Saturday, June 8, 2013

Angela Norton, Equestrian

Homozygous black straight Egyptian TC Moniets Legacy (The Minstril x Bint Bint Moniet) 
Breeders Sweepstakes Nominated Sire; SCID clear; 
Sire of Champions in halter and performance; Offering frozen semen worldwide.
From Dallas, Texas, USA, currently living in Gilmer, Texas, Angela Norton is the proprietor of Diamond Magic Arabians, an exclusive ranch producing award winning horses….

Welcome Angela!

How was your recent visit to Thailand?
Thailand is a beautiful country, and the people are amazing.  It's called "the land of a thousand smiles" for good reason.  Everyone I met was friendly, kind, and generous.  Everywhere I looked, I saw beautiful flowers, lovely decorations, smiling people, bright colors, and intricate designs.  Thailand is also a land of contrasts.  The new and innovative stands alongside the ancient.

...and the horses there?  
I was amazed by the variety of breeds represented, and saw excellent quality among the horses on the 3 farms I visited.  I met the President of the newly-organized Thai Arabian Horse Club, which I'm told includes about 25 members who actually own Arabian horses, and many more people who are interested in the breed.  At one farm, I saw 5 beautiful Arabian stallions representing 5 famous sires, including Padrons Psyche and DA Valentino.  The same farm also had several outstanding Arabian mares, including a lovely grey mare bred by Om El International, who had an incredibly beautiful filly at side.  I will be interested to see future foals from this breeding program.
Dr. Shet Meksumpun, breeder/owner, with two of his purebred Arabian mares.  
The grey mare is the filly's (below) dam; this mare was bred by Om El International. 

Did you ride an elephant in Thailand?
The elephant is a magnificent animal, and I enjoyed our 30-minute trail ride through the jungle, which culminated in a walk through the shallow end of a lake.  The ride, however, is much different from a horse or camel, because unless you are the animal's trainer, you don't actually sit on the back of the elephant.  The trainer sits behind the elephant's head and guides the animal, while the other riders (usually two) sit on a bench seat that is centered on the elephant's back.  It's quite interesting, as the motion of the elephant sways from side to side.  We walked up and down some rather steep hills and crossed water deep enough to swim in, but never went faster than a walk, and I never felt "connected" to the elephant, as I do when riding a horse.  Still, it was a great experience, and one that I will always cherish.  The kindness of these "gentle giants" is humbling, and I was glad to see the native Thai handlers treating them with respect.

Angela's Thailand elephant ride (notice the machete)...
When was your first introduction to horses? 
My parents grew up in the country, and had ranch horses as part of their childhood.  So, very early on, I was given a rocking horse, cowboy boots and hat, and all my early fantasies involved riding.  I learned to read early, and one of my first "favorite books" was Marguerite Henry's wonderful Album of Horses.  I fell in love with Arabians when I was about 3 years old, and saw my first live Arabian horses at the annual State Fair Arabian Show in 1964.  We attended that show for four years, and always went into the barns to see the horses "up close."  The first time I looked into the big, beautiful dark eyes of an Arabian horse, and touched that soft, silky muzzle, I was addicted for life.  When I was 6 years old, my family bought the land where I now raise Arabians; we moved here when I was 11.  Along the way, I had Shetland ponies, a Paint mare, and a Quarter Horse gelding ... but I dreamed of an Arabian.  When I was 15 years old, those dreams came true.  I was given a 4-month-old Arabian colt, who became my best friend and beloved companion for the next 32 years.  His name was Thunder Magic (Thunder Bolt x Fadjura) and he was bred by Diamond R Arabians of Allen, Texas.  He taught me so much, over the years ... he was my first show horse; together we won our first blue ribbon in an Arabian native costume class; Magic hated jumping, but would do it for me if I really, really wanted him to; I had no idea how to ask for a sidepass, but together we learned to negotiate obstacles, and even occasionally won a trail class; he carried me through my first dressage lessons; we went on many all-day trail rides in open country, including some where I had no idea what might be found over the next hill; and he helped me teach my 10-year-old stepson how to ride.  On the last day of his long and happy life, Magic taught me how to let go of my dreams.  Remembering his love and the wonderful times we had together gave me strength to build new dreams, with another wonderful Arabian horse.  I still miss my beloved Magic; he will always live in my heart.

Define 'classic Arabian, live-in-your-tent' classic horse...  
The Arabian horse has long been known as "the oldest domesticated breed" and "the progenitor of the light horse, foundation of all riding breeds."  Perhaps because of this long association with people, particularly in the harsh environment of the deserts, Arabian horses are strong, with great stamina, and are known for winning endurance rides and long-distance races.  The Arabian also loves people, loves attention, loves to be petted and handled.  If the owner loves the horse and spends time with him, many personality traits will appear, some of which might astound owners of other breeds.  My gelding Magic was playful, affectionate, and craved human companionship.  He would run to meet me at the fence, even if it wasn't "feeding time."  He loved being petted and scratched and hugged.  He also loved having his picture taken.  He would turn his head toward a camera and pose.  He also loved giving rides to children, especially around the show grounds.

This is why I love to show my Arabians in open shows ... to combat the false impression so many people have, that "those crazy A-rabs" are "wild" and "spooky" and "can't do nothin useful."  When the same horse shows in halter, English pleasure, Western pleasure, trail, Western riding, costume, and other classes, sometimes being ridden by small children, and does his job calmly every time, people do notice.  When that horse is a beautiful, purebred Arabian, he often makes new friends for the breed.

Me and my first Arabian, the grey gelding Thunder Magic 73091 (Thunder Bolt x Fadjura) taken May 1982 at the Gardendale Horse Show, Gardendale, Texas,
winning our first costume class.
What do you look for when determining 'perfect conformation'?

The perfect horse has never been born, but good legs are the foundation of any equine athlete, so I look first for straight legs with large, strong joints and enough bone and substance to be able to carry a rider across country safely and comfortably.  The horse is a rear-engine drive biological machine, so a long, deep hip with good muscling is important.  A deep heart girth and broad chest are also valuable, with a large windpipe and large, flaring nostrils.  I also prefer a shorter back, which seems to be harder and harder to find.  The average horse of today has a much longer neck than the average horse of the 1960s, but most of these longer necks seem to be connected to longer backs as well, so there has to be a balance.  The perfect horse would have a long, well-shaped neck connected high up on a well-defined wither, with a long, sloping shoulder; this horse would also have a short, strong back with well-sprung ribs, strong muscling over the loin and croup, a long, deep hip, and excellent, straight legs with low hocks, short cannons, strong knees, long well-sloped pasterns, and strong, well-shaped hooves that are a "matched set."  The horse would stand straight and square, well-balanced, with no toeing out or toeing in; no cow hocks or sickle hocks, not camped-out behind; and this horse would have a long, smooth stride at all gaits, with no winging or paddling. 

Finally, to be a good Arabian horse, we also want to see a beautiful, short, dished head with large, dark eyes set wide apart; small and well-shaped ears that arch inward at the tips; a fine muzzle with large, flaring nostrils; fine, dark skin; beautiful, strong cheekbones; large, round jowls set far apart; and straight teeth that meet properly with no overbite and no undershot jaw.  The topline of an Arabian should be relatively flat, compared to most other breeds, without a sharply peaked croup or "rafter rear;" the neck should have a natural arch with a fine, graceful throatlatch that allows a natural headset; and the tail of an Arabian horse should be carried high, like a flag, particularly when the horse is excited.  Overall an Arabian should give an elegant appearance of both type and substance.  I must confess that I do not own a horse with "perfect conformation" ... in more than 50 years of studying photos and attending horse shows, I have only seen a few that came close to my ideal.  But horse breeders continue to strive to produce better and better horses, closer and closer to the ideal.  There are many more excellent Arabian horses available for purchase today than there were in the 1960s, and horse prices have not increased at all.  It is truly a buyer's market, and anyone who is looking for a horse today has a good chance of finding a really nice Arabian at a very reasonable price.

At what age do you begin training?
I do imprint training at birth, as taught by Dr. Robert Miller.  Then I work with my youngsters as often as possible, using the techniques described by John Lyons in his wonderful book, Bringing Up Baby.  I may begin longeline training even before weaning, but at first the baby only walks in circles, stops, turns, and walks.  Since having both hips replaced, I no longer ride my own young horses, but I will send them to a professional trainer at anytime after the horse's fourth birthday, depending on the individual horse's maturity, size, strength, and mental readiness.  I want a trainer to treat the horse kindly, and ride them gently, gradually building up to an hour or more per day, 5 or 6 days a week.  After a month or two of daily riding, the horse should be safe for me or anyone else to ride, in controlled situations.  Of course, if the horse is to be shown, much more training will be required.

What training method(s) do you use?
Dressage is the basic foundation of all riding, but I tend toward "backyard dressage" (and I love the book of that title, by Mary Twelveponies).  The object of training is for the horse to move freely forward, with the hind legs reaching well up under the horse, and to gradually develop balance, "self-carriage," lightness of the forehand, a light feeling of contact, and a prompt response to cues.  The goal is for the rider to think, and the horse to move, calmly and smoothly, with very little time elapsed, and little or no visible signal.  Of course, such lightness and communication requires many hours of teamwork between the individual horse and rider. 

Whether the horse is intended to be ridden Western or English, he will be started in a bosal or snaffle bit, and he will be ridden with the dressage principles of balance, free forward movement, and lightness always in mind.  Actually, I think any horse can be ridden in either or both Western and English tack (hunter and dressage); every Arabian horse I have ever owned and ridden has done both.  I also think that the same horse can and should do "main ring" classes and dressage classes, at the same show, if the rider is that ambitious; and I think it is good for a show horse's sanity (and might help prevent colic, ulcers, and stable vices) to also go on leisurely trail rides, around the farm or elsewhere, on days when he isn't showing.  My current show horse loves trail riding; he also shows in Western pleasure, hunter pleasure, lower level dressage, halter, sport horse in-hand, and occasionally costume or trail class; he has ribbons in "all the above," including a Regional Reserve Championship in halter AOTH with his previous owner, and he loves carrying a small child in leadline classes.  He is currently being shown in hunter pleasure and huntseat equitation by a 12-year-old beginner rider in local open shows.

What is your current stable configuration?
I'm actually semi-retired.  My last 5 foals were born in 2008; with the drought and skyrocketing price of grain, with hay at $110 per round bale, I decided not to breed any more until I sold the young stock that I already had.  I sold 10 horses two years ago, including a Padrons Psyche daughter and a young black homebred stallion who were exported to Thailand; and I sold two more horses last year, so I currently have only 13 Arabians here at my farm, plus my show horse, who is boarded at Triple Creek Ranch in Hallsville, TX. 

Of the 14 Arabians I currently own, 6 are "geriatrics and special needs," including my stallion, 4 mares & 1 gelding; 3 are young mares; and the other 5 are geldings, ranging in age from 5-10 years.  All of the young geldings are available for purchase.

My last stallion, now retired, is 28-year-old Ibn Hisan, a black Egyptian-Crabbet cross who is by a straight Egyptian *Morafic grandson and out of a Raffon daughter who was full sister to the dam of Huckleberry Bey.  I thought that was an interesting pedigree, and he is a wonderful old horse.  His past includes showing in harness, being used as a working ranch horse, trail riding, dressage, and being ridden bareback around my pastures by neighborhood children.  Because of a spinal injury, Ibn Hisan is no longer able to sire foals, but he enjoys his retirement, in a large pasture with a lovely grey mare, also age 28.  Her name is Angelfire Shahna; I bred and raised her; she was sired by my first stallion, Shah Dorsaz, and was my first futurity show horse.  I also have a sweet bay gelding, Angelfire Beau, who is 27 years old and has been Shahna's close friend for all of that time.  He shares his pasture with a 25-year-old grey mare called Amy (Silver Satinn) who produced 3 wonderful foals for me (2006-2008) and has earned her retirement.

My straight Egyptian mare, MB Noramses, age 19, is expecting a foal in September of 2013, and I'm also hoping for foals from CBA TSavannah and Diamond TSabrina next spring, all to be sired by the homozygous black straight Egyptian TC Moniets Legacy. My favorite mare, also now semi-retired, is 24-year-old Diamond TSable; she has the pedigree that I wanted for more than 30 years, being related to my first Arabian, Magic, through his dam, Fadjura.  The two young mares that I hope to breed to Legacy for next year (CBA TSavannah and Diamond TSabrina) are both daughters of Diamond TSable; my third young "future broodmare" is Amorosa Hisanna ("Rosie"), the 2007 daughter of Ibn Hisan and Silver Satinn.

My geldings include:  TA Alandro ("Alex"), 2003 bay (*Kordelas x *Ala) who is my show horse; 
Diamond TSeraph, 2005 bay (DE Mohumed Ali x TSerena) ridden dressage and Western and has completed an ACTHA ride;
Marshal Matt Dillonn, 2006 grey (MS Summer Flame x Silver Satinn) ridden Western and hunter/dressage; has talent for cutting or reining & enjoys trail rides;
Diamond TSaber, 2007 bay (Ibn Hisan x Diamond TSabrina); and
Cheyloh al Hisan, 2008 chestnut (Ibn Hisan x BA Cheyene).

I'm also excited about the opportunity to offer frozen semen worldwide, from the homozygous black straight Egyptian stallion
TC Moniets Legacy (The Minstril x Bint Bint Moniet).  Legacy, who died in 2009, was a Breeders Sweepstakes Nominated Sire; SCID clear; and sired Champions in halter and performance.  His offspring are known for good minds, trainable dispositions, athleticism and versatility, as well as being beautiful, and with the added allure of his rare black color.  Legacy's stud fee at the time of his death was $1500, but through a special agreement with his owner, Suzy Foss of Gold Creek Arabians, I am able to offer breedings to Legacy, with a live foal guarantee, for just $750.  All foals will be black, from black mares or from non-Agouti chestnut mares, and regardless of color, Legacy foals are wonderful family horses.  Many are used for pleasure trail riding, ranch work, and natural horsemanship projects, as well as being show horses or dressage horses or endurance trail horses.  Legacy is enrolled in the Sport Horse Nationals Payback program, also:

What makes 'Diamond Magic Arabians' different?   
50 years of dedication to the Arabian breed, by a horse-crazy kid who never outgrew that first, starry-eyed addiction.  My goal is to find the best possible, loving, forever home for each horse that I produce, and to help as many people as possible find their "dream horse," wherever that horse may be.

What does horsemanship mean to you?
Horsemanship, to me, means communication, with love, which flows both ways between a person and the horses she meets.  Horsemanship is an endless process of learning and practicing, which leads to growth and development of the skills that allow horses to understand the horseman, as the horseman gradually learns to better understand the horse.  We who would be horsemen know that we are fortunate to have the love and companionship of these beautiful athletes.  There is no thrill greater than those found on the back of a willing and well-trained horse, who executes your wishes almost before you have time to translate them into requests.  The true horseman doesn't need to think about how to ask the horse to do something; he or she just rides the horse and thinks about doing the thing, whether it is sidepass, piaffe, or turning back a cow ... and the trained horse feels the intention in the hands, the legs, the seat of the rider, and executes the movement with willingness, impulsion, and confidence.  True horsemanship is seen when the horse and the rider perform as one, and it is beautiful to watch.

Connect with Angela...

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