Writer's Note: Since Aude and I have been friends for a quarter of a century, and because Aude has a serious aversion to talking about herself, David asked me to tell our friend's story. I hope when you finish reading this brief account you'll have some sense of who Aude is. Not only is she an exceptional woman, she is one of the finest Arabian horse breeders of this era.
Horses have been the central focus of Aude's life for as long as she can remember. She learned to ride almost before she could walk. And in one "language" or another, she's always communicated with horses, understood them, and known them on a level beyond simple comprehension.
Aude began her love affair with the Arabian horse in 1960 when she was nine years old. To keep her busy on a long trip, Aude's father gave her Lady Wentworth's book, The Authentic Arabian. She devoured that treatise on the train ride between Le Havre and Paris and her life was changed, then, for good and for all, it's course irrevocably charted.
Four years later, Aude's 13th birthday gift from her parents was the two-year-old Arabian filly, Sunlawn Marti. Marti was a maternal granddaughter of *Zarif (sire of Hallany Mistanny) who carried the blood of America's earliest Egyptian and Polish imports. For Aude, Marti bore three fillies. With Aude, the pretty gray mare spent her entire life.
Soon thereafter, Aude's uncle, George De Cocq gave her another young mare, the domestic bred, Tigerlily. Of largely Crabbet heritage, carrying lines to Abu Farwa and *Raffles, as well as the W.R. Brown Egyptian import Ghazi, Tigerlily would prove the more prolific of the two mares, producing foals by *BASK++, *Naborr and *Muscat, among others. Tigerlily's most successful offspring were her daughter, Ming Jade, by *BASK++, and her son, The Jade Tiger, also by *BASK++.
In 1967, when Aude was 16, the Espourtielle family moved from her childhood home of Oregon to Arizona for her parents' health. Soon Aude became acquainted with the LaCroixs and *BASK++ (who she calls to this day, his royal highness!). Before long Aude was working at Lasma, grooming horses, learning husbandry and breeding philosophy from the master himself, Dr. Eugene LaCroix.
Time passed. The love affair continued. Every day, every waking hour, Aude spent with the horses. There was nothing else of real importance in her life then, or really, now. Except, of course, for friends in the horse world who became, early on, her family. Still working off and on at Lasma nearly a decade later, Aude attended Mike Nichols' first auction extravaganza managed by Gene LaCroix Jr. in 1976. It was at that stellar event that Aude found her dream horse, the gorgeous white Arabian mare, *ELKANA, who, beside Aude, would ultimately set the Arabian horse world on fire and establish a legacy of great horses for the breed. In retrospect, it's evident that these two were destined to meet, to become life partners, to make an indelible contribution. And so they did.
I was able to convince Aude to share her thoughts about that special mare.
"*ELKANA," she said, "was my best friend in life. She was that once in a lifetime gift from God to be treasured forever. *ELKANA was the LOVE of my life! And it was an Honor to care for her while she visited this earth. We lived together for most of her life in a little corner of paradise, a mystical place where dreams come true . . . a place I named Deor Farms so long ago.
When *ELKANA became Aude's partner, she had already earned the honor of becoming U.S. National Champion Mare AND she was in foal to National Champion Stallion and Park Horse, the now immortal, *BASK++. In the years that followed, the prolific and astonishingly fine producer gave the breed 17 foals (over a period of 22 years) by *BASK++, *Aladdinn, Negatraz, Strike, Aikon, and *Aicyng among others. As Aude has said, "*ELKANA became a LEGEND through her foals, who then went on to produce their own National Champions for their rightful owners."
Over the years Aude has been blessed to know some wonderful people, all, she says due to their shared love of the Arabian horse. She counts among her most important mentors, Dr. Eugene LaCroix, Mike Nichols, Dr. Howard Kale, Sheila Varian, Dr. Ignacy Jaworaski, Roxann and Karl Hart, Judith Forbis, and Walter Mishek.
When we asked Aude where she gained her own foundation as a breeder she said: "Dr. LaCroix, Dr. Jaworaski, and Mike Nichols taught me much more than I can say about breeding Arabians. They helped me to understand phenotype and genotype. They showed me what to expect from future generations, how to cross and how not to cross. Again I was blessed -- in this case, with an absolutely priceless education.
"Overall," Aude says, "I've been most influenced by the legendary programs of the Polish State Studs, where both *Elkana and *BASK++ were bred. I've owned several *BASK++ offspring over the years and bred *Elkana to *BASK++ several times with amazing results! Needless to say I've been inspired by the Lasma breeding program, as well as the Varian Arabians program, the Waltons (breeders of Bey Shah) and Lenita Peroy who bred Jullyen El Jamaal, the sire of A Jakarta."
When we asked Aude to explain the objective of her breeding program -- in addition to producing a better Arabian horse. This is what she had to say.
"Beauty, of course, is essential. This is what draws us all to the Arabian horse. Largely from Dr. LaCroix I learned that the Arabian should be artistic looking. He so loved the look of the Arabians painted by the great artist Adolf Schreyer. But he, and I, always wanted more from the horses than mere comeliness. It has always been essential to me that my horses have the mind, the heart and the soul to make them a joy to be around and to enable them to become the best they can be at whatever they're most suited to.
"Regardless of pedigree, we can't always predict what a horse will do best. Full siblings in horses differ as much as do full siblings in humans. So, in nearly thirty years of breeding, I've learned to accept and honor the differences. I don't demand that every horse be highly competitive in halter or breeding classes. Nor do I expect every foal to come out trotting over the moon. I love a good western horse as much as I do an English horse. All I want is for the horses I breed to have the tractability that makes it possible for them to excel at whatever discipline their conformation dictates.
"What I want most," she says, "is to produce a horse that will take your breath away AND be an extraordinary athlete."
Isn't it interesting how time and time again it's been proven that such a horse can and does exist through the generations that descend from Aude's beloved *ELKANA?
Aude loves to ride, although she says she doesn't take time to ride often enough. Perhaps this is part of the reason good minds are so important to her. And then, of course, there were those horses that taught her about greatness . . . *ELKANA, and *BASK++ and *ALADDINN, the finest of fine minds and hearts; the greatest of souls and spirits.
"I guess I was a little spoiled by those three," Aude says wistfully. "I don't think I'll ever be really satisfied with much less."
We wondered, as a breeder, what she uses to measure her own accomplishments. In her signature attitude of understatement, she said:
"I measure my own accomplishments as a breeder by the successes of the horses I have bred that have then gone on to contribute to other people's breeding programs.
"Of course, starting with *Elkana I did have the deck stacked in my favor . . . Take, for instance, A Love Song by *Bask out of *Elkana). My great friends, the Chur's have bred her to *Aladdinn, Cognac, Tempter and Cylebrity with amazing results. A Love Song has produced the multi-National Champion Park, English Pleasure and Pleasure Driving horse Allience (by *Aladdinn). By the great *BASK++ son, Cognac, she produced the gorgeous Reserve National Champion Park horse and twice Top Ten English Pleasure mare To Love Again. With the Cognac son, Tempter, she gave the Churs A Temptation, who was National Champion open AND Jr. English Pleasure Horse and Reserve National Champion in Pleasure Driving. The Chur's also have Elegant Crystal (*Aladdinn x *Elkana) that I bred, and she is the dam of the great Ericca (by Tempter), who in addition to being National Champion Mare was also National Champion Jr. English Pleasure Horse, a feat never duplicated."
What were we saying moments ago about those take-your-breath-away-extraordinary -athletes that have come from Aude's breeding program and that she wants to continue to produce? Given Aude's credentials as a breeder, asking her what advice she would give to fellow breeders around the world is particularly significant?
"Learn what quality really is," she began in answer to this question. "Find people who are truly knowledgeable and experienced in the world of horses and horse breeding. Figure out what you like best in a horse, what's most important to you. Don't follow trends. Be true to your ideals. Be patient. Horse breeding is a LONG-TERM commitment. If you're not willing to make such a commitment, don't get into it. Just buy an occasional good horse and enjoy it. Breeding is NOT for the faint of heart."
And what, we wondered, were some of Aude's defining and most memorable moments? In answer she recalled first, taking *Elkana's lead line at the Nichols Sale and realizing that glorious mare was hers. Then she smiled at the memory of watching Kim Potts present *ELKANA's son, Ricard, (By Negatraz) to his U. S. National Top Ten Championship in Stallion Halter in 1992. Then I reminded her about the year (1995) that she, herself, led *ELKANA's son Cartier (by *Bask) to his Scottsdale Championship and U. S. National Top Ten Championship in AOTH Stallion Halter. That led to her memory of presenting *ELKANA's last son, Eminant (by Aicying) to his National Top Ten Championship in AOTH Stallion Halter in 1999.
"What about *Pesenka," I asked, recalling how Aude, one of the few women EVER to enjoy such an accomplishment, led that beautiful daughter of *Salon to a U.S. National Reserve Championship in Mare Halter some two decades ago.
"Well, yes," she said. "Pesenka was one of those really special horses. Next to *Elkana, she was one of the most incredible mares I've ever had the privilege of caring for . . ."
So what is Aude's personal standard for the Arabian horse?
"Arabians," she says, "I love them to have artistic style and romance. The oriental Arabian with his head short, small, shapely ears, long, arching neck, legs that are long and fine and correct and the high tail carriage that signifies pride and happiness. I also love an Arabian with tons of animation and lightness of being. This is the charisma of the breed, that freedom of spirit that makes them dance above the ground in brilliant contrast to their gentleness in dealing with us mere mortals." And what influences her the most when making her own breeding choices, genotype or phenotype?
"As a breeder," she told us, "my decisions are based equally on genotype and phenotype. I've studied and absorbed what has worked for the great breeding programs of our time, then blended these breeding philosophies with my personal ideal of the Arabian horse.
"First of all a horse must have good conformation, IE: straight, strong legs, strong, well-shaped hooves, relatively short back, good coupling, a long upright neck, a deep, strong hip and croup. And it MUST have big, beautiful eyes -- for me always an indication of a horse's mind. It's as easy as that.
"If a horse has all of these qualities, I look at its pedigree. Are there any weak individuals or glaring bloodline faults I need to worry about? Will the stallion I'm mating to a particular mare be able to compensate for any genetic or phenotypical weaknesses, and vice versa? Finally, when I've looked carefully at a horse's conformation and pedigree, then I make what I feel is the best breeding decision for a given pair of individuals."
I wanted to know how Aude would explain the importance of Midwest as pertains to the marketing and breeding of Arabian horses.
"Midwest," she said, "is essential to the Arabian horse industry. Why? Because David Boggs is open to new ideas and new adventures. And because David Boggs works harder than almost anyone in the world works at anything in the world.
"David loves Arabian horses and he's the antithesis of barn blind. He never gets so fixated on a bloodline, a breeding program or an individual horse that he can't recognize or appreciate anything else. For this reason, he continually brings into the Midwest mix the best horses from all over the world . . . creating in this process the BEST OF ALL WORLDS.
"Add to this Midwest's great team work, which makes them number one in the show ring. Then throw in David's extraordinary marketing capabilities and you have the equation that makes Midwest number one. People yearn for this status and gravitate to the happiest group of Arabian breed enthusiasts in the world. Midwest offers their clients and their horses the most and the best in everything. Midwest is more than a team, more than training barn, more than marketing organization. Midwest is the essence of camaraderie, an extended family that far surpasses any standard definition of friendship. And Midwest is FUN, FUN, FUN!
"I had the joy and pleasure of sharing the winner's circle with David and Team Midwest recently when David led A Jakarta to the Region IV Championship for Breeders Sweepstakes Yearling Colts. What a thrill! It was extra fun to watch because it looked like both David and Jakarta were having great fun. I was so proud of them and so happy to be a part of this loving family. With Midwest, time and again, DREAMS DO COME TRUE!"
And . . . what about this latest dream horse?
So why this colt that carries only a fraction of the blood of *BASK++ and none of *ELKANA? Why did Aude choose him for the next step in her breeding program?
"Well," she says, "I guess I have to admit that I didn't choose him. He chose me."
How so, you ask? Here's the story.
On a visit to Petroglyph Arabians in Eagle Point, Oregon looking for fillies that might be interesting to purchase, Aude was called by this yearling colt that everyone else seemed to ignore.
"He just kept nickering to me," she says, "begging me to come to his stall. I couldn't resist. I just FELL FOR HIM. He grabbed my heart in a way no other horse has since *ELKANA. So what was I to do? It didn't matter to me how he was bred. I didn't even ask. I just knew that I belonged to him and that I was being called to care for him in this life."
Says long time friend Chris Petford of this new alliance, "I haven't seen this sparkle in Aude's eyes since *ELKANA left us. It's like she has a new lease on life, as though she knows a special secret. And because I believe in the mystical connection Aude has with these horses, I believe this colt is something very, very special."
As fate would have it, even though Aude didn't care a bit how this colt was bred, it turns out that he represents a really exciting genetic out cross for her mares, all grand daughters of *Elkana by *Aicyng, Cartier (by *BASK++) and Eminant (by Aicyng). And, all the breeders who see him and his pedigree agree that he'll also be a magnificent out cross for daughters of Padrons Psyche, Magnum and his sons.
"The future for a stallion that can offer a strong and viable out cross for the best sires of the day is limitless," Aude says. "I'm beyond excited about A Jakarta and his potential. It doesn't hurt that this colt possesses all of the attributes I mentioned as essential to me. Like *ELKANA, he's artistically beautiful, romantic, and charismatic. He carries himself with that same air of knowing he's magnificent."
Jakarta is a blending of the finest show and breeding bloodlines available today, taking the best characteristics from each group. From Ali Jamaal and the Gainey lines on the female side of his pedigree, he shows exquisite type and smoothness.
From Bey Shah he carries forward long legs, a short back and that charismatic show horse attitude for which Bey Shah was so legendary.
From Azraff and *BASK++ (both of whom astute breeders have long used for this trait) he has that elegant, long "snaky" neck that hinges well at the poll.
Robin Field Gainey recalls A Jakarta's second dam, Gai Chardonnay, by Ferzon out of the Azraff daughter Azleta, as a mare that not only possessed this kind of neck, but passed it on with awesome regularity.
With three lines to *BASK++ as well as lines to El Magato and other great Heritage Farms trotting horses, Jakarta also shows and promises to pass on the free motion we all love so well.
But above and beyond it all are the eyes . . . the mirror of the soul in horses as in all of God's other creatures. From *BASK++, Azraff and Ferzon, A Jakarta inherited the huge dark eyes, set wide in pronounced bone structure that more than any other attribute sets the Arabian horse apart from all others.
Finally, there are the heart and the mind that matter so much to Aude, and other fine horsemen. Again, from *BASK++, Azraff and Ferzon, comes the great heart and gentle spirit that, as Aude said earlier, "make horses a joy to be around and enables them to become the best they can be at whatever they're most suited to."
When asked what breeding crosses she feels will work best for the blood of Jakarta, Aude had this to say: " He should be a wonderful cross on our *Elkana grandaughters who are sired by Cartier (*Bask x *Elkana) and Eminant (Aicying x *Elkana). We are also very excited about seeing him bred to daughters of Magnum Psyche and Padron's Psyche, he is the perfect out cross for the *Padron sire line. With his strong Gainey dam line, Jakarta would also cross back in beautifully with mares of Azraff and Ferzon breeding via the Gainey program. He has such a strong breeding pedigree he could be used on Spanish, Polish, Russian and Egyptian mares with equally predictable results."
So, for A Jakarta . . . stay tuned . . . there's lots more excitement to come!