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About the Stud

Alpha Appaloosa Stud.

Driving through the Eastern Free State when you come over the hill into Alpha Estate you can be forgiven for thinking you have entered the Palouse country of  Idaho, as your eyes rest on the rolling valley with it's colourful herd of Appaloosa horses. A few Nez Perce Indian tepees would not be out of place and the waters of the Caledon River, the boundary with Lesotho, make sure that the pastures are always abundant.  These horses are not just beautiful but grow up tough and hardy to become some of the best endurance and competitive horses this breed has to offer. Claire Amm has been breeding Appaloosa horses for thirty years now and her youngsters have proved themselves time and again. Alpha horses hold several endurance records in South Africa;  the first horse to complete six consecutive National Endurance Rides was Smoke Signals and the record for the number of completions of this gruelling annual 200km race is the horse Alpha Toby's Napoleon ( featured in HQ ) who has completed an amazing ten Nationals and whose dam was also of her breeding.  Claire herself also holds the record for a rider with a staggering 27 completions ;  predominantly on the back of one of her Appaloosas -  and it looks like she is still going strong.

She was also the driving force in the creation of the official registry for the breed in this country : The Appaloosa Horse Breeders Society of South Africa which was formed in 1996 under the auspices of the S.A. Stud Book and Livestock Improvement Association and the only S.A. Foreign Affiliate to the Official registry in the USA the Appaloosa Horse Club.  This society now has nearly 2000 horses registered and has held  five National Appaloosa Championship Shows at the Maple Ridge Equestrian Centre, and four out of the five National Champions have been Alpha Horses. These include two time winner Alpha Toby's Vertigo, his sire Alpha Toby's Oklahoma and last year's winner Alpha Toby's Laramie.

The question is how do horses bred primarily for endurance and jumping do so well in the show ring. Claire's first answer is that the Appaloosa's tractable gentle temperament and courageous heart allows them to adapt to any discipline, but the real answer with the Alpha horses lies in the legs. From the word go Claire has selected for correct limbs and the straight comfortable movement that allows a horse to carry on working all day without injury. She selects for an adequate well formed hoof, short cannon bones and enough pastern to give a smooth ride without straining the tendons. The horses grow slowly in the mountain terrain to ensure dense bone and a salt and bone meal mixture calculated for the Ladybrand area is always readily available.  Most of the mares are pasture bred, the stallions co-existing perfectly with their mares and foals all year round. The new foals are imprinted at birth often in the pasture and they remain friendly and charming for life. Most of them will allow their feet to be picked up long before a halter is put on their heads. The youngsters are weaned at six months of age to give the mothers a break, and then they get their first lessons with a halter. They are also taught to have their feet picked out, to load calmly in a box and to accept all the attention and grooming required. Unless they are sold by the age of two they are gently backed and taught simple aids. Mares that are to be kept in the herd will be bred at age three and perhaps have two or three foals before they start their endurance careers. Every one of Claire's mares is rideable and most of them are veterans of successful competitions, if not endurance, jumping, gymkhana and dressage.

The success of her endurance horses boils down to good horsemanship. Every horse is checked daily for the slightest injury or illness, fed meticulously and kept out of trouble. As the expression goes -  a farmer's best fertilisers are his footprints - it is imperative to check and double check every square inch of every horse. An added advantage is that the Ladybrand area has been free of African Horsesickness for the past 30 years. The tack must fit properly, be in good repair,  achieve perfect control of the horse and be spotless at all times. The training program may be on the conservative side but the horses are only trained at the speed they will be asked to maintain in the competition. Never-the-less Alpha horses have been Junior Winner at the Nationals three times, Claire has placed four times in the National top ten and won the Hofmeyr 100 miler in a record time. That is a "100 miles in one day" FEI standard competition I.e. 160 kms the distance ridden in all the international events and the famous Tevis Cup in the Sierra Nevada in California, which Claire also completed in 1994 placing ninth, the highest placed foreign rider.  The Alpha team rides with clear cut guidelines ; if one horse in the team is still trotting the speed is not too fast ( the rest can be cantering ) ; chose the best going at all times and if the pulse after 20 minutes is 56 or higher they slow down. Very few mistakes can be made when these rules are respected.

In the year 2000 two new stallions and a mare were imported to bring new blood into the country. Alpha Stud owns a half share in DREA Eagle's Dandy who comes from Oregon, in Nez Perce country; he is standing at Danie Louw's Perdeberg Stud in Trompsburg. The mare Kaleidoquilt and the stallion Wap's Pyjamas are both from Pennsylvania and are sired by the top Appaloosa Sport Horse sire in the USA - Wap Spotted.  Both these stallions are exceeding expectations, breeding all the quality, bone, temperament, size and colour that was hoped for and are ready to start competing.

Visitors are always welcome to Alpha and after meeting the foals are usually encouraged to take a  ride through the beautiful scenery, the best way to get to know and experience this wonderful breed..