In the world of Arabians Ltd., fewer more faithful breeders of the Egyptian Arabian horse could be found than John and Jeri Merryman.
In the mid-90s, the Merrymans lived in Houston. John had retired from a long career as a retail executive. His wife Jeri watched him make plans to start a computer business, but her intuition told her he needed something more. “He needed something to put his heart and soul into,” she recalls.
A small ad in a newspaper invited them to a local Arabians Ltd. Farm Conference, so they made plans to attend. Jeri was a city girl and had never spent time out in the country, but when they drove around the farm the day before the conference, she knew her life was about to change. As they glimpsed a green field full of Egyptian Arabian broodmares, Jeri watched John’s eyes light up. Within weeks, they drove up to Waco to visit Arabians Ltd. and picked out their first mare.
In less than two years, they moved from Houston to Waco to be closer to the horses. “After spending three of four weekends in a single month in Waco, we realized we needed to make a change,” John said.
That first mare was a Ruminaja Ali daughter named Kalila RCA (x GF Hafida Moniet). Taking advantage of the Arabians Ltd. Mare Lease Program, Kalila became theirs, and they loved her so much that they eventually bought her. “We picked her because of her trot,” John shares, “and the video we’d seen of her looked just like the video we’d seen of Ali.”
Her first foal was a black colt, now a competitive endurance gelding. Later foals include fillies by *Shahir IASB, The Elixir, Thee Infidel, Thee Desperado, and Pimlico RCA, who have become foundation mares for breeding programs around the country.
They added another mare, Maaristral (The Minstril x AK Imaara) through the Lease Program, fell in love with her, and bought her as well. Maaristral produced fillies by *Shahir IASB and Thee Infidel during her breeding career.
A third mare, TF Shardali (Imperial Imdal x Nilequest Sharah), came into their lives when she was 5, and the Merrymans bought the outcross mare immediately. “We saw her and decided we had to have her,” said John.
Her 1999 filly by *Shahir IASB, Emperial Sparkle, became the dam of Bint Al Riyyah, a stunning champion filly by Thee Asil.
Shardali’s 2000 filly by Thee Makers Mark, Thee Makers Rose, was a unanimous Egyptian Breeders Challenge Champion filly, and was bought by Gary Fernandes of Lyday Farms. Gary later turned down the biggest offer he’d ever received for her daughter. He loved Thee Makers Rose and her bloodline so much that he eventually purchased Shardali from the Merrymans and now owns 4 generations of her family on his farm.
Over the course of their time as breeders, the Merrymans have bred 22 foals, 11 fillies and 11 colts. While they haven’t shown many of their foals, they believe their main role is to be breeders of foals that are capable of winning championships, should their new owners wish to show them.
Today, the Merrymans have one mare, Preciouss Secret (Thee Asil x U Liteupmy Life). Jeri loved her dam and how friendly Preciouss was as a baby, so John arranged to purchase her from Judy Sirbasku and managed to keep her a secret from Jeri for 6 weeks (hence her name), until he could present her to Jeri at the annual spring Client Seminar.
Preciouss is the dam of a young mare by Mishaal HP, Madinah Moniet, and Preciouss foaled a beautiful bay filly by Alixir in early 2010.
2010 bay filly, Alixir x Preciouss Secret (Thee Asil x U Liteupmy Life)
The Merrymans are also members of Thee Infidel Group and own lifetime breedings to Thee Asil and Mishaal HP.
Longtime friend and fellow client Karl Breckon has many warm memories of the Merrymans. “I always think of John at the Egyptian Event with his video camera, shooting all of the classes so we could all enjoy them later.” John and Jeri have faithfully attended every Egyptian Event but one since they entered the business. They love sharing the June week in Lexington, Kentucky with friends old and new each year. “We have the love of horses in common with everyone who comes,” says Jeri. The Merrymans are now watching the grandfoals of their foundation mares show at the Event. “When we go somewhere and see an offspring that has come out of the mares we’ve bred, it’s amazing. It gives you a place in history when you realize that you’re carrying this on–it’s like a little bit of immortality.”
“You can just tell how much they love their horses, and they have bred such great foals,” adds Karl. “They have never owned more than two or three broodmares yet they have sold every filly they have ever produced,” says General Manager Shawn Crews.
The Merrymans have become an important part of the experience for Arabians Ltd.’s Farm Conference attendees. They faithfully attend to share how they’ve enjoyed success with Egyptian Arabian horses. “Every time we go, we learn something. When we were newcomers, people helped us,” Jeri says. “We want to let them know the possibilities, what can happen. We are so appreciative of all the support we’ve received from Jim, Judy, Shawn and the whole Arabians Ltd. team, and we want to share that with other people,” says Jeri.
In 1998, John and Jeri were honored with the very first Arabians Ltd. Special Appreciation Award, given in recognition of outstanding contributions to the farm. In 2000, they received the Client of the Year Award, in 2001, the Breeder of the Year Award, and in 2006, the Lifetime Achievement Award! They’ve literally won every award given by the farm!
Today, the Merrymans’ SUV drives down the gravel lane next to the Arabians Ltd. broodmare pasture several days a week. Preciouss comes galloping up to the fence when the “carrotmobile” pulls over, and afternoons are spent enjoying the relationship between horse and owner.
Shawn Crews sums up the legacy John and Jeri have created over their years in the business: “Aside from just being first-class people, John and Jeri have bred some of the finest babies to come from Egyptian bloodlines. When we describe the “example” or “model” to those just embarking on their endeavors as breeders, John and Jeri are it. They own lifetime breedings to or own part of the leading Egyptian stallions in the business. And they have been great friends and mentors to us all.”