We can go about daily life totally unaware of what is just down the road, or right around the corner from us. If we look hard enough we can sometimes find hidden jewels in our own neighborhoods that are just waiting to be discovered.
One of these gems can be found nestled among the back roads of Martin County, North Carolina and carries the name of Weller Arabians.
We recently had the privilege of spending an afternoon with the Weller family. When we arrived for our visit, horses peacefully grazed in their manicured pastures, creating one of the most tranquil and relaxed settings that you will ever experience.
Weller Arabians is a beautiful horse farm. It is immediately apparent that owners Joey and Jenny Weller, along with their daughter Kristin Weller Coward and her husband Bryan, have approached and built the facility with great attention to detail. Weller Arabians can be classified as a small breeding farm, but don’t be fooled; these owners and their horses have done big things! This operation absolutely fits the definition of a small farm making its permanent mark on the world of Arabian horses.
Just as the name implies, many small breeding farms own a finite number of horses and quite often function within a small physical footprint. These farms might be modest in size, but they can have a substantial impact in the equine world. There are many horses recognized as icons of the industry who had their humble start on farms owned and operated by small breeders.
Small but Mighty
Weller Arabians as a business is unassuming, but it most assuredly packs a substantial punch! The Weller family horse farm and breeding program stands as an example to others of what can be accomplished on a small scale. The farm has been home to multiple Scottsdale, Regional level, and National level winning horses since its inception.
Farm owner Joey Weller describes the farm’s breeding focus by stating “We want to keep it small. We only have a limited amount of space, so we have to sell in order to make room – that keeps us in check. We want to be intentional about what we breed.”
He further explains that “The market is too dynamic to set a path and say this is where I want to go – you may know what direction you want to go in, but you better be ready to adjust. We are going to try to leave our options open.”
What might come as a surprise to people is the realization that the breeding and marketing success of the farm has been accomplished thus far with only three mares. Equally impressive is the fact that the mares in residence are only bred every other year. They have sold horses, not only inside the United States but also to the Middle East.
Homebred Champions in the Show Ring
The Wellers started out with horses that were bred by others, but in recent years their own program has produced winners, both at Scottsdale and at Arabian Sport Horse Nationals. Their success with homebred horses is proof positive of the quality of animals that Weller Arabians is producing.
Their first foal, El Maroc, was marketed by Ted Carson of Butler Farms Training Center soon after he was weaned. He went on to be Reserve Halter Champion at Scottsdale and is now standing at stud in Peru.
In the summer of 2017, the Weller Arabians breeding program found success once again with Veneto WA, a farm-produced horse that they still own. This three-year-old purebred Arabian gelding excelled in only his second show by bringing home two National Top Ten awards, and a Reserve National Championship at Arabian Sport Horse Nationals. Weller Arabians progeny are proving to be versatile, as exhibited by Veneto WA having National wins in both in-hand, and under saddle classes.The newest addition to the Weller Arabians breeding program is Evexxa. This exquisite filly was born on the farm in the spring of 2017. She represents a carefully thought out combination of bloodlines, and could be the next show ring winner for Weller Arabians. She is currently in training with Ted Carson and is slated to be shown at Scottsdale in 2018. Examining the extreme quality of this filly leaves no doubt that Evexxa should also be destined for a robust show ring presence in the future.
Keys to a Small, Successful Breeding Program
The Weller family has obviously developed a successful formula that they have implemented with good results. When asked what suggestions they would offer to anyone new to breeding who wants to produce upper-level offspring, they humbly offer the following advice:
- At the very top of the list for Joey is the importance of quality, not quantity. “If you don’t breed but one horse, then just breed a good one,” he says. “We want to breed good, high-quality horses.” He is quick to point out that you are better off with a few great mares, versus a large number of mediocre mares. He feels that the mare contributes more to the foal than the stallion does. He explains, “If you want quality foals, make sure to start out with really good quality mares.” Kristin chimes in with her father contributing another very important point, “Don’t breed a mare just because she is sitting in your backyard.”
“Surround yourself with good people – people you can trust so that if you don’t know what you are doing, they can guide you,” Joey offers. Joey, Jenny, and Kristin all agree that there is a steep learning curve in the breeding world, and you are smart to align yourself with people who are already successful and don’t mind helping you reach your own goals. Kristin adds, “You should go slow and take lessons, if necessary. We went slowly with gradual steps, all the way up.” She suggests that you should reach out to industry professionals, if possible.
- Be careful how you breed, and “Be responsible for the foal you produce,” says Joey. He stresses the importance of being an ethical breeder, and realizing that “Sometimes you might not get what you want.” He goes on to say that you should be prepared to take care of any horses that are in your charge for their lifetime, if necessary. There is always the possibility that you might have to keep a foal if it is not marketable, or keep broodmares well beyond their productive years. Always take this possibility seriously, and figure it into your breeding calculus.
- All three owners agree that breeding is very costly, and you had better be prepared to spend money! They feel that everyone should be aware that you can do everything right, and still have mares that don’t get into foal easily. Make sure that your budget can handle the unexpected “bumps” along the way. “Be prepared to pay the cost because it is expensive,” Joey explains.
- Joey feels firmly that you should “Understand the market and what the market is doing. There are always trends, fads, and certain things people like. But breed what you like, because if you breed what you like you are going to love it when it’s born, and someone else might too.” He goes further adding, “If you don’t like it when it’s born and no one else does, then it gets very discouraging.” The Weller family also believes that you should always strive to make sure that your horses go to good homes.
Joey offers an additional reminder to anyone who is contemplating breeding horses; “Breeding is not a quick game for anybody.” He explains that “It sometimes takes more than one year to get them in foal, and then you have another eleven months to wait. Then you have to let that baby grow up to see what you got, so it’s a long-range journey.”
Marketing a Small Horse Farm Today
When we asked Joey “What made you want to breed?” he replied, “I’m not a rider – obviously I feed our horses, clean stalls and do other things around the farm, but my participation in breeding is to see what we can produce – how can we improve the breed?”
Joey reflects on how things have changed in positive ways through the years for anyone breeding now, versus days gone by. He notes that use of the internet has added a whole new dimension for farm owners.
“Today, you don’t have to be in Scottsdale, AZ, or Ocala, FL to produce a great horse,” he says. “Using the internet, we had a horse picture go all the way from Bear Grass, NC to Saudi Arabia to Belgium and back to North Carolina in 24 hours. You shouldn’t think of yourself as being too small to be significant. You can breed great horses in your town and with the internet, people will be able to find you from anywhere in the world.”
He goes on to say, “Whether you are breeding great Quarter Horses, or great Arabians, you have got to network to let people know there is a style that is going to come from your barn.”
You Gotta Start Somewhere!
You might be wondering, “How did all of this get started?” In the beginning, the only thing that Joey, Jenny, and Kristin could offer was the love of horses. This is a farm that was born out of love; the love of a daughter and the love of her first horse named Piedmont.
The Weller family started their horse journey, simply enough, on the suggestion of a friend, and the curiosity of their daughter, Kristin. Joey asked a friend for some advice on how to raise a great kid, and his friend suggested, “The best thing you could ever do is to buy your daughter a horse.”
Simultaneously, Kristin had several close friends who were taking riding lessons. She was afraid of horses in the beginning, but she had an overwhelming desire to do what her friends were doing.
The decision was made for Kristin to begin taking riding lessons. Unknown to the Wellers at the time, this simple decision would become the catalyst to catapult them all into a lifetime love of horses.
Kristin advanced in her lessons, and the day finally came to purchase her a mount of her own. The Wellers bought an Arabian by the name of Piedmont. Kristin and Piedmont formed a tight bond, and they blossomed together as a team. They decided that Kristin and her horse should be given the opportunity to start showing, and show they did!
Joey and Jenny logged many horse show miles with their daughter and her horse, and they evolved into seasoned horse owners along the way. For their part, Kristin and Piedmont became a “tour de force” racking up win after win.
They showed for many happy years together winning numerous Regional Top Fives, Regional Reserve Championships and Regional Championships along with multiple National Top Ten awards and a Reserve National Championship.
Piedmont was also recognized with a Legion of Masters award from the International Arabian Horse Association in 2005. Only a handful of horses have ever been decorated with this honor. All their wins were in both halter and under saddle.
Sadly, the Wellers lost Piedmont some years later, but his memory lives on for Joey, Jenny, Kristin, and for all his fans who loved him along the way. He was truly one of those horses that owners recognize as “once in a lifetime.”
An Arabian Breeding Farm Takes Root
During the Wellers’ journey with their horse Piedmont, they grew to love horses in a deep way. In addition to owning Piedmont, the Wellers decided that they wanted to purchase a mare, and possibly breed her.
What had started out as something fun that their family could enjoy together, rapidly turned into a serious immersion into the world of horse breeding following their purchase of the lovely mare Maraysia. This exotic mare produced the first foal for Weller Arabians, who was later named El Maroc.
Maraysia was put into halter training with Ted Carson and Butler Farms Training Center. Soon after her arrival, Ted Carson facilitated her sale to HRH Prince Khaled bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz al Saud who owns Al Khalediah Stables located in Saudi Arabia. Maraysia went on to garner wins at the Arabian Breeders World Cup in Las Vegas immediately afterward.
She has since posted many wins and placings at additional international shows overseas for her new owner. Her colt, the aforementioned El Maroc, was also sold and went on to a Reserve Championship in halter at Scottsdale.
The farm focus had changed, but their main goal was still to always enjoy what they were doing. After their early success with their first mare and foal, the Wellers decided that they wanted to continue breeding.
Over the following years, they acquired a small band of mares and bred them on a very limited basis to some of the Arabian breed’s most interesting stallions. They also leased a mare for a while, but she unfortunately miscarried, and they were not able to secure a foal from her.
Kristin continued to show additional horses both in hand and under saddle through the following years under the banner of Weller Arabians. She resumed her show ring endeavors by presenting the new farm mares in halter classes. Both Kristin, and their trainer, garnered attention for the Weller mares in the ring with wins at Scottsdale and Regionals. Kristin also took ownership of a new gelding, SF Infamous, who was ridden and shown by both she and her trainer to numerous Regional level and National level wins.
There is no doubt that the Weller family has certainly enjoyed their journey with their horses, and they always make sure that they approach everything they do with the idea of having fun and doing interesting things with them. They have been able to travel the country to watch their daughter, horses, and trainers on the world stage.
What does the future hold for Weller Arabians?
Exciting things, no doubt! Kristin offers some insight into the possible long-term goals for the farm. “The ultimate goal in our industry is to have a Paris World Champion. That’s as good as you can do,” she says.
Joey adds “We would love to go to Paris and see our horses that we bred show there. We don’t have to own it, but to have a horse that we bred and own show there would be the pinnacle for us.” Judging by their past success, we have no doubt that Weller Arabians has a head start in that direction, for sure!
In the meantime, it was apparent during our visit to Weller Arabians that their commitment to the horses themselves is most important. They do all the routine care of the horses and look forward to the daily interaction and relationship that they share with them.
These horses are loved, pampered, and spoiled. We can’t help but think that this is a great place to be a horse! Love of the horses and the horse lifestyle is paramount in the world of Weller Arabians.
We want to extend a special “thank you” to Joey, Jenny, and Kristin for their wonderful hospitality during our visit. It was a fun afternoon for us, and we certainly look forward to checking in from time to time to see what the future holds for Weller Arabians!
Horses currently in residence at Weller Arabians:
Astraia (Rough Justice x Aysia)
Eve of Eden (Eden C x Fadshahra El Jamaal)
Verona Carol (Parys El Jamaal x RSD Standing Ovation)
Evexxa (Exxalt x Eve of Eden)
Veneto WA (Shanghai EA x Verona Carol)
Additional horses that have graced the pastures of Weller Arabians:
Maraysia (Marwan Al Shaqab x Aysia)
SA Miss Magnolia – Leased – (Mussiah x Nariadni daughter)
El Maroc (Shakir El Marwan x Maraysia)
SF Infamous (Sir Fames HBV x Veronica GA)
Piedmont++++// (AA Manhattan x Rhondanecian)
Visit Weller Arabians on Facebook
Back to North Carolina Horse Farms