Most anyone who knows Charles Craver is aware
that you rarely get a simple, uncomplicated answer from him. His answers
are usually as thought provoking as they are modest. Despite his years
of intense involvement with Arabian horses, and his obvious success
- or perhaps because of it - he insists that he is no Guru, and feels
that he has more questions than pat answers. In keeping with this philosophy,
many of his following comments on strains, breeding and management provide
food for thought for all serious breeders, regardless of bloodline interest
you first started gathering foundation breeding stock in the early 1950's,
none of the books such as the RASWAN
by Carl Raswan, and THE
CATALOG by Jane L. Ott had yet been published.
Were you aware of any purist movement within Arabian breeding?
CC: No, there wasn't
a purist movement, but there were a few purists. There have been purist
breeders in America since the very beginning of Arabian breeding here.
Primarily those that I knew were Jimmy Wrench and Alice Payne, and they
weren't within the Al Khamsa
context. Not all purists have to be within that context. When I got
the pedigree of Skowronek, as we now know it,
was not public yet. There was no reason to avoid him in a pedigree.
At that time, purists avoided certain other bloodlines.
and how did you first become aware of Carl Raswan and what role did
he play in developing your early breeding program?
CC: I first learned
of Raswan in about 1949 through Carl Asmis, a prominent early breeder
in the East, and then of course through Alice Payne and Jimmy Wrench
on the West Coast. Raswan was considered important by them and I respected
those breeders. Beginning in 1955, my relationship with Dr. Doyle reinforced
what I had learned in previous contacts with Payne and Wrench. Raswan
material formed part of the matrix of my thoughts in starting to breed
Arabian horses, along with standards from Asmis, Payne, Wrench, Dr.
Munson and Bazy Tankersley, along with a bunch of books. Like any beginner,
I was a sponge.
did you start corresponding with Raswan and what were some of his comments
about what you were doing?
CC: A correspondence
had developed by at least 1958. I sent him photos of
Sir and Alaska. His response was very
cordial and encouraging with comments that I was doing historical work.
Of course he wrote nicely to everyone, but without solicitation he used
the photo of Alaska along with pictures of *Nasr,
Ibn Mahruss, and Mesaoud
under the heading "Lest we forget the authentic, the pure Arabians"
when he published the real pedigree of Skowronek.
I have always felt that this statement showed what bloodlines Raswan
considered vital. I have worked in various ways to preserve all of these,
but especially, of course, the Davenports. We continued to correspond
until his death in 1966.
you ever meet Raswan?
CC: Yes, in 1965,
through Alice Payne. Later, I was planning another trip out there, and
in fact even had my reservations, when word came of his death.
did you choose to breed Davenports instead of some other bloodlines.
CC: I got started
with the purchase of Tripoli in 1953 for the
1) he was of interest to Alice Payne
as a breeding stallion, and I considered her to be the foremost
breeder of the time and her opinion was very important;
2) I had decided that most breeding
programs go wrong because of limiting pedigree factors, and Davenports
were freer of those than other bloodlines then available to me;
3) only two programs offered future
progress without such limiting factors - Egyptian and Davenport;
4) I intended to cross with intensely
bred Skowronek horses;
5) Davenports blended so well with
everything (lines that didn't blend with *Raffles
were not well thought of at that time); and
6) Davenport outcrosses were so successful
at the time. Horses such as Ankar,
Hanida, Garaff and
Hanraff were considered extraordinary as
was the straight Davenport Ibn Hanad and
7) the straight Davenports were in
the process of becoming extinct through their success with other
lines. (Note: I first learned of Skowronek's
real pedigree in April, 1955 from Dr. Doyle.)
is your understanding of Carl Raswan's strain breeding concept, especially
as it applies today?
CC: First, it is
important to understand that in the 30's, 40's and 50's when Raswan
was writing about strains, the horses he knew were close to desert breeding.
The great grandparents of those horses were consistent, and not mixed
up in pedigree. The great, great grandparents of today's horses were
the living horses of Raswan's time. It is extremely difficult to apply
his strain ideas were REAL, not mystical. Strain breeding is type breeding.
(Having a certain strain name does not guarantee that a given horse
will be of the type which was associated with that strain in the desert.)
is your understanding of the term "strain breeding" and how does "strain
breeding" relate to "generations bred in a stain"?
CC: Strain breeding
is simply using the knowledge of Arabian strains to produce a desired
type of horse. The breeding of one or more generations in the same stain
is a particular kind of strain breeding. It is no better or worse than
any other strain breeding program. It is of value only if it produces
the kind of horse you want. Strain breeding and/or producing multiple
generations in the strain is only one of a whole group of things that
a breeder must consider.
have been utilizing strain-type breeding longer than anyone else in
Al Khamsa, can you describe how the strains express themselves?
CC: I visualize
the strains we work with as a continuation from Kuhaylan to Saqlawi.
All of these horses are blends of the basic strains, with some blends
inclining one way or another. In the Davenports we have a major population
that inclines one way (ed. note: Kuhaylan) plus a few individuals that
stand out as being on the other end of the continuum. We have something
like TRILL (Tripoli x
Moth by Tripoli) on the
Saqlawi side of the balance and a lot on the other end of the continuum.
You can slant things either way and you are really talking about different
varieties of nice horses...but not the only nice horses. I think that
sometimes this strain thing is terrifically overemphasized. On the other
hand we do not get extreme examples of strain type from pedigrees that
do not call for them!
there any particular value in breeding multiple generations in a strain?
CC: Well, there
is the fun of assembling the pedigrees, the intellectual exercise. The
strains are of value only if they produce a certain kind of horse. If
you want that kind of horse, that is where the value is. It is not a
moral matter. It is a practical matter in the production of a desired
basic part of Raswan's advice on strain breeding Arabian horses dealt
with breeding away from Muniqi. Is this still valid today?
CC: Raswan said
to breed away from Muniqi, so it is automatic. Strain breeding is type
breeding. He was assuming that the classic TYPE Arabian was sought (and
that may not be true today for many breeders.) He meant that really
classic looking horses have Muniqi only far back in the pedigree. He
also wrote that if Muniqi was far ENOUGH back, it would not be as significant
-- many pedigrees today are farther form the Muniqi elements than in
Muniqi type affect Arabians today, considering the pedigree distance
CC: At a show,
pedigrees are generally so mixed up that Muniqi is less important than
other considerations. Muniqi horses were, after all, Arabian horses.
Within Al Khamsa that is a hot subject. Within Davenports - and other
Al Khamsa lines - one cannot assume that the ancestors you know to be
Muniqi strain were entirely of that strain (ed. note: "pure Muniqi")
OR that those of others (classic strains) were entirely free of it.
You really have known Muniqi and unknown Muniqi and if you are looking
for devils, you can assign any problem to them, but devils are more
a matter of religion sometimes than fact.
Al Khamsa, there are horses of the Muniqi strain and in fact Jeanne
Craver has a few Muniqi Hedruj mares. Do these horses automatically
exhibit the rangy, angular, narrow type associated with the desert bred
Muniqis to any degree? How would Raswan's advice on breeding away from
Muniqi apply to these Al Khamsa horses?
CC: I don't think
they are real Muniqis today. The recorded strain name is so far back
that its associated type is not apparent. Where there has been no effort
to reinforce the type, it is just gone, and no more influential than
the Muniqi ancestors in horses of other recorded strains. If you want
to determine the actual strain of these horses, you need to follow Raswan's
procedure. Determine the strains of all the animals in the 4th generation
and see which strain, if any, predominates -- and look at the actual
living horse to see which, if any, strain it most closely resembles.
Raswan was very clear on this.
the desert, new strains and especially new substrains were constantly
being created, while others died out. Do you see this still happening?
CC: Sure! Very
strong substrains are being created and not just within the Davenports.
Major strains can and have been lost, which is just a shame. The different
breeding groups that we have are really just different substrains of
the same tail female families. The problem is in recognizing new substrains
and being able to develop them. It
many breeding stallions do you currently have? How many mares of breeding
age and condition?
CC: I have about
20 to 25 breeding stallions and about 60 breeding mares.
You usually have around 20 to 25 foals annually,
why don't you breed all your mares each year?
CC: I feel that
you get a better quality foal if the mares are not depleted, and the
mares keep in better health and looks and it's more economical to keep
them in good shape. It really seems to offer better long-term and more
economical foal production under our conditions.
do you maintain so many stallions in proportion to the number of mares?
And can you tell us something about your ideas about your long term
CC: In order to
maintain a long-term breeding venture you have to allow for future growth
of the bloodlines; some stallions for now, some for soon, and some for
the distant future. Also, we have divided the horses into breeding groups
and each group requires this sort of stallion resource, although some
stallions can be used in more than one breeding group. We will keep
a stallion for years and just for a few usages.
We use so many stallions because we emphasize
the importance of the mares. By using more stallions you give an individual
mare a better opportunity to express herself.
In a closed breeding herd you have two options.
You can put all your bloodlines in one pot and try to produce the most
perfect individuals you can, or you can try to spread the genetic pool
by letting each variation of the bloodlines express itself. The trap
is you can end up just producing ingredients and never producing the
end products, but it doesn't shut off options for the future. I don't
think we are very doctrinaire about separating into breeding groups.
There is a place for crossing between the groups and we do that too.
We try to keep the groups separate but still interacting with the other
groups as a larger breeding venture.
Master breeders we are not. We are stubborn and
trying to figure things out but I don't feel we have all the answers,
or even most of them, just more questions!
QUESTIONS: Any comments on inbreeding?
Any comments on breeding in general?
CC: As a tool,
inbreeding is more powerful in a group than most people realize, and
less powerful in an individual than most realize. We do quite a bit,
depending on how you define it. We do it as a pattern of breeding that
increases the inbreeding coefficient. It is, of course, a matter of
degree in a herd such as the Davenports. We try to arrange breedings
between the most complimentary individuals, then see what inbreeding
is present secondarily. You don't have to inbreed only with perfect
animals. Alice Payne pointed out that if you wait until you have perfect
ones, you'll never accomplish anything. Inbreeding is more apt to increase
variations in individuals produced than it is to produce similarity.
The biggest problem Arabian breeders have is
identifying their most worthwhile breeding stock. It is not always what
you think! You have to use all the stock available to you. How you use
the less perfect animals is the telling thing.
You can't know a bloodline unless you know all
of the horses it has produced, not just the ones that have survived,
or the ones in the public eye.
An immense amount of variation in horses is environmental,
and in well established bloodlines maybe more variation is from environment
than heredity. This is especially so when unfortunate individuals turn
up and it is why some unsatisfactory animals can produce beautifully.
Environment begins at conception. It is just as major a mistake to judge
a foal harshly for environmentally produced problems as it is to critique
it for problems that are inherited.
Breed the best to the best. Best what? That's
a breeding scheme that just might work fine if you could just figure
out what "best" is.
Does type follow color? I've thought about this
allot, can't prove it but I have a hunch the Monsoon type Davenports
are chestnut. If there is a linage between color and type, it may not
be the same for one bloodline as it is for another.
Can you identify qualities in a foal that will
stay in the mature horse? Probably only within the bloodlines and conditions
with which one is very familiar -- then maybe.
I think that disposition is more hereditary than
leg structure, although there is no single "good" disposition. Different
strokes for different folks. By someone's definition, and I concur,
a good horse has to have a good disposition. No matter whether stallions
or mares, you will either watch them or they will watch you. A human
and a horse cannot successfully occupy the same space. It is just a
fact of life.
percent of your breedings are done by AI? (Artificial Insemination)
CC. Most of them
are by AI. I feel it's a more reliable method.
attributes do you look for in a potential breeding stallion?
CC: I think he
will get good foals! Seriously, you can't tell by looking, or past a
certain minimum, even by pedigree. You have to use them to see and the
final analysis comes with his grand and great grandchildren. My initial
selection is by pedigree. Individuality (overall or certain characteristics)
has plenty to do with my choices. The stallion here have it hard because
they are no better individually or more concentrated or powerful in
pedigree than the mares, and the mare has more influence than the stallion
anyway (this is a basic tenet of strain breeding -- emphasis is on the
female side). Almost any nice Arabian has a nice sire and the quality
of the mare is usually the variable.
You personally train most of your stallions
under saddle. Why?
CC: Actually, I
think I've ridden every stallion I've used, some allot more than others.
You can't fully appreciate or understand a horse until you ride it.
If I could also ride all of the mares, I would. Riding tests them not
just physically but mentally as well.
Unless you can view a horse in a riding context,
there is no point in having it -- you may not ride that individual horse,
but you should be able to view it that way. You think of them as being
from riding stock that will produce riding stock.
the present time which horses are you riding?
Javera Thadrian, Cathay,
Aspen, Lydian and
Ibn Alamein during the past year, plus others
that are on the back burner. I'm now doing the ground work on
Brigade and Brass Band.
Winter is when I can ride the most. I was also riding
Regency, but he is one of a kind and totally
irreplaceable. I would never hazard showing him so I primarily ride
do these horses compare to the great Tripoli
offspring such as Aramis, Tybalt,
Monsoon and Fairy Queen,
which you trained and showed successfully in the past?
CC: I've probably
changed more than the horses have. They are like very talented children
in a family. Each has a different gift which needs to be encouraged.
I'm not a good enough rider to do it, but I enjoy trying.
method of teasing mares is somewhat unusual. Will you describe it and
tell us why you do it this way?
CC: Well, I usually
ride the teasing stallion right into the herd of mares and foals. Sometimes
I lead him, but if you're going to get a horse out, you might as well
ride him. I do it this way because I'd rather ride than walk. I can
easily identify the breeding status of the mares. And stallions, after
all, should behave, even in such a situation.
been breeding Davenports for over 30 years now. Do you have any plans
for retiring? What about 20 years from now?
CC: I have no voluntary
plans to retire from breeding horses. Twenty years from now, I may be
pushing up daisies and I understand that is a full time occupation.
If I'm able to, I'll still be breeding Davenport Arabians.