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Falcon breeding operation preserves desert Arabians

“A gold jewel cannot be made except from gold.”This traditional Arabic proverb appears on an advertising flyer for al Zarka Arabians, LLC, showcasing their three Egyptian Arabian stallions. Kathy and Steve Raider, owners of the breeding and boarding operation on Jones Road, are committed to preserving the bloodlines of their horses, who are direct descendants of horses bred by the Bedouin tribes of the Arabian Desert.For 15 years, the Raiders have been breeding Egyptian Arabians and selling the purebred foals to a national and international clientele. Although Kathy has been riding since her childhood in Black Forest, the choice of the first breeding mare was a calculated one. “I wanted to be sure I had the correct bloodlines first. My entire breeding program is based on just a handful of horses,” she said.Although Arabians have a reputation in the horse world as being spirited and often hard to control, the Raiders believe this is an unfair generalization. “Arabians were bred to live in the Bedouins’ tents, and you’re not going to have an animal that’s really wild living in your tent,” Kathy said. “It’s all in how they’re treated. If they’re raised gently and socialized, they make great companions.”Last year, al Zarka sold eight horses: three young mares as breeding stock and five geldings started as family saddle horses. They currently have 12 mares in foal, who are due to give birth in the spring. As soon as the mares come into season (seven days after foaling), they are bred to one of al Zarka’s stallions. “In the spring, we’re sometimes breeding our stallions to our mares morning, noon and night,” Kathy said.The Raiders partnered with three trainers who each have special areas of expertise. Travis Casey, who has been training at al Zarka for a year and a half, focuses on starting young horses and ground training. He has won national championships in penning, sorting and team penning.Katherine Hayes has 16 years experience in teaching horsemanship, and is certified in both English and Western instruction by the Certified Horsemanship Association. She focuses on safety for both the horse and rider. Vicki Borrelli specializes in preparing the horse and rider for showing, including halter, English and Western pleasure, hunter under saddle and sport horse. The Raiders’ daughter, Melissa, currently has two Arabians in training with Borrelli.The facilities at al Zarka include a 60 ft. by 120 ft. indoor arena, two outdoor arenas (including a dressage arena), a 60 ft. round pen and 45 stalls with individual runs. The Raiders offer full-care boarding and currently have three boarders. “I’m constantly checking on all the horses,” Kathy said. “In foaling season, I’m down at the barn every hour all night long!”As part of their efforts to promote Egyptian Arabians, the Raiders hosted an open house last summer for the Egyptian Arabian Horse Alliance, a group that meets regularly to share information about Arabians and horses in general. The celebration featured demonstrations highlighting the versatility of the breed, including riders in native costume and trainer Casey riding one of al Zarka’s stallions without a bridle. The Raiders hope to add vendors and riding exhibitions at their 2006 celebration, which is scheduled for mid-July.Now that they have three versatile trainers, the Raiders are planning to begin a summer camp for kids in 2006. Each one-week camp will be limited to 10 to 12 riders. The riders will be separated into two groups, with one group doing groundwork while the other group receives riding instruction. “My daughter also plans to do children’s birthday parties,” Kathy said. Steve Raider, who builds information systems for large corporations, also plays guitar, and has been involved with several well-known area bands. Steve and Kathy plan to host monthly family-oriented barn dances during the summer. So, it should be a busy summer for al Zarka!The Raiders have focused on building a quality-breeding program to continue a proud heritage. “You have to have the love of the horse,” Kathy said. “It’s a lot of hard work. But I tell people that I don’t just love horses – I’m obsessed.”

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