It has been said that the breeding of fine horses is an art form; and this is true. If, however, it is to be a long-term endeavor, it needs to be much more than merely art.
The breeding of fine horses must be a love affair, undertaken with intense passion and sustained with tremendous faith, hope and tenacity.
Each of these elements is present in measure beyond need in the father and son team of Fernando and Joaquin de Santibanes, who are steadily earning their place among the world’s great Arabian horse breeders.
Join us, won’t you, for a glimpse at where these gentlemen and their horses have been, where they are now, and where they’re headed. Theirs is a considered route of travel, not a roller-coaster ride; and, although the climb is not without challenge, it is certain.
From a distance, thanks to Magnum, it might appear that there has been overnight success for Fernando and Joaquin and their Haras Mayed. But such assumption would be erroneous. The acquisition of Magnum was indeed a gift from God and a life-altering event. But even this unparalleled stallion’s accomplishments did not come in an instant.
Magnum’s show career was masterfully guided by David Boggs, who ran beside the glorious chestnut to four International Championships. Aided by the wise counsel of long time Arabian breeders, David Boggs, Paulo Levy, and a few other highly respected individuals, the most promising mares were selected for the young stallion’s early court. And then, in the fullness of time, came another gift from God. Magnum turned out to be an even greater sire than he was a show horse, eclipsing all those that had gone before him.
But, intrinsic as this may be, it’s getting just a bit ahead of the story . . .
The Birth of a Dream . . .
The idea that would become a grand love affair was born nearly a quarter century ago with a family meeting at the Santibanes country home near Buenos Aires the capitol of Argentina. Having decided that a few horses would make a nice addition, Fernando, his three sons, and his former wife discussed the merits of various horse breeds and settled on Arabians. An international banker, Fernando had partners all around the world. As it happened, he purchased his first two horses from one such partner, Sr. Camargo, who had an Arabian farm in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Haras Mayed and the JJ Moniker . . .
Less than an hour’s drive north of Buenos Aires, in a place where the Pan American Highway cuts through the grassy plains of Argentina, there’s a wide spot in the road known as Capilla del Senor ~ in English, The Chapel of the Lord. Just outside that town, a herd of the world’s most beautiful Arabian horses grazes today in the belly-deep grasses of the 450 acre Haras Mayed.
So where did that name come from, and how did the farm become what it is today? As time passed, Fernando and Joaquin developed the greatest family interest in the horses. Early on, they received valuable guidance from Argentinean breeder Sr. Santiago Obarrio, the original owner of Haras Mayed, who had named the farm for one of his daughters.
In 1993, with an ever-increasing interest, and a growing herd of mares, the Santibanes purchased the ranch from their early advisor and began improving the facility to suit their growing needs. There was no reason to alter the name that was given in honor of a lovely girl . . . and it would be home to many lovely ladies of another kind.
And what about the JJ that precedes the name of each Santibanes-bred horse? That’s even simpler, these are the initials of Joaquin and Javier de Santibanes, the two sons of Fernando who love the horses as he does.
“It is our great hope,” says Joaquin, “that someday, maybe 200 years from now, people will look at a pedigree with a “JJ” horse in it, and though they won’t know that horse, they’ll be able to imagine what kind of an individual it was, and what it gave to the breed...and in this way, our philosophy will live on.”
It is a grand goal, and not unattainable. What serious breeder today cannot see the exotic stamp of a *Padron descendant, the look of eagles in the eye of a *BASK++ bred horse, the loin and the smoothness and the gentle disposition of an *Aladdinn, the charisma of a Bey Shah? And further back, *Raffles and Niga and the Gainey-bred, and so many more. They’re all still with us in the blood of today’s best, just as the JJ horses will live on in legacy to a time we cannot yet know.
Haras Mayed . . . The Breeding Philosophy
As it is for all of us who love the Arabian horse, beauty is essential; but in the Haras Mayed lexicon of vital characteristics, comeliness does not stand alone. For the active, athletic Santibanes clan, it is imperative that horses of their breeding possess excellent conformation, tractability and athleticism.
In the time-honored tradition of every serious endeavor, Fernando and Joaquin have sought, absorbed and employed the wisdom of well-respected experts in the field of their youthful dreams. Among those whose guidance has been most valuable are David Boggs, Paulo Levy, Count Federico Zichy-Thyssen, and Manual Ballarini.
Says Joaquin, “The overall breeding program I admire most is that of Paulo Levy whose Haras Capim Fino is among the world’s finest producers of Arabian horses. Pole does everything one step at a time. One of the first things he taught me is that if you try to change more than one characteristic with a single mating, you probably won’t be successful. I saw the wisdom of that principle from the start. But it’s been interesting to observe how very true it is. It doesn’t hurt that I’m young and have plenty of time to make a well-thought-out choice, then wait to be sure of the outcome before making another adjustment.”
By developing their breeding philosophy over a period of many years, Fernando and Joaquin have identified the characteristics that appeal most to their appreciation of all things lovely, and to their desire to produce horses that can be enjoyed by all who want to ride them, breed them, or just share life with them.
“It’s not enough for a horse to be pretty,” says Joaquin. “Nor is it enough that it can trot over the moon or spin and slide or run like the wind. If it isn’t a pleasure to work with because it’s unwilling, or worse, then it is of no use to anyone.”
For this reason, the mares collected for or bred by Fernando and Joaquin for their Haras Mayed program must possess these basic qualities in both phenotype and genotype. And they must come from bloodlines that promise to combine well with those of the Haras Mayed stallions.
With his characteristic, and endearing, humility, Joaquin looks to the future with an open, inquisitive mind –– despite the remarkable success of what he and his father have built thus far. “I am too young to give advice to other breeders,” he says. “But I can make one suggestion . . . Never think you know it all. The minute you start listening to yourself, you stop listening to others and you stop learning. And there is always room to improve, no matter how good things seem.”