Arabian horse breeder and actor Patrick Swayze dies

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US actor and arabian horse breeder Patrick Swayze lost his nearly two-year battle with pancreatic cancer today. He was 57.

As well as a career as an actor, singer, and dancer, Swayze and his wife of 37 years, Lisa Niemi, were well known as breeders of straight Egyptian arabians. They had properties in California and New Mexico and named their farm Rancho Bizzaro.

Patrick Swayze and his favourite stallion, Tammen.
Patrick Swayze and his favourite stallion, Tammen.

“I grew up with horses. My father was a cowboy in Texas. We lived in Houston. At the age of eight, I visited [Douglas Marshall’s] Gleannloch Farm and from then on I was lost! I dreamed of nothing but Arabians, and when I imagined Arabians, they were Egyptians!” Swayze said in an interview.

All of his horses trace to the Gleannloch breeding programme.

Although Swayze’s bond with horses started as a child, he claimed he did not fully realize the potential relationship with a horse until later. “When you get a bond happening with a horse, it’s interesting. I was raised a cowboy and did some rodeo and stuff and thought I was a horseman. Found out I knew nothing. As I have gotten into these horses, [Arabians] I have realized how far you can go with them,” he said in 1994.

In 1991, the same year Swayze was named People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, he bought the stallion Tammen (Abenhetep x Talgana) from Tom McNair and during the next year the stallion was honoured with several halter championships. “Over the years it’s happened – people gradually started seeing that I am serious about this and I care more about the horses than my little image. I am accepted now, so going grand champion there was like a big event for me,” said Swayze.

Tammen, who sired 175 foals, was his special horse. He died in 1999.

A photograph of Swayze with Tammen was made into a poster and established as a youth fundraiser during the early 90s. The poster, still available, sells for $US10 and continues to help fund Arabian Horse Association Youth Programmes.

“We at the Arabian Horse Association and our some 35,000 members mourn the loss of a great American icon, Patrick Swayze,” said Lance Walters, Arabian Horse Association President. “He was an ardent lover of the Arabian horse and his passion for the breed would always spill over into the audience when he showed his beautiful horses—particularly with young people. His close friends called him ‘Buddy’ and that sentiment seemed to define his character, as I always found him to be a man of significant humility and grace. The Arabian horse has lost a dear friend and our prayers go out to his wife Lisa and family, and everyone who loved him. His significant contributions to the Arabian horse will not be forgotten.”

When asked what attracted him to Egyptian arabians, the star of GhostDirty Dancingand Road Housesaid: “Their beauty. I like the form of the head, the proud trot, the harmonious physique. Everything fits together and is in accord. There is a natural balance in everything. I am a dancer, and I can tell when a body is made with function in mind. A healthy Arabian is built for function! And that fascinates me.”

In 1995 he rode in the Qatar desert marathon, a 26-mile desert speed race. He was among the last to cross the finish line, but was noted for the kind treatment of his horse, Wasel, who he rode bareback across the finish line, after the horse suffered saddle issues.

Patrick Swayze and Tammen.
Patrick Swayze and Tammen.

Britain’s Independent newspaper wrote after the race: “Swayze is no fool; he knows the media’s capacity to sneer is boundless. He has no time for the knockers who, when he rode an Arabian stallion last spring in Qatar’s International Desert Marathon, merely wrote that he finished last.

‘Sure enough, the press grabs hold of that. They don’t print the fact that 54 horses started this race and only 19 finished. At the end, my horse and I had a real bond. We became friends. And I got to do my dream – I got to ride an Arabian horse in the deserts from whence they come. I am a romantic fool to a fault’.”

Swayze broke both his legs in 1996 when he fell from a horse and hit a tree, while filming Letters from a Killer, in California. He also suffered four detached tendons in his shoulder in the fall. He refused to have his legs plastered, as he said it would have spelled the end for him as a dancer. The film aired in 1999.

Swayze was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January 2008. Specifically, he was diagnosed with a type of pancreatic tumor called intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm.

He underwent chemotherapy and other treatments, and through 2008 it was reported that he had been responding well to treatment, and he continued to work. Of his condition, he said in July 2008: “I’m cooking. I’m a miracle dude. I don’t know why”.

In January 2009, Swayze said he had a “tiny little mass” in his liver, and in April, doctors informed him that the cancer had again metastasized to his liver.

Swayze had been a chain smoker and reportedly said that probably “had something to do with” the cancer’s development. He continued to smoke in the months before his death.

He died on September 14 (US time) with his family at his side.

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