And other times, I know I need to rescue a horse because of its significance, even if it's not in great condition. That's what happened a few days ago, after I'd spotted a dusty metal horse in western tack with a rider holding a lasso, in a small picture in an estate sale ad.
It was difficult to see. But once you hunt for model horses for a few decades, you get an instinctive feeling about these things. I felt certain that this was an example of the work of Dodge, Inc., a Los Angeles-based trophy and metal figurine manufacturer that was active during the 1930s to 1950s. I grabbed my copy of Carolyn Martin's indispensable book Gladys Brown Edwards' Equine Works in Metal and riffled through the pages until I came to the section titled "Cowboys."
Yes. The tiny image looked like the mold labeled 88.001, a prancing horse with a western saddle and bridle on page 58 and following. Martin's book told me that not all the pieces of this design by Dodge are exactly alike. Some have richer finishes; there are variations in the horse's tails, in the bases, in the detail on the saddles. The horse was issued with and without the cowboy and saddle, which were separately molded pieces.
But enough research: it was time to trust my feelings, get in the car (much too early in the morning), and drive to the estate sale. When I got inside the house, another potential buyer (a reseller-for-profit) had noticed the damage on the base and the missing reins and set the horse back down on the mantelpiece.
I pounced. I paid. I kept a straight face. I left the property. I set the horse down on a neighbor's low fence and took some pictures.
And then I allowed myself to smile. Because damaged as he was, base cracked and reins missing, this was not just another metal horse to me. This was Farana. And he needed to go home.
He cleaned up fairly well, after an application of baby oil with a cotton ball. I added some temporary faux leather reins.
The renowned Arabian horse artist and author Gladys Brown Edwards designed this piece for Dodge, Inc., and in so doing captured for us a glimpse of a true equine athlete who excelled -- once his humans figured out what really interested and motivated him.
|Farana, Mark Smith up, at the Kellogg Ranch in Pomona, California|
The real stallion, Farana, was foaled in 1929. He was one of the famous Arabian horses owned by cereal magnate W.K. Kellogg, stabled at the Kellogg Ranch outside Los Angeles. By all accounts he was an incredible equine athlete, but it took the people who worked with him awhile to figure out what interested him. Author and historian Carol Mulder writes:
...Farana had potential for greatness, if the right job could be found for him. Because of his extreme agility, nimbleness, quickness, and lightness on his feet, it was decided that [Kellogg Ranch trainer] Mark [Smith] would try Farana as a stock/reining horse. This fast, keen and demanding work caught Farana’s full interest and also gave him the full physical engagement he liked. He took to reining/stock work wholeheartedly. He never became bored with this work. He put his all into it - and became famous.
|Farana, by Gladys Brown Edwards, from an article in the April 1949 issue |
of Western Horseman magazine. (I found the magazine at an estate sale too.)
Not only was Farana a star attraction as a stock horse at the Kellogg Sunday afternoon exhibitions, and at fairs and other exhibitions, but he was also shown on a limited basis in both halter and stock horse competition. He was always sensational. During his short competitive show career, he won a first or second in every stock horse class in which he was entered, against the best of competition. He was Champion Arabian Stallion at the 1933 California State Fair, also winning the Light Weight Stock Horse class. He was again champion at the 1933 Coronado National Horse Show, and the same year was Champion Stock Horse. In 1933 Farana was 4 years old. Soon competitors became disinclined to show against him and so he was retired from competition - although he continued for years to give exhibitions.
Farana and Mark Smith must have been something to see. Mulder wrote:
In his 1958 book, The Kellogg Arabians, written in collaboration with Gladys Brown Edwards, Herbert H. Reese (the shaping manager of the old Kellogg Ranch) described Farana’s work, saying that Farana showed “speed and precision,” and “dizzying spins” with “electrifying response to the rein.”
Mr. Reese continued: “A spectacular worker, Farana was especially good at spinning, a type of showmanship demanded of stockhorses in those days to indicate their reining ability, and he could whirl so fast that he occasionally ‘spun’ right out from under his rider. Farana slid to the straight ‘figure eleven’ stops as well as any low-headed Quarter Horse, with instant take-off into a run when so indicated. Stockhorses in those days also had to work with the rope and he held the ‘calf’ with a taut rope at all times..... Farana could out-perform all exhibition stock horses of his day. He could also back faster than the average horse can trot, and would back uphill out of the arena at Kellogg’s at a fast clip as a finale to his performance.”
|Farana's impressive high-speed backing skills were featured on the cover |
of Western Horseman magazine's September/October 1937 issue.
My Dodge, Inc. "Farana" by Gladys Brown Edwards still needs to take one more step -- forward, this time -- before he can truly be at home again. We'll talk about that in a future blog post.
You can read about Farana's extraordinary career here: http://diablovista.homestead.com/farana.html
One of Farana's best-known descendants in recent decades was a stallion called Reign On, who was an outstanding show horse and sire. Reign On excelled in park horse classes. You can watch the late, great Huell Howser's public TV program that includes the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center here; Reign On appears starting at about 6:45 in.
(Make sure you also watch the clips near the beginning of the show, with the vintage footage of the Kellogg Ranch.)
Reign On's show career was impressive:
Reign On sired 194 foals between 1983 and 1997.
Reign On's descendants are still living at the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center at Cal Poly Pomona.
And the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library at CPP has a wealth of information on the development of the Arabian horse and its history in California:
You can read one of my previous blog posts about Gladys Brown Edwards' equine art, here:
Metal horse books author Carolyn Martin's web page is here:
Here's a link to Part Two of my article on Farana, which talks about his "forever home."