By Allyssa Baird
While few settings are more beautiful than California’s Santa Ynez Valley, Antheia Arabians takes the term “heavenly oasis” to a whole new realm. Set on 24 acres of perfectly-manicured grounds, the sun shines, the birds sing, and every pasture is filled with beautiful and happy Arabian horses. You can’t help but feel like you’ve been taken out of the “real world” and into a tranquil afternoon. The woman behind this harmonious and serene place is none other than Diane Brown.
Diane’s energy and love for the Arabian horse are contagious. Her radiant smile lights up the room, especially when she talks about her horses. As a child in England, she was a horse-crazy little girl. “Where it came from, we have no idea. My parents tell the story that when I was a baby, I would start making noises and pointing at horses, and they said, ‘Oh my gosh, I think her first word could be horse!’”
Growing up in a small village, Diane was exposed to local horses and ponies. Once she was old enough to sit on a horse, her parents took her to riding lessons at the local riding school, and as she describes it, “opening Pandora’s box” to what would become a significant part of her life.
At the age of ten, Diane set her eyes on her first Arabian. “That moment was a game changer. I had loved all horses and ponies and was head over heels for all things equine,” she says, “but the moment I saw my first Arabian, I knew that was the kind of horse I wanted to be involved with, and I never looked back.”
The beauty, elegance, kindness, and intelligence were just a few things that young Diane connected with. Her mother’s friend had many Arabians, including a daughter of *El Shaklan. Although there were many Arabians in the barn, this particular mare stood out. “My mother’s friend explained that there was a lady in Germany breeding incredible horses. Her breeding program was called Om El Arab and she was crossing Spanish mares with an Egyptian stallion creating what was being hailed as ‘The Golden Cross’.” This became the template for the kind of horses that Diane wanted to breed.
Little did Diane know that one day she would not only move to California and have a barn full of Arabian horses of this breeding but also become best friends with the German lady, Sigi Siller of Om El Arab. “Once I moved in 2000, I realized that Om El Arab was only 35 minutes away from me, so I called and made an appointment,” she says. “That is the day I met Sigi, and that was it. I fell in love with Arabian horses all over again.” Sigi became highly influential in Diane’s life, inside and out of horses. “Phenomenal is not a big enough word to describe Sigi.”
When it comes to breeding, Diane appreciated Sigi’s strong intuition. “She was on her own trajectory and really wasn’t necessarily interested in the fashionable stallions of the time,” she says. “If it didn’t fit her vision, she wasn’t interested. She would observe certain qualities and see how a particular stallion would complement each mare.”
Once Diane started her own breeding program, she wanted to ensure the name reflected the farm’s essence. One morning, the word “Antheia” came to her. She realized it was the name of one of the Graces of Greek mythology. “Antheia was the Goddess of flowers, blossoms, gardens, friendship, and human love,” she explains, “And I thought that is the perfect name!” This fits Diane’s persona perfectly as she loves to garden, her friends are significant to her, and she loves to be surrounded by a peaceful, tranquil oasis.
Breeding the horse of her dreams was always a vision of Diane’s. She wanted to produce a mare that had her ideal Arabian type. In her dream, this filly would show and become a champion. She would sit in her bedroom as a child and imagine what this mare and her farm would look like in the future. Just a few weeks ago, this dream came true. Enter a 2020 grey filly by Om El Benicio, out of Gloria Apal. “When she was born, I literally knew the second that I saw her that this was the horse of my dreams, this is it.” Diane continues, “I wasn’t outspoken about this to others at the time, but I kind of knew that she was really really special. She stayed consistent day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year, and I’m really excited to see where her future goes.”
Diane’s father was so supportive of her love of horses. When this special filly was born, he was terminally ill. She asked him to choose her name so that whenever she saw the filly or heard the name, a part of him would always be with her. After a few weeks, he came to her with a name. “I thought of a name, that of my great-grandmother: Zillah, which means to cast a big shadow,” he said. “Then, we took the “ri” from Gloria, her mother, and officially named her Antheia Zillahri,” says Diane.
“Although showing is out of my comfort zone, to see Zillahri at the World Cup was my dream,” Diane says. “It is a big deal for me to trust someone enough to take something so special to me off the farm, into training, and to a show.” She did not envision Zillahri ever leaving the farm when she was born and just expected her to grow up in her pasture with her friends while living the tranquil life at Antheia, but others kept telling her, “You need to show this filly.”
Being the first homebred horse of Diane’s to ever hit the showing, she knew that she needed to send Zillahri to the show in order for others could see the quality of horses that come from her breeding program.
“I watched the Arabian Breeders World Cup from the live feed. As soon as I saw her stand up, my phone exploded with calls and messages, and people were asking where this filly came from,” Diane says. “I told them that this was the grey filly they saw out in my pasture.” Her dream was realized as she watched Zillahri stand up in center ring. While Diane hoped that people would see what she saw in the filly, even if she hadn’t received a prize, seeing her standing in her beautiful silhouette was everything.
On a warm Sunday morning on the polo field at West World in Scottsdale, Arizona, Antheia Zillahri was named Silver Champion Junior Filly with Sandro Pinha of Arabians International.
(Om El Benicio x Gloria Apal)
Following the World Cup show, Antheia Arabians opened its doors to the public for an open house. “Showcasing our Arabian horses is so important, “ says Diane. “It is a relaxed environment and allows people to enjoy the horses in their home setting.” Diane continues, “It is so lovely for people to come and have a relaxed, fun day looking at beautiful horses — it inspires people and allows the local equestrian community to see what we do with Arabians.”
Om El Benicio
(*WH Justice x Om El Benecia)
After seeing Diane’s stallion, Om El Benicio, and several mares, the brisk morning ended with the Queen of Antheia, Gloria Apal. At 20 years of age, Gloria commanded every eye during the open house. She was graceful, elegant and did not hesitate to put on a show. “Gloria has the most amazing personality and larger-than-life character. She is so beautiful to look at but to actually know her personality, she is hilarious,” Diane beams while talking about her special mare. “Gloria does what Gloria wants and is very sure of her place in the world. On one hand, she loves to go get dirty in the pasture, yet she also has her diva side and loves to come into the barn and demand attention and carrots.”
(Psytadel x SA Misha Apal)
While no one wanted the fairytale day or Gloria Apal’s snorting and blowing performance to end, everyone was treated to a glass of champagne and held it high in a heartfelt toast to the beautiful mare. Gloria Apal transitioned from her captivating prance to calmly standing in a crowd of people while being adored and fed carrots. Diane stands beside her; the mutual affection can be felt from miles away.
The future of Antheia Arabians continues to look bright. Diane has just welcomed a full sister to Antheia Zillahri! She also plans to take her 2024 open house to the next level, including showcasing riding horses to show the breed’s versatility. Antheia Arabians welcomes you with open arms next spring.