Conway Arabians — A Renaissance

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Lori and Peter Conway with two-time National Champion Half-Arabian Show Hack HUCKS HI FIVE+// (Hucklebey Berry x Sultans Spitfire).

C O N WAY A R A B I A N S by Gary Dearth


reeding Arabian horses is by nature trial and error. Savvy breeders recognize and embrace what works for them and move on from what does not. So when breeders like Peter and Lori Conway, who have experienced so much success in the last twenty years recognized that they must completely retool their breeding program, it was an insightful and brave move. “As a result of watching the AEPA Futurity class in 2013, when Heirs Noble Love (Afires Heir x Noble Aphroditie) won and ROL Divine Style (Afire Bey V x IXL Miss Firefly) was reserve, I realized that our English breeding program was not good enough,” said Peter Conway. “We either needed to totally recommit ourselves to it and step up our game or back away. The choice was throttling it on down or making a major investment in horseflesh to enable us to breed horses at that level. Given the level of financial commitment needed to retool our English program backing away was a serious consideration, but we realized nothing else could replace the joys and emotions the horses provide. The decision we made to acquire Coltrane SS (IXL Noble Express x Brassmis) and a lot of great mares was the more fun one, but more difficult and fraught with risk.”

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TOP LEFT: Half-Arabian PENNY LEA RAFF (Lea Raff x Pennemare). TOP MIDDLE: 1983 Scottsdale Reserve Champion Open Western Pleasure KERAPHIX++ (*Karadjordje x Seraphima). TOP RIGHT: TYMELESS TREASURE+// (Eternety x Letraza), 1996 Canadian National Champion Hunter Pleasure Junior Horse. BOTTOM LEFT:

Like many fathers, Peter Conway became involved in Arabian horses through his children. “I was never into horses growing up, but my sister was,” said Peter. “When my daughters, Rachel and Anna, expressed interest in horses, she took them for riding lessons at a local Arabian horse barn. We were there for a brief time and then moved to Prestige Arabians so my kids could take lessons from Lori, which they did for years and years all the way through their youth careers.” Not a showman, and certainly not just a “horse show dad,” Peter’s interest gravitated toward breeding. “For me the most appealing part of this has been the breeding aspect,” he said. “The breeding and genetics have always fascinated me, and I love it. I have always looked to make an impact on the breed.” When it came time to acquire land for the Conway breeding program, Peter knew that he wanted to stay where he had grown up. “My parents immigrated from England in 1953,” said Peter. “All of my older brothers and sisters were born in England. My Dad was a bricklayer and worked for six months saving enough money to send back for the rest of the family. My older brothers and sisters all came over on the boat through Ellis Island. It is the typical immigrant story. I am the first American-born Conway. The rest of my family all had to go through C O N WAY > 4 < W O R L D

GORGEOUSGEORGIAKA (Gazort x Miss Georgia Ellen), 1992 Canadian National Champion Half-Arabian Show Hack, 1991 U.S. National Reserve Champion Half-Arabian Hunter Pleasure, and winner of 12 National Top Tens. BOTTOM RIGHT:

HUCKS PROWLETTA V+// (Huckleberry Bey x Prowlers Starlight), a six-time National Champion in HalfArabian Show Hack, English Sidesaddle, and Halter.

TOP LEFT: 2018 U.S. National Champion Country English Pleasure and 2017 Canadian National Champion Country English Pleasure Jr. Horse NOBLE RENDEZVOUS (IXL Noble Express x Renee Afire) with Leah Beth Golladay.


TOP RIGHT: U.S. and Canadian National Champion Ladies Sidesaddle English PROXIMUS CA (Afire Bey V x DA Triffire) with Jennifer Schmitt.

the naturalization process. I grew up in southeastern Minnesota in the town of Chatfield where my family settled. As a child and through my teen years, my main interest and hobby was everything involving the outdoors. Because of hunting and fishing, I knew this entire area intimately, having walked it all. When it came time to look for property on which to build an Arabian breeding program, this particular farm was what I was hoping to acquire. There is a trout stream that runs through the middle of it and it is absolutely beautiful, with great pastures. This is the ideal location and the place I coveted.

That led me to approach the farmer who owned it, who was looking to retire and had expressed some interest in selling half of his 400 acres to me. That started the dialogue. My brother and I spent from the spring all the way to the fall of 2000 going to see him every week so that we could share a bottle of bourbon between us and talk. That’s where I learned to appreciate bourbon. I took my brother because he’s the likeable one. It was his job to sell the farmer on the idea that I would be a good neighbor. We’d sit at the kitchen table and talk until midnight when I would finally broach the subject. He’d always say, ‘Why don’t you boys come back again next week, and we will talk about this some more.’ We did that every week until he decided we were okay, and sold half

of his farm to me. We became very good friends and ran C O N WAY > 5 < W O R L D

TOP LEFT: ASSAULT N BATTERY+// (Lost Kingdom x Kluzette), 2000 Canadian National Champion Half-Arabian English Pleasure JOTR 17 & Under and 2001 Canadian National Champion Half-Arabian English Pleasure JTR 17 & Under, ridden by Anna Conway, and RIOT ACT+/ (Islamorada x Pretty Elegant), 2000 Canadian National Champion Half-Arabian Show Hack AOTR, ridden by Rachel Conway Schieffelbein. TOP RIGHT: SWEET SUMMER HEIR DGL (Afires Heir x Sweet Summer Fire), 2017 U.S. National Champion Hunter Pleasure AAOTR Maturity, ridden by Anna Conway.

cattle together for the next ten years. He ended up making sure that when he passed, we would buy the other half of the farm. And that’s what we did.” Lori Conway’s Arabian horse journey began at a young age. Even though many of us think of Lori as a Colorado native, she was born in Rochester, Minnesota. “When I was a little girl of around seven, I remember my dad and I going for a ride to Owatonna, Minnesota, to visit Gainey Arabians,” said Lori. “I saw Ferzon (Ferneyn x Fersara) there. That was my ‘aha’ moment. I fell in love with the Arabian horse from then on. When my father was transferred to Boulder, Colorado, I took my passion to have an Arabian horse with me. I didn’t have a place for a horse, but there were horses around there, so I was able get involved cleaning stalls and taking care of horses at famous farms like Van Vleet Arabians and the Newmans who had National Champion Stallion Mujahid (Sureyn x *Silver Crystal). Also down the road was Shalako Arabians, which belonged to Cindy Reich and her mother, Linda (my 4-H leader and judging team coach for over 10 years). I was the pesky kid who would do anything to be around the horses and I was surrounded by incredible people who pushed me to succeed with my first horse, a dude string reject I got in 1968. My first Half-Arabian was a foal sired by Joe Wing’s Lea Raff (Azraff x Ibit). I named her Penny Lea Raff, and from that day on, she was ponied by my dude string reject

Lori, left, with Peter, and his daughters Anna and Rachel.

Lori, center, and her youth riders in 2000.

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The stallion COOL RIVER KID (Sundance Kid V x Moments To Treasure) and trainer Jennifer Schmitt.

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Unanimous 2018 U.S. National Champion Park, and 2018 Scottsale Champion Park COLTRANE SS (IXL Noble Express x Brassmis) and Joel Kiesner.

everywhere we went, since my horse and bike were my only means of transportation. ‘Penny’ was the first horse trained from start to finish, and she and I were very successful in competition. “When I graduated from high school a year and a half early, I started working horses full-time. Originally, I would either ride my horse or my bike and later drive to people’s places to train and work one or two horses at each farm. When I started in 1973 at Longs Peak Arabians, owned by Jim and Grace Wilson, they had just moved from California where they were mentored by the Husbands (breeders of Khemosabi) and had a couple of horses. By the time I left they had about seventyfive horses with a huge facility. I worked there for twenty-three years. During that time, I took sabbaticals. I worked at Lasma Arabians for a year and a half. Then Longs Peak sent me out to Don DeLongpre’s and I worked there for three or four months. The Wilsons were really good about letting me expand my knowledge, which then helped me with their horses. “The people who bought NDL Aspen (Barbary x Allegra NA) from Longs Peak owned Prestige Arabians in Minnesota. They flew me out every month to work with their horse trainer and NDL Aspen through the U.S. Nationals. After that they offered me a job because they were starting a company called Interfund Corporation that was buying the paper of horses who had sold in the auctions. I appraised horses for Interfund and trained their personal horses. When the Arabian horse market crashed in 1990, I went back to training horses full time.” January 31, 1996, was the defining moment in Lori Conway’s life. “For me everything is either ‘AF’ or ‘BF.’ After the fire or before the fire. At Prestige Arabians I had built up a business and we had some great breeding stallions — Wisdom (*Bask x Wizteria), The Chief Justice (*Bask x Sey Cherie), LF Fifth Avenue (Laddinns Fire x Rose Fyre), and Balajkar Bey V (Bay El Bey x Balalinka). My life was on a roll. I had great clients, great youth riders, great horses, and I was taking life for granted

Lori and HOLLYWOOD GOLD DIGGER+/ (Hollywood White [QH] x Se Si Bon), multi-National Top Ten winner.

because it was going so well. And then one night it was over. I lost those great horses. I lost everything I owned. I didn’t even have a saddle, bridle, halter or a bucket. I got a lot of horses out (over 25), but we lost ten. The people who owned Prestige Arabians decided they were done. They didn’t want to rebuild. I had to decide if I was going to give up or go on. I had all those kids’ horses. They were the ones I was able to get out because they were in a different part of the barn. “All my clients stuck with me. I leased the land at Prestige and rebuilt part of the barn. We worked in a minimalist atmosphere, but it worked. I wanted to see the last group of kids, which was Anna’s group, finish. I wasn’t going to give up until they were through Youth Nationals and off to college. After that I thought I was going to quit. I needed a knee replacement and had a few other health issues that solidified my decision that I couldn’t train horses anymore. I am too much of a perfectionist to be happy if not being totally effective. I have figured out my limitations. I can do the breeding and the foaling, but my body can’t take the day-to-day in the barn. My lungs are still bad from the fire, so I can’t be in the barn for long periods of time. The asthma I have as a result affects how I can ride, but I’m going to keep going.” Lori’s transition from training as a professional to an amateur rider and breeder works well with Peter’s love of breeding. “Originally the concept was to try to find a non-Huckleberry Bey-bred stallion that would give our English horses more pretty and better back ends,” said Peter. “That was twenty years C O N WAY > 9 < W O R L D

*EL GHAZI (*Aloes x Electra), 1989 U.S. National Reserve Champion English Pleasure and sire of top English horses, is now deceased but the Conways own his breeding rights and are incorporating his blood into their program.

Two sires of Conway National Champions: 24-year-old HEIR TO GLORY (Heritage Emir x NDL Esperanza), U.S. National Top Ten Stallion, left, and 13-year-old PROXIMUS CA (Afire Bey V x DA Triffire) share a pasture. Proximus is a U.S. and Canadian National Champion in Sidesaddle English and a winner of 12 National Reserves and Top Tens.


ago. It led us to Heir To Glory (Heritage Emir x NDL Esperanza). We bred a lot of really good horses, but they were not gifted enough through the poll. And the percentages weren’t good enough to reach my goals as a breeder.” Like so many things in life, timing and circumstance plays a huge role in how things turn out. “I bought a puppy in Ontario, Canada,” said Lori. “And immediately after 2014 U.S. Nationals I drove to Tim and Marty Shea’s on my way to pick up the puppy. When you go to Sheas’ it can take a long C O N W A Y > 10 < W O R L D

time to see all of the horses. I hung out there for a couple of days. I saw this black colt, Coltrane SS, turned outside that looked interesting. The next day they worked Coltrane and Saxton DGL (Afires Heir x Sweet Summer Fire) for me. I couldn’t decide which one I liked the best. And I saw Noble Rendezvous (IXL Noble Express

The stallion EL GHAZI (*Aloes x Elektra)

x Renee Afire) who was the same age and Afires Rejoice (Afire Bey V x Joleen WB) who was a baby. I got on the phone that night with Pete and told him that I had seen a black colt that I just couldn’t get out of my mind. He was correct, pretty, and unique. I told him that I thought we needed this black colt.” Peter’s dream to use a non-Huckleberry Bey-bred stallion was about to come true for the second time. “Coltrane was a chance to revisit what I wanted to do twenty years ago,” he said. “That was a huge motivator to getting that horse.” In addition to acquiring a promising young stallion, the Conways made another even bolder move. They acquired the breeding rights to the late, great stallion *El Ghazi (*Aloes x Elektra). “He fit into our plans. There are so many *El Ghazi daughters that are producing well. In fact, a large percentage of winning English horses have *El Ghazi in their pedigree.

We approached his owner, Val Della Pello, through my friend Mike Curiel. Val was excited that *El Ghazi was going to be used, but we had to buy all of the *El Ghazi semen. Collected at different times in his life, it was in a storage facility in Illinois in a huge tank. We also had to buy the huge tank because there were many damaged straws. We have more semen than we will ever use, so we will be selling and shipping his semen for the first time this year. Our oldest *El Ghazi filly, Ghazelle CA (x Natalya Afire) is four years old and is in foal to Coltrane.” Not content to just breed great English horses, the Conways have begun a western pleasure breeding program. “Our western program is also phenomenal,” said Lori. “For obvious reasons, western pleasure is much easier on me. We started our western program with PA Calypso Dancer (Sundance Kid V x Cassandra GA). I showed Calypso and then Jen Schmitt came on board here. She is absolutely kickass in western and hunter. She is a helluva horsewoman and loves the barn neat, tidy and organized, like I do. I told her that if she joined us, we would grow our western program. As a result, we bought Cool River Kid (Sundance Kid V x Moments To Treasure) as a yearling. His first foal crop arrived in 2019, and they are exceptional.” Jen Schmitt added, “The Cool River Kid foals are stunning. I’m so lucky because out in our pastures waiting to come in are some incredible horses. I’m lucky C O N W A Y > 11 < W O R L D

Foals sired by National Champion Park stallion Coltrane SS (IXL Noble Express x Brassmis) — TOP LEFT: The filly Collette CA (x MD Roulette); TOP RIGHT: The colt One Track Mind CA, and his dam Heatwave PF (SF Specs Shocwave x Afires Quintana); MIDDLE LEFT: The colt Nat King Cole CA (x HA Serenata); BOTTOM LEFT: The colt Roscoe P Coltrane CA (x Abilene [DHH]); BOTTOM RIGHT: The colt Louis Armstrong CA [AHSA]).

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LEFT: The colt MISSISSIPPI CA (Cool River Kid x Kalifornia Khrome J). RIGHT: The colt MILES DAVIS CA (Coltrane SS x MD Roulette).

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because I get to know that those guys are what I have to look forward to. Other trainers don’t tend to know what they are going to get year to year. That’s a huge perk.” Guided by Lori, Anna Conway had a highly successful youth career winning many National Championships. “Growing up as a youth rider. My dream was to be a trainer, but fear got in the way of that dream,” said Anna. “I want our young horses to be the best that they can be, and I wasn’t sure if I could do them justice. It is intimidating to know that there are people out there who are so skilled at their craft. As a result, I initially decided to compete as an amateur. But I dedicated

myself to learning everything that I could. Finally, I realized that I couldn’t let fear stop me. I needed to pursue my passion. I love that there are so many trainers reaching out that are happy to teach me. We have a three-year-old Coltrane filly at the barn that I am absolutely in love with. And I know that I have to push through my fear for her. She makes me know that I am on the right path.” “The way we raise horses probably sets us apart from most farms in the United States,” said Lori. “They grow up as wild brumbys. Most of our babies are born in May and June, because of the weather. We have three foaling stalls, and I watch all the mares. I have a camera system, and as soon as I see a bubble, I wake Pete up and we foal out the mares ourselves. We love it because that’s the beginning. At a month old they start living outside. There is plenty of room because we have four hundred acres. They learn to drink out of a creek because that is the water source. At weaning time, we take the mares away and the babies stay together. Other than monthly worming and vaccinations, they aren’t handled much until we bring them in the barn for training. We’ve got a system where our furthest pasture can be accessed by either truck and trailer on the


roads, or they can be run through many pastures to get them up to the barn. This happens late in their two-year-old year. They’ve never had their feet trimmed, because we don’t have to trim feet here. They self-trim. They have been running up and down hills, so their legs are strong. They learn to handle life. I think they are better horses for it.” Now that the first three-year-old Coltrane foals are starting their training, the Conways are excited. “I hate to say this because you hear it from everybody, but the Coltrane babies are different and better than anything we have bred before” says Peter. “It hasn’t been until the last couple of months that I’ve started to feel confident. When the first foal crop from those good mares bred to Coltrane were brought into the barn and started, I could see with certainty the quality of what we have produced. However good our breeding has been, the next several years will show the world a whole new level based on the foals who will start showing soon. Every one of them is better than anything we have bred in the previous twenty years. That’s how strongly I feel about it. We’ve bred good horses for a long time, but not English horses like this.” That kind of quality will make Conway Arabians a shopping destination. “I hope that we become a major stop for trainers to come and shop for horses,” said Lori. “I am giddy with excitement about the three-year-olds we’ve got. And over time I see us refining our crosses as we see what works best.” Breeders guide the direction and future of the Arabian breed. The Conways are committed to that future with their breeding program and are in it for the long haul. Peter’s daughter Anna, as the next generation of Conways, looks forward and understands that a great breeding program is a multi-generational endeavor. “We talk regularly about breeding — both the next step and several generations into the future,” said Anna. The Conways know where their breeding program has been and where, with its new trajectory, it is going. And the Arabian breed will be better for it.

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Peter & Lori Conway 507-202-4440 ·