Whitehaven Eqyptian Arabians
It was the mid 1980s, and David and Martha Lucas
decided it was time.
Time to resurrect the 100-year-old family farm up in Bishopville, South Carolina.
Time to get the place ship-shape and spiffed up so the growing Lucas family of
five could enjoy the countryside on weekends and holidays.
“We have always lived and worked in Charleston, and as we refurbished the farm in Bishopville, we weren’t quite sure what to put there,” Martha explains. “We thought we wanted horses, and we knew we could have a lot of something average, or a few of something very special.”
The Lucas family chose something special: Purebred straight Egyptian Arabians. A breed of animal that comprises less than 3 percent of all Arabian horses in the world.
Hobby Becomes Business
Twenty years later, David and Martha’s little farm renovation project has turned into a major equine center in central South Carolina. Whitehaven Plantation (named after David’s ancestral roots in Whitehaven, Cumberland, in the United Kingdom) boasts two barns, more than 200 acres of land, a covered arena, jump course and breeding facilities. At any time, the farm averages 50 horses on the property, 22 of them being straight Egyptian Arabians owned by Whitehaven. Two Whitehaven Egyptian Arabian stallions stand at stud, and several customer-owned horses also live at the farm for training. Others are boarded for clients.
“ When we got started in this industry, many people helped us,” Martha says. “We knew very little about the industry or the Egyptian Arabian, but wonderful people mentored us, and everyone was so helpful. Now, we try to help others. We believe it’s our role to help educate people and learn something. It doesn’t matter if they are at our farm to purchase a horse or to just take a look around – we want others to become involved in something we enjoy so much.”
Seven times a year, Whitehaven hosts open horse shows at the farm.
“At our open shows, we welcome all people, all breeds, all disciplines,” Martha explains. “You can come to the show, tie your horse to the trailer, show at the show and just have fun. We’re very involved with the Darlington County 4-H Club, whose members compete and volunteer at the shows, as well as help out at the farm.”
Whitehaven also hosts the annual Carolina Challenge, a 30/50/100-mile endurance ride, which is put on by their neighbor and longtime friend, J.D. Fountain. The event is one of the largest endurance ride in the Southeast and is held Thanksgiving weekend, rain or shine.
Whitehaven Egyptian Arabians excel at nearly everything, from halter to western pleasure, flat racing to sport horse events. They win dressage tests, show hack classes and at endurance rides. They succeed locally, regionally, nationally and internationally (see sidebar: Big Wins.)
But they all begin their riding careers with a taste of dressage.
“Dressage is fundamental for them,” Martha says. “It’s real riding. It’s giving the horses the basics for any career they end up in. It’s critically important in our program, and we are so concerned about the horse going on to become a useful animal that we try to place them in homes we believe are the best for them. Dressage work provides the basis for that.”
As Pretty Does
Whitehaven Plantation is critically interested in the usefulness of its horses. Egyptian Arabians are famous for their beauty and grace, but Martha Lucas isn’t content until her horses have a job that they love and can excel at.
“We aren’t considered big breeders, necessarily, but we try to breed for variety and usefulness,” she says. “Pretty is as pretty does, you know! Arabians are really known for their stamina. It is important for us to know that there is an end use for every horse – beyond a halter class. I do honestly believe that every horse needs to find a job so that it can live up to its potential. They all need to do something. A happy horse doing its job is much better than a bored horse getting into trouble!”
Although several Egyptian Arabians are for sale at Whitehaven Plantation, the farm is careful about where their horses are placed.
“We don’t want our horses going somewhere that is a bad match,” says barn manager and trainer Trisha Dingle. “There have been times when we have let a horse go out on trial, just because we want to make sure it is the best match for the buyer and for the horse.”
Defining Egyptian Arabians
An Egyptian Arabian, to be officially recognized as such, is registered with the Arabian Horse Registry of America and must be able to trace every line of its pedigree to horses born in the Arabia Desert, in addition to a few more meticulous bloodline requirements*. The association managing breeding records is The Pyramid Society, which currently oversees between 500 and 600 individuals members/breeders.
Because of the stringent monitoring of pedigrees and papers, the Egyptian Arabian breed maintains exclusivity like no other equine organization.
“It’s a tight group,” Trisha says. “People are beginning to realize that these horses are incredibly rare, and there is a big emphasis on preserving the bloodlines. At the same time, even though people who breed Egyptian Arabians can be very wealthy, they are the friendliest of any people.”
The Pyramid Society’s Egyptian Event, held annually in June at the Kentucky Horse Park, is the pinnacle experience for Egyptian Arabians. More than just a horse show, the six-day affair provides seminars, entertainment, updates on breeding, artists speaking about the Arabian throughout history, vendors, more experts, dinners, dancing and more.
People say Arabian horses are nuts.
People are wrong. “ They are the loveliest, the sweetest and smartest, and the kindest of all horses!” Martha says. “They are quick to learn, and they never forget anything. They are so versatile, and they are great with kids. They are the very best companions.”
Martha will admit, however, that the Arabian’s intelligence sometimes creates an interesting learning environment.
“ You don’t really tell a straight Egyptian Arabian what to do,” she laughs. “They are too smart for that. You don’t want to ‘mess’ with them. Actor William Devane has said that he cannot use a full-blooded Arabian in polo matches because the Arabian tends to anticipate the play!”
On the other hand, Arabians in general, and Egyptian Arabians particularly, seem to adapt more of a connection with their owners than other breeds, thanks again to that intelligence factor.
“ There is a mare in our barn that just loves her little girl,” Martha says of the mare’s young owner. “The mare is fine with other people, but when she’s around her little owner, you can see for sure how much she adores her.”
Myth No. 2, according to Martha, is that people generally assume Egyptian Arabians are highly expensive. She disagrees with the assumption.
“ Many years ago, yes, these horses were just unbelievably priced,” she says. “In the 1980s, Egyptian Arabians were selling for hundreds of thousands in utero.”
However, a tax reform act in the mid-80s, along with other factors, adversely affected the entire equine industry. Now, Egyptian Arabians are well within the price range of the average horseman or woman.
It’s difficult to put a comprehensive dollar amount on the Egyptian Arabian’s current worth. Because of amendments in several tax laws, fewer people purchase Egyptian Arabians as investments. Today, more people own them because they love a good horse.
Life at Whitehaven
David Lucas planned for his family to enjoy Whitehaven as a bit of a refuge, and he succeeded at that.
“ He wanted a place for everyone to congregate,” Martha says. “It’s definitely the family gathering place. Our daughter got married here, and we have class reunions and social events and all sorts of fun things all the time. It’s easy to handle hundreds of people at the farm!”
David and Martha’s children all worked with the Whitehaven Arabians while growing up. Today, oldest daughter Carey is married to Eric Nikonchuk and is a new mom to baby Lily Lane. Son Jonathan is a law student, and Lydia is a college junior at the College of Charleston. The Lucas family spends less time together at the farm than before, but Martha and David still work in weekly visits to Whitehaven.
“The children are involved, just not as much, because they have their own lives,” Martha says. “One day, I’m sure they will carry on with the farm.”