Tuesday, 17 August 2010 08:23

Armageddon's Lord Elijah

Written by  Lynn Telleen
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INTO THE FUTURE

The Belgian breed was arguably "modernized" by Korry's Captain. The Percherons had the late M.G.'s Prince. What about the Clydes, you ask? They've had a recent one, too. His name was Armageddon's Lord Elijah. Considering the size of the Clyde population, he may not have had quite as visible an impact on his race as did Captain and Prince, but his influence has been, and remains, significant.

Michael and Cheri Moleski of Bronson, Michigan, have been in the Clyde business for a quarter century, registering 131 foals thus far. Their 92-acre farm in south-central Michigan is home to around 20 head of horses, where they produce five to seven foals each year. Very active in all aspects of the industry, Michael has served as president and director for both the state draft horse association and for the Clydesdale Breeders of the U.S.A. Cheri has served as secretary and president of the former and is currently a director for the latter. In addition, they show their animals at several of the larger venues each year.

In spite of the modest size of their operation, the Moleskis have achieved a great amount of success. In addition to winning a respectable number of All-American honors over the years, they've won the Premier Exhibitor Award at the National Clydesdale Show a staggering 13 times, and the award for "Best Three Mares Owned by Exhibitor" 14 times-both records that will be tough to top.

In October of 1989, the Moleskis bought a Harry Priest-bred mare from Kathy Jackson, Stouffville, Ontario, Canada. She stood just 16.3 hh as a coming 3-year-old, but Michael says the mare carried herself very well. "We needed a lead mare for our mare four back then," he recalls. "We broke her and then bred her [to their home-raised herd sire, Armageddon's Lord Jacob]. The next year we won the mare four at the Michigan Great Lakes International, with Peggie Ann in the lead, so she worked out for us in all ways."

Jacob, the bay horse they bred Peggie Ann to was, in Michael's words, "the best breeding stallion we have raised." His full brother, Armageddon's Lord Abraham, enjoyed a good show career with Dave Carson. Abraham was reserve grand champion gelding at the National Clyde Show. A full sister, Eve, was supreme champion at the National and remains Moleskis' best brood mare today. Five of her foals have been named champions at the breed's national show in Milwaukee.

"Jacob's sire, Solomon's Commander," he continues, "was a huge brown/black roan horse with a snip on his nose. He had a black leg and a bum hind leg, which didn't matter for a breeding horse. According to Clyde Director Jim Emmons, Commander was the best-footed stallion he ever saw in the breed up to that time. He was our best breeding horse. Unfortunately, he died early of a weird liver disease."

"VERY COMMON"

Over the years, the Moleskis have ushered many new breeders into the Clydesdale fraternity. Among them are Martin & Jennifer English of Tipp City, Ohio. The Englishes have been a part of the Clydesdale business since purchasing their first horse from the Moleskis in 1987 after being referred there by another long-time member, Polly Thomas. Martin has served as president of the Clyde Breeders of the U.S.A. for three years, as director for ten and has served on several committees. He is also a veterinarian and has his own practice, where Jennifer is also employed. While Martin is in charge of the breeding and foaling end of their stable, Jennifer handles raising, showing and selling the foals with the help of farrier and showman Dean Woodbury. She has taken their horses to the National Clydesdale Show, the Ohio, Indiana & Michigan State Fairs and the Michigan Great Lakes International [MGLI].

In 1990, the Englishes were in Michigan where they took a liking to Peggie Ann and the Moleskis offered to sell them the mare. Martin remembers, "We had previously purchased a couple of mares from them, but we were not quite ready for another one at that point, and so turned down their offer." On January 26, 1991, about 19 days past her due date (a trait that the mare has continued every year) Peggie Ann foaled a gangly black stud colt. So ordinary was he in appearance that "very common" was Cheri Moleski's description of the little guy. But that would change in time. Armageddon's Lord Elijah was here.

"That April," Martin continues, "the first foal we produced (or almost produced) was stillborn. Shortly thereafter, the Moleskis invited us to their farm and offered to sell us half-interest in Elijah. He was slightly smaller than another colt they had, Armageddon's Lord Esau, who was about the same age. Michael & Cheri decided they would show Esau, so Elijah could move south. We took them up on the offer." Eli was transferred to the partnership on May 19, 1991. Since he wasn’t weaned, mare and foal relocated to Ohio. The two families co-owned the colt for four months, then the Englishes assumed sole ownership. They also bought Peggie Ann, already bred back to Jacob. As Martin put it, "We saw her potential as a brood mare and she was just a great mare to be around. She still is at age 20."

Martin and Jennifer showed the weanling at several shows that year. He garnered 1st place at the Ohio State Fair (the Clydesdale Eastern Regional Show that year), 1st at the Indiana State Fair, 3rd at the Michigan State Fair, 3rd at the Michigan Great Lakes International and first at several local county fairs-not a bad start.

While Junior was off seeing the world for the first time, his mother was at home with a full sibling growing inside her. On March 14, 1992, Peggie delivered another stud colt. Unlike Eli, English Tartan Piper was a bay and before he was a week old, Keith and Kim Mann, Botkins, Ohio, stopped by to take a look. Keith wanted a chance to own him. Then, as summer approached, Dale Burger, then manager of the Clydesdale operation at Grant’s Farm, dropped by and also expressed interest in Piper for his employer. "We told him Keith had first choice on Piper," recalls Martin.

"We were left with a dilemma that spring," he continues. "Peggie had produced two great colts by Jacob. We had sold our stallion the year before and had not replaced him yet. The Moleskis did not like to breed outside mares, especially with a foal at side. We asked anyway. Since almost every mare they owned was closely related to Jacob, his Armageddon breeding prospects were limited. Their answer was to send Jacob to Ohio on lease. We could breed our mares, one for them, and outside mares at our discretion. And so it happened. At the end of the breeding season, we called Michael and Cheri to ask when they wanted Jacob back. It was mid-June and the Moleskis had a ready answer-he was already home. They explained it made more sense for Jacob to stay with us as he still had limited breeding opportunity in Bronson. They would sell him to us with the option to breed an occasional mare. After some discussion, we decided that we could sell the two colts, purchase Jacob and thereby own the whole factory." Piper left for his new home in Botkins, Ohio, within a couple of weeks.

HUNTING FOR HUNTINGTON

Cathy Zahm of Huntington, Indiana, is well-known not only in Clyde circles, but throughout the draft horse industry as a top trainer, fitter and clinician. She has frequently topped several public auctions with her consignments and has hosted a successful clinic for years. The Englishes are close friends and bring their stock to Cathy for breaking. Such was the case with the yearling stud, Armageddon's Lord Elijah, whom Cathy had been ground training that spring.

Northeast Indiana is definitely heavy horse country. Grandview Clydesdales, one of the largest and certainly one of the most successful Clyde breeding farms on the continent, is located not far from Cathy's. Owned by the Daryl and Lorraine Cobbs family, the operation consists of well over a hundred head of horses. For several years, they have fielded a highly competitive gelding six. In fact, theirs is the reigning World Champion Clyde six and they won the North American Six-Horse-Hitch Classic Series over all breeds in 2004. They've also shown very successfully in the line classes, both geldings and breeding stock. They own and stand up to five stallions annually, from which they ship semen and have been doing so for 15 years. They annually raise from 20 to 30 foals, which should give you a pretty good notion of how large their operation really is.

Huge supporters and promoters of the breed, the Cobbs have bought and sold over 160 head of Clydes at public auctions alone. They have consistently been both buyers and sellers of the top end at the National Clyde Sale, including selling the auction-high mares in 2001 and 2004 ($32,000 [then a record] & $22,000, respectively). Daryl was also a director of the Clyde Breeders of the U.S.A. for many years.

They have also been instrumental in the implementation of semen shipping practices for the Clyde breed, and were first to successfully produce a Clyde foal via frozen semen. Daryl and Lorraine's son, Shannon and his wife, Justine, manage the horse end of their farm, which is obviously a pretty big end.

Granted, a lot of introductions, but all were necessary to proceed with Eli's story. It was at Cathy Zahm's that Shannon Cobbs first saw the black yearling stallion, and took a liking to him. Cathy suggested that he call the Englishes, which he did. Within a week, a deal was struck to co-own the colt through mid-August, since the Englishes had entered him at the National Clyde Show and Ohio and Indiana State Fairs. After that, Grandview would assume full ownership of him-in time for the fall shows.

It proved a beneficial transaction for everyone involved. At the 1992 Ohio State Fair, Eli was the 1st place yearling stallion and Jr. Champion. At the National Clyde Show in Milwaukee, he was 1st, Jr. Champion, Reserve Grand Champion, 1st Yearling Futurity Stallion and named "Best American-Bred Stallion." At both the Indiana State Fair and Heart of Illinois Fair in Peoria (and four county fairs), he was 1st, Jr. Champion and Grand Champion. Then, on August 27, 1992, he was transferred to Daryl and Lorraine Cobbs.

Under his new ownership, Eli's streak continued. At the Michigan State Fair, he was 1st, Jr. Champion and Reserve Grand. At the Keystone International in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, he took 1st and Reserve Jr. Champion. At the MGLI, the colt stood 2nd in class.

At Grandview, the young horse continued to blossom. Campaigned again as a two-year-old (in 1993), he went undefeated in the U.S., snagging Jr. Champion honors at the National, the Keystone, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and MGLI, and Grand Championships at the Keystone, Indiana and Ohio. That's quite a record for any horse, let alone a 2-year-old. Unfortunately for Eli, the All-American Contest did not start until the 1994 season for his breed. Had it been in existence a year earlier, he surely would have been in strong contention for its top honors.

With the conclusion of that show season, it was determined a good time to forget ribbons and focus on foals. As a three-year-old, the Cobbs began collecting Eli and shipping both chilled and frozen semen. Shannon reflects, "His show record spoke for itself and everywhere he went, he was the one to beat. The only regret that I have is not showing him later in his life. He won so many honors and awards at such a young age that I just never brought him back out. I wish now that people could have seen him in his prime at age seven or eight, winning championships."

BREEDING CAREER

Eli's first foals hit the ground in the spring of 1995. Though there were only eight, the pudding was chuck full of proof. The stud foal, Brassring's Commander Reno, took first in class at Ohio, Indiana and the MGLI, and was later named All-American stud foal. Grandview Sir Edwin, another stud foal, stood 2nd at Ohio, Indiana and the National Show and was ultimately named 1st Honorable Mention All-American. Grandview Lady Elivira stood second in her filly foal classes at both the National Show and Ohio, and ended the year with a 2nd Honorable Mention in the All-American Contest. A third stud foal, Benson of Caledonia, stood 1st in class at the Keystone. And yet another stud foal from that crop, Grandview Sir El Capitan, was purchased as a yearling by Don Irwin, Didsbury, Alberta, and has spent his entire life in western Canada, earning Reserve All-American aged stallion honors in 1998. "Capitan has thrown a great number of quality females and geldings that are all over the U.S.," notes Shannon. "His foals have brought some of the highest prices at the National Clydesdale Sale over the past five years, especially for black horses. His sons have made a great addition to the hitch world helping outfits like ours and Express Clydesdales win numerous honors."

The Cobbs advertised Eli more and more, heralding the 20 championships he'd racked up in just two years and the fact that he was siring "winning foals." They were also standing two other stallions (one of which, incidentally, was half-brother and former stablemate, Armageddon's Lord Esau).

Seven foals followed in 1996, then 16 in 1997, including Grandview Sir Goliath-a stud foal out of Bunny Footprint 2nd. Campaigned as a yearling in 1998, Goliath earned 1st Honorable Mention All-American honors. A filly from the '97 crop, Grandview Lady Gwenivier, was the 2nd place filly foal at Ohio.

The 1998 crop was the biggest yet with 21 registered offspring. Among them was a stud foal out of Jewel's Millie MC, named 2S Sir Barnabus, and bred by Charles and Pat McMahen, Houston, Texas. Shown as a foal, he was 1st at the Minnesota State Fair, 3rd at the National Show and 3rd at the MGLI. But as a yearling, Barnabus took 2nd at the National and 1st, Jr. Champion and Reserve Grand Champion at the first World Clydesdale Show in Kanata, Ontario, Canada. He finished the year with 1st Honorable Mention honors in the All-American Contest. His 2-year-old year was even better with a Grand Champion title at Minnesota, 2nd at the National, and ending with a Reserve All-American title.

1999 was what vintners call a "good year" for Armageddon's Lord Elijah. Max of Star Hill, a February stud foal out of Fair Chance Mandy, was shown to 1st at the National Show (Sr. stud foal), Indiana, Keystone and MGLI ... good enough to earn him an All-American title. Grandview Eli's Icon, a stud foal out of Hilly Acres Jenny II, was 1st at the National (Jr. stud foal) and Can-Am, and 2nd at the Keystone.

Two of Eli's best female offspring were born this same year. Grandview Eli's Indy, out of Grandview Lady Elegance, did not ignite the world as a foal, taking 3rd at the Keystone and 6th at the National. However, starting with her yearling year, she was named Reserve All-American three years in a row standing behind her half-sister, Grandview Eli's Intrigue. Intrigue (another '99-model), a bay filly out of Zorra Highland Fancy's Fantasia, is probably the most well-known of the Eli daughters. A "late-bloomer" like Indy, this mare won the All-American title four consecutive years, starting as a 2-year-old (2001). Currently owned by Great American Clydesdales, Orland, Indiana, Intrigue has also proven herself as a brood mare, raising a filly, Great American Dolly Madison, that sold as a yearling for $28,000 at the 2005 National Sale.

On a side note, 1999 not only brought 18 registered foals by Eli, but also the World Clydesdale Show. It was an eye-opening experience to Clyde breeders in terms of Elijah. Besides Barnabus's Reserve Grand Champion stallion title, Eli foals took firsts in the Jr. stud foal class (Grandview Eli's Icon) and Sr. stud foal class (Max of Star Hill), and 2nd in the Jr. filly foal class (Grandview Eli's Indy). His Get of Sire stood second out of ten. Not bad for an 8-year-old whose oldest offspring were just 4-year-olds.

Perhaps Eli's finest (certainly the best-known) stud foal came from his 2000 crop, Grandview Eli's Just-in-Step, out of Grandview Lady Fascination. "Justin" has been described as a "mirror image" of his sire, possibly having a more upright front end. He was shown to Reserve All-American honors as a foal, followed by two consecutive All-American titles and another Reserve title as a 3-year-old in 2003. The Cobbs have retained this horse for a sire. "He is our main stallion at Grandview today and took over right where his dad left off," says Shannon. "Even though Justin is a young horse, his foals have already made their mark in both the show ring and the breeding barn. Justin has given us some great bay and black mares that will make a huge impression in the show ring in the next couple of years. He has also given us numerous young geldings just waiting to have their chance to go to the show ring someday. But maybe his most well-known son is a huge bay horse named Glenbuchat, currently owned by Budweiser. After being shown to Grand Champion honors at the Illinois State Fair by his previous owner, Linda Harmon-Dodge, Budweiser showed this great horse last fall and winter to Jr. Champion at Toronto and then Champion at Denver. He was then returned to St. Louis for the breeding season." A 2-year-old Justin daughter, Grandview Justin's Nala, sold for $7,000 at this year's National Clyde Sale.

The annual addition of offspring by Eli increased steadily, topping out in 2001 with 32 head. That same year, the Cobbs increased the horse's service fee to $1,500 (it had been $600 since 1994). Twenty-nine Eli foals were registered in 2002, and Shannon upped the service fee again. This time, he got serious and placed the highest one in the industry on his horse ... $2,500.

Looking back, Shannon says, "I decided to raise his stud fee to $2,500 for the following reasons: First, in my opinion he was the best breeding stallion in the breed and he was worth it; Second, I didn’t want to take him off the market but I wanted to eliminate so many mares breeding to him; and Third, we were having such great success selling his offspring, that if we raised his stud fee, it would greatly reduce the number of foals each year. If you wanted an Eli foal, you were either going to pay a heavy stud fee or buy a foal from us."

Others might be inclined to think that decision would kill Eli's business, but there were just five fewer foals (24) registered in 2003. In 2004, there were a total of 18, then five in both 2005 and 2006, bringing the grand total to 200. Of those, the Cobbs family registered a staggering 103. Confirming just how large their operation is, those foals were out of 40 different mares! The top-producing mares for them were Hilly Acres Jenny II and Westgate Fashion Lady (featured brood mare, Spring 2003 DHJ), both with six Eli foals apiece. Bunny Footprint 2nd, Zorra Highland Fancy's Fantasia, Grandview Lady Elegance, Grandview Lady Fascination, Banga's Nineties Beauty and Grandview Lady Faye all raised five foals each by the stallion. There were three mares that raised four, including Grandview Snickers, the exciting hitch mare that died relatively young.

HARNESS GELDINGS

With their undeniable ring presence, the gelded sons of Elijah may be his most noticeable contribution as a breeding horse. As Clyde breeder Steve Jones puts it, "They have big motors, even bigger hearts and that 'Let's Rumble' attitude." Shannon couldn't agree more. "The most exciting part of what Eli did for us are the geldings," he says. "Even though Eli is gone now, his sons are just starting to amaze people in the driving ring. I have never been so excited about a young group of geldings as I am of our bunch. Even though we have been in a rebuilding mode the past two seasons, it is all going to be worth it. In 2007, we will have raised eight of the ten geldings that will be in our hitch. Grandview Eli’s Laser was in our wheel in 2006. He was crowned Grand Champion gelding at the National (and Best American-Bred Gelding) and Ohio State Fair, and was Reserve at Indiana. His full brother, Grandview Eli’s Maverick, will be next to him in 2007 in the wheel of our hitch. This exciting pair of 4 & 5-year-olds is just the beginning. We will also have two full brothers to Grandview Eli’s Just-in-Step in the hitch as well-Grandview Eli’s Mark of Excellence will be in the left lead, while Grandview Eli’s Lasting Impression will be in the swing. Next to Impression in the left swing is Grandview Eli’s Julio. We also have a half-brother to the famous Grandview Sir Havoc gelding (2001 All-American gelding & Best American-Bred gelding at the 2001 National) that will be in the lead named Grandview Eli’s Leverage. With a few of the spares being home-raised Eli sons as well, this will be the best bunch of horses that we have ever owned. When this young bunch of geldings is done winning, they will be the true legacy of Armageddon's Lord Elijah."

Great American Eli's Abe Lincoln, a 2003-model, holds the distinction of being the highest-selling Clyde gelding at public auction. He sold at this year's National Clyde Sale for $30,000, from Great American Clydesdales to Pat and Tanya Connors, New Lisbon, Wisconsin. He then won the 3 & under gelding class at the 2006 National Show.

Other stables that have benefitted from Eli geldings include Wolf Mound Farms of Paris, Illinois (whose lead team were Eli sons), Ebony Clydesdales, Tomah, Wisconsin (also with a pair) and Express Clydesdales of Yukon, Oklahoma, who have a dozen Eli grandsons (all by Grandview El Capitan). 2005 GRANDVIEW PRODUCTION/REDUCTION SALE

In June of 2005, the Cobbs held a production and reduction sale at their farm, offering nearly 50 head of home-raised stock. They had been retaining colts for a number of years to make it work. Aside from the desire to hold a select auction, Shannon admits, "Eli was a huge factor in our decision to hold a production sale. We sold 24 daughters or sons of his, plus ten grandsons or granddaughters in our sale. The high-selling mare, stallion and gelding were all offspring of Eli." The high-selling mare was Grandview Eli’s Olivia, a filly foal who sold for $22,000. The second high-selling mare was Grandview Eli’s Morgan (another Eli daughter) who sold for $18,000. Bottom line: It was a huge success.

END OF THE LINE

Eli was collected on a frigid morning last February, then put back into his stall. Two hours later, he collapsed and died from a presumed heart attack. The horse was insured, but Shannon thought so much of him, he was opposed to having him cut up in a necropsy-a requirement for collecting the premium. He forfeited the payment, choosing instead to bury the horse in a place of honor next to his barn.

That early in the breeding season, Eli's death came with obvious consequences ... Only two mares are carrying his offspring for 2007: Westgate Fashion Lady and her daughter, Grandview Lady Elegance. Since the Cobbs have retained some 600 straws (aproximately 120 breedings) of Eli's frozen semen, these highly-anticipated foals won't "necessarily" be the last of the list.

For the time being, Shannon plans to utilize the semen on just two mares ... the two that have crossed best with Eli, Grandview Lady Elegance and Grandview Lady Faye. Some years from now, he says he'll put more of it to use, when its value has increased.

Shannon reflects, "I think Eli's greatest contribution to the breed will not be seen for a number of years, and it will be the production of hitch horses from his daughters, sons, granddaughters and grandsons. I truly believe that the Clyde breed will look back 20 years from now and be in amazement of what one stallion did for hitch horses. A lot of today's Clyde hitch horses lack size, quality, motion, headset and mainly heart. Eli was a horse that truly possessed all of these qualities."

A small, gangly, unimpressive foal, Armageddon's Lord Elijah didn't stay little for long. On his first birthday he measured an even 16 hh. By the time the 1992 show season began, his yearling year, he was considerably taller and easily the largest in his classes. At maturity, Shannon described him as such: "Eli was a nice size stallion that looked the part of a breeding horse. He stood 18 hh at the withers and always looked bigger because of his headset. He had a great hind leg and the nicest hock I have ever seen on a draft horse. He had great hind quarters that flowed to his mid-section. His chest was very broad and his massive neck spoke for itself. Eli had the kindest eye and the most beautiful head and ear on a horse that I will probably ever own. His front and hind legs were just beautiful to look at, even in his older years. He never had any swelling of any kind, ever! His feather dragged the ground by four or five inches and he had hair galore."

Artificial insemination and the shipping of chilled semen was quickly becoming the rage when the Cobbs acquired Eli. His breeder, Michael Moleski, concludes that "Eli's semen was probably the best for shipping that our breed has seen." It was what he refers to as "the right time." In the 1998 Clydesdale News, Grandview's ad noted a single collection from Eli was shipped to five different states and resulted in five pregnancies. The combination of shipability, viability and opportunity contributed to the inordinately high success rate of his matings. "So much so," Michael adds, "that it transformed the Clydesdale breeding industry." The number of registered foals by Eli (200) is likely a record number that will stand for many years. His service fee is not likely to be topped for some time either.

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