Cover Story - Vol. 48, No.4AA - Issue #10
Cover Story: Affliction
by MARY KIRKMAN
Dr. Nancy O’Reilly, the face behind Amazing Horsewoman LLC, got into Arabian horses because they’re fun. It’s been five years since she accompanied a friend to Chrishan Park, bought her first Arabian and learned to ride; three years since she moved to California and added riding at Lowe Show Horse Centre to her routine; and a little more than one since she purchased a young stallion named Affliction (on this month’s cover) and three-quarters interest in another, Life Inthe Fazt Lane. That’s when she began a breeding program that’s not just a breeding program. It’s also a mission.
If it sounds like O’Reilly drank the Kool Aid and got out the checkbook, think again. She was introduced to Arabians at a time in her life when she needed something pleasant and uplifting, but she stays with them because she loves not only the horses, but the relationship she has with them. One of her goals in becoming a breeder is to produce fine horses (“create the next generation of Arabian and Half-Arabian show horses”), and another is even more broadly focused. By expanding her commitment to the breed, she wants to open more conversations on how owners regard their horses.
First, the breeding program: the horses. Although O’Reilly is a relatively new rider, and, as she freely admits, an older one, her passion is the English division, which is not the easiest to learn. That hasn’t deterred her. “I like going fast,” she grins. (With Jim Lowe and Chris Wilson as mentors, she’s come along fast as well, winning her first national top ten in 2014, on Cey Hey in country pleasure; now she’s testing the waters of English pleasure with her new mount, Half-Arabian Halsteads Deven.)
Both of her stallions, whose pedigrees complement each other, offer bloodlines heavy on English trophies. The 5-year-old Vegaz son Life Inthe Fazt Lane features Apollopalooza, AA Apollo Bey, MHR Nobility, A Major Fire, and Barbary, while 4-year-old Affliction, a stunning black colt by Mamage, offers Allience, Zodiac Matador, and through Pro-Fire, *Bask and *Prowizja. Or in other words, 34 national championships and 14 reserves from just those individuals, and every one of them is/was a smashing success as a sire or broodmare.
In addition, Affliction offers a rare dimension in breeding Arabians for the English division—his pedigree includes no Huckleberry Bey blood, making him a viable outcross for many of today’s English broodmares. Already breeders are supporting him, and he is slated to debut in the show ring either in the AEPA class at U.S. Nationals in October or in Scottsdale next February, whichever trainer Jim Lowe believes suits him best.
All that said, successful show records are only part of the story, so back to O’Reilly’s second goal. When she sees great horses, her mind goes directly to the emotional benefits for the horses’ owners. “Horses have been very much a healing process for me that has changed my life so much for the better,” she says. “There is something amazing about people when they spend time around these big animals that builds confidence. My background is in women’s empowerment and leadership, and I see in women, especially, the empowerment of spending time with horses.”
That sort of analysis comes naturally for her; a licensed clinical psychologist, she spends most of her time as a motivational speaker, helping others. The founder of the WomenConnect4Good Foundation and “Conversations with Amazing Smart Women” podcast, as well as the author of Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life, O’Reilly recognizes the untapped potential common in many people, particularly women, today. And she knows the horse/human synergy firsthand. A good relationship with a horse mirrors much of what she advocates in her work—success through connecting with others, opening up, collaborating, coming closer together. With horses, it is all the more fulfilling because both parties are bridging divides of language and communication. Nothing aggravates her more than seeing an exhibitor come through the out-gate after a subpar ride and snap at his or her trainer, “Sell him!” That’s not collaboration, O’Reilly observes. “Nobody I know in either of my barns does that. To me, this is about a lot more than just showing horses.
“I want people to really understand the importance of horses and how healthy it is for us in this community that we belong to,” she says. She knows that many owners love their horses and that some dedicate their lives to them, but feels that there is even more there to value, especially for new people attracted to the industry. “For me, it’s about creating a whole new culture of how people perceive show horses—the importance of horses, people, relationships, the whole thing.” Therein lies the key most important to the Arabian breed as a whole. A community that comes together with its horses more easily comes together with each other.
One facet of her vision is encouraging other owners to think in terms of “forever homes” for their horses, just as they do when adding dogs and cats to their families. “When their show career is over, what are you going to do with the horses?” she asks rhetorically. “I think everyone who purchases a horse needs to think about that.”
Ideally, that would mean keeping a horse for the duration of its life, but realistically, she knows that there are various legitimate reasons that owners sell. It’s the commitment that counts, she nods, even if that means not keeping the horse for up to 30 years. It’s about making sure that a horse has the best new home possible, because, hopefully, one of those homes will be forever. “Talk about that ahead of time,” she advises practically. “If you don’t plan to keep a horse for the rest of its life, what are your plans for [its next stage]?”
That brings her full circle. “I want to be responsible when I create that next generation,” she says succinctly. Top class horses, with pedigrees that produce conformation and the ability to do a job well have better options in today’s world, and longer show careers offer not only more employment for horses, but continuing rewards for the humans in their lives.
“To me, it’s helping people to understand the importance of these horses,” she reflects. “Creating a community—not only taking care of the horses, but taking care of the trainers and taking care of each other. I want to use the horses as a way of educating people. It’s an opportunity not only to breed amazing, beautiful horses, which is always a lot of fun, but also to really help people to understand the absolute beauty and wonder of these creatures. And that goes back to the term ‘responsibility’ that we have for them. I’m going to do my best to create an environment of discussion so that people start thinking more about the ‘forever horse.’”
Affliction, now just beginning his center stage role, is an important part of her “forever horse” future.