Articles of History:

The First 25 Years
By Carol Lyons Copyright 1981 All Rights Reserved
The Arabian Horse Journal April 1981

Used by permission of Carol Lyons.

Carol & Jim Lyons
Lyons Desert Arabians
5839 Nonpareil Road
Sutherlin, Or 97479
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           A 500 lb., seven-year-old infertile stallion became the future herd sire for a carefully planned breeding program? Yes. This is what happened to TRIPOLI, a straight Davenport stallion, in 1955 when Charles Craver finally located him in the possession of a man who ran a pack-string for the Park Service in Northern California, TRIPOLI was being fed not much of anything, and his beautifully correct bone stucture was painfully obvious; but his extreme state of malnutrition would not effect his genetic potential provided he could be restored to breeding condition. The decision was made to ship TRIPOLI to Craver Farms in Hillview, Illinois. Within a year his ability to sire foals was confirmed, and the first straight Davenport foundation mares were purchased.
           As a young man in the Navy, Charles Craver was stationed in California where he had been doing some very serious pedigree study. He had taken full advantage of his location to become acquainted with the early California Arabians and their breeders. He was influenced by the writings of Carl Raswan who had spent considerable time with the Bedouin tribes in Arabia. Raswan was impressed with the quality of horses that had been imported from the desert by Homer Davenport in 1906. Charles had spent considerable time at Alice Payne's ranch observing her inbred *RAFFLES stock, and listening to her opinions of the various bloodlines available. Like others, Mrs. Payne had recognized that special something in the straight Davenports, and in their unique ability to bring out the best quality of the other lines to which they were crossed. Charles' plan was to produce a young broodmare band of straight Davenports for eventual outcrossing to create show horses. Because of their value in outcross programs there were only around 25 straight Davenports of breeding age living in 1955. Charles had located some lovely mares which he could purchase, but needed a suitable stallion.
           Back in 1947 Mrs. Payne's son had purchased the old mare POKA and had bred her to HANAD. The resulting foal was TRIPOLI, who had born when his dam was 27 and his sire was 26. TRIPOLI had been sold as a two-year-old and had passed through several owners by the time Charles found him. When Charles first saw him he knew he was looking at something much more than a walking skeleton, for here was a horse of recent desert ancestry, a Seqlawi Jedran stallion of the classic "Asil" strains.
           The results of the first two foal crops by TRIPOLI convinced Charles to forget all about outcrossing, and obtain more of the existing Davenport mares. There is something about the dry, deserty look of the Davenports, with their huge eyes and balanced conformation that makes most of the other lines fall short in comparison. Craver Farms became synonymous with Davenport Arabian horses.
           It took Charles more than 10 years to pry some of his foundation mares loose from their owners but he eventually was able to bring into his program the mares DHAREBAH, DHARANAH, DHALANA, TARA, SARANAH, and DHANAD, all tracing in tail female to *RESHAN, a Kuhaylah Hayfiyat mare; ASARA, a Kuhaylah Kurush mare of the *WERDI female lien; and ANTAN, a Seqlawi Jedran of the *URFAH female line. The mares were mostly ANTEZ and/or LETAN descendants, while TRIPOLI brought in HANAD, thus bringing together the three best stallions of the first generation American-bred Davenports.
           As with any true breeding farm that is fortunate enough to find itself with a superior sire, a problem soon arose: What do you do for an encore? The obvious though shortsighted solution is to keep using your stallion on all your mares, keep the fillies and hope to find a suitable stallion for them, and sell all your colts so that others can make a name for your stallion.
           Instead of following the usual proceedure, TRIPOLI was semi-retired from stud duties during the sixties and early seventies, while his sons took over. The sons proved to be equally consistent sires of high quality foals.
           In 1963 Charles had located another stallion up in Canada, EL ALAMEIN, and decided to gamble on bringing him to Illinois. He was a full brother to two of the foundation mares. I'll never forget seeing him at Craver Farms in 1965. He came out of his stall with all the vigor, energy and self-confidence of a three-year-old colt, moving about his paddock with a sure stride, stopping occasionally to listen, or to announce his presence to the nearby mares. He was 22 years old, and life had obviously delt him a few blows, because he was totally blind; but he was proud. Before his untimely death only two years later he sired a dozen straight Davenport foals, among them the beautiful IRAS, BINT ALAMEIN, BINT ANTAN, JUNE, and our own THEA ISIS. His son IBN ALAMEIN, out of the foundation mare SARANAH, has proved to be an invaluable breeding stallion.
           Charles had tried for years to buy or lease EL ALAMEIN's full brother DHARANTEZ, who was owned by the Maxwell Pollocks of California. But Mr. Pollock dearly loved his old stallion and wouldn't think of letting him off the property, much less let him go to Illinios! Charles was pretty sure he couldn't get away with stealing the horse, but finally a mare lease arrangement was worked out. It was felt that a colt from one of the foundation mares would be of most value, but these mares were all getting up in years. Nevertheless, DHANAD at 21 was shipped to California, along with another young mare, to be bred to the 22-year-old DHARANTEZ. A year later DHARANAD was foaled. Like IBN ALAMEIN, DHARANAD does not trace to TRIPOLI and the use of these two stallions has greatly broadened the base of bloodlines available in the straight Davenports.
           Another horse that has played an important role in some of the Davenport lines was KAMIL IBN SALAN, owned by Fred and Barbara Mimmack of Denver, Colorado. He was a horse of very pronounced Seqlawi type with an unforgettable head. He was acquired by the Mimmacks for use on their TRIPOLI daughter and granddaughters. Here again, mare lease arrangements allowed Craver Farms to utilize the blood of yet another "outcross" stallion.
           TRIPOLI's heaviest use at stud came after he was 25 years old. By this time there were a large number of young mares of the Seqlawi strain which had been bred specificaly with this goal in mind. He was also used on some of his grand-daughters and great granddaughters in the Kuhaylah strain.
           TRIPOLI remained absolutely sound and beautiful and was regularly ridden until his 29th year. He died in 1977, at 29 1/2 years of age, the year his largest foal crop was born, and just three days after breeding and settling a mare. It was much too soon.
           That same year DHARANTEZ died at age 30, and following year KAMIL IBN SALAN died at 27. All but two of the foundation mares are gone now, but most of them produced well into their mid-twenties. TARA, age 31, and SARANAH, age 32, are peacefully living out their days in a deeply bedded double stall with a private paddock where they can observe the younger generations of Davenport horses.
           A visit to Craver Farms today can be a little overwhelming, not only because of the large number of horses (120 more) but also because their general consistency of type tends to blend them into a composite picture. Despite 75 years of American breeding they retain a distinct look of the desert. They average around 14:2 hands and are deep bodied and fine skinned. They are the "3 Circle" horses which, Raswan tells us, the Bedouins felt was the ideal Arabian proportion. The shoulder area visually creates one circle, the midsection another, and the hind-quarters the third of the equal-sized circles. The eyes are probably the most distinguishing feature. They are very large and expressive, some of them huge, and they are placed noticeably low in the head, and far apart. The mares usually have a more obvious dish to the profile than the stallions. In disposition they are friendly and trusting, while displaying the vitality for which the Arabian is noted.
           With a little practice in the art of observation it is fairly easy to identify representatives of the three strains on Craver Farms even though the tail female ancestresses are 8 to 10 generations back. You simply won't find a Seqlawi type head on a Kuhaylan strain horse. There is something a little different about the eyes of the horses of the Kurush strain.
           Despite the large number of horses, the whole program remains a "backyard" program with the Cravers. Charles and Jeanne were married in 1972 and are totally involved with the day to day feeding, handling, training, breeding and enjoyment of their horses. It is the only farm of its size (or even a quarter of its size) that I know of where the visitors will be met and escorted around by the owner or his wife. They know each horse personally and can quickly give you its extended pedigree. There is no trainer, no stud manager, no crew of grooms to pretty up the horses, no business manager, no resident vet. No professional photographers comes to take the pictures for their ads. All this is done by the Cravers with some help at feeding time.
           In addition, Craver Farms raises all its own feed and straw, and Charles operates a 1.000 acre commercial grain farm which gives him something to do in his spare time. The facilities aren't fancy but they are sturdy and above all versatile.
           Every horse is under roof and deeply bedded every night. Two large stalls are attached directly to the rear of the Craver's lovely brick home. These stalls are used during foaling season and for mares which may need individual attention. The kitchen looks out on the mare pasture, while Charles' office offers a view of the farm entrance and on down toward the barns which house the stallions and young fillies. As one might expect, the house is filled with pictures of Davenport Arabians.
           Despite the large number of mares, only about 20 to 25 mares are bred each year. The foaling season lasts from early spring until late fall because peak farming operations coincide with the breeding and foaling activities, and for some stange reason Charles seems to think he needs at least four hours of sleep each night. Probably 90 percent of the foalings are witnessed by Charles and/or Jeanne.
           Winter is when Charles gets most of his riding and trainig time in on the young stallions (young means under seven), the riding and training of these horses is probably the most thoroughly enjoyed aspect of the whole operation, yet one that must take a secondary place during much of the year.
           Showing has been largely relegated to a post-entry affair at the class A shows within 50 to 100 miles, and to local fun shows. When the occasional Saturday or Sunday comes along and there is no urgent reason to stay home, and no expected visitors, Charles will quickly take off for a show. Over the years his horses have enjoyed considerable success in the English pleasure and park classes. He is one of the very few who does all his training and showing with a dressage saddle and shows his horses with the mildest of short-shanked curb bits, even in the park classes. Up until last year none of the Craver horses had been professionally trained or shown.
           In 1979 Tom Neese, a young trainer, saw the unbroken five-year-old CATALYST (Ibn Alamein X Confection) out in the stallion barn and talked Charles into letting him take the horse back to the Northwest with him for training and showing. In 1980 CATATYST who soon a champion park horse, then Reserve Regional Champion Park Horse for Region Six, and Top Five Park Horse in Region Eight.
           In 1980 Charles was planning on showing vetern 13-year-old MONSOON (Tripoli X Ceres) in a few English pleasure classes, and Jeanne was busy learning dressage with LOTUS, an 8-year-old daughter of KAMIL IBN SALAN X TYREBAH. Tom Neese had returned to the St. Louis area during the summer and he talked Charles into letting him show MONSOON at halter with the result that he took second in a large, mature stallion class at the Illinios State Fair. Tom also showed LOTUS in a few halter classes which resulted in a second place, a fourth place, a first place and a Reserve Grand Champion Mare title. These are the only two horses the Cravers have ever shown at halter.
           I once asked Charles why he never showed at halter when he had so many lovely horses of excellent type and conformation. His answer was,
    "I just don't know anything about that kind of training and showing. Besides, to me a good horse is one that moves with freedom, cadence, and balanced action under saddle, and one that will stay sound for 15 to 20 years of riding. Riding is what horses are all about."
But perhaps in 1981 and ensuing years there will be a few more Davenports in the halter classes.
           If you are going to live in close association with a lot of horses, it sure helps to have a sense of humor and the ability to take things as they come, and no doubt these traits have been useful to Jeanne and Charles. Consider the prospect of having to move all your household possessions and all your horses on a very short notice. This is just what happened to the Cravers in 1979 when the dikes holding the Illinois River threatened to break during a late spring flood. Within a 48-hour period they packed up and moved everything, including about 120 horses ranging in age from one day to 30 years. Most of them had never been in a trailer before. And where does a person find 120 halters?
           There was also the time they were making a movie and had turned PRINCE HAL out on the far side of a deep drainage canal. All he would do was graze so they brought out a mare to lead up and down on the near side. PRINCE HAL has always been the faithful trail horse, and the safe, quiet ride for the little children, old ladies, and beginners in the ring. Apparently he saw himself more as a mild mannered Clark Kent type of superhorse, because when he saw that mare he leaped the 12 feet down into the water and started swimming furiously to this potential love life. Charles and his dad were soon in the water with him and it was quite a task to get him up the steep embankment.
           There are also the day to day idiosyncrasies of individual horses to contend with. Many of the mares insist on following any visitor to the pasture as they vie with each other for maximum attention. One young mare apparently thinks that her place is always in the pasture where the foals are. She daily jumps the fence to join them, then jumps out again in the evening. Another mare deliberately mashes down the fence so she can carefully step over and graze in the Craver's back yard for a few minutes or hours before returning in the same calm, cool way. It doesn't do the fences any good!
           The stallions are stalled a fair distance away from the broodmares, but young colts or fillies usually are turned out in the aisle between the stallion paddocks, they seem to delight in investigating each other through the fence rails. Amazingly, none of the youngsters ever seem to get hurt.
           Colts and young stallions are kept together in groups of two or three until they are four or older, or until they go into stud service. They put on quite a display chasing each other and rearing in mock battle when turned out for their daily exercises. The pasture for the young mares, and those older mares which had been left open, is parallel to one of the stallion runs. When a stallion is turned out it is easy to spot those mares in season as they line up along the fence.
           Every other day during the breeding season one of the stallions is led directly into the pasture with the broodmares. The little foals will come right up to investigate and nuzzle the stallion, while the mares will either take off for distant parts, or display interest in the usual way. Neither a whip nor stud chain is used or needed as the stallions know that manners include putting up with the youngsters. All breeding is done inhand, and occasionally by artificial insemination.
           The Craver interest in Davenport Arabians is not limited to riding and raising new foals each year. It includes considerable reasearch into the importation itself, and the early history of the horses in the U.S. Photos and written descriptions must be heavily relied upon but photos often fail to do justice to the older horses of all bloodlines. The desirability of having a movie of the current Davenports as an additional permanant record got Charles into the movie-making business about 10 years ago.
           This first film despicted the stallions in use at that time, and all the mares and foals in a natural pasture setting. There are no humans or buildings to be seen and it runs close to an hour in length. The film was shown at a few Arabian clubs and organizations and it wasn't long before many of the show and breeding farms had professional movies of their own.
           Charles learned a lot from that first effort. He and his dad did all the filming and editing and a few years ago work was begun on a new film. They were able to get copies made of the movies of Davenport horses, including ANTEZ and HANAD, which were taken 50 years ago at the Kellogg Ranch. These old movies have been incorporated into the new film and add considerable historic interest. Arabian enthusiasts will now have an opportunity to see the ancestors of their American-bred horses in action, something not previously possible.
           Over the years there has been a pattern at Craver Farms of continuing intellectual curiousity and strong tendency to want to advance scientific knowledge about horses in general. About 15 years ago, in cooperation with the University of Illinois Veterinary School, Charles had the legs and joints of all his horses x-rayed, every six weeks for several years, for the youngsters. Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses were also x-rayed during this research program. It represents some of the earliest work in the field of normal bone and joint development. No doubt this study helped convince Charles of the advisability of feeding young horses for optimum normal growth, without pushing them for extreme early growth.
           Starting in the late 1950's and continuing into the '70's Charles had all of his horses (both sexes) bloodtyped at University of California laboratory at Davis. Blood typing of horses was in its infancy and it seemed that every year a new or better test for some blood factor would be developed and blood samples of all the horses would be resubmitted at considerable expense. The veterinary school horses were also used in this research, but the Davenports, with their close relationship to each other, presented an ideal situation for this research into the inheritance of blood-types.
           Any farm with a large number of horses has inevitable losses, and as the old horses started dying off Charles decided to preserve their skulls. Much has been written about the unique head of the Arabian and its desirable proportions. Dr. Skorkowski of Poland had used extensive studies of skull demensions in working out the strain groupings of the Polish Arabians and as the basis of his theories about the ancestors of the various types of horses to be found throughout the world.
           There are now around 30 skulls in the Craver collection, eight or ten of which are representatives of various bloodlines. The most famous of these is the beautiful imported Egyptian mare *BINT MONIET EL NAFOUS. Using a modified version of the Skorkowski method of measurements so as to eliminate size variables, the proportions of each skull have been charted. The measurements include the width between the eyes, eye to poll, eye to the end of the nasal bones, width between the jaws and cranial capacity.
           A trip east was made a few years ago for the purpose of measuring and photographing the skulls of *HALEB at the Smithsonian Institute, *DEYR, GULASTRA and INDRAFF at the Arabian Horse Owners Foundation Museum, and *ASTRALAD, *NIMR, *ABU ZEYD and others at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Photographs and measurements of SKOWRONEK's skull have also been obtained from London.
           Although this started out as a means of studying the head structure of the Davenport Arabians, the total collection of skulls and measurements is thought of as a potentially valuable contribution to the available knowledge of the Arabian breed. The Cravers would welcome donations of other Arabian skulls. Particularly needed are representatives of the various breeding groups such as Polish, Spanish, Crabbet, Egyptian, and domestic.
For 25 years Charles Craver has been breeding Davenport Arabians. He has seen their number grow from 25 to almost 300 (two tenths of one percent of the living Arabians in the U.S.). The old horses are gone but certainly aren't forgotten. The wonderful thing about a consistent breeding group like this is that each year little foals are born which show the strong hereditary traits of their desert-bred ancestors.
           The coming years promise to be exciting. Because each of the mares has been bred to numerous stallions, the younger horses offer a wide variety of combinations of the foundation blood. Only rarely have full brothers and/or sisters been produced in the last 10 years. The matings have been based on strain, immediate ancestry, and conformation requirements, and an eye to furture needs.
           Just coming into use is the dynamic DHARANTEZ son, BRIMSTONE (X Tyrebeh). This young stallion seems to enthrall all who see him as he performs a natural "park trot" then switches to an extremely brilliant, cadenced, slow-motion passage an athletic ability which he inherited from his sire. Charles hopes to maintain and develop this ability under saddle. If he does it should be something to watch. BRIMSTONE's first foals hold much promise, and even included a black, relatively rare in Davenports.
           PLANTAGENET (Akmet Haffez X Iras) is, in type, nearly a carbon copy of his ancestors, ANTEZ and HARARA. He was used on several mares this year and Jeanne plans to start him under saddle for future showing. The Cravers are not alone in their high expectations for BRIGANTINE, who was bred to about eight mares in 1980. He is the result of breeding PORTIA (Tripoli X Dhalana) back to her own sire. It is difficult to imagine a more elegant young stallion. In addition to these stallions there are at least 10 more young stallions and colts which are being retained for future use.
           Twenty-five years from now, when the future Davenport breeders celebrate the 100th aniversary of the importation, I fully expect that Charles and Jeanne will still be breeding Davenports and celebrating Craver Farms' 50th year. Charles will be exclaiming over a new arrival: "By golly, look at those LETAN ears, and that HANAD carriage! We've just got to keep this one."
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