, it has grown. It is now the oldest Arabian publication remaining in the ownership of its founder, who has no obligations or connections to any breed other than the Arabian. To understand the history of the Arabian Horse Times, one must look first to the story of its publisher, Walter Mishek, and the Mishek family of Waseca, Minn. Come back in time for a refresher course in the history of the Arabian in the United States—and the role the Times has played in its development.

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Arabian Horse Times At 35

Before the Magazine The Arabian breed began its conquest of the U.S. roughly at the turn of the 20th century. Previously, a small importation in the 1850s had failed to make a mark and faded into the general equine population. A much-ballyhooed gift of two stallions (one of whom was a Barb) to President Ulysses S. Grant in 1878 attracted attention, but offered no perpetuation of the breed, as it is hard to reproduce if you have no purebred mares. It was not until 1893 that a group of desert-bred horses arrived for the Chicago World’s Fair, and were subsequently sold to various horsemen. The seeds of interest were sown among breeders, and a steady, if small, flow of imports began. The Registry, at first known as the Arabian Horse Club of America, was founded in 1908, recognizing 148 horses. Throughout the next three decades, the breeding of Arabians was dominated by “names,” men who designed their programs, who imported and bred horses. There was great individuality; among the best known were Randolph Huntington, Spencer Borden, Homer Davenport, W. R. Brown, and Albert Harris in the earliest years, and then W. K. Kellogg, Roger Selby, Henry B. Babson, and General J. M. Dickinson. Their bloodlines remain today, receding in pedigrees, but still an interesting and strong foundation. The breed slowly grew in popularity until after World War II, and at mid-century, it began to hit its stride. The first all-Arabian show was held in Southern California in 1945; prior to that, Arabians had competed only in open shows. Clubs became so prolific that the International Arabian Horse Association was founded in 1950 to provide a comprehensive governing link. In 1958, the first magazine devoted solely to the breed, called The Arabian Horse News, was published, edited by Anna Best Joder, of Cheyenne, Wyo. That same year, the first U.S. Nationals was held. There had been brief attempts at Nationals before, but none had lasted. The few classes added to the show at Estes Park,

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Colo., were the start of a competition that has endured ever since Mujahid, of Crabbet descent, was the first U.S. National Champion Stallion, while Surita was the first U.S. National Champion Mare. If all of this sounds a bit like ancient history, perhaps history is not so ancient; names from those days still resound today as more than just names in a pedigree. For instance, four years later, in 1962, the U.S. National Champion Stallion was Bay-Abi, founder of the Varian Arabians program. And in 1964, *Bask claimed the title, launching a dynasty

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Arabian Horse Times At 35

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that has been unmatched in the history of the Arabian in this country. The following year, he was named National Champion in Park, and in 1967, he was named Reserve National Champion in Formal Driving and Formal Combination. From the beginning, the titles of National Champion Stallion and National Champion Mare were the most important, as they represented breed standards. But by 1960, horsemen were agreeing that the performance classes and the abilities they reflected needed to be more recognized, and the Legion of Merit award was created. The period after World War II saw the introduction of stallions that would have an important impact on the breed. During the war, General Patton rescued several Polish Arabians, as he recovered most of the Lipizzaner breeding herd of the famed Spanish Riding School of Vienna; eventually several Arabians arrived on these shores as part of the Army Remount Service,

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and when the Service was disbanded in the late 1940s, the horses were sold. Among them was *Witez II, one of the famous triumvirate of *Ofir sons foaled in 1938 that also included Witraz and Wielki Szlem. The decade of the 1950s saw a marked increase in importations. Douglas Marshall of Gleannloch Farms in Texas brought in a couple of horses from Egypt in 1952; 1959 would be a bigger year, with several Egyptian horses coming to the U.S. Among them was a group purchased by Don and Judi Forbis, including *Ansata Ibn Halima, just a yearling at the time. Marshall found one of his greatest highlights the following decade, in 1965, when he imported *Morafic. In 1954, California breeder John Rogers, an old hand at finding good bloodstock overseas, purchased *Serafix from Lady Wentworth of Crabbet Stud in England. And 1957 saw Bazy Tankersley’s extensive purchases from the estates of Lady Wentworth (Crabbet Park Stud) and Lady Yule (Hanstead Stud) in England, making her Al-Marah Stud the largest Arabian breeding establishment in the U.S. at the time. The 1960s marked the first importations from Poland since General Dickinson’s historic 1938 purchases. British horsewoman Patricia Lindsay was the first to establish relations with the Polish stud farms, going so far as to learn the Polish language in order to conduct business. Her importations in 1961 encouraged Americans to try, and she helped them out. A steady stream of Polish horses made the journey across the sea, the most important of which was *Bask in 1963, purchased by Dr. Eugene LaCroix. In 1966, the first Spanish bloodstock arrived. By 1967, the international aspect of the growing breed resulted in the formation of the World Arabian Horse Organization, or WAHO. Over the years, the prices on the horses rose. In 1952, Ferzon was purchased as a weanling at a world-record price of $10,000. By 1969, at a milestone sale held to disperse the herd of Anne McCormick,

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Arabian Horse Times At 35 of Scottsdale, Ariz., that record rose to an eyepopping $150,000. Tom Chauncey and Wayne Newton wrote that check on a winning bid for the Polish stallion *Naborr. *Pallada became the highest-selling mare at $25,000. Such was the era into which the Times was born: horses from around the world were arriving in the United States; shows were exploding across the nation; clubs and governing organizations were settling into position; prices were on the rise but were not, as a rule, prohibitive. And those who couldn’t afford purebreds could start with a HalfArabian. The sky was the limit.

Walter Mishek: Growing Up With A Love For Arabians Strange as it may sound, Walter Mishek grew up allergic to most animals. So did his sisters, Mary and Susie. “Pets” in the Mishek household meant goldfish. When their doctor cleared them to associate with hair-bearing beasts, early in Walter’s grammar school career, the three Mishek kids thought they’d died and gone to heaven. They hadn’t banked on learning their horsemanship from five ornery Shetland ponies, which is what their father bought them, but they did the best they could. They even satisfied R.C. Mishek’s requirement that their equine interest pay for itself. Every weekend found them working their small, pony-ride operation. Nearly everything they learned came from Western Horseman, and on the occasions when the instructions in the magazine weren’t clear to the children, their experiences were as funny as they were sometimes dangerous. But no one was hurt, and all three kids, especially Walter and Susie, remained horse-crazy. It was through Western Horseman that Arabians entered the picture in 1965. Walter read about the exotic horses of the desert and fell in love. He mowed untold numbers of lawns to earn the $400 necessary to buy all that he could afford, a Half-Arabian named

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Tonya Waykon. Through the years of dealing with the ponies, he had learned his lessons well; he quickly retrained and sold the mare for a profit, and reinvested in a better Half-Arabian, Gaysan. He took her to U.S. Nationals and earned a Top Ten. By then in his teens, he was living and breathing Arabian horses. The stories from those years, as he traveled the upper Midwestern circuit with Judith Wagner and her cousin, Bev Backer, are redolent with laughter. Although Walter’s father was *Nab orr

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Arabian Horse Times At 35

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a successful businessman, he maintained a tight hold on the purse strings, and Judith and Bev weren’t rolling in money either. Many shows found them, and sometimes Susie Mishek as well, sleeping out of their trailer or in tack rooms. Once the wheels tried to fall off the Misheks’ trailer. But once again, everyone survived. They had good horses, they won their share of classes, and the memories are golden. After a while, Walter and Susie determined that they could build

their show reputation if they trained babies. Walter had perceived that the colts and fillies in shows back then were often unschooled; in a class where youngsters were leaping around and misbehaving, a good many points could be racked up simply by having a foal that stood up and exhibited calmly. Those were fun days. Susie recalls that they hired high school juniors and seniors to travel the circuit with them, and taught them to groom horses. “They became part of the family,” she says. “Some are still friends today.” Walter remembers the success. “I think the first baby that we bred, Mi Coylene—we showed her around 1971 and as a baby, she had 19 junior championships out of 19 times.” As he approached the time when he would need to settle on a career, Walter realized that whatever he chose had to be in Arabian horses. He needed to find something that filled a niche as well as training babies did. Susie recalls that their father, R.C. Mishek, suggested a publication. That was a natural; he himself owned an array of businesses, many of them relating to publishing, and had been instrumental in the founding of Brown Printing Company. Two years before, he and Walter had published the Half-Arabian Yearbook, which had been so successful that IAHA had purchased it.

hek . Judith W ag n e r

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Arabian Horse Times At 35 Walter, although only a junior in college, figured out his own niche in the industry: their publication would be for marketing only. It would be all advertising. A shopper, basically. Not even a real magazine—just a user-friendly little publication on newsprint, where the message was more important than the appearance. It might not be glamorous, but it would be useful to everyone in Arabians, big owners and small, trainers, exhibitors—everyone. In time, Susie would come aboard as the magazine’s finance and collection person. But in the beginning, it was only Walter and former Gainey trainer Wayne Thompson, with R.C. Mishek for advice. In 1970, the Arabian Horse Advertiser was born. Never mind that it was only eight pages long and there were already 17 publications in the Arabian horse industry. They had a future.

AHT: The Genesis Of A Magazine With Walter still in college, it was imperative that someone else be on staff, and that someone was Wayne Thompson, who had recently resigned after several years as manager and trainer for Gainey Arabians. Between them, Walter and Wayne knew Arabian owners all over the country, Wayne because his involvement with Gainey had given him access to everyone, and Walter because he had gotten around a lot, showing his horses. He had been going to Nationals since 1967 (and has been to every one since), and through the year hit shows in an eight-state area. They set up shop on the second floor of the concrete block garage behind the Mishek house. At first they rented one room, then two and finally they took over the whole building. “We created a marketplace for ourselves within the industry,” Walter recalls, “and once that happened, things started moving along pretty well. But it was tough. We had to develop a customer base, and also get subscriptions. It was a big project.”

Arabian Horse Times • July 2005

It was especially challenging for Walter, who had to finish his college career, and Wayne still remembers meeting with R.C. every morning to go through the publication’s mail. However, the publication was a hit, and Oliver Bartus, publisher of the Arabian Horse Adviser, howled that the names were too similar, so Walter changed the name of the Advertiser to the Arabian Horse Times. It sounded like the New York Times, or Time Magazine— more authoritative. Their days were hectic. To put the little publication out at a reasonable price, they did all the work themselves, Wayne Th which meant selling during om p s o n the day and writing and

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Arabian Horse Times At 35 composing the pages at night. Compared to today, the graphics process and the equipment they used was primitive. “So much of it was done by hand,” Walter remembers. “It was very time-consuming and tedious.” They had to set all the type, in the beginning using an Addressograph/Multigraph machine with a wheel. The process remains burned in Walter’s brain. “If you wanted to set ‘the,’ for instance, you turned the wheel to the capital ‘T’ and exposed it, then to the ‘h’ and exposed it, and then ‘e,’ and space, and so on with the sentence. And after those big lines of type came out and

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were exposed, you had to run them through the developer and fixer and water and then let it dry. And then you cut it apart and waxed it and put it on your paste-up board.” In those early years, they used other processes as well, but none was all that much easier. They wrote headlines with a strip-printer, again setting the type by hand and developing it—but with no timer for the developer. They just had to know, and if they were wrong, the mistake meant they had to start over. They learned by experience. “You have to remember, we didn’t have the number of pages back then that we do now,” Walter says. “Thirty-six or 48 or 64 pages took an enormous amount of time to do. That was huge.” Improvements in technology offered a little relief, but by modern standards, not much. No one complained, though. “It was fun,” Walter smiles. “When you’re doing something on your own and you’re trying to make a success of it—not only is it challenging, but it’s rewarding as well.” He shakes his head. “But it was slow. It’s like breeding horses; it takes most good breeders 25 or 30 years before they start to have a really successful program.” One sign of their success came in early 1971, when Al-Marah Arabians signed on for a long run on the front cover. Then in March, the Times converted to a tabloid, with a glossy front cover, and as of November 1972, the entire issue was printed on glossy paper. In 1974, the tabloid became a magazine. The reason for their success? Their advertisers. Walter and Wayne—and those that had followed Wayne, who left the magazine after about two years—had worked tirelessly. “At that time, our tools to get to know the people were personally at the shows, which was obviously the best method, or by the

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Arabian Horse Times At 35 phone or by letter,” Walter says. “In the early days, we’d travel quite a bit locally, but there weren’t that many events nationally; there were no Regionals back then. What you’d do once in a while—and it was a big, big deal— you might fly somewhere and visit a group of farms in the local area. Like in the Santa Ynez Valley, or down in Los Angeles, you had Kellogg, or Cal Poly, and all the different breeders. In one small area, you’d have several breeders with few horses.” Even with the headaches of all the hard work, his voice softens as he remembers the days when the Arabian Horse Times was born. The industry was different then, and the memories are good.

The Arabian: Then And Now

“You didn’t have the numbers of horses, nor the numbers of breeders,” Walter recalls, “and it was more of a family affair for those that did have horses. There were very few trainers— maybe a half a dozen or a dozen throughout the whole U.S. There were a few farms internationally, like the EAO or the Polish government, but basically, what happened over there really didn’t mean anything in the U.S. What happened over here was everything. For most states, if they had one or two shows a year, that was pretty good. Those were Class A shows; we had Class B and C shows, some of those that we could attend. “Today everything happens so fast—we have cell phones and faxes and the Internet. Back then, things weren’t like that. You took your mare out to be bred; it was a big deal if you took her a hundred miles away. There was no AI, no transported semen, and no embryo transfer. It was a different way of life. Basically, things grew at a much slower pace. It was more of a breeder’s industry and much more of a family industry.” He recalls, as an example, the Buckeye Show around 1965 to 1970. “There would be 50-some park horses in a class. Some of those same park horses were also the English horses, the western horses, and the driving horses. If a family was lucky enough, they brought a two-horse

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trailer and they showed in all those classes. And they didn’t show against many professionals because there just weren’t many. “Back in the 1970s at the Minnesota Show, which was one of the largest Arabian horse shows in the world at that time, there were 750 to 800 horses. We’d have 90 or 100 yearling fillies in the ring at once. You have to remember, so many of those horses did so many jobs; they weren’t just the halter horses. We say the same thing about our Arabians today, W alt that it’s the versatile Com er Mishek in we s tern petition (1967).

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Arabian Horse Times At 35 Arabian horse, but back in those days, one horse did everything. Now you have a breed which can go in many different divisions and do many different jobs, but it’s not the same horse as it was then.” With the differences in technology, breeding horses was different too. “I remember back when I started breeding to *Bask. His stud fee was $1,000—that was huge. Stud fees were $100, 150, 200. I was one of the first to send a horse from Minnesota to Arizona, all that way to be bred to *Bask. Not only was it an expensive stud fee, but also you had to haul that mare down there! And you had to get them 60 days post foaling to palpate them for pregnancy; you couldn’t check them at 14 days with an ultrasound like we do now.

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“It was a whole different way of life. Usually, your horses stayed around the farm and you bred locally. There were more stallions used; we had a different variety of bloodlines. Today, our gene pool has gotten so much smaller because of AI and transported semen and embryo transfer. We have fewer and fewer stallions being used on more and more mares. Back in those days, more and more stallions were used to produce all the offspring because you didn’t have all the reproductive/breeding options. Basically, everybody had their own little breeding program. Everybody created their breeding program with their mares and their stallion, and when horses were bought, they were bought with the idea of not only showing them, but more importantly, putting them in a breeding herd. Consequently, we had a much greater gene pool to work with.” He points out the explosion of growth that has occurred in the industry since the 1950s. “There are 600,000 to 700,000 horses registered today. Ferzon’s registration number was 7723. He was foaled in 1952. *Bask, in 1963, was 25460.” Another aspect of the industry has changed as well. “Today so much of it is dominated by the decisions of the trainers. Back in those days, it was dominated by the breeders. We’re less breeder oriented now, and the owners are more and more marketers. They’re interested in creating a horse that can be sold, not used and kept in a breeding program, with an eye on the next generation and the third generation. You find few breeders like Sheila Varian, Bazy Tankersley or Judith Forbis. Most people today don’t have generations. Other places in the world they do, but in America we’ve changed and we don’t.” Speaking of great breeders, his voice softens. In his lifetime, he knew one of the best—he was privileged to live close to the home of Gainey Arabians.

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Arabian Horse Times At 35 “I don’t believe there is any breeder who has At the age of 75, he recently gave up the cigar had a greater influence on the Arabian horse habit he got into at the instigation of Dan breed/industry than Daniel C. Gainey,” Walter Gainey. “I’m not a skinny little guy anymore!” says. In February 1974, when Arabian Horse But those from the old days remember his Times created the first “theme issue” in the association with the Times. industry, it focused on the Gainey program. Does Walter miss the old days? “Yeah, “The style of horse that he created still lives on absolutely,” he says. But as time has moved on, (as well as the people that were associated with so has he. To grow as it has, the Times had to him). You look at the halter horses today and develop with the industry. a great number of them are still a reflection of Did anyone involved at the beginning ever that look. He had a huge influence, not only on think Arabian Horse Times would get as big the style of horses that he bred but the style of as it has? “I thought it would be,” says Susan. horses that he influenced the rest of us to have.” “Both Walter and I thought it would wind up One thing didn’t change over the years. this big. We had goals, and this was our goal.” In addition to developing the magazine, “The dream that I had is what I live today,” Walter continued to own and show horses, Walter nods. “I had such a passion for although from the beginning, that aspect of the Arabian horse that I just couldn’t see his life has been kept strictly separate from the doing anything else. I wanted to be involved publication. His record in the show ring has with something I could do for the rest of been enviable—Misheks Arabians probably my life.” has had more national champions at halter than any other farm—and he enjoys going to the barn every day. But most of his day, every day, is spent at the Times. “To me, the magazine and the industry are synonymous,” he reflects. “A testimony to what you do is the test of time—you want to withstand the test of time and be successful and have an influence within the industry. I think the Times had been a good influence, and the industry has had a good influence on the Times. When you’ve done it for 35 years and the ownership has stayed the same, and many of the people that have worked here are still here—I think that tells you about the stability and credibility of the industry and the magazine itself.” One thing that makes him especially happy is that many of his employees have remained long term. Twentyyear records of service (and counting) are not unusual. It’s the science of personal involvement. Wayne Thompson is still a friend. Judith Wagner isn’t far away. There are new friendships, but there are many old ones. Wayne Thompson laughs when he recalls those hectic early days at the magazine. “Don’t think Walter a people would recognize me now,” nd his fa ther , R .C he grins. Times have changed. . Mishek .

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Arabian Horse Times at 35 A History of Growth Within an Industry  
Arabian Horse Times at 35 A History of Growth Within an Industry  

Arabian Horse Times at 35 A History of Growth Within an Industry