A Powerhouse Breeder in Working Equitation

A Powerhouse Breeder in Working Equitation

Sandhaven Celebration ridden by Lisa Harding

Sandhaven Performance Horses

By Julie Alonzo
Photography by Kellee Campbell, DVM

With seven of their home-bred horses finishing the 2017 competition season in the Top Ten National and Regional rankings, Sandhaven Performance Horses has earned recognition as North America’s top breeder of Working Equitation mounts. In the process, this Texas breeding farm introduced a number of people to their breed of choice, the Australian Stock Horse.

Founded, owned and operated by Kellee Campbell, DVM, Sandhaven Performance Horses specializes in athletic Australian Stock Horses. On her website, Kellee provides a good explanation of the breed’s origin: “Australian Stock Horses were created from a small gene pool which has been heavily tested by the harsh demands of the Australian geography and work environment. Before European colonization, there were no horses native to Australia.  The earliest settlers in that country relied entirely on animals imported from Europe for transportation and the working stock used to clear land in the British colony of New South Wales. There were limited breeds of horses available; English Thoroughbreds, English ponies, Arabs, Clydesdales and Suffolk Punches were the most widely utilized, with Thoroughbreds greatly outnumbering the other breeds. The settlers cross-bred among the available breeds to select for the most desired traits in their working/riding stock: hardiness, strength, speed and willing demeanor.”

“Even as the settlements grew, the wealthiest property owners would return to England for the social season and purchase the finest British livestock for export to their properties in Australia. These imports were crossed on the best of the station horses, improving the offspring with each generation. From this small, local environment, a magnificent performance horse evolved—clever and fast, with a comfortable ride and incredible endurance.”

Sandhaven Catcandu ridden by Lisa Harding

Kellee explains that she found the Australian Stock Horse when she was looking for the ideal mount for Polocrosse, a sport that requires incredible stamina as well as speed, agility, and a good mind. “I had come to Polocrosse from cutting, and was a dyed-in-the-wool Quarter Horse advocate. I loved their catty quickness and good minds, but found that my cutting-bred Quarter Horses lacked the stamina for upper level play at a tournament and by the end of a weekend they were flagging, no matter how fit I tried to get them. In an effort to find more endurance I tried running-bred Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds, but although those wonderful athletes could hold up to the physical demands of polocrosse, their minds struggled with the mental pressure involved in a ‘game of strategy, played on clever horses.’ Since Polocrosse originated in Australia, I wondered what horses they used and began to study the blood lines of the ‘Best Horse’ champions in the top carnivals, or tournaments.”

“I soon realized that the Australian Stock Horse offered exactly what I was looking for—an extremely agile athlete with great stamina and a calm, trainable mind. It was not until 10 years later that I was afforded the opportunity to stand the wonderful Waldron’s Starman, an Australian Stock Horse sire imported to America by John and Liz Gleeson. These ex-pat Australians wanted to establish a home-bred top-quality Polo string based on Stock Horse stamina and athleticism. I was lucky to have played with and been a member of the Lone Star Polocrosse Club, the dominant polocrosse club in America for a decade. Lone Star is famous for the quality and depth of our horse pool. When it became known that I was planning to build a breeding program for performance horses, my friends and club mates sent some of their top mares to me. Those mares, all superb athletes with winning records spanning years, formed the basis of my brood mare band.”

Sandhaven Late to the Party ridden by Kiki Pantaze
Sandhaven Pagan Dancer ridden by Kiki Pantaze

Sandhaven’s first foal was born in 2006, and Kellee stood the sire, Waldron’s Starman, from 2005 through 2015 (he is the sire of all seven of the Sandhaven horses at the top of the National and Regional charts for 2017). “My goal is to produce athletic, honest horses with supremely trainable minds,” she explains. Fortunately for the sport, Kellee chose Working Equitation as one way to showcase her horses’ talents.

“I was looking for something that would showcase the versatility of the Australian Stock Horse,” she says. “I had looked into sending different horses into several disciplines but the expense of multiple trainers and competitions proved to be a roadblock. Working Equitation was the perfect match for my horses. The phases allow the horses to demonstrate the Australian Stock Horse motto: ‘The Breed for Every Need’. They have the agility, balance, speed and cow sense needed to excel in this sport. In the early days of competition, the international judges advised me that although the Australian Stock Horse was hard to beat at Ease of Handling, and nearly (except for that speedy little Pippin!) unbeatable at Speed, they had doubts about whether we could ever be competitive in Dressage. We have worked very hard in the last two years to strengthen the horses’ Dressage skills, and it is paying off, with the show string routinely receiving scores in the mid 60’s from judges known for their tendency to score low across the board.”

Kellee is understandably excited about the future. “We are now in the process of beginning to outcross my Starman mares on other talented Stock Horse sires and have imported semen from three amazing horses—Soda Justice, El Condo and Silverthorn Shotgun.

Each of these sires has a winning record in the competitive arena themselves, and as importantly, are building a reputation for passing their best traits on to their successful off-spring.”

“We know we have a way to go,” says Kellee, “but both Shameless and Party will be competing in Intermediate B next year, and we have young stock (Celebration and Catcandu) coming into work at Novice A and Mardis Gras (a pinto!) entering Intro. Our goal is to have International-caliber horses in competition, but we need a few more years of seasoning!”

If the past few years’ achievements are any indication, Sandhaven Performance Horses will be a powerful force in the Working Equitation arena for many years to come.

2017 Sandhaven-bred Working Equitation winners include:

National Honors
Priscilla’s Flight (North Country Miss x Waldron’s Starman) – Advanced Level, #5
Sandhaven Late to the Party (Mountain Mischief x Waldron’s Starman) – Intermediate Level, #2
Sandhaven Shameless (Tea Tree Flirt x Waldron’s Starman) – Intermediate Level, #6

Region 4 Introductory
Sandhaven Celebration (North Country Miss x Waldron’s Starman), #3
Sandhaven CatCandu (Holly x Waldron’s Starman), #8

Region 4 Novice
Sandhaven CatCandu (Holly x Waldron’s Starman), #8
Sandhaven Chanel (Lacy Fax x Waldron’s Starman), #10

Region 4 Intermediate
Sandhaven Late to the Party (Mountain Mischief x Waldron’s Starman), #2
Sandhaven Shameless (Tea Tree Flirt x Waldron’s Starman), #3
Sandhaven Pagan Dancer (Caesar’s Sister x Waldron’s Starman), #7

Region 4 Advanced
Priscilla’s Flight (North Country Miss x Waldron’s Starman), #1

For more information about Sandhaven Performance Horses, please visit their website at www.sandhavenperformancehorses.com

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