A black two-year-old half Arabian wowed the judges and the crowd at the 2012 Young Horse Show Finals in Wellington, Florida.
Uphoria, sired by the KWPN stallion UB40 and out of the Arabian mare BF Moon Fyre, earned the high score of 8.76 from three internationally renowned judges against mostly warmbloods. His young breeder/owner, 26 year-old law school graduate Samantha Werner was ecstatic.
Uphoria’s story begins back in the 1990s in Texas, where his grandsire, Fyre One, had a bit of a notorious beginning. Rebecca Pennington of Sonesta Farms in Cypress, Texas, had grown up around Arabians. Her friend, Rebecca Jacobs, had a sweet Arabian pleasure horse, when in 1991, Jacobs saw an ad in a feed store for a black Arabian stallion. She called Pennington to tell her she was going to go see the horse and Pennington was understandably skeptical.
What sort of a horse was advertised at feed store? She agreed to go along just to keep her friend from buying the horse!
The stallion was living at, of all things, a Tennessee Walker barn. The seller told the ladies that she had bought the stallion from someone that was disbursing their horses in lots of three. The seller had purchased one lot but really didn’t need a stallion.
The three walked into the barn to look at the little stallion. Pennington recalls: “I fully expected to see a stall walker, or see him raking his teeth across the bars.” Instead the seller pulled this beautiful little Arabian from the stall without so much as a lead shank attached to his halter, just her finger hooked in the ring under his chin.
They walked him outside to get a better look, right next to some mares that were obviously in heat, and he never batted an eye, even when she put him nose to nose with them.
Still trying to find something wrong, Pennington asked “Does he ride?”, all the while thinking “Here we go … this will be good!” The seller responded that they had ridden him a few times. So, despite a fractured knee, Pennington climbed on him after watching him go. He knew nothing but tried his best, and so she decided what the heck, they could perhaps take him and geld him and Jacobs could use him for a pleasure horse.
Just out of curiosity, Pennington asked the seller if the horse had come with papers, and the seller handed them over.
When Pennington looked at his pedigree, she was shocked beyond belief. His dam was Fyre-Love, a *Bask daughter who sold at the 1981 *Bask Classic auction for $500,000 in foal to *Aladdinn, the resulting foal being this horse in front of them, Fyre One. (Fyre-Love+ later sold in the 1985 *Bask Classic auction for a record high price of $1.5 million.)
Realizing what a gem the stallion was, Pennington took Jacobs aside and said, “Play along with me, we’re buying him!”
The seller wanted $2500, Pennington wheeled and dealed her down to $1500 and he was theirs!
Fyre One became the foundation of Jacobs’ breeding program for riding Arabians. He turned out to be homozygous black, and sired many incredibly athletic horses, few smaller than a true 15 hands, most well over that including a mare named BF Moon Fyre, Uphoria’s dam, who finished right at 15.2 hands.
Moon Fyre was out of Bold Narkise, Pennington’s dressage horse, who was sired by Bold Sundancer++, a son of The Real McCoy. Moon was shown a little bit as a youngster before they decided to breed her. She had two purebred foals before Uphoria came along.
Samantha Werner got her first Arabian as a teen, a purebred named EA Aurora. They showed in Hunter Pleasure for a while, then Werner decided to start learning dressage under the tutelage of Lisa Payne-Hyslop, a well known dressage trainer in Wellington, Florida, who used to show Arabians herself. The pair were enjoying dressage and were successful up to Third Level, winning two Regional Championships and numerous Top 5’s.
Werner had always wanted to breed her mare to a warmblood, and after checking out many available stallions, she decided on the Hanoverian stallion Akatschi at Iron Spring Farm. When she was ready to breed, she contacted Iron Spring and was told that they had just sold Akatschi back to Europe, but they had another newly imported Dutch stallion, UB40, standing at their farm. She saw him and was immediately sold on the idea of using him, due to his modern type and lightness.
Werner tried for three years to breed Aurora but could never get her to carry to term. Rather than give up, she decided to do a Google search for “custom breeding for Arabian mares,” and up popped Sonesta Farms in Texas. Werner called Pennington and spoke at length about leasing their Arabian mare BF Moon Fyre to UB40 with the resulting foal belonging to Werner.
They came to an agreement, the mare was bred, and they settled in for the long wait.
Moon is known for having her foals two weeks early, so Werner and her mother traveled to Texas during that time and stayed the better part of a week hoping Moon would foal, which she didn’t. They headed back to Florida resigned to the fact that they would have to watch their foal be born via Internet camera – which is exactly what happened two weeks after Moon’s due date!
Werner and her family plus about a thousand other Internet viewers looked on as the beautiful black colt was born. He was named “Uphoria”.
Pennington knew early on that he was special. “Aside from being quite striking in looks, by the time he was three days old it was clear that his movement was extraordinary,” she recalls.
Because Pennington and Jacobs also breed warmbloods, they were familiar with various warmblood inspections for breeding stock. They had gotten Moon approved RPSI previously, and now decided to take her to the German Oldenburg inspection with Uphoria at her side. Sure enough, at his foal inspection the Oldenburg inspectors from Germany loved him and gave him the coveted “Foal of Distinction” award.
In late 2011, Werner had heard about a show series for young sport horses, held at different venues up and down the East Coast. The Young Horse Show Series was founded in 2009 as a means for sport horse breeders, owners, trainers and riders of all disciplines to exhibit and evaluate their young horses. People who had seen Uphoria told Werner she should take him to one of these shows.
So, in February 2012, the pair headed to a YHS show in Wellington, not expecting anything but to get Uphoria some mileage.
In the Two Year Old In-Hand Division, the horses are shown at the walk and trot in a circle, then at liberty. The professional handler told Werner that Uphoria was “One of the best horses I have seen in the whole country.”
One of the judges, Jos Sevriens, spoke with Werner after the class and told her how magnificent he thought her horse was and how much Uphoria reminded him of Apache, the famous stallion in Europe.
Other comments included his stellar presence, his beautiful head and elegant movement.
When Werner told them he was half Arabian, they couldn’t believe it. She was told that she must get him out in the world – finding the right trainer was key. Uphoria earned a whopping 8.86 that day. After the
series was complete, Uphoria was named the 2012 High Score In-Hand Champion of the eight shows of the series, with that one score which he earned at the only show he attended.
In January, 2013, at the Championship Finals, Werner watched from the stands as her young gelding went into the ring two different days to strut his stuff. “Each time Uphoria came in the ring, the people in the stands whooped and hollered just like it was an Arabian show!” said Werner. “It was really something and Uri definitely turned it on for the audience!” He earned the high score of the first qualifying day, an 8.63.
On the final evening, under the lights, Uphoria was again the crowd favorite. He had had throngs of visitors to his stall the entire weekend as word spread about the phenomenon. When scores were announced, he had blown away the competition again with an 8.76! His score was the highest of the show until a 4 year old earned an 8.77.
The judges, Jos Sevriens and Hilda Gurney, were full of praise. Hilda said Uphoria would be a top contender to represent the US in the FEI Young Horse Dressage division, and couldn’t believe he was half Arabian, although she breeds half Arabians herself. Jos remembered him from February and said he was even more spectacular.
Hilda offered to take him herself if Werner couldn’t locate the perfect trainer.
For now, Uphoria is hanging out at home, longeing a few days a week and getting used to wearing tack. Werner’s plans for his future will wait until her law career is off and running, but you can be sure we will hear more about them both.