SEPTEMBER 2018 • 19
DEMING TALES • MARJORY LILLY
Looking for Perfection
Deming woman raises Arabian horses for love of the breed
asked Robin Lee if her Arabian horses were mean. I wanted to know if I could pet them. I’d loved Arabians since I was about 12 years old and horse-crazy, but I could see that these horses were high-strung. Robin acted as if she didn’t know what I was saying. The horse she was working with was gently nuzzling her back as we talked. There was no problem. She started breeding Arabian horses because “I love their personality,” she said. She tells the story that when a foal was born to Bedouins’ horses, “It was a big celebration. They would pick it up so everybody in their settlement would love on it. They’re a people horse. They bond with you almost like a dog does.” This trait was bred into modern Arabians, she said. When I’ve visited Robin’s farm, I typically see a horse come up to the bars of the paddocks and touch me with its chamois-soft muzzle. I’ve stopped by to watch two-month-old foals sprinting for pure joy and making little corkscrew jumps as they run and kick the air. A yearling called Legs (for his very long legs) holds his head high as if he knows he is a royal breed, and elegantly lifts and drops his front legs as he trots. They are famously beautiful horses, with the identifiable curved neck and dished face. But I sense they have a light sense of humor about themselves, too, as any true beauty does. They are known for their qualities, such as courage (they were brave in wars against the Crusaders), stamina (they can go days without water), beauty, loyalty, sensitivity and gentleness. They are thin-skinned, high-strung and intelligent. Bedouins rode them with no bits or spurs, using their knees and vocal cues to communicate with them “I’ll just call them, and they’ll come right away,” Robin said. “With other horses, I have to use grain to coax them to come over to me.”
Hard-working horsewoman Aleah Arabians is the name of Robin Lee’s farm in Deming. Aleah means “God’s beings,” and Robin affirms, “They are God’s beings.” She started breeding and selling Arabian horses in 1997, after an upbringing full of horses and an adulthood raising a large family — four boys and two girls. She had worked with Tennessee Walkers, Morgans, American Saddlebreds, fancy harness horses and mules when she was young. She’s also done rodeo riding. Her first horseback ride was when she was nine months old, and she started training and showing horses at 11. By the time she graduated from high school in Topeka, Kansas (graduating with honors), she had fully trained 14 horses.
A foal gleefully gallops around the corral at Robin Lee’s Aleah Arabians in Deming.
Her farm is inconspicuous. No sign is visible, the house she lives in is small, and there’s a small trailer for visitors. Robin said her mother was a wealthy socialite, and it’s true that the world of Arabians is in many ways the province of the upper classes. But Robin is self-effacing. While large sums of money are tossed around in the world of Arabian horses, she said she doesn’t make much profit when all is said and done. She cares for around 16 horses at a time but has a full-time job as safety coordinator at St. Clair Winery in Deming. She does a lot of the work around the farm herself, like building stalls or making paddocks with pre-fabricated panels.
Millennial history of Arabians Bedouins can verbally recite the ancestry of every horse in his tribe’s herd back thousands of years, just as they can trace their own families. The detailed written documentation of the particular strain of Arabians called “straight Egyptians” has gone on since Abbas Pasha very methodically began the practice in the mid-1800s. Abbas held power in Egypt from 1835 to 1854 and was the grandson of Mohamad Ali the Great (who created a large herd of Arabians but didn’t create records for them). Straight Arabians were carefully bred and housed in palatial stables, but herds grew and diminished due to chaotic political situations and sometimes almost disappeared. Some of these were sold gradually in to England by a dedicated horse breeder named Lady Anne Blunt. The Chicago World Fair of 1893 saw the formation of the Arabian Horse Club of America, where the first Arabian was registered in the United States. Straight Egyptians started trickling into the country in the early decades of the last century. The United States now has more registered Arabians than all other countries combined. The Pyramid Society, based in Lexington, Kentucky, is now the nucleus for the international preservation of Egyptian Arabians. Robin plans to go to the annual “Egyptian event” there. “Shows are not for money,” she said. “They are for promoting and selling my horses.” Straight Egyptians constitute only 2-4 percent of all registered Arabian horses in the country
but make up 30 percent of the winners at the National Arabian and Half-Arabian Championship Horse Show in Tulsa, Oklahoma, occurring yearly. The nationals were held in Albuquerque until 2015 but were transplanted. “In Tulsa they have better facilities,” Robin said.
Present-day horse-training Robin does some training of her horses, but often ships them to Arizona to get some general shaping up. “I send them off to a professional trainer to get polished,” she said. She does this in Scottsdale, where there’s a concentration of Arabs. “They’re put on treadmills, or in walkers where they walk around in circles, or in a swimming pool, to get toned up. It’s like in an expensive spa,” she said. Videos of the horses, important in selling them, are also made there. Preparing horses for sale is expensive and takes lots of work. Robin sells her horses internationally. She’s sold horses in several countries, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Israel, Mexico, Australia, Italy and England. “Everyone’s connected,” she said. “It’s a very small world with the internet.” “I have three stud horses,” she said. “Stud fees are based on the accomplishments or blood lines of the horse. I charge $1,000 to $2,000 for stud service. They pay for themselves and help pay for the upkeep on the farm.” Her prices for horses are from $10,000 to $25,000. “The latter is a rarity,” she said. Robin is happy with her purpose that she has found for the latter part of her life — to perpetuate the pure strain of original Arabians. She said her goal is “to furnish each prospective buyer with the horse of their dreams.” “It helps me get up in the morning,” she said. “It keeps me going.” Robin said all are welcome to visit Aleah Arabians. Just call 575545-1402 or email her at email@example.com. Borderlines columnist Marjorie Lilly lives in Deming.
Robin Lee ignores one of her Egyptian Arabians as it tries to get her attention. (Photos by Marjorie Lilly)
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September Exhibit: Assembledge Art Invitational
Reception: September 2, 2018. 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm Exhibit Duration: September 2, 2018 through September 28, 2018 Gallery will be closed Monday, September 3, 2018 for Labor Day Holiday Wanted: Artists to vendor their work at our Artober Fest, October 6, 2018 at the Deming Custom House Yard and Garden. Call the DAC 575-546-3663 for info or check our Facebook page or our Website, demingarts.org This exhibit is by Las Cruces Potters’s Guild and fiber artists from SW New Mexico
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