Pegasus Arabians: Leading In Breeding
by THERESA CARDAMONE
First as Wikel Arabians and then as Pegasus Arabians, Dean Wikel and his family have been creating exceptionally beautiful and athletic animals in a true family business. It has been a successful enterprise from the very beginning and set the stage for producing the type of horse they would soon become known for. From the very first horse ever bred under the Pegasus Arabians moniker, the Pegasus Arabians breeding program took off to create a legacy that continues to flourish in both performance and halter.
Particularly over the last five years, Pegasus Arabians has developed into one of the most impactful breeders in America, pulling in numerous important year-end or competition-related titles. In 2014, Pegasus Arabians was acknowledged as the Leading North American Halter Breeder; in 2015 they were on the list as a Leading Breeder of National Champions. The acknowledgements for excellence in breeding continued. In 2016, they were a Top Breeder of National Champions and Reserves; in 2017 they were a Leading Halter Breeder at the U.S. National Championships.
“We want to be known as a breeding farm,” states Dean Wikel. “We’ve bred over 1,000 horses (both purebred and part-Arabian) over the last 28 years. Currently, we breed 20 or so mares a year, although we used to do more. We’re proud of what we’ve achieved. For the last five years, we have been the High Point Breeder at the Arabian National Breeder Finals in the fall. We have also been the High-Point Breeder at the Arabian Breeders World Cup in Las Vegas for two of the last three years.” Dean pauses before he wryly continues, “I guess somehow, we’ve gotten the word out that we’re breeding some pretty good horses!” Consider the word spread. Already this year, Pegasus Arabians topped the list as the 2018 Scottsdale Overall Leading Breeder, an achievement which sets the farm up for consideration for 2018 year-end breeding honors and deserves a closer look.
An impressive array of 33 horses bred by Pegasus Arabians competed in championship classes at the Scottsdale Show to take the Leading Breeder title, with Dick Ames’ famed Cedar Ridge Farm finishing in 2nd place with 27 horses and Marty Shea coming in 3rd with 16. Separated into halter and performance divisions; 21 Pegasus-bred horses competed in halter championships to secure 1st place on that list over 2nd place Aljassimya Farm and 3rd place Oak Ridge Arabians. In addition, the 12 Pegasus-breds in performance championships tied for 4th place on the leading performance breeders list. It is an incredible achievement which places Pegasus Arabians even more firmly among the world’s most elite breeders.
Pegasus Arabians consists of three facilities: two ranches in Arizona and the home farm in Berlin Heights, Ohio. Pegasus Arabians at Sandspur Ranch, Scottsdale, is the primary center for show and training while a second ranch in the desert houses the clinic of the Pegasus reproduction veterinarian. The Ohio location is primarily a breeding farm, with most of the broodmares and foals enjoying its vast pastures. In order to keep the pedigrees fresh, about a third of the Pegasus mares are bred to outside stallions each year to introduce new bloodlines to the existing herd. But all of the horses that are showing and winning are bred by Pegasus Arabians. “We show what we breed,” says Dean.
Dean believes that the success their horses have enjoyed is proof that they are breeding something that sustains the balance between form (halter) and function (performance). “That is one of our goals, to breed a horse that can not only compete in halter when they are yearlings and two-year-olds, but can also make the transformation into performance when they are four or five. There have gotten to be specialties within the breed, where people are breeding, say, for an English horse that can’t necessarily compete in a halter class. And others are breeding horses that are high-functioning as far as halter is concerned, but yet can’t make it under saddle. Our horses do both well. We believe they need to have a job for the rest of their lives.”
Two examples of Pegasus-bred horses who have stood the test of time are Kappuccino and Vitality PE, who were the 2018 Scottsdale All-Arabian Overall High-Point Purebred Arabian and Overall High-Point Half-Arabian, respectively. Kappuccino is one of the most highly decorated Pegasus Arabians show horses, by their Huckleberry Bey son Bucharest V and out of their Allience daughter, SS Wildflower. The 2017 Canadian National Champion Country English Pleasure JTR 18 & Under and 2016 Youth National Champion Native Costume JTR 14-18 winner (among many national honors) competed in a dozen classes to earn his 2018 Scottsdale Purebred High-Point award. Kappuccino brought home three championships and two reserves in English Show Hack, Country English Pleasure, and Native Costume, including the Open Native Costume championship. Vitality PE is a bay part-Arabian gelding by Armani FC, foaled in 2002. Already a Youth National Champion in Hunter Pleasure JOTR 13 & Under, Vitality PE also competed in twelve classes at Scottsdale to earn his Overall High-Point Half-Arabian honors.
All of the Pegasus stallions are trained to ride, whether they compete or not. In some instances, they carry precious cargo into the show ring in the form of the Wikel’s grandchildren, who are dedicated riders and horse lovers. Masquerade PA (Armani FC x Cazsandra, by Autumn Séance) holds the distinction of being the homebred horse that first propelled Pegasus Arabians into the international spotlight. In addition to his many halter and open pleasure successes, he has carried two granddaughters to multiple national titles. A 2003 U.S. National Top Ten Yearling Colt and Regional Champion, Masquerade earned 2005 top ten honors as a hunter pleasure horse in the U.S. and Canada before winning five national championships or reserves as a western pleasure horse, the two most recent at the 2016 Youth Nationals. There, Masquerade PA was named both the Youth National Western Pleasure JTR Choice Champion and Youth National Western Pleasure JOTR 14-18 Champion. He is a perfect example of the Pegasus Arabians program. And he breeds on.
Masquerade’s son, Cesari PA, out of Fadila PCF, was also a Regional Champion and a U.S. National Top Ten Futurity Colt (in 2015) who made the transition to a sterling performance horse for the family. Cesari added additional luster to the contents of the Pegasus coffers by being named the 2018 Scottsdale Western Pleasure JTR Select Champion. That win contributed to even more Scottsdale honors for Pegasus Arabians when granddaughters Tristen and Tory Wikel each won the high point for their respective divisions. That alone is a startling result, as there were over 2,400 entries at Scottsdale and all of the exhibitors are tracked for points earned in the main arena for halter and performance. To have two individuals from the same family succeed so brilliantly at such a high level is almost unheard of. Regardless of the odds, Tristen Wikel was the 2018 Scottsdale High Point Junior Exhibitor 15-18 and Tory Wikel was the 2018 Scottsdale High Point Adult Amateur Exhibitor 19-35.
“That’s what it’s all about,” says Dean. “We take a lot of pride in our grandkids, who are all doing well with the horses. They are dedicated to learning what it takes and putting in the time to get it done.” Judging by the results that the current generation of Wikels is achieving, it is apparent that the future of the Pegasus Arabians breeding program will be in very good hands for many years to come.