There wasn’t much time to think – no time to second-guess – and no
turning back. I was on a plane for Sao Paolo – jetting to the Brazilian
Arabian Horse Nationals. Against a background of political unrest and
uncertainty, I was believing in what “can” be, instead of what “can’t”
… I was flapping my wings with every drop of my strength – and soaring
into the greatest adventure of my life.
It had been two years since the founder of The Selket Arabians had left
his beloved herd of horses in my hands. Things hadn’t been easy during
that time, and I had made some mistakes along the way. Managing a
famous herd of nearly a hundred horses, between three farms in two
countries wasn’t a job for the faint-hearted. Not only were there
feeding and veterinary decisions to be made, there was also the
responsibility of continuing to develop and market a bloodline based on
horses of international achievement, going back more than half a
Am I bragging? No, I’m not. I understand the responsibility of animal
husbandry. I appreciate the dedication of people who invest serious
effort, time and money into a farm, a kennel, or animal breeding
programs of any kind. The horses entrusted to me had been carefully
bred and selected for generations, and I respected the man who
envisioned and guided their bloodline.
His name was Jim Andreson, and he grew up on a 3,000 acre ranch in
North Dakota. Jim was bright, talented, and he loved people. But, it
was Arabian horses that Jim loved most.
How this 6 foot, 4 inch farm boy grew to become a respected breeder of
Arabian horses was a mystery in some circles. For one thing, Arabian
horses weren’t the most plentiful in Minot, North Dakota’s cattle and
sheep country. But, Jim knew what he wanted.
He started raising horses when he was a young boy, and he bought them
with his own money. Among the treasures he kept with him wherever he
lived – from Minnesota, to Pennsylvania, California and to his final
home in Michigan, were the hide of his first horse, and the saddle he
rode many miles in. Along the way, he met many friends and quite a few
admirers. I was one of those admirers, and I was lucky enough to know
Jim and the Selket Arabians for more than twenty years.
Like many breeding programs, Jim’s horses went through a gradual
process of development. Always with an eye for movement, balance and
beauty, he worked to fix such characteristics in his herd. Even after
graduating with degrees in Animal Science and Reproductive Physiology,
he studied everything he could find about the horses he loved. He would
become a halter judge, he would teach Animal Science at a college, he
would be consulted by Arabian horse breeders world-wide. He would know
every major trainer in the business and he would study every rising
star among the horses campaigned within the industry each year. His
ability to spot up-and-coming horses before they became “household
names” was uncanny. DaVinci FM comes to mind. Jim saw him as a
youngster and was among the first to breed mares to him. Marwan and
Ghazal became favorites as well. Selket Marque was bred by Jim, and
there were many more.
Being a tall man himself, Jim was always searching for
taller-than-average Arabian horses. They aren’t so easy to find in our
breed, and twenty or thirty years ago, they were even more rare. But
Jim believed it was possible to find such horses – and, more
importantly, he believed he could produce them.
It was a trip to Florida in the 1980s which changed Jim’s destiny as an
Arabian horse breeder. He was visiting a racing stable, when he saw a
young, bay stallion being tacked up for a morning breeze. I can imagine
Jim’s reaction when he saw this horse. Others can imagine it, too, when
I say he returned home and raised a quarter million dollars to make an
offer on the young racing stallion he had seen that day.
The offer was turned down flat. “$250,000? That couldn’t even buy one
of his legs,” is what the owner of Furno Khamal told Jim. Of course,
those who knew Khamal will tell you those legs were considerably long.
He stood, at maturity, 16.2 Hands tall, barefoot. He was tested as a
sport horse in Europe, became a halter champion in Germany, France,
Belgium, The Netherlands and the USA, and he was poised for success on
The complete details of Khamal’s acquisition remain unclear, but Jim
Andreson did eventually get him, and the bloodline based on Khamal
began to flourish. Jim traveled personally to Russia, Poland, Germany,
Canada, France and Italy in the search for mares that were right for
Khamal and it was the crosses with those mares that really brought The
Selket Arabians to life.
I was among many Arabian horse lovers who wanted to breed a mare to
Khamal. Carefully, I studied him, and dreamed of the day when I would
have a mare good enough for this cross. Jim was patient with me, and,
although I never did find the right mare for Khamal, I joined his farm
and made a promise to continue developing the bloodline according to
his instructions. To make this possible, and to facilitate a smooth
transition, Jim introduced me to everyone he could in the industry, and
he taught me well.
Jim went on to greener pastures and greater horse shows in 2009. Like
many others who lose their teacher and guide, I waited for him to
magically appear in the barn … in the truck he drove … in the fields
among the horses he loved so passionately. Sometimes, there were
“signs” that only could have come from him. Most times, there was a
silence so loud I could feel it. After a while, the silence became an
understanding … a growing sense that it really doesn’t matter what
happens in the news, or in the economy or anywhere. What matters is
what you dream, and how much you want it.
The plane landed in Sao Paolo. I was greeted by the Brazilian equine
artist and designer, Adelia Audi, who had built one of the industry’s
greatest breeding herds with stallions like Panamarov, Shareem El
Sheik, Aza Destiny and the stallion Jim had always wanted to cross onto
Khamal daughters: El Shaklan. I am sure Jim was with us as we attended
the Nationals, and saw offspring of the stunning stallion he helped to
produce by combining those genes in Brazil’s treasured FA El Shawan.
So far away from North Dakota, where The Selket Arabians had started as
a young farmer’s dream, I thought. So far away from Michigan, where Jim
Andreson had raised so many good horses.
The music became louder. The elegance and beauty of Brazil surrounded
us. The judges made their unanimous decision … and a young bay stallion
named Matisse FM was named National Champion of Brazil.
I knew something about Matisse. I had last seen him as a young colt, by
the side of his dam, Selket Promise Kept, who is one of my favorite
mares in the Selket herd. Watching her son now, receiving his honors, I
whispered, “Thank you” to this beautiful mare.
Remembering Jim Andreson and Furno Khamal, I smiled and said, “Well
Ron Hevener, author of the novel Fate of the Stallion, is a licensed
racehorse trainer specializing in champion Arabian sport horses. He
lives in Michigan and Brazil with his wife, Adelia Audi. He can be
reached at www.SelketArabians.com, www.RonHevener.com and
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