by Mary Kirkman
he key to Hucks Connection V is that he is “the versatile Arabian”—in the modern sense. No, he doesn’t show in every division of the ring; those days are past for most Arabians now. Instead, he is a national champion performance horse in open and amateur, he is beautiful and typey, and his career as a sire of Arabians and Half-Arabians is taking off. He has a disposition that makes friends wherever he goes (in fact, his personality could inspire a children’s book), and he accepts training with aplomb. He even satisfies the diverse requirements of his owners at Diamond Hill Arabians. For Jacques “Jack” Lapointe, he is an absorbing business and marketing project; for Ann Lapointe, his foals are like her grandchildren, and for their daughter Lisa Giovanniello, he is a megaexciting partner in the amateur show ring. His trainer, Vicki Humphrey, lists him among her most satisfying rides in professional competition. So, theoretically, he has no more fields to conquer. But that’s the thing about Hucks Connection V: point him at a goal, and he is always up for the challenge.
At The Trot Lisa Giovanniello can tell you what it feels like, seeing the world through a pair of alert dark ears, feeling the kind of propulsion that can belt you right out of a flat saddle if you don’t have the legs and balance to keep your seat. If you’re not distracted with finding your position on the rail or keeping an eye on the competition across the ring, it’s the sort of thing that can make you grin like a child with a new toy.
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“He su-u-re can wave his legs.”
“I had never ridden anything like him,” Giovanniello says of the first time she got on Hucks Connection V. “He doesn’t look that intimidating when he’s standing in the cross-ties, and he’s truly safe—but you wouldn’t want to ask him to trot if you didn’t know how to ride. The power that I felt that day was unbelievable.” In the open division, the stallion can reach for even more, for an “nth” degree of overdrive in his top gear. The resulting picture is what old horsemen used to mean when, in dry, sage voices, they would say of a good horse, “He su-u-re can wave his legs.”
In cold, hard facts, Hucks Connection V is one of the best English pleasure contenders in the Arabian breed today. In the U.S. and Canada, he has won five national or national reserve championships in English pleasure and informal combination, the open titles with Vicki Humphrey and the amateur with Lisa Giovanniello. And last year, he threw in a Liberty performance that dazzled the crowd at Scottsdale and netted him the highest score in the history of the show’s Liberty competition. What sets him apart from his contemporaries is that when his talent is added to his Varian heritage and his disposition, he represents extraordinary opportunity as a breeding stallion.
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“I was looking for a trotting horse,” Sheila Varian says simply, recalling her thoughts when she planned the mating of the Serinask daughter Crystal Lace to her stallion Hucks Premier V, a son of Huckleberry Bey. The pedigree she created fairly bristles with English pleasure talent; as a sire, Huckleberry Bey dominated English pleasure in his time, and Crystal Lace brought her own strong influence to the mix. A daughter of a three-time national champion in the discipline, she was a Canadian National Champion in amateur English pleasure and is still remembered for her elegance. That elegance was an important part of the bargain, because the ability to trot was not all that was on Varian’s mind. “There is beauty all over his pedigree,” she points out. She has bred her own horses for their looks as well as their athletic ability, and Hucks Connection V also offers a cross to Khemosabi, whose excellent type won him the title of U.S. National Champion Stallion in 1973. In addition, Hucks Connection V’s tail female is from Lewisfield Arabians, a well-respected mid-century breeding program. “Those horses were known to be beautiful,” Varian notes. “They were really quality horses throughout, magnificently beautiful horses.” The looks were apparent from birth, and the ability declared itself early on. “He was a very talented horse from the first time we rode him,” she says. “He could trot from the very beginning.” He came up through
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Varian’s slow stages of training and development, and by the time he moved to Vicki Humphrey Training Centre, under the ownership of Diamond Hill Arabians, he was ready to hit full stride.
It’s All In The Family The story of Hucks Connection V is inextricably woven through families—the equine family that produced him and the human family which owns him, shows him and plots his future as a breeding stallion. He is an adventure, the Lapointes smile, because he is more than they initially anticipated when they purchased him from Varian in 2006. Jack Lapointe had loved horses from his youth in Canada, and fell in love with grey Arabians when he rode one, by chance, at a public riding stable (the little ex-polo pony was head and shoulders smarter than his stablemates). So when Lisa, at age 11, said she wanted
a horse of her own, he and Ann replied, “Sure. An Arabian.” It was the early 1980s; their daughter’s first was Dawson Loradel, who not only started her in the show ring, but also started her mother in horses. When Lisa graduated to the national champion amateur park horse Proud Canadian, Ann learned to ride and began breeding Dawson Loradel. It was the beginning of what would be Diamond Hill Arabians. As with many families, the time came when Lisa had to get on with life—college, marriage and a family— and the Lapointes’ show experiences drew to a close. However, Jack and Ann kept and cared for the horses, and when Lisa moved to North Carolina in the late 1990s, she found a way to have a career and Arabians at the same time. Her parents moved south as well, and the stage was set for them to take up where they had left off. A chance meeting with a friend who showed horses led Lisa to Vicki Humphrey in 2005, and it was not long before she was back in competition, scoring in country English pleasure amateur with Indigo Moun. That did it. Pretty soon Jack Lapointe told Vicki Humphrey to find them a filly that they could breed later on; there was one at Varian Arabians which had attracted his attention. “You don’t need a broodmare,” Humphrey told him. “You need Hucks Connection V.” Humphrey had been watching Hucks Connection V since she had seen him at Scottsdale earlier that year, but Varian hadn’t been keen on selling. Now, Humphrey thought, the stallion would make a great amateur horse for Giovanniello and satisfy the Lapointes’ growing desire to breed horses again. Lisa, too, remembered the stallion, and she agreed on the broader context of the stallion’s role in their lives. Her mother was a born nurturer and loved having foals around, and her father, who was in the process of selling his business and “semi-retiring,” might appreciate a new project. So Humphrey and Giovanniello headed to California to meet Hucks Connection V. Although he answered their requirements, there was one last consideration. Did they really want to embark on standing a stallion? While it was clear to everyone that the flashy black-bay would make a great show partner for Lisa, it took Ann Lapointe’s input to confirm his breeding career. “It’s very cruel to keep a horse a stallion if you are not going
to use him for what God created him for,” she told her husband. And with that, they began adding faces to their fledgling band of broodmares.
“Our philosophy is to breed motion to motion.”
“Picture Jack Lapointe sitting behind his desk in his home office, on the phone all day long, often talking horses—because that’s what he does,” says Giovanniello. “He spent a lot of time getting to understand breeding and what is a good fit with this horse. He talks to the professionals all the time about the mares we should be putting in our broodmare band.” When Lapointe targets a certain mare, he is not afraid to say, “What do I have to do to get her?” Then all options are on the table. Some are purchased and some leased, sent back in foal to their owners. Whatever works, Lapointe shrugs. It’s the quality that counts. “Our philosophy is to breed motion to motion,” he adds. “If you want to have an English horse, breed an English stallion to an English mare.” Currently, Diamond Hill maintains a dozen mares—six Arabians, five Saddlebreds and one Dutch Harness Horse/Saddlebred cross. The bloodlines reflect classic English talent: two purebreds are Baske Afire daughters (one the dam of Princess Of Baske, unanimous 2011 U.S. National Champion Country Pleasure Junior Horse), one is by Afire Bey V, one is by El Ghazi, and another is by Justafire. Hucks Connection V’s book does not include just Diamond Hill mares; Sheila Varian continues to breed to him, other top English breeders have signed on, and a selection of South African horsemen have endorsed him as well, citing his talent and his ability to work well
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with both amateurs and professionals. For all that, the Lapointes admit that selling breedings, while a welcome addition to their operation, is not their first priority. “Our main focus has been on breeding our own broodmares and seeing the foals we’re getting,” says Lisa Giovanniello, “and I have to say that this last year, we have really hit it. We have some of the most incredible foals.”
Fillies And Colts— The Next Gener ation Hucks Connection V bred his first mares at the age of 4, and by the time he came east in late 2006, he had 14 foals on the ground. It was enough to demonstrate his potential, as even with limited exposure, that early crop offered a U.S. National Top Ten in country English pleasure. The Lapointes began breeding to their stallion in 2007, and this year, the first 3-year-olds will be sent to Vicki Humphrey for training. Already, Jack Lapointe is identifying the bloodline crosses that appear to nick well with Hucks Connection V. “The Afire Bey Vs have been outstanding,” he reports. “We have three babies who will knock your socks off. We also have several Bask Afire mares in foal to Huck; we have no proof yet, but we believe in that cross.” MHR Nobility appears to have promise as well. His daughter SMS Forever, the dam of Vegaz, produced an outstanding filly by Hucks Connection V who unfortunately was lost at an early age.
HC Boisterous+ (Hucks Connection V x Balquenette V) U.S. National Top Ten Arabian Country English Pleasure Maturity
High Speed Connection (Hucks Connection V x Megha Hearrts) Scottsdale Top Ten Arabian Country English Pleasure Junior Horse
An increasingly important dimension of the breeding program is the HalfArabians. “From the very beginning Vicki has said, ‘Breed your stallion to some Saddlebred mares; you won’t believe what you will get,’” says Giovanniello. “So my father started to investigate the Saddlebred. He knows a lot about purebred Arabian breeding because that’s what they’ve always been passionate about, but understanding the bloodlines of the Saddlebred and what might be a good fit for his stallion has been something he’s had to take on as a job.” It was a job Lapointe relished. Prominent in the broodmare band are daughters of the celebrated Saddlebred sires CH Will Shriver and Worthy Son, many of whom already have nationally-decorated Half-Arabian
offspring to their credit. The mare attracting the most attention lately has been Risa, the Dutch Harness Horse/Saddlebred cross. “She has put one of the most stunning foals on the ground that I have ever seen,” Lisa Giovanniello says of the filly they have named Hucks Wild Patricia. “I would put her up against anything.” “She is an extremely good example of what we’re trying to produce,” Ann Lapointe nods. “A goodminded filly with a very beautiful body—straight legs, and a lot of correctness.” She elaborates on their attention to Half-Arabians. “The show circuit is looking for good-minded, large, well-moving horses,” she says, “and the combination of our Saddlebred mares with Huck is proving to be a very good cross.” While Jack manages the business side of Diamond Hill Arabians and Lisa represents the farm in the ring, Ann is the authority at home with the mares and foals. “I have more responsibility than everyone else put together!” she quips. That is only half a joke; her husband and daughter may have the more high profile roles at Diamond Hill, but it is up to her to make sure that each individual arrives for training at the age of 3 with the best possible preparation for life. “We start the babies on the ground,” she says. “That’s my job. I teach them manners. I teach them to be good horses.” She is in the barn for every foaling, and starts imprint training in the earliest accelerated learning period. As the foals grow up, they are handled every day, consistently, so that by the time they leave to begin their careers with Humphrey, they are easy to work with and experienced with the learning process.
Jack Lapointe would agree; he can hardly wait until April, when Hucks Connection V foals out of Princess Of Baske (by Baske Afire) and her dam, Berry Fancee (by Hucklebey Berry), are due.
“He has that Huckleberry Bey impish, funny delight in himself.”
Mr. Personality Today, show ring audiences are attracted by Hucks Connection V’s over-level trot, but it usually is his jaunty enthusiasm that keeps their eyes riveted. That hell-and-gone enjoyment of himself dates to his earliest days at Varian Arabians. “He has an attitude of cheeriness and simply delights in his own athletic ability to play and dance,” says Sheila Varian. “And yet, when he’s asked to work, he goes directly to work. He’s always made everyone smile.” Liberty, she relates, has long been high on his list. “When you turn him out—I always used the music ‘Macho Man’—he reared, he leaped, he jumped. I’ve got a whole series of pictures of him practically
“They are similar in temperament to the Hucklebey Berrys, with the personality, the brightness and the great big eyes,” observes Humphrey of the stallion’s foals. She has several growing up at the training center. “Huck’s Connection V is not by HBB, but he has a similar pedigree. That seems like it is going to be a really special cross as we go forward.”
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“He is the engine who could.”
standing on his head with joy. And then we’d put a saddle on him, he’d just march with that same happy eagerness. He’s just like an enthusiastic child who delights in his own abilities without ever having a naughty bone in his body. He has that Huckleberry Bey impish, funny delight in himself. Of all the Huckleberry Beys, he had it more than any.”
“He is the engine who could,” Vicki Humphrey offers. “He’s an overachiever; he has so much enthusiasm for life in general. You know how a horse will cock his head from side to side? He prances out of his stall every day and just cocks his head from side to side. Absolutely mannered—you just climb on and go ride. He is excited about everything that happens. He can’t wait to go to work, he can’t wait to do what you ask him to do. He’s happy—happy, happy, happy all the time.
On The Horizon “This year is our year,” Jack Lapointe reflects. “We will have babies coming out from our own breeding program. And next year, Lisa will start showing the Huck babies.” They look forward to retaining some of the Hucks Connection mares, both purebred and Half-Arabian, to breed in their program. Others will be sold, along with a selection of broodmares and foals by other sires they use; they understand the importance of building Diamond Hill’s reputation as a source of bloodstock, both for the show ring and in breeding operations across the country. Even though they took several years off from showing at one time, the Lapointes’ history in Arabians argues that their interest and experience have been long term. Jack owned Arabians as far back as the late 1970s, and the family still cares for the first foal they ever ushered into the world. (She is 28 now.) Proud Canadian was in their barn until his death at the age of 26, and the gelding DH Karisma, now 21, has been Ann’s all his life and now teaches Lisa’s children to ride. Hucks Connection V is part of their evolution.
“Luckily, you can breed him at 9 a.m., show him at 10, and he knows the difference,” she adds. “You put the saddle on and he just carries on. With some horses you can’t do that, but he doesn’t have any problems.”
“I fell in love with Hucks Connection the day I met him,” says Ann Lapointe. “He had a softness to him when I walked into his stall. I told him, someday he would come home with me and I would love him forever. ‘As long as I am alive, you will have a big pasture and some mares to be with,’ I said. I believe he understood my thoughts, that I would take care of him. I meant it and I still mean it, and when he retires, he will come home and be with me. I love him.”
The key for the breeding program, notes Ann Lapointe, is that Hucks Connection V not only has a sunny disposition, but also passes it on to his foals. They are known for their confidence and their affinity for people. “These guys have their daddy’s disposition,” she says. “Vicki told us, ‘Your horse is going to have a very positive impact on the Arabian breed; they are wonderful-minded and they want to work and perform.’ We had only bred a couple before we realized that too.”
But it is early yet for Hucks Connection V, and those days remain ahead. At 13, he is just beginning to write his story. Part of it will be each year’s new collection of foals, the ones who parade across their North Carolina pastures, heads held high on little skyscraper necks, swaggering a bit as they go. At the trot, their hocks fold up like accordions and their spindly, pipe stem front legs reach for level. Just as their sire’s do. ■
Proudly owned by and offered at stud by Diamond Hill Arabians • Jacques Lapointe Waxhaw, North Carolina • voice 704.243.7036 • E-mail: Janprointl1@aol.com