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Desert Sky Arabians: A Newfound Passion

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By Arabian Horse World

 

As featured in the Winter 2024 issue of Arabian Horse World.

 

Every once in a while, extraordinary people make their way into the Arabian horse industry, bringing a fresh enthusiasm that enhances the experience for all involved. And when that enthusiasm is matched with good guidance from those they rely on, success results for them and the entire breed. Such is the case with our featured story focused on Sylvain Allard and Robin Andrews of Desert Sky Arabians as they entered the breed and the magical experience unfolding for them and those around them.

Robin and Sylvain with Stardom Sky.

Sylvain and Robin entered the Arabian horse community by happenstance when their real estate agent and fellow Arabian horse lover, Lee Courtney, invited them to a charity event. “Robin and Sylvain were our friend’s neighbors before I sold them a home that my husband then helped them renovate,” she says. “We became good friends through the transaction, and I kept telling them they should come to one of the horse shows to meet the amazing people and see the beautiful horses.”

 

In September 2017, Lee was planning a fundraiser for the American Heart Association called Horses for Heart that was being held locally at Royal Arabians in Scottsdale, Arizona. She invited Robin and Sylvain, and, being very philanthropic, they attended. During the auction, Sylvain wanted to help get the bidding started on a particular lot, not necessarily intending to be the winning bidder but to support a great cause. This particular lot was donated by Cindy McGown and Mark Davis of Royal Arabians, two equally philanthropic people. They donated Royal Kavant, a beautiful 2015 bay Arabian gelding, sired by Kavalle MI, out of Royal Samara H, to the auction. Not only was the horse up for auction, but they included an entire year’s worth of board, training, and showing at the following Scottsdale to the lucky winning bidder. Sylvain comments, “This was a wonderful opportunity for someone new to enter the industry without a huge initial investment.” As the bidding continued, Sylvain quickly found his competitive side and continued to bid. By the end of the evening, luck was on their side, and they became the proud new owner of Royal Kavant.

 

Little did Sylvain and Robin know this evening was more than a charity event. It was the beginning of a newfound passion, incredible relationships, and the start of Desert Sky Arabians. Sylvain grew up on a dairy farm in Montreal, Canada, and his father was the horse feed supplier for their local racetrack. Sylvain spent a lot of time at the racetrack, assisting his father with deliveries and even learning how to handicap the horses properly. Robin, however, grew up with no horse experience. 

Royal Kavant

As Sylvain was announced as the winning bidder of Royal Kavant, he knew that Robin thought it was a bit crazy, but quickly, she remarked, “Hmmm, okay, this could be fun!” Sylvain’s life has been professionally and personally dedicated to aviation; he is a pilot by trade. Sylvain saw the Arabian horse as a new opportunity for a new exciting adventure that he and Robin could enjoy together.

 

And so it began. The week following the auction, Sylvain and Robin visited Royal Arabians to see their new horse. As the weeks passed, they continued to visit, learning more and more about the magnificent Arabian horse each time. It was clear to them that this was a great purchase, and as Sylvain had hoped, the Arabian horse would make an excellent hobby for them to enjoy together. 

 

Robin remarks, “I spoiled Kavant like crazy! I was at the farm two to three times a week and always came with bags of carrots! He quickly began to recognize my voice.” During their visits, they developed a wonderful relationship with the owners of Royal Arabians, Mark Davis and Cindy McGown. They both also have a heavy background in aviation, so the bond came quite naturally. They also grew close with Royal Arabian’s head trainer, Rodolfo Guzzo, and his wife, Natalia. Rodolfo instantly became a strong mentor for Sylvain as he learned as much as he could about the horses. Robin states, “If you know Sylvain, you know that everything he puts his mind to, he does 100%.” Sylvain became a quick study of the Arabian horse, attending horse shows, studying pedigrees, and learning from all around him. 

 

As the months went on and they continued to enjoy visiting their gelding, it became time for Royal Kavant to attend a horse show. In 2017, at the Arabian National Breeder Finals, he proudly earned a Top Five award for his new owners. A few months later, he was entered at the prestigious Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show. For the first time, Sylvain was to show in the AOTH class. It was his first time in the show ring, and he excitedly walked away with a Top Ten award. 

 

Kavant’s next task was to move on to western pleasure performance, opening new parts of the industry to Sylvain and Robin. The awards were icing on the cake, while the true joy came from the connection to the horses and the relationships they built along the way.

OFW Jewel Of Marwan

In a discussion with Rodolfo and the late Travis Rice, Sylvain mentioned that he would be interested in purchasing another horse should they come across something they felt suited to their future endeavors.  Sylvain, being a competitive person by nature, enjoyed the competition of horse shows and was interested in adding another horse, one that he could compete with and potentially breed in the future.  Not long after, Travis mentioned a special filly bred and owned by Orrion Farms. Together, they set up an appointment with Doug Leadley, manager of Orrion at the time, and met the beautiful weanling filly, OFW Jewel Of Marwan, sired by Marwan al Shaqab, out of Padrons Psyche daughter, OFW Jewelee. She had just come to Scottsdale after growing up in the lush pastures of Orrion’s breeding farm in Ellensburg, Washington, so she was not in show shape, but it was clear to Rodolfo that this elegant dark bay filly had all the right parts. Her pedigree was equally as exciting as she was as an individual. 

 

Looking at the long-term vision for Robin and Sylvain, Rodolfo knew it was essential to purchase a horse that could not only be competitive in the ring but also had great potential as a broodmare. OFW Jewel Of Marwan is a full-blood sister to the undefeated three-time World Champion EKS Alihandro. Rodolfo remarks, “I have always loved EKS Alihandro. With OFW Jewel of Marwan coming from a dark bay full sister to Alihandro’s mother, I was confident she would be an excellent producer.”

 

Rodolfo, Sylvain, and Travis thoroughly thought through the purchase of the filly. Sylvain remembers explicitly being told, “It costs just as much to care for and show an average horse as it does a Champion, so if you are comfortable with the investment on a horse with the potential to be a champion, then this is your filly!” Sylvain purchased Jewel, and she was added to the impressive show horse lineup at Royal Arabians. 

 

The stage was set, and 2019 proved to be an exciting year for Sylvain and Robin, starting with the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show. Rodolfo showed Jewel, and it was quickly realized that she was everything they had hoped for. Jewel won the first class she competed in, the older section of the Scottsdale Arabian Yearling Fillies. The class was very competitive as 19 beautiful fillies from around the country competed, and Jewel was crowned the winner. The following Sunday, she moved on to the championships, winning Reserve Champion Filly, just behind Aria Venetian Lace. Aria Venetian Lace turned out to be Jewel’s main competition throughout the season, and this level of competition was exhilarating for the Scottsdale-based couple.

 

The next stop was the Arabian Breeders World Cup held in Las Vegas, Nevada, where Jewel was crowned Silver Champion. Sylvain recalls someone saying, “This is just beginner’s luck, don’t get used to it!” Sylvain responded, “Well, if this is beginner’s luck, that’s okay. I’m having fun, and I like this.” Without a doubt, luck plays a role in all aspects of life, especially in breeding Arabian horses. However, learning and developing a “good eye” for the horse is equally important, which is precisely what Sylvain had been doing. He even attended the Judge’s school, not to judge but to learn more about the industry and judging standards. Owner of Royal Arabians, Cindy McGown, remarks, “Sylvain is a logical, intelligent, and competitive individual. He learns everything he can about any subject he is involved with.” This strategy has proven to pay off.

 

In 2021, OFW Jewel of Marwan was crowned U.S. National Champion Futurity Filly, a significant title as it represents the future breeding mares of the industry. Being named National Champion proved Jewel in the ring; however, in the same year, she also proved to be a breeding horse.  

OFW Jewel Of Marwan

 

In 2020, Sylvain and Robin decided to try their hand at breeding and pull an embryo from Jewel. The decision to breed her was exciting, and all parties knew that choosing the correct sire was a tremendous responsibility. Many factors led to the decision to breed Jewel to Dominic M (Da Vinci FM x Rosa La Valentina). Coincidentally, Rodolfo was the first to import Dominic semen into the United States while the stallion was still living in Uruguay. He had been watching Dominic’s offspring, noting that the foals he was siring were exceptionally beautiful. 

 

Dominic played an earlier role in Robin and Sylvain’s life as well. While Jewel was competing and they were enjoying showing their beautiful filly, Sylvain continued adding to his Arabian horse collection. One day at Royal, the staff brought out an exotic and flashy chestnut filly for them to see. Little did Robin know, Sylvain had already purchased the filly and was excited to surprise her for Christmas with their new show horse. 

Mistic Dominic HVP

The filly was from Brazil and sired by Dominic M. Her name was Mistic Dominic HVP. She proved to be another bout of “beginner’s luck” as she attended her first show and was named the 2020 Scottsdale Champion Yearling Filly, winning her section of 18 fillies and then taking the Championship unanimously, a thrill for all. But Mistic didn’t stop there. The same year, she was the Gold Champion filly at the Arabian National Breeders Finals and, subsequently, in 2021, was the Silver Champion Junior Mare at the Arabian Breeders World Cup show.

While Sylvain and Robin were competing around the country with their show string Royal Arabians had assisted them in acquiring, a sweet and responsible recipient mare in Texas was pregnant with Jewel’s first foal. As is often the case, Sylvain and Robin were hoping for a filly when they got the call from Mario Zerlotti of Zerlotti Genetics Ltd that they had a new black bay colt. The news caused a slight moment of disappointment. Although a man of few words, Mario reassured them, “He is a quality colt; wait until you see him.” Once he was old enough to be weaned, he was transported to Scottsdale, Arizona, where everyone anxiously awaited his arrival. Upon stepping off the trailer, any suspicion of doubt diminished. This young dark colt was indeed remarkable.

 

Sylvain and Robin were hooked and knew the Arabian horse would be a lifelong adventure. It was time to create a name for themselves. They both spent a great deal of time deciding what their new farm name should be. While enjoying a get-together at their home with the Royal Arabians team in celebration of the success of Jewel and Mistic, they sat outside on their front patio, which boasts a picturesque view of the city. Living in Scottsdale, Arizona, the region is known for its incredible sunsets over the desert sky. Suddenly, it was clear that Desert Sky Arabians was the perfect fit for their growing program. Robin and Sylvain, in just a few short years, have gone from “accidentally” purchasing a gelding to owning champion fillies, breeding their own foals, to officially starting a business within the Arabian horse industry.

The beautiful evening sky that influenced the name of Desert Sky Arabians.

Now, with an official name to their program, they needed a name for their special dark colt. Sylvain remarks, “I wanted something with Dominic in the name that also went with our farm name, and suddenly Stardom came to mind.” Robin laughs, “I told Sylvain that I felt that was such a big name for a little black horse, but he sure lived up to it!” It was official. Their beautiful colt would be named Stardom Sky. 

 

Stardom’s journey was to begin at the “World’s Greatest Show,” the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show in 2022. The Royal team worked diligently with Stardom as they do all their show horses, feeding the best nutrition, working a consistent regimen to ensure he was in the best shape possible, and paying immense attention to all the details needed with a show horse of this caliber. Stardom entered the Wendell arena under the bright blue Scottsdale sky, and the crowd went wild. 

Stardom Sky
Stardom Sky shortly after his 2022 Scottsdale Unanimous Championship.

Stardom’s charisma was captivating. His dark bay, almost black coat glistened in the sunshine, and his connection to Rodolfo was unparalleled. There was no question when he unanimously won his section and the Championship that year. Mark Davis and Cindy McGown were alongside Sylvain and Robin as their first-bred foal garnished his red roses. When Cindy was asked how it felt watching her friends win such a prestigious title, she responded, “Ecstatic! They are great people who have taken the advice of their trainer, who has done everything in his power to ensure they are successful. It combines Guzzo’s knowledge and Sylvain’s ability to quickly learn the industry and the horses.” The emotion on Rodolfo’s face was evident. He was proud of this special colt and thankful to his mother, OFW Jewel of Marwan, for this glorious gift. “When you have a mare that you have so much belief in, and her first foal is a colt like Stardom, a horse that can win Scottsdale unanimously, it makes everything worth it!” exclaims Rodolfo.

 

The Championship was just the beginning for Stardom Sky. Two months later, he went on to win another Gold Championship, this time at the Arabian Breeders World Cup. He followed that up at U.S. Nationals in 2023, winning National Champion in the Breeding Pays Futurity. This young colt has repeatedly proven that he has what it takes to be a top Arabian stallion, which leads to his next chapter.

This year, 2024, Stardom will take a break from the show ring and focus on his breeding career. When asked what makes an outstanding breeding stallion, Rodolfo remarked, “It is vital for them to be successful show horses, but most important is their pedigree, specifically their tail female line. The best breeding stallions come from incredible mares, and OFW Jewel of Marwan is precisely that. Her first foal was Stardom, and her second was Diamond Sky by AJ Radman, who also showed great success in the show ring, garnering the Gold Championship at Scottsdale in the International division in 2023.

 

There has been significant interest in purchasing breeding rights to Stardom Sky, and many have already been sold, including packages to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Royal Arabians, always wanting to support their clients, purchased a breeding right in 2023 at an auction during a charity event. This breeding was the only breeding sold in 2023 and will be the only foal to be born in 2024. They chose their beautiful grey mare, Royal Hadara (RFI Farid x FT Havanna El Keav by HK Keav Power). As expected, all involved are anxiously awaiting the birth of this foal in March 2024.”

 

Following up with Cindy McGown, who plans to further incorporate Stardom Sky into her successful Royal Arabians breeding program, “I plan to breed several of my mares to Stardom Sky next year. He is a beautiful example of the Arabian Horse and a kind soul.”

Stardom Sky in January 2024.

Watching Jewel’s extraordinary success as a show horse and a mother was pleasurable to Sylvain, Robin, and those at Royal Arabians and highly enjoyed by her breeders, Steve and Christina Poore. “We are beyond thrilled for Sylvain and Robin on the remarkable success of Stardom Sky. Witnessing our farm’s vision come to life is incredibly humbling. Our dedication to breeding and promoting exceptional Arabian horses is exemplified in the extraordinary journey of Stardom Sky, a product of the careful pairing of OFW Jewel Of Marwan and our esteemed Stallion, *Dominic M. This success story holds a special place in our hearts. We eagerly anticipate being at the forefront as Stardom Sky continues to ascend in both the show ring and the breeding barn.”

 

The relationship between Robin, Sylvain, and Stardom is remarkable. As he emerges from the barn, commanding attention with his “larger than life” charisma, he proudly snorts and prances respectfully beside his handler. After his exciting “look at me” display, he comes down, quietly stands, and enjoys a few carrots with his proud owners and breeders who love and adore him. This disposition is what the Arabian breed stands for and is all about.

The story of Desert Sky Arabians tugs at the heartstrings of all who love the Arabian horse. As we cherish our horses, it is always an honor to share their magic with new people and introduce the Arabian horse to as many people as possible. Sylvain and Robin are a perfect example of how the Arabian can change one’s life, open their heart to new opportunities, and ignite a deep passion for years to come.

 

And while Sylvain and Robin’s story is one that results from having the right vision, the right people to guide them, and certainly the right horses, we are lucky indeed to have them as part of our beloved breed.

Robin and Stardom Sky.

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