The Story of Claverdon Stud
text by Claudia Darius

Over 50 years ago Claverdon Stud was formed by John and John Ratcliff. One week after the birth of their third child Gillian, the first Arabian foal was born. If only they knew where this was going to take them 54 years on and three generations later. Claverdon is a thriving stud farm boasting clients from all over the world.
The Stud is currently run by Joanne Lowe, the eldest daughter of Joan and John Ratcliff.

There are approximately 50 horses based permanently at the farm. Many clients entrust their broodmares to Claverdon for foaling and the raising of the young stock. Claverdon has 13 broodmares of their own and also has leased a few mares for breeding. These broodmares are carefully selected for their pedigree, looks and temperament. The Stud breeding decisions are made between Joanne and her youngest son Chris. Joanne looks for certain qualities within the Arabian horse and has an ideal type that she would like to achieve. One thing Joanne does know is that breeding takes time and  that some horses may not reach their best until years later.  To be successful you need to be the first to try something new. This applies to any business. The stud is always on the look out for new young stallions to use on their mares and is prepared to experiment a little.

Joanne spoke to me that when assessing broodmares and potential stallions the first factor is that she must like the overall picture of the horse. “I like Arab horses to be horses and not just pretty ponies. I look at the good features and the faults of each horse and make sure that they would compliment each other by means of their foals.  Often one sees the same reoccurring faults in some lines of breeding.  I do have certain pet hates on conformation and probably the list is rather long!  I think that there is too much emphasis placed on the head of the Arab horse and if breeders continue to breed only for these extreme heads we will eventually destroy the breed.  The basic structure of the horses is critical to the success of the breed and a good head is a bonus.”

Joanne is a well respected ‘A’ show judge who has judged all over the world. I asked her if there were any aspects of the European judging system that she would like to change. Her answer probably reflects the opinions of many judges.  They are working in a very narrow band of marks which makes it difficult to give a true evaluation of the horses and since the standard of horses has improved so much the marks are becoming very close. She would also like shows to be able to split the categories up, into head and then neck and shoulder. This could give judges the opportunity to reward horses with good structure.  She has just retired after 35 years of ridden judging. This has given Joanne the perfect opportunity to make assessments of horses from the ground and from the back of a horse. She pointed out that you soon learn to appreciate some conformational aspects when you ride many different horses. For example horses with short necks and straight shoulders are not good to ride.

Joanne feels that the shows have changed considerably over the years, and the quality of horses winning at title or ‘A’ shows has increased dramatically. It is very clear that the show ring is dominated by a certain few stallions, especially Marwan Al Shaqab and Gazal Al Shaqab offspring.  This must be any breeders dream to own two stallions that have not only won in the show ring but produced winners at such a level. Although some stallions may not be to everyone’s taste respect has to be had for those that can create a history of their own. This goes for the likes of Padron who sired so many amazing offspring.  Claverdon Stud feels very proud that they had a small part to play in the history of this special horse.  Mr Peeters from Belgium visited the British National Championships at the invitation of Joanne’s mother Joan Ratcliff in 1969.  Mr Peeters had already purchased a couple of horses from the stud and was extremely happy with them, so when he saw Serinda come off the lorry he immediately decided to buy her. The foal, Serinda, then won the foal championship. At the same time he also bought Bright Wings from the UK.  The first foal Serinda produced was Odessa who was the dam of the legendary Padron. Although there is only a small amount of this bloodline left at Claverdon Stud through Cinders, the stud has a nice proportion of Padron Psyche blood through the mare Psyductive.  This mare was originally purchased from America by a client and has now been purchased by Claverdon and has been bred to Psytadel for a double Psyche foal.

Looking to the future new mares have been selected to give the farm a wider gene pool. There is now a group of brood mares to be very proud of.  Joanne said that they were very fortunate to buy the lovely mare Shazadika from Belgium two years ago. She is the maternal half sister to Bess Faiza. There is a lot of anticipation in the expected foal from her by WH Justice. Another mare purchased from Belgium is Ess First Lady. A truly beautiful mare who has produced two fantastic colts, one by Luminar Amdeus and one by Ezz Ezain. Joanne and Chris both feel very strongly that the young Ezz Ezain colt has a very big future in front of him. Claverdon also imported horses from the EAO in the seventies, most notably Kais 1, out of Bint Om El Saad making him maternal half sister to Serenity Sonbalah. Claverdon has a strong core of Egyptian broodmares that all trace back to the original imports from the EAO., Joanne is extremely pleased with the Egyptian mares they have crossed with stallions from America and Germany. By using young Egyptian stallions such as Laheeb Al Nasser, Shahim Al Nakeeb and Ezz Ezain on these mares the future looks very promising.

Claverdon horses have always been bred to compete in many disciplines with Joan Ratcliff being instrumental in the start of Arab racing in the UK. She also became  the leading breeder in the UK and Europe for many years in racing. Joanne herself has been a jockey on the race track and competed in long distance rides including the tough Arab Marathon. She has also competed in eventing, show riding, show jumping and now hunts in the winter.

Claverdon Stud is based in the beautiful rolling hills of Warwickshire in the heart of England. The stud has 50 hectares of pasture for the horses and 33 loose boxes. The added facility of indoor and outdoor arenas means Claverdon can prepare horses all year round. They occasionally take in special show horses for preparation and have had much success over the past few years with horses like MA Bint Azadik who was recently marketed to Athab Stud in Saudi Arabia along with the remarkable moving FL Sayawan.

Looking at Claverdon it is obviously a family business with Joanne and Chris doing most of the work on the stud. You can see that every horse is loved and cared for. The farm accounts and maintenance are done by Joanne’s husband Philip.

Joanne believes that the best way to keep horses healthy and happy is to keep them in groups as in a herd.  Horses are very sociable animals and enjoy company.  Most of them live out all year round.  Mares and foals are stabled at night and the weanlings are put loose in a big barn.  Chris explained to me that they like to keep their hands on the day to day running of the stud to ensure everything is carried out as they like.  Their beautiful home and farm is a must to visit and I know that you will always be given a warm welcome.


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