ASPEN HILLS SABIH 2022 WAHO Trophy Winner – New Zealand

ASPEN HILLS SABIH Chestnut gelding, 2008.
(Aspen Hills Nureyev / AH Katafa Bint Katalina)
Breeder: Gabrielle Deuss, Owner: Julia Latham.
Strain: Dahman Um Amr of Ibn Hemsi (Dahma, 1876)

Aspen Hills Sabih & Julia Latham

Citation from his owner, Julia Latham:
Aspen Hills Sabih (Charlie) came into my life 8 years ago as a very green, very gangly and uncoordinated 5-year-old. I wanted a horse that was ready to go out and compete. Charlie was definitely not that horse! But there was just something about him that I couldn’t resist, and I ended up taking him home to Flying Horse.
The first couple of years we took things slowly. I was competing my other horses so could spend time getting him more balanced with lots of hacking and bodywork as well as sorting out a diet so he gained weight. I could see his potential even if my friends thought I was mad.
When my competition horse retired Charlie had to step up. My long term trainer Bill Noble was supportive and encouraging in my goal to turn Charlie into a dressage horse. But it was a battle! Charlie was spooky, suspicious and had the fastest swerve! Not to mention the concentration span of a goldfish! I have never fallen off as much as I did off him! So many people told me to give up on him! But every so often I got a glimpse of brilliance and those glimpses kept me going. I just knew that inside the anxious, worried horse was a beautiful kind soul just waiting to blossom.
We started competing at Preliminary level and he was terrible! But we kept at it and as he went up the grades he improved and I realised he was better with more movements in the test. Just when he was starting to get it together, he developed a sarcoid on his inside left hind. After many months of treatment which he endured stoically despite the pain and depression associated, the treatment worked and we were back in business. We continued working on our dressage and at Novice level he started to listen. At Elementary level he started getting better scores, at Medium level he started getting placed.
Being a very small, very blingy chestnut with a very wavy tail made us stand out at dressage. He scared a lot of the big Warmbloods and would usually pick one to terrorise with lots of snorting and tail waving!. Some judges struggled to judge him as he was so different to the other horses in his classes. Before Covid arrived Charlie had a couple of Advanced Medium starts and was starting to get taken seriously in the dressage arena. At our last Advanced Medium start in Cromwell he was awful, I had no control and he was anxious and stressed. It turned out he has developed an issue with his teeth causing hypersensitivity to cold. It was minus 5˚C at Cromwell and he just couldn’t cope with the cold. Another setback as contact issues are severely penalised in dressage. We are managing the condition, but the outside temperature determines how he feels. Hopefully he can continue his dressage career and be an ambassador for his breed.
We have done a few A&P shows in-hand and he loved the whole show atmosphere. The bigger the audience the more he showed off. One of my goals was to go to the South Island Arabian Championships in Christchurch. It’s a big trip for us living at the bottom of the South Island (9 hours drive) so I wanted to make sure we were ready. Our first time I really didn’t have clue what to do but we managed quite a few placings. In 2021, we had a super South Island Championships being placed in every class and winning the High Points Purebred Gelding and also the High Points Horse of the Show trophy.
The 2022 South Island Championships I was unsure about taking Charlie due to the cold temperatures. We decided to go even with a less than ideal run-up as I hadn’t competed at all due to Covid cancelling events and having time off due to cracking a vertebrae in my lower back, from coming off Charlie. The weather was awful, so I had absolutely no expectations at all, I was just grateful for the chance to compete and if Charlie couldn’t cope with the temperature then we would just retire. But he just got better and better! He won every class he entered in-hand and ridden, bar the Classic Head where he placed third and ended up Novice Champion, Paced and Mannered Champion, Champion Ridden Purebred and finally Supreme Champion of Show.

Charlie with some of his winnings

Although extremely proud of our competition career I am even more proud of Charlie’s day job. As part of our equestrian business, we run an Equine Therapy programme for at risk children. We work with Oranga Tamariki, Barnardos and local schools plus private clients. Our therapy programme has been developed exclusively here at Flying Horse and has been successful in changing the lives of hundreds of children. Charlie has a special affinity with children who self-harm or have tried to commit suicide. He’s always been a ‘bitey’ horse and when he first arrived would often bite himself when anxious. I think that’s why he is so good with them. He knows what it feels like to be consumed by worry. It’s incredible watching him being so gentle with these kids and being absolutely focused on them.

I started a Facebook Page for Charlie a few years ago so people could follow our journey; the good bits and the bad bits! I want people to realise it’s not all plain sailing. I want people to realise how amazing, gentle and talented Arabians are and that you don’t need a purpose bred horse to do dressage. Arabians truly are heart horses; they are as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside. Bred for centuries to share the lives of their owners, Arabians need a job to do that involves interacting with their human. Charlie is not just my horse, he gives a little bit of himself to every child he connects with.

Advanced Medium level 1 point
Medium level 77 points
Elementary level 64 points
Southland winner of ESNZ Dressage Masters series level 3 to 5 in 2020 and 2021
2019/2020 Flying Horse Arabians in Dressage series Reserve Champion Purebred levels 3 and 4
2020/2021 Flying Horse Arabians in Dressage series Champion Purebred levels 3 and 4
2021 Flying Horse Arabians in Dressage 3rd South Island Hi points
2018 Top 3 Purebred Gelding New Zealand National Arabian Championships
2021 South Island Reserve Champion Purebred Arabian Paced and Mannered
2021 South Island Reserve Champion Senior Purebred Arabian Gelding
2021 South Island Hi Points Purebred Gelding
2021 South Island Hi Points Champion of Show
2022 South Island Champion Purebred Arabian Paced and Mannered
2022 South Island Champion Novice Ridden Purebred Arabian
2022 South Island Champion Open Ridden Arabian
2022 South Island Supreme Ridden Arabian
2022 South Island Hi Points Purebred Gelding
2022 South Island Hi Points Champion of Show