Sandra’s Horsey Pages
AHAB, A TEN MILLION DOLLAR HORSE
Published with permission of Arabian Horse Express
Imagine a ten million dollar promise riding on a horse. What kind of horse would bring such a price? It’s the horse Shalene Taylor of Independence, Missouri bought. The horse is named Ahab, a sixteen-year-old gelding. Shalene recalls, “I never imagined the chestnut colored Arabian I purchased from a farmer’s family for a trail riding horse represented millions of dollars invested and lost. To me, Ahab has the intelligence and stamina I admire in Arabians. That’s what I value in the horse, but there was more to that horse than I realized.
Ahab carries a big price tag. His story is worth millions of dollars, and the millions vanished before Leland Shumate, a farmer in Warrensburg, Missouri, would buy a sickly colt at a Platte City, Missouri auction. The skinny colt grew into Ahab, a horse valued only for what he could do for the farmer.
Over 8,000 miles from Missouri is Jordan. Ahab’s heritage is there. Ahab is a Jordanian Arabian. Ahab could be one of the last Jordanian Arabians in this country. What I know about Ahab comes from JOR-AB Journals representing the Jordanian Arabian history as written by Carolyn McCune, whose father, Arthur F. Lohrey, introduced the Jordanian Arabian to America in 1977. Lohrey’s plan to breed Jordanian Arabians in this country started four years before Ahab was born.
Ahab’s history begins when the Arthur F. Lohrey family was travelling in Jordan where Arthur was reviewing possible locations for government contract housing. Since the Lohreys were horse enthusiasts, they were eager to attend the Royal Race Track events in the city of Amman.
Carolyn writes in her 1986 JOR-AB Journal how her father had a dream at the race track when he saw the ‘beauty, spirit, and stamina’ of the racing Arabians. She described the dream as a business venture. Her father could have his lifetime chance of establishing the largest Arabian breeding facility in America promoting the ‘superb’ abilities of the Royal Jordanian Arabians. The dream would begin with a partnership agreement.
King Hussein’s uncle, H.H. Sherif Nasser Bin Jamil, owned the racing horses Lohrey admired as the ‘true’ desert bred Arabians ‘glorifying’ the breed. According to Carolyn’s report, the two men forged an agreement. Lohrey would invest in breeding ranch complexes based on the promissory note of ten million dollars King Hussein’s uncle would deliver. Both parties would prosper from the introduction and sale of Jordanian Arabians in the American Arabian market.
Carolyn called her first Journal entries as the ‘Birth of a Dream.’ Later, her Journal story twists the dream into a nightmare for her family. By May 1977 Lohrey selected 142 horses for shipment to America. After necessary quarantine, the horses would travel onto one of Lohrey’s complex sites called Whispering Downs in Olathe, Kansas. Lohrey had taken care of all investments concerning the complex because he had the ten million promissory note as collateral.
What could go wrong with such a deal? Some of the horses came into the country infected with a highly contagious virus spread by blood contamination originating from tick bites. Lohrey became responsible for the expensive consequences of trying to save the horses, and he couldn’t cope with more diseased horses coming in on two other shipments. He had to cancel future shipments from Jordan, and with only eighty-seven horses accepted by quarantine officials for travel to Kansas in June, he was worried.
Carolyn explained how more bad news frittered their dream away. The Jordanian stud records never came, and without them possible acceptance in the American Arabian registry would not be achieved.
However, what destroyed their dream came swiftly. After the horses arrived in Kansas, a veterinarian took a routine blood test and found the virus again. That discovery led to the demise of eleven horses. Also during July, Carolyn inserts how news from Jordan sealed their fate. The promissory note became an extension of six months. The date to fulfill the note came and went. All of Lohrey’s attempts to contact Jordan were unanswered. Carolyn said her father faced bank loans reaching two million dollars due to ranch complex expenses.
The Mission State Bank & Trust Company of Mission, Kansas basically owned the horses since it was becoming apparent Lohrey couldn’t repay the loans. However, bank officials permitted the Lohrey family to manage the horses at Carolyn’s facilities called Circle L Ranch in Camdenton, Missouri. The complexes were gone.
By 1980, the remaining horses would also be gone. They went to auction because of the FDIC takeover of the bank during the era’s saving and loan management crisis. The FDIC was recouping losses.
The real losers at the auction were the horses. A KANSAS CITY STAR reporter, Bryan Armstrong, titled a feature ”Killer Prices’ paid for horses at auction; condition draws pity.’ He described the 111 horses at auction as pitiful with open sores, ribs showing, and sick. Armstrong reported how many there told him most of the horses were selling at killer prices for dog food.
The blame for the horses’ condition was accusations from all those involved. Armstrong detailed the FDIC viewpoints and the denials of the auction officials. Everyone seemed to blame everyone else. The Lohrey family could only watch the disaster that once was their dream.
Ahab went to the auction block as a stud colt called Lot No. 107, located in Pen No. 11, out of Lot 106 mare. A relative of Leland went to the auction and bought Leland a colt. The colt was under-nourished and full of worms. The terms of the auction was ‘as is.’ Auction officials would not recognize the Jordanian registry or other information from the Lohrey family. The information offered to bidders were determined as ‘strictly and solely the buyer’s judgement…’ and ‘solely the decision of the buyer at his risk.’
Leland received the Jordanian Arabian Horse Registry of America Certificate of Registration that he had a colt born March 1980 named in the Arabic language as Wali, sired by Amman and foaled by Suad, a purebred imported Jor-Ab of the Hashemite ingdom of Jordan.
Because of my purchase of Ahab from Leland’s family following Leland’s death at age 75, I have the registry as well as correspondence Leland received from the Jordanian Arabian Horse Association of America. The Lohrey family and others who purchased Jordanian Arabians united after the auction and formed the association and registry in an attempt to preserve and promote the awareness of the Jordanian bloodlines.
However, Leland’s JOR-AB Journals, published by Carolyn, and association’s news and letters do not extend beyond 1988. I have attempted to acquire more information about those who may still own horses with the Jordanian Arabian bloodlines, but without responses I believe Ahab may be one of the last or the last Jordanian Arabian in Missouri.
I think Ahab is what that ten million dollar agreement was all about. With Ahab’s spirit and style of movement, I try to imagine the profitable future the Lohrey family saw in those desert Arabians they admired at the Royal Race Track. If only they could have seen what was to come. Only one horse would tell their story: a spindly colt a farmer bought to raise and train to do farm work.
Ahab waits patiently for me to saddle him. After I mount, Ahab is ready to go along any trail I choose in Blue-Grey Park of Kansas City, Missouri’s eastern Jackson County area. He seems to know what I want him to do before I give him directions.
I try to imagine the how proud the Lohrey family would be if they knew what happened to one of their horses. But, they had to lose everything for me to have what I wanted in a horse. I also think of Leland who cared for Ahab and needed the horse to check cattle and fences for 15 years. No longer can the true value of Ahab be measured in dollars.
Ahab’s Arabic name of Wali is translated as ‘protecting friend.’ Maybe, that’s what I am: protecting my friend, Ahab, the last Jordanian Arabian worth more than money can buy to me, to a farmer, and to the Lohrey dream that came true for one Jordanian Arabian.”