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Al Malikk

AL MALIKK

AL MALIKK...ALL BOXES CHECKED

By CATHERINE COLE FERANDELLI

The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse’s ears. Arabian Proverb Possessing the bloodlines of multiple aristocrats impacting Arabian horse history, Al Malikk is carving his own path to greatness.

For Michele Pfeifer, owner of Shellbird, Inc., meeting Al Malikk begins with a mission to acquire a special young stallion to show and breed to her own impeccably bred band of broodmares. Michele recollects, “The 2018 Scottsdale New Year’s Farm Tours included Royal Arabians, where Travis Rice knew we were looking for that special colt and brought out several yearling prospects, with Malikk (Shangrila Baltazar x RD Tora) the final showing.” Michele was awestruck when the yearling colt flashed before her eyes. Still, Malikk’s charisma wasn’t the entire gasp of excitement. Michele’s lifelong study of equine conformation was intuitive, “Equally if not more exciting for me were Malikk’s perfect ‘thirds.’ He was equal from the point of the shoulder back to the elbow and withers, from the withers to the point of hip and from hip to point of buttock. Malikk’s impeccable movement sourced from his proportionate balance, creating movement that was some of the very best I had ever seen.” Being a horse person who admires “all great horses put together correctly regardless of breed,” Michele knew Al Malikk was the one.

The following month, Malikk debuted at Scottsdale drawing attention with his elegance, correctness, and mesmerizing movement. Handler Rodolfo Guzzo (“Guzzo”), smiles remembering, “All you could say is, ‘Wow!’” Malikk showed twice more in 2018, at Region 2 in June earning the ABS Arabian Yearling Colt/Gelding Championship, then on to U.S. Nationals and the winner’s circle as champion ABS Arabian Yearling Colt. Malikk blossomed further in 2019, acquiring Canadian National Champion 2-Year-Old Colt and U.S. Reserve National Champion. The dark bay colt flourished, growing ever more alluring, all the while balanced, correct and beautifully proportioned.

In 2020 Al Malikk yet again, reached the top as U.S. National Champion Arabian Futurity Colt. Judges were clearly taking notice, rewarding Malikk’s ability to “hit the ideal Arabian horse standard every time.”

Travis Rice handles the majority of promotion and marketing of Al Malikk at Royal Arabians for Michele, clearly enjoying the excitement this young stallion brings to the industry. “Malikk is what we seek in the complete Arabian horse,” says Travis. “He is a perfect representation, truly bringing out the best of all the greats that run through his phenomenal pedigree, including Bey Shah, *Aladdinn, and more recently, DA Valentino, Falcon BHF and Cajun Prince HCF. What I love most about him is his presence, tiny tippy ears, stretch and a show attitude that is like no other!”

Guzzo nods in agreement, “Al Malikk has the whole look, which keeps getting better and better. He has allowed us to make him a great horse, being kind and easy to handle, yet all the while proud and confident of his beauty and presence.”

Al Malikk also debuted in 2020 his first two foals, both out of Michele’s homebred mares: Magikk SB, a colt out of Annahita, and Ansa SB, a filly out of Justaimage. Both youngsters inherited Malikk’s balance, beauty and bold movement.

Looking ahead, Michele sees Malikk’s future shining brightly. “As a show horse, he is surrounded by the best team in the business. I know Guzzo loves Malikk … his integrity is second to none, and Travis’ marketing skills always put Malikk’s well-being at the top of his priorities. Royal Arabians’ owners, Mark and Cindy, run the tightest ship in the business.” Everyone concurs that Malikk will continue his show career selectively. He has two years to vie for the Arabian Junior Horse titles, at which time they will decide what is in his best interests. Breeding will be equally as selective. “Malikk has a great group of foals coming in 2021 out of exceptional mares,” enthuses Travis, “including National Champion Falcons Lovenote BHF, Scottsdale Champion *HDF Barcellona and the great Versace daughter Verstrella.”

Born on Valentine’s Day, 2017, Al Malikk’s journey is truly an equine gilt-edged love affair for Michele and his team.
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Cedar Ridge Arabians

NEWS

CEDAR RIDGE ARABIANS

By SARAH JAYNE JOHNSON

Established by Dick and Lollie Ames over 50 years ago, and now managed by their daughter, Lara, Cedar Ridge Arabians sits on 500+ acres of green pastures with a one-of-a-kind facility in Jordan, Minnesota, not far from Minneapolis.

It is staffed with some of the brightest rising stars in the industry: performance trainer Laura Rodel, training and operations manager Stephanie Davisson, and the newest member to the CRA family, halter trainer Kenny McDonald.

When discussing what brought McDonald to CRA, he explained, “I was drawn to the CRA team for a few reasons; the Ames Family is one of the most respected families in all of the Arabian horse industry, and they have developed one of the best breeding programs in the nation.”

Being young, McDonald brings to the table a new style of halter training. He has been showing and training halter horses since a very young age with his family. Walking into CRA with the Ames Family’s established decades of success in breeding and halter wins makes his job that much more exciting.

One of the best parts of his new gig, he shares, is working in such an upbeat and happy barn with Stephanie and Laura. Laura Rodel has been with CRA now for a few years, and each year she looks forward to seeing more horses and clients reach success together and is witness to the breeding of incredibly talented horses in all divisions.

When it comes to McDonald, Rodel has nothing but great things to say as well, “Kenny has been a great addition to Cedar Ridge. He’s brought new ideas and solutions to the team that have been very helpful thanks to his extensive knowledge and talent. His personality fits in really well, there’s never a dull moment at work.”

Operations manager Davisson had the same praises for McDonald, “Our team is so much fun! It’s nice to have a group of people that work so well together and help each other out so much. It’s the perfect balance of work and pleasure.”

Looking towards U.S. Nationals, the trio is excited for the rest of the industry to see their latest talent. “We are slowly starting to put our plan together for Nationals,” McDonald says, “but one to keep an eye out for is the Half-Arabian yearling filly, Like No Other CRF, by Arrowhead’s Unlike Any Other and out of the beautiful Baske Afire daughter, HA Sahara Afire.”

Davisson agrees. “It’s always exciting to see the younger stock enter the ring for the first time to see what divisions they’ll be competitive in. Of course, the AEPA, AWPA, and AHPA classes are always goals.”

Continuously improving the quality of its breeding, including the addition of home-bred western pleasure horses, and exceptional teamwork is Cedar Ridge Arabians’ key to success, both at home and in the arena. With the help of this skilled trio and CRA’s ever expanding lesson program, one can bet they will see numerous future national champions within the industry for many years to come.
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Fire & Goldd

Fire And Goldd

by CATHERINE COLE FERANDELLI

The love affair between Holly Hill Farm’s owners, Renee Pelzman and Morgan Runyon, and their burnished copper stallion, Fire And Goldd (Afire Bey V x Brassmis), continues to flourish. After acquiring Goldd in 2019, the mother/daughter team witnessed last year, their first foal crop of six purebred and four Half-Arabian babies.

“We were so thrilled with Goldd’s babies! Two of his Half-Arabians, Fools Goldd and Heart of Goldd, we have bred back to give us full siblings,” says Morgan. “The mares had been leased to a friend for the 2021 season and are now checked back in foal for us for 2022 and we could not be more excited!” Two Saddlebred mares, The Sun’s Out and El Baile, have also been key components to Holly Hill Farms’ breeding success. Morgan continues, “The Sun’s Out (Sunny) is by CF First Night Out and out of a magnificent Radiant Sultan daughter, with lines going back to Valley View Supreme, Status Symbol, New Yorker, Supreme Sultan, and Glenview Radiance. El Baile (Honey) is by Kalarama’s Spanish Dancer and out of a spectacular daughter by CH Talk of the Town. Within her bloodlines are six Broodmare Hall of Fame dams: Duchess of Grandview, Oman’s Anacacho Maytime, Crebilly’s Plumb Beautiful, Putting on Airs, Melody O’Lee and CH Supreme Airs. Her pedigree is also chock-full of world class sires including CH Yorktown, New Yorker, CH Valley View Supreme, CH Wing Commander, Supreme Sultan, and Harlem Globetrotter. These Saddlebred crosses with Goldd have been absolutely out of this world, so I decided to add another mare to our group, with our purchase of Landmark’s Dolly Parton (Dolly) who is sired by the great (SA) Tomcat. Dolly is exceptionally refined and easygoing and if you didn’t know better, you’d think she’s Half-Arabian herself! We’re anticipating an exceptionally beautiful and talented 2022 baby.”

After purchasing Goldd from world-class breeder Marty Shea, his first foal crop with Renee and Morgan was the product of a bit of experimentation. Long-time Arabian horse lovers, owners and amateur show exhibitors, the duo had never owned a breeding stallion of Goldd’s caliber. Fortunately, their experiment was a resounding success. “We knew Goldd produced great progeny, having already sired national champions,” Morgan smiles. “What we didn’t know was how he would mesh with our mares and those of the wonderful mare owners who chose to breed to him for the first time. I can’t say we were totally surprised, but we were really thrilled with Goldd’s 2020 crop. They were all so exceptional that we chose to keep some and sell a few to show horse owners who we knew would give them not just a quality life, but the opportunity to blossom and time to grow into great show horses.”

Katie Burr-Solek (Burrline, LLC) of Temecula, California, purchased the then-weanling Half-Arabian chestnut colt, Fools Goldd (x The Sun’s Out), as a future show prospect. Morgan and Renee couldn’t be happier for Katie in joining the ‘Goldden Family’. Heart of Goldd was also sold as a weanling to a new owner in the Midwest. “We can’t wait to see these two dynamic boys in the show ring one day . . . it will be hard not to cry when we get to see them again,” shares Morgan.

Another new owner/breeder to the family last year was Brooksley Sheehe of Tshampagne Arabians. Brooksley is a longtime friend and fellow breeder and now, a true believer in Goldd. “Fire and Goldd complements my mares by throwing stretch, phenomenal attitudes, beauty and athleticism in both purebreds and Half-Arabians. I am so pleased with his foals, I intend to reproduce the same crosses I bred. I adore my Goldd babies!”

Now 14 years old, Goldd is seeing the rise of his second-generation progeny. Boisvert Farms, LLC’s 6-year-old stallion, Barcelona BF, is a national champion park, English pleasure and driving horse with ten young offspring of his own and more to arrive in 2022. Many other Goldden children have also made their mark in the show ring and Goldd is booked to a number of mares who themselves are national champions and national champion producers.

Holly Hill Farms has a strong lineup to represent Goldd at the 2021 U.S. Nationals, including their National Champion, Goldd Standard showing in the Open and AAOTH Half-Arabian Saddle Type Gelding 3 & Over, with Morgan and Steve Heathcott, as well as Open and AATD Pleasure Driving, with trainer Dwane Hankins in the Open. Their reserve national champion Glitter and Goldd will compete in the Half-Arabian Country English Pleasure Junior Horse with Dwane and Morgan in the Maturity, and Goldden Girl will represent in the Half-Arabian Saddle Type Mares 3 & Over, both in Open and AAOTH, as well as English Pleasure Junior Horse with Dwane. “I’ve waited a long time to show these two fillies,” says Morgan, “it’s going to be an exciting end to the year!”

While show ring success is powerful proof of Goldd’s prowess as a breeding stallion, Morgan and Renee are equally committed to their belief in his exceptionalism and treat each of his progeny as its own individual. Morgan examples, “I bought Glitter and Goldd basically sight-unseen from Marty Shea; all I saw was a quick snippet of a video. I brought her home and let her take her time growing up. That seemed to be the right recipe for her. Dwane started her slowly, and we didn’t show her under saddle until very recently. At age five, she has really grown into herself; a big, incredibly bold, ultra-confident mare that possesses all the English pleasure thrills. She personifies why people fall in love with ‘red-headed’ saddle seat horses!”

Holly Hill Farm’s owners are happy to carry the mantle of being curators and ambassadors for the Arabian horse breed and, especially, for Goldd. They welcome visitors to see Goldd and his babies and love making new friends who share their passion for great horses. “When we bought Goldd, Tim Shea said he ‘finally has his own statue and spotlight.’ We intend to keep that light burning brightly!”

#StayGoldden

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SF Aftershoc+

NEWS

sf aftershoc+

sending "shoc" waves through scottsdale

By COLLEEN SCOTT

When SF Aftershoc (SF Specs Shocwave x SF Sweet Elegance) took to the arena the last Saturday night of the 2021 Scottsdale Show in the Liberty Championship Finals, the 16-year-old purebred stallion captivated the entire crowd. With Shan Wilson and long-time caretaker, fan, rider and promoter Vicki Humphrey encouraging him, the stunning chestnut did not disappoint. In fact, his Liberty performance, to the music of Lionel Richie’s “Dancing on the Ceiling”, garnered him a perfect 50, the only perfect 50 of the show and one of just a handful through the decades of the show.

“It was definitely a highlight of my career,” says Wilson. “And it was really great to be able to share that experience with Vicki who campaigned that horse for so many years and really promoted him. He’s a special stallion and letting him show off for people was really fun.”

That SF Aftershoc still has the charisma, incredible movement and Arabian type at his age shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that has followed his storied career and that of his progeny. “He’s one of a kind,” says Wilson. “He is really athletic and very forward-thinking and moving. He loves to work and still shows up every time with a lot of enthusiasm, whether he is being shown at liberty, worked in Wendell Arena or in the round pen at home.”

Besides being treated to seeing SF Aftershoc in the Liberty class, there were a handful of bystanders who got to see him work under saddle. Midweek during the show, Shan needed to exercise the horse and had Jennifer Hagale (her parents, Jim and Martha Hagale, own the stallion) hop on to ride “just for fun.” After a few canter laps, she dropped the stallion to a trot and it wasn’t long before people recognized him.

“We had people coming up and asking if it was Aftershoc and talking about babies they had by him or babies they had seen,” recalls Wilson. “It was really fun. We even had people come by his stall and ask to meet him.”

Beyond SF Aftershoc’s dynamic Liberty performance, his progeny at the show were also remarkable. They achieved winning results across an incredibly wide range of disciplines, including Park, English Pleasure, Country English Pleasure, English Show Hack, Native Costume, Hunter Pleasure, Western Side Saddle and Halter. The titles were captured by purebreds and Half-Arabians alike, with junior riders, amateurs and professionals aboard.

In total, Aftershoc offspring finished in the top ten 39 times, including four champions: Eye Candy VH, in the Half-Arabian English Pleasure Junior Horse with Jessica Clinton aboard; Foxxy Brown, in the AHPA Half-Arabian Hunter Pleasure AOTR; American Hustler, ridden by Haley Waldschmidt, in the Half-Arabian Country English Pleasure JTR 14 and Under; and Captivating Moves, with Katie Long in the Half-Arabian Country English Pleasure JOTR 14 and Under (also named Reserve Champions in JTR). In all, SF Aftershoc sired six Reserve Champions.

“We were really excited to see Aftershoc’s offspring perform so well in multiple disciplines,” says Wilson. “It’s just a great testament to his ability to pass on his athleticism, work ethic, go forward attitude and arena presence. We’re looking forward to continuing to help people select mares to breed to him.”
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Sophie Yih

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sophie yih

embracing the philanthropic spirit

By SARAH JAYNE JOHNSON

In July, you can expect to see a well-known face at the Youth/Mid Summer Nationals.

This year, Miss Sophie Yih will compete with five of her horses in training with Jonathan Ramsay at Stachowski Farms, Inc. in Southern California:
~ CF Bella Luna | Half-Arabian Equitation and UPHA Equitation
~ CP Manifesto | Arabian Country Pleasure
~ Supreme Sensation SMP | Arabian Park and English
~ A Thousand Stars | Half-Arabian Country Pleasure
~ Heiritage TRGR | Arabian Equitation and Show Hack

New to the show string is the Yih’s new family member, multi-national champion A Thousand Stars. Purchased from Kirby Arabians during the 2021 Scottsdale show, “Stars” and Sophie were undefeated in their division.

Boasting joy about her new teammate, Sophie shares, “We were honored to welcome A Thousand Stars into our family! After we saw a video of her, we fell in love! We were able to try her out during Scottsdale and knew she HAD to be part of our family! I showed her the very same day that we bought her and learned very quickly that she was one spunky but an amazing girl!”

No stranger to moxie, Sophie is obviously excited to show her horses at Youth Nationals; her love for the rush of adrenaline she gets right before she trots into the arena being one of her favorite elements of the sport.

Beyond the show arena, Sophie has plans to give back to the industry. “I am very grateful to be able to participate in this sport, so giving back to the community is important,” she says. This year’s proceeds from the UPHA Ribbons of Service Program will go towards St. Jude’s Children’s hospital or an organization of the participant’s choice and Sophie is honored and excited to be participating, allowing her to practice her fundraising skills.

Her creativity has recently been on display, when Sophie collected extra toiletry items to donate to those in need while at the Region 1 Championship Horse Show in Del Mar, CA. Before collecting items, she painted nails for a $10-$15 donation to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. At Nationals, she is planning on selling raffle tickets.

Sophie’s longtime trainer, Jonathan Ramsay, explained how proud he is of her, both in and out of the arena, “I love her dedication and passion she has for, not just her horses and this industry, but her passion for helping others. She continuously gives back to our industry and others. She is inspiring.”

As Sophie continues to compete year-round in both the Arabian horse and Saddlebred industries—including a couple more years of Youth Nationals—she finds charity work equally rewarding, including her favorite organization, Tony LaRussa’s Animal Rescue Foundation. “What I love about them is that they don’t euthanize any animals in their shelter unless medically necessary. I’ve always stood by my belief that euthanizing animals just to make space for more animals, is inhumane and cruel.”

It is these altruistic qualities that horses bring out in their riders, and Sophie has tapped into hers, honoring the Arabian industry in and out of the arena.
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ASA Scandalous Affair

NEWS

ALISTAR ARABIANS

& ASA SCANDALOUS AFFAIR...TURNING DREAMS INTO REALITY

By CATHERINE COLE FERANDELLI

Kim and husband Dr. James “Jim” Blevins are pleased as punch to be immersed in the next chapter of their Arabian horse dream, breeding multi-generation 100% Alistar Arabians bloodstock.

Kim enthuses, “Our next breeding chapter took our homebred stallion ASA Scandalous Affair (Always A Jullyen V x Sweet Saphire V) from the show pen to trainer, Dale Brown’s breeding shed.”

ASA Scandalous Affair (aka “Scandal”) is a big spoke in the Alistar Arabians wheel of bloodstock-producing aspirations. Breeding him to their homebred mares was the next big step and the results are in … meet the sable stunner, ASA Mercedes.

Born in March 2020, this ebony black filly is out of Alistar’s ASA Midnight Lucille, daughter of Western Pleasure National Champion Midnight Magnum. A classic representation of the Varian breeding program, Kim attests, “Mercedes possesses correct type, substance and athletic, balanced movement. All in all, the perfect combination of her sire and dam.” Energized with Mercedes’ beauty and conformation, the decision was made to start her show career in the yearling filly breeding stakes competitions.

Earlier this year, Mercedes was sent to renowned halter trainer Michael Wilson to prepare for her show debut in Region XII’s Spotlight Stallion Futurity Yearling Filly class. Mercedes’ elegant performance, splendidly handled by amateur Katie McGregor, was rewarded with Champion Spotlight Futurity Filly and Reserve Champion Spotlight Futurity Auction Filly. At Region XV, Mercedes thrilled the spectators again, winning ABS Arabian Yearling Filly. Kim and Jim are overjoyed with her stunning performances, yet equally pleased to see her calmly settle in at the show grounds, always greeting them with a nicker and a contented lick of the lips.

“Through good fortune, listening to expert advice and having brilliant horse friends willing to share their triumphs and failures,” Kim continues, “we’ve been very blessed. We are very small breeders, usually producing one, perhaps two foals a year. Those small numbers typically create lower odds for success, so our breeding results have pleased us beyond measure.”

Alistar Arabians’ goals are not exclusive to simply producing Arabian show horses. From the beginning, their dream has evolved by carefully crafting a small select herd of happy, classically beautiful, athletically gifted bloodstock; horses who are enthusiastic about doing their job, whatever that may be, willing to give their all.

“The foaling journey begins at birth and then proceeds, taking twists and turns,” Kim smiles, and the babies we’ve bred have mostly come from western pleasure ancestry mixed with some halter breeding. Still, we always are attuned to what each of our horses want to be. We have produced hunters, western pleasure horses, and even several reiners. We let our horses show us what they do best, then give them the best training we can find to further their talents.”

Kim and Jim are in every sense, the very essence of Alistar Arabians. Their lifestyle is all about performing the daily duties around the farm and for the horses. “We are the farm staff,” Kim laughs, “hands on with the day-to-day tasks and even the late-night foal watch. Living this life is a huge part of how our big dream started small and stays small, but most of all, carries on with wondrous rewards.”

Looking forward, Scandal has several more purebred and Half-Arabian foals on their way for 2022. He is a Region 12 Spotlight Stallion, Scottsdale Signature Stallion and AWPA Enrolled, giving opportunities for Scandal’s offspring to compete in varied show competition venues.

At only 6 years old, Scandal’s trainer, Dale Brown, has him in a full bridle, which Kim views as a better than ever western pleasure Scandal. Always a believer in giving a horse plenty of training time, Scandal’s show career and breeding career will continue with Dale and ultimately include Kim showing him in western pleasure amateur competition. It’s the icing on the cake for Kim, who has dreamt since childhood of having her very own Arabian black stallion.

Alistar Arabians surely embodies the words that great dreamer Walt Disney once declared, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
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Turismo RA

NEWS

turismo ra

new beginnings

By MARY KIRKMAN

Merrilee Lyons, of Silver Stag Arabians, loves her horses—always has, through decades of Arabian ownership. First in her heart is Turismo RA, whose undefeated show career includes tri-colors as the champion stallion at the U.S. Nationals (Junior), Canadian Nationals, and Scottsdale. It was, therefore, understandable that when Merrilee decided to move her 9-year-old favorite from the east coast, she chose Scottsdale, the center of the halter world. This past spring, Turismo joined Andy Sellman’s barn at Orrion Farms, accompanied by his sons Evolution CCA and Picasso SSA, and Merrilee’s Canadian National Champion Mare Edens Fantasy. So began a new chapter in their lives.

Sellman, who had shown against Turismo in the past, says his regard for the stallion has only deepened since working with him: “He’s an impressive creature. Aesthetically, physically, he’s a one-of-a-kind horse. He has a stand-up that is unbelievable; you rarely see something this statuesque, and it’s easy to look at because it’s not forced.”

Even better, he is equally taken with the stallion’s personality. As Turismo has settled into his new home, it’s apparent that he enjoys interacting with the staff. “He loves when we put our arms around him,” Andy grins. “I think he’s very sensitive; he’s a kind horse. I have more respect for him each day.”

Johnny Ryan, who cared for Turismo in the month preceding the stallion’s move to Scottsdale, agrees. “He’s a cool horse,” Ryan says. “He radiates being a stallion and he has a great snort button, but he’s totally within himself—very regal. You can walk by his stall and be captivated because everything is majestic.”

Both trainers mention what Turismo can contribute to the breed as a sire. “He can add such balance, carriage, shape to his neck, tail carriage—I think he’s going to put ‘a little bit more’ into [his foals],” says Johnny, who judged the stallion at Scottsdale. “A little bit more size, more stretch to the neck, and in some cases, more type. I’ve been fortunate to see several of his babies, and he puts an incredible neck and shoulder on them.”

Andy sees that and more in Evolution CCA, already a national top ten in halter, and Picasso SSA. “They train great,” he notes. “To me, that mental feature is just as important as physical features. I really value people that breed good-minded horses and stallions that breed good-minded foals that are willing and enthusiastic, and he is that.”

Both see Turismo’s potential for a crossover into the performance ranks. “There is every reason to believe he could be a sire along the lines of a Jullyen El Jamaal or a Sundance Kid,” Johnny says, “the type of horse who has done well in the western and hunter world.”

“Turismo’s a horse I’d like to have in our gene pool,” Andy states flatly. “I can’t think of another stallion as functional as this guy. He’s a horseman’s horse, one that would be universally liked by performance-oriented people as well as halter people.”

With Turismo, Edens Fantasy, Evolution and Picasso in Scottsdale, Merrilee also rerouted the others she owns. Two youngsters went to Dwayne Hankins to be prepared for sale in performance, while retirees Citationn and RGT Breathin Afire, along with Afires Midnite Heir, are with John and Christine Ryan in Pennsylvania. “Merrilee’s only a couple of hours away, so she visits them about once a month,” Johnny says, adding that there are Turismo foals in the area that she likes to monitor.

Turismo is now at home in Scottsdale—and as Andy says, “We’re in a very good place.” He is optimistic and the stallion is happy. Back east, though, Turismo is missed not just by Merrilee, but Johnny Ryan too. “Every day that I took him to the round pen, I would just marvel at what a magnificent animal he is,” Johnny says. “He’s got a certain aura about him, almost like he knows he’s great—he probably does know he’s great. I was actually sad to see him leave, even though I knew that was the plan all along. I just enjoyed my morning time with him.”

Merrilee knows just how he feels.