A Farewell to
by Denise Hearst
Curt and Allison
urt Westley’s involvement with Arabians began when he bought a share in the colt Botswana (Thee Desperado x The Minuet). He didn’t have an interest in horses … but he had an interest in Allison Mehta. And somewhere along the way he became a lover and breeder of Arabians. “I met Curt on a job. He came to do an installation on one of our projects,” Allison says. “We were both married to other people at the time, and we were friends for 10 years before we finally got together as a couple. “Horses were my thing. I had already purchased, with a partner, Talaria farms. Curt would come out to the farm with me, and we’d go riding from time to time. Somewhere around the year 2000 I discovered the young stallion Botswana. He was very expensive for the time, and I knew
if I wanted him I would have to syndicate him. Eventually, I had one share left, and I ran into my ex-husband. His brother was an industrialist in India and wanted to make some investments in the U.S. for fun. They thought this would be an interesting thing to do. “I was all excited when I got home, and told Curt, ‘I just sold the last share in Botswana.’ I told him my ex-husband
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Two-time U.S. National Top Ten and Scottsdale Champion International Classic Stallion TF Royal Shahbaz (Falcon BHF x TH Maya Naufali), bred by Curt Westley.
and his brother were going to buy it. Curt said, ‘And you saved one for me?’ I reminded him that he hadn’t wanted anything to do with it. He replied, ‘Allison, I am your mate now. And I’m telling you I want one of those shares.’ Of course it had nothing to do with love for Botswana!” So Curt bought the share, but didn’t do much with it. About a year later, Roxann Hart was shipping two Bey Shah daughters west and they overnighted at Talaria. “They were typical Bey Shah daughters – big, airs-above-the-ground mares,” recalls Allison. “Curt had come down to the farm on Saturday morning. That’s when the shippers opened the stalls to lead them out, and those girls came out like Bey Shah daughters – tails over their backs, dancing down the aisle, snorting. Curt was mesmerized. ‘What is that? Who are they?’ I explained that they were sired by Bey Shah, a stallion famous for siring that kind of charisma, and that these mares were very typical daughters of his. And he said, ‘I want a Bey Shah daughter for my Botswana breeding.’” Those mares were the catalyst that Curt needed. He wasted no time finding a Bey Shah daughter to lease, Rohara Shahblee (x Fire Serenity). Bred to Botswana, she produced TF Afrikhan Shah, aka “Teddy.” A year later he bought her, and she produced several other nice horses for him. “Curt held firmly to an ideal he had in his head,” says Allison. “They had to be beautiful, but they had to have that charisma, that airs-above-the-ground spirit. That thing that Bey Shah delivered. And Botswana would give him the refinement, the pretty and the elegance. Curt learned very quickly that he had to go with daughters of stallions like Enzo (Padrons Psyche x RD Bey Shahmpane by Bey Shah) and Falcon BHF (Bey Shah x Bey Serenade SF by Bey Shah), to get that charisma – in his view an important element of type. “Curt was hands-on about horses,” continues Allison. “He never put his mares to a stallion he hadn’t seen. He never bought a horse he had not seen. I think the fact that so many people today rely on the internet to make their breeding and training decisions is having an adverse effect on our breed. Curt went out and he met people, and as a result, he made a lot of friends. “One year we visited Sheila Varian. That’s where we fell in love with Sweet Stella V (*Jullyen El Jamaal x Sweet Siesta V). We stayed an extra day, and we went back to talk to Sheila about her. Curt never bargained. If you quoted
Curt a price, he paid it. She quoted a price on that filly which was high, and this was the only time I saw Curt bargain. He said, ‘Alright Sheila I will pay it, but on one condition. You’ve got to come to Talaria and do a seminar.’ She said, ‘Ok, I’ll do that, Curt, but I need to have a business class ticket since my legs are so long.’” At shows, Curt enjoyed “judging” from the stands. As Allison says, “I think he became so well liked because he had no jealousy. If his horses didn’t do well he would just shrug it off, chalking it up to different taste, or the other horse was better that day. He was true. He was real. He wasn’t in it for vanity. Of course, he liked to win, but it wasn’t a vanity show for him. It didn’t have to do with people coming up to him and saying, ‘Oh I love your horses.’ He didn’t care about that. He cared about the process. He was that secure in his skin, and fair.” Of the 51 purebred Arabians that Curt bred, either solely or in partnerships, he was most proud of the stallion TF Royal Shahbaz (Falcon BHF x TH Maya Naufali), a two-time U.S. National Top Ten and Scottsdale Champion International Classic Stallion. “Shahbaz and Curt were so much alike in personality,” notes Allison. “Curt understood him, and he made sure that Shahbaz had the kind of care he needed and the kind of trainer who didn’t dampen his spirit. “His greatest fear was that a horse he bred would end up in a bad situation. It was very hard for Curt to sell his horses. No horse left the property unless Curt had heard from the person’s farrier, seen a recommendation from the
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TF Kestrelia (Falcon BHF x TH Maya Naufali), full sister to TF Royal Shahbaz.
This was the only time I
saw Curt bargain. He said, ‘Alright Sheila I will pay it, but on one condition. You’ve got to come to Talaria and do a seminar.’ She said, ‘OK, I’ll do that, Curt, but I need to have a business class ticket since my legs are so long.’
person’s vet, and sometimes the feed store. He didn’t go as far as the person’s preacher, but close! “He did love the journey. He loved the spring. I remember when Shahbaz’s sister TF Kestrelia lost her filly due to a dystocia, and they called him from the farm. Curt drove the 45 minute drive in 20 minutes to be there with her in the middle of the night. It was real for him. A passion.” Before Curt became ill, one of his great joys in life was to take one of his mares running in hand. They’d run through the woods and down the shady pasture lanes. “He would spend hours and hours running and walking with his horses,” says Allison. “And that was the great sadness of what happened to him. Of all the people I know to have ended up as crippled as he was ... it was a terrible injustice for this man.” Curt was an urban man with a love for the land – the wilder the better. The horses were part of his love for nature. “The fact that Arabians are the closest you could ever come to owning a wild thing … that was important to him,” says Allison. “The horses he could actually put his hands on ... but they were like wild creatures … who kept a bit of their wildness inside. “The future – I haven’t worked it out yet,” Allison says. “No, the days aren’t hard, because we always did our separate things, our own careers and interests. But at night, at the picnic table at our little place in Mendocino, where I am now, he’d bring a glass of wine and we’d sit out there until ‘bat’ hour. “I’ve had some teary times out at that picnic table this week. I’ll never find that kind of companionship again ... or a man who runs with horses.”
Remembering Curt Westley
he first time I met Curt was in 2011 after my performance in Cavalia in Atlanta. I remember attending a showing of horses at Talaria Farm. Curt introduced me to TF Knight Hawke. Here stood this gorgeous black stallion, ears back, tail up, full of himself, a little sassy and giving a serious attitude to the handlers around him. Curt smiles, his nickname “The two-headed monster” or as Ally would say, “Bastardo!” “That’s my boy,” said Curt as he petted him. Curt then proceeded to tell me his story and why his behavior was so intense. As a foal he had been in the clinic due to an ulcerated eye from the Ladyhawke’s tail. After returning to the farm, he was too old to be turned out with the mares and therefore received no manners. After the showing Curt asked, who is your favorite? I replied, Knight Hawke. We both smiled before returning to his stall for another look. A few weeks later, I had a clinic in Alpharetta, Georgia, and asked Curt if I could use Knight Hawke for a demonstration. Curt replied, absolutely! When Curt saw us working together, he was filled with joy and said, “That’s his calling, he is going to be a star.” Weeks later he gifted me with Knight Hawke, and the rest is history.
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The black stallion TF Knight Hawke (Botswana x Ladyhawke BHF) found his new home with Sylvia Zerbini and her liberty show.
Knight Hawke has become the most talented Arabian in my herd and knows more routines than any other horse I have had to date. Knight Hawke has traveled and performed in every venue and was also a “Rock Star” on Cavalias Odysseo in 2018. Every time we perform, I touch Knight Hawke and say, “Here’s to you Curt.” Thank you for your cherished friendship, we truly miss you. — Sylvia Zerbini, Williston, Florida
rent Stone and I had seen TF Royal Shahbaz at U.S. Nationals with Mike Wilson. From then on, we knew we wanted to use him in our breeding program, even before we met Curt Westley and Allison. We quickly became good friends as we shared many common bonds and our love of the Arabian horse. Once, on a visit to our farm in Northern California, Curt fell in love with one of our beautiful Enzo daughters named Emma E, and he purchased her on the spot. Curt also loved our mare Cristal El Pershahn (*Pershahn El Jamaal x RD Bey Shahmpane), a maternal sister to Enzo, so we decided to exchange breedings to incorporate our stallions in our individual breeding programs. Brent and I also made the trip to Talaria Farms to see the Royal Shahbaz foals and his dam. Curt and Allison rolled out the Southern Hospitality; they could not have been more welcoming. Brent and I stayed at their lovely guesthouse on the farm. The first night we had an amazing dinner at the farm, and we all talked for hours. I remember the next morning waking up and looking out the window from their guesthouse seeing Royal Shahbaz running and
playing in his pasture. It was magical. It is important for Brent and me to see the dams of stallions that we plan to breed with — Shahbaz’s dam TH Maya Naufali certainly did not disappoint. She was simply ethereal. I could see Curt was very hands-on and ran a well-organized barn with his staff. Curt definitely spoke his mind and his passion for the Arabian horse was strong and well thought out. The following year, Brent and I bred a few mares to TF Royal Shahbaz and the resulting foals were outstanding. When we called Curt, he could hear the excitement in our voices, and he and Allison decided to come out to see the fillies for themselves. I remember Curt walking up to the stall to see one of them and he just got very quiet while he studied her. I could see in Curt’s eyes he liked her very much, but he did not say too much. Later that day on their return trip home, we received a phone call from Curt asking if we would consider selling the Royal Shahbaz filly from Cristal El Pershahn, Lalique El Shahbaz E, that he had seen that day. Brent and I thought for a moment, and since we really didn’t want to sell her, we offered them half ownership. They agreed, and our new partnership was born. Our plan was to take her to Scottsdale to show in the SSS yearling class. We sent her to Keith Krichke in Scottsdale, and she was looking quite amazing by show time. Of course, it was the largest halter class of the show that year with over 70 filly entries. I had the privilege of showing Lalique El Shahbaz E. There were three sections of fillies, and she was feeling great that day and came in bigger than life; we made our first cut. We showed back in the finals on Sunday placing third in a very strong class of yearling fillies. We were all thrilled with her performance — especially Curt,
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who had this big grin on his face like a proud Papa! Later that year, Curt invited me out to Region 12 to show a few of their Royal Shahbaz foals in the Spotlight Futurities in Perry, Georgia. I had such a great time with Curt and showing his Royal Shahbaz foals. We would sit and talk horses for hours during the show. It became an annual event. I was fortunate to lead many of Talaria Farms’ horses to the winners’ circle over the years. One year I even showed at the Egyptian Event with Curt and Allison. They always had everything so well organized and their clients loved them. Curt was the Captain and everything had to be shipshape. The Event was one of the most enjoyable shows I have ever been to. We have continued to breed and incorporate our breeding programs with Enzo, TF Royal Shahbaz and Botswana to this day with so many show ring successes. In fact, we now have our first homebred straight Egyptian Champion Stallion named Montserrat E (*Baha AA x TF Johari by Botswana), now with Talaria Farms, and he will be shown at the Egyptian Event this year. Over the last few years, life really changed for Curt when he was diagnosed with cancer and underwent treatment and surgery that left him disabled. I do not think I have ever met a man with such strength and determination as Curt. He really taught me to appreciate and embrace life. Curt rarely complained or asked for help, and even when I would offer, he’d kindly say, no thanks Philip, I need to do this for myself, it is part of my recovery to get my strength back. I have the utmost admiration and respect for the way Curt dealt with what was handed to him. I still cannot believe Curt is not longer with us. Curt may have left us, but he left me with a lasting memory of our time spent together. I truly loved this incredible, courageous man, and I will miss Curt forever. — Philip Del Pozzo, Auburn, California
t’s taken me a day to write this. Somehow, not saying it out loud, not writing the words, made it less real, and I was not ready to wrap my head around it yet. Curt Westley, we were not ready for you to leave us. While Allison is the heart and soul of Talaria, you will always be its captain. The two of you took me in 11 years ago, even though I came from the Walking Horse world. You said, “It’s okay because you will learn and you are right for Talaria.” You believed I’d not let you down. Three years ago the two of you allowed me to go back to my ailing father and continue to work from another state because you knew how badly I wanted to spend whatever time I had left with him. Again you believed in me saying, “If anyone can make this work, you can.” When I left I never imagined it would be you that I’d never see again. You were the first to come down on me like a ton of bricks if I screwed up. You fought the hardest and gave me the fiercest support if you believed I was right. Your eye for breeding Arabian horses is unmatched because you never followed trends or stopped short of your vision. The size of your heart for Allison, the horses, your family and friends matched the size of your
“bigger than life” personality. I’m so grateful to have been a part of it. Shattered right now. But, I know you’d tell me to knock it off and get back to work. There are things to do. And again, I promise I won’t let you down. So, give Ladyhawke and Heumoresque a carrot from me, and I will get my butt back to work. See you on the other side. — Dana Jackson, barn manager, Talaria Farm
here are just a few people in my life that have truly inspired me to “never give up” and always “do my best” no matter how hard or difficult life gets. Along with my father, Curt Westley was at the top of my list. I am truly grateful to have had him in my life.
— Mike Wilson, Wilson Training Center, Sorrento, Florida
urt was a dear friend. We had a lot of fun times and loved to talk about Arabian horses at the different shows we attended. He liked to tease me about the bright shirts I wore. Curt called me a cheap bastard as I always tried to get a better deal. We miss him dearly. — Roland and Dorothy Williams, Green Pastures Arabians, Ocala, Florida
ur first meeting: Curt made one of his “Curt comments” after I replied to the first email I ever received from him. I responded in kind, and was honored to receive, “Ha! A battle of wits with an armed opponent!” We finally met in person at Scottsdale. My favorite memory of Curt and Allison was sitting with Curt as Allison welcomed everyone to the Talaria stalls each year at the Egyptian Event. As Allison began her talk on Egyptian Arabians, Botswana and the up-and-comers at the show, Curt’s look of love and pride beamed across his face. Curt was a rare bird, and he’s sorely missed. — Wendy Flynn, Arabian Horse World
TF Afrikhan Gold (Botswana x Rohara Shahblee) with Peri Tilghman and Curt.
urt was one of the most special people I’ve had the privilege to know! I owe so much to both him and Allison. I most likely would never have done a single thing with a western
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horse if not for their support and encouragement. Curt could be tough, but always with the absolute best intentions. He was, without question, one of the most genuine and caring people I have ever known. Somehow, I always felt like family. Curt was the type of person who made you want to be a better person. I will miss him greatly! — Peri Tilghman, Sorrento, Florida.
urt Westley was one of my most cherished friends. I am a better person for having known him, and the world was a better place with him in it. He was a man of utmost integrity; he always stood up for what he believed in. He was a man of loyalty; once you earned his trust and friendship, you also had his loyalty. He was a man of honor. One always knew exactly where you stood with Curt, and when he disagreed with you, you knew about it and why. He was open-minded, always wanting to learn and eager to debate. Curt also expected these same qualities from those he allowed in his “circle.” For those he kept close, he was generous beyond measure, always willing to lend an ear, provide an opinion or ideas, or help those he cared about in any way he could. He left this world much to soon. We will not see his equal again. Curt was relatively new to the world of horses and Arabians, having only found himself a horse owner 21 years ago. However, he quickly rose to the top, applying all those special characteristics of his to develop a breeding program that has produced champions and exceptional breeding stock across the globe. Curt knew what he wanted in the horses he bred and accepted nothing less. Type was of the utmost importance; you should always know a horse is an Arabian when looking at it, even from a distance, and you can certainly see the type he brought into his program. Athleticism was another key component. He strongly believed in “doing” horses, and horses that would have a career outside of halter. As a result, horses from his breeding have won numerous titles, not just in halter but under saddle as well. And equally, if not more importantly, a great number of the geldings bred by Curt have proudly carried their youth riders to wins and on the trails. They are teaching the future of our breed how magical Arabians are while building their confidence as riders and future horsemen and women. Even as a gifted breeder, Curt was always striving to expand his knowledge of the breed and what he wanted to see more of in his horses. He traveled the world visiting farms and learning from the great breeders. He attended shows as a student preparing for exams, watching each class with an eagle’s eye. Sitting with him, discussing the entries, doing our judging from the rail was one of my greatest joys and memories of Curt. His commitment to breeding the type of horse he liked and wanted to produce, often bucking
trends, is largely responsible for creating the “Talaria Type.” Talaria horses are well known the world over for their extreme type, athleticism, intelligence, and kind temperaments. His horses have won numerous National, TF Teheran (Botswana x Temima) Scottsdale, Las with Amy Austin. Vegas, Regional and Egyptian Event championships, as well as in Europe and the Middle East. Curt’s passing is a huge loss not only for those of us who loved him, but for the Arabian horse. With all his accomplishments in such a short time, just imagine what he could have accomplished with more time … Thank you, Curt, for all that you taught me, for always being you. You will continue to be our guiding light. — Amy Austin, Johnson City, Tennessee
No horse left the property unless Curt
had heard from the person’s farrier, seen a recommendation from the person’s vet, and sometimes the feed store. He didn’t go as far as the person’s preacher, but close!
fter trying to process the news of suddenly and very unexpectedly losing a dear friend and client, and feeling so much heartbreak for his soulmate, wife, best friend and business partner, also my dear friend and client, Allison Mehta, I went back to a series of photos I took at this last Egyptian Event of Curt and one of his horses. It made the tears start flowing all over again, and then they made me laugh out loud. Curt always made me laugh. Even his emails could make me laugh! I remember it took me awhile to “get” him and his sense of humor when we first met over 17 years ago, but to know Curt is to love Curt. You couldn’t help but love him. Straight up Curt. You never had to guess what he was thinking. Unlike his beautiful horses, Curt wasn’t one of my easiest photography subjects. You know one of those you have to totally catch on the fly ’cuz you can’t tell him what to do.
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TF Afrikhan Light (Botswana x TF Kestrelia) and Curt Westley, mugging for Suzanne’s camera.
Curt Westley with friends, Peri Tilghman, Mike Wilson, Amy Austin, Jeremy Malou and Johanna Ullström.
In this photo, with Curt and Afrikhan Light, we were trying to get him to smile, and what does he do? FROWN even bigger, then the horse smiles. He loved his horses. I’m so glad we took all these extra photos with Curt this year. I’m not great with words. There have been so many great posts about Curt and his contribution to the Arabian breed through his and Allison’s breeding program, his stubborn personality, his integrity, his loyal friendships, and on and on ... I couldn’t come close to saying those same things that I feel as well, any better than others have done. I have sent a small glimpse of Curt’s visions as an Arabian horse breeder. I am honored to have had a part in his visions of this magnificent breed for 17 years! RIP my dear friend, and love and hugs for you, Allison. — Suzanne Sturgill, Bradenton, Florida
He had an artist’s eye, both for the real world and the imaginary one. He saw through people at the first gaze, cutting the crap, and never bothered to mince words, delivered without bad intentions, including with loved ones and his loyal employees. He couldn’t lie, not even out of trying to be nice. He could summarize anything in a few sharp and short sentences that were packed with meaning and accuracy, in a crystal clear fashion, like few men ever could. He was kind, strong, headstrong sometimes, tempered, impatient, could pepper his emails with language his father would not have approved, and which made him feel free, mischievously, sparkling even brighter when Allison tried to make him behave. He was truly a free man, equal to the lowest in the pecking order, and to Kings, treating them all perfectly the same, always himself. I called him the Captain, because he called me the Sailor, or Stumpy, insultingly demeaning, smiling broadly, and he was a Captain indeed. A solitary man, standing alone on his ship, never in need of anyone, but caring for the ones he loved with a generous and unusually forgiving stance, wishing only one thing: having his wife, Allison, by his side, to share his adventurous streak. And she did. She was always there, caring up to the last moment, true soulmates, their lives intertwined with risk, fun and the unexpected. He was a giant, a man of ancient chivalry. Strong and kind, in that increasingly rare combination. I will dearly miss my friend, Alli, I will dearly miss him. He leaves a hole in our lives. What makes it a little more bearable is that Logan will keep the Captain’s spirit alive in our family, long after I will be no more myself, and I am grateful to both of you for making a man of him, and an American. I think the Captain watches us now from the Heavens he didn’t believe in, of course with that sparkle in the eyes, asking us to keep going on, ploughing forward and never to look back. The Captain would want no less.
y best friend is gone, suddenly, unexpectedly. Many years ago, Johanna told me, on her return from Atlanta, that I would love the man. She also has that instinct for people, like Curt had. And indeed I did, starting a long friendship that never wavered, regardless of our differences of opinion in a wild number of areas. Only to discover, through literally thousands of communications over the years, sometimes mutually and mischievously insulting, sometimes funny, sometimes just sharing pictures picked up during our travels, touching our eyes and our emotions, that we shared a few traits very strongly. A same contempt for the ones bullying the weak, an innate sense of fairness and balance, a particular distaste for braggers and superficial men and women, a total immunity to other people’s opinion about ourselves, and a particular sense of humor. He was a man in love with nature, cherishing his vegetable garden, his dried tomatoes, his dogs, his horses, American football, Northern California, and his jogging itineraries. His fabulous vocabulary was out of this world, and his quiet perspicacity thundered far above the pack.
— Jeremy Malou, St. Truiden, Belgium
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