California Riding Magazine • March, 2013

Horse Of The Month:
Nugghat VF
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

by Kim F. Miller

It was the best kind of "bugging:" An acquaintance reaching out to a person in need.

Cindy Hodges was that person in need when her husband passed away in the midst of a second bout with testicular cancer. He was only 43. In the aftermath, Cindy resigned from her position as a board member in a San Diego County equestrian neighborhood. It was all too much. But a persistent neighbor kept "kind of bugging me" to come spend time with her horses.

The neighbor was Georgia Thompson and the horses were Arabians. Cindy initially declined the invitation. Even though she and her husband Mark had moved into a horsey area, they were not "horse people." A few bad encounters with a grumpy Quarter Horse as a kid had left a
bad impression.

"These horses are different," Georgia told Cindy. "They're Arabians." When Cindy finally accepted the invitation, the bond she established with them, especially a mare named Kharisma, became her lifeline through loss. She went over to pet the horses at first, then to groom them. She cried a lot with them, she learned to ride on trail and she saw a light at the end of the tunnel. But even today, nine years later, she's surprised where that tunnel has taken her.

She is now the proud owner of Nugghat VF, new kid on the block of the Arabian liberty scene and the sire of her Stallion Road Ranch in Temecula. He earned his first title at the Stallion Spectacular in 2008, then took the larger world by storm by earning the liberty championships against the toughest competition at the Arabian Breeders World Cup in Las Vegas in 2009.

He keeps winning. The championship in HorseShow.com's Fall Liberty Classic was followed by another at the big Arabian Breeders Final in Scottsdale, AZ, last fall.

As the name implies, liberty classes involve letting the horse free in the show arena. Rules can vary by event, but typically there's a two-minute window for the horse to strut his stuff. How well the horse embodies classic Arabian characteristics is part of the judging criteria, but mainly it's how well does the horse show himself off. "Nugs" is off the charts in that department. Some horses just gallop the whole time, but Nugs loves to flaunt his dramatic high-hocked trot and to stop periodically and stare at the crowd. "It's as if to say, 'Do you see me?'" Cindy laughs. "He really feels good about himself and it shows. He has a super personality."

A No Show Initially

There was little evidence of that showmanship when he arrived on the trailer at Cindy's home stable in Temecula, where she moved after Mark's passing. After getting hooked on Arabians through her neighbor Georgia's generosity, Cindy began researching the breed. She learned about bloodlines and, in the process of visiting many ranches and looking at many horses, found her way to Ventura Farms in the Los Angeles area's Hidden Valley. When she later learned of the renowned breeding program's online auction, she logged in and found two yearlings "that I kind of liked."

She was surprised to see horses being auctioned Ebay style, but jumped right in. Cindy bid on and got Bella VF, but someone else outbid her on Nugghat VF. She signed off pleased to have gotten one of the Arabians she had her eye on until the phone rang half an hour later. It was Ventura Farms' breeding manager: The Nugghat VF purchase had fallen through and did Cindy want to buy him for the amount of her last bid?

"Well, yeah…." Cindy says with lingering echoes of incredulity.
When the horses arrived a few days later, Bella lived up to her name, which means "beautiful" in Italian. But Nugs, not so much. "He looked like a mule," Cindy recalls. Typical of young grays, he was brown, and he lacked presence. "'Oh, well,' I thought. 'That's what you get buying a horse online,'" Cindy told herself. She was comforted, too, by the fact that both horses were modestly priced. Nugs was cute and very well mannered and Cindy was pleased with her small herd.

About a year later, Nugs was enjoying arena turn-out when "he suddenly came into his own. He showed off his beautiful trot all of the sudden and I thought, 'Where did that come from?'" Around that time, Nugs had just begun performance training while Cindy continued her research into the breed. She'd come across the sporthorse-in-hand division and proposed entering Nugs as a way to get judges' opinion of his conformation and characteristics. Entering a class A show, Nugs finished reserve champion in the halter and sporthorse-in-hand divisions, which qualified him for the Arabian Horse Associations' Region 1 Championships. There he finished reserve champion again. Success in several halter classes followed, and then came the blow-out performance in Nugs' liberty debut at the Stallion Spectacular in 2008 during the Rancho California Arabian Horse Association club event.

Newbie To Never-Dreamed-Of Titles

Cindy's already wild ride as an absolute newbie to the sport continued and she's had a great time along the way. She soaked up all the help and advice that was freely offered by veteran Arabian owners and, as is her habit, immersed herself in this new passion. February's Horse Expo Pomona found her deeply involved with the information booth for the local chapter of the Arabian Horse Association and active in the Arabian community as a breeder and breed advocate. Although she has been totally accepted and welcomed in the local scene, Cindy still sees herself as not the typical owner of a top show stallion. "We are not big name peeps," she laughs. "We're just regular folks who got very lucky with an amazing entertainer."

She's a high school art teacher at Chaparral High School in Temecula, which doesn't provide unlimited funds to market her horses, but it does provide her an eye for beauty that she believes fueled her instincts about Nugghat. "From my teaching background, I can see things and I know what pretty looks like."

Through her one-woman enterprise, Stallion Road Ranch, Cindy plans to market Nugs as a breeding stallion. Her own Bella is in foal to him at the moment, and once there's proof positive of his progeny's gifts, she's confident he'll be "the next big thing." As fiery as he is in the ring, he's a puppy dog at home. Cindy cares for him herself at her backyard stable and describes him as a perfect gentleman at all times. The stallion has been successfully collected many times at Mekeel Ranch in Temecula and his semen has cleared the standard viability tests.

So it's all systems go and Cindy looks forward to sharing her good fortune in finding Nugghat VF. "God blessed me with the Arabian horse. They saved my life during a very dark time for me and I am ever thankful for that."

For more information on breeding to Nugghat VF, call Cindy Hodges at 951-541-6116 or e-mail her at stallionroad@verizon.net. His Las Vegas liberty win is also on YouTube.

Nugghat VF is an accomplished show competitor whose wins include multiple halter championships, 2007 Region 1 Reserve Champion Sport Horse Stallion, and 2010 Las Vegas Breeders Cup Top Five Stallion AOTH. His pedigree represents a fine blend of Russian, Crabbet, Egyptian and Spanish heritage and both his parents have produced National winners.

Nugghat VF is by U.S. National Champion Sweepstakes Colt and Canadian Reserve Junior Champion Stallion TF Psymreekhe, a sire of National winners in halter and performance. His dam is Nughayma, who combines primarily Russian and Spanish lines.