Degenfelders share enthusiasm for Arabian horses

Arvie and John Degenfelder, far left, pose with their Arabian horse, Virebe, after she won the H.H. Sheik Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Flat Racing Festival’s fourth Wathba Stud Farm Cup in Pomona. Photos courtesy of Arvie and John Degenfelder
Arvie and John Degenfelder, far left, pose with their Arabian horse, Virebe, after she won the H.H. Sheik Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Flat Racing Festival’s fourth Wathba Stud Farm Cup in Pomona. Photos courtesy of Arvie and John Degenfelder

By Karen Brainard

Arvie and John Degenfelder have a strong interest in history and a passion for horses, so it’s no surprise that the Ramona couple embraces Arabian horse racing.

John said the breed can be traced back 3,500 years to the Arabian Pennisula.

The Degenfelders’ Arabian, Virebe, won four races last year in California and John sits on the board of the Arabian Racing Association of California.

One of the goals of the association, John explained, is to work with racetracks to obtain the best purses.

“Betting’s down so purses are down,” he said.

Some of those purses are getting a boost from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which has organized the H.H. Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Flat Racing Festival’s Wathba Stud Farm Cup race series in California.

Goals of the Global Arabian Flat Racing Festival include introducing and promoting Arabian horses throughout the world and preserving the heritage and traditions of Arabian horses. The UAE has already committed a $25,000 purse for the festival’s race at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton this summer, said John.

Virebe, a 3-year-old chestnut filly, took first place at the festival’s fourth Wathba Stud Farm Cup race held at Fairplex Park in Pomona in September 2011. According to Finish Line magazine, the Fairplex Park race drew 15,500 fans.

Virebe also won races in Sacramento, Santa Rosa and Fresno, John said.

“Because of economic times, there’s fewer horses running,” John said, so “boys and girls” had to run together.

With a chuckle, John recalled the announcer at the Fresno race giving the results and saying, “Virebe beat the boys again.”

“I’ve had really good luck with Virebe,” said John.

The Degenfelders have had many Arabian horses over the years — sometimes owning 20 at one time. John still has his father’s horse, Carnation, now 25 years old, and recently he rode her when he volunteered on the sheriff’s Mounted Patrol.

“When she raced, she was always first out of the gate. We never could get her to win a race,” John said of Carnation.

“We were raising six kids when we first started getting horses,” said John.

He added that they love the Arabian horses “because they’re so natural. We don’t clip their manes. We don’t bend their tails. We don’t put the heavy shoes on them.”

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Virebe, an Arabian horse owned by John and Arvie Degenfelder of Ramona, and ridden by Chris Russell, races to finish first at Fairplex Park in Pomona.

“They love living with people,” Arvie added, “and do everything you ask of them.”

John said Arabians have a lot of stamina and do well at endurance rides of 50 or 100 miles.

Twenty-plus years ago he and Arvie participated in endurance rides and have the buckles to prove it. Buckles, John explained, are given to those who complete 100 miles in 24 hours.

Although John and Arvie did not receive buckles from their participation in the Tevis Cup, a long-distrance ride in the Sierras, John noted proudly, “One of our kids got a buckle.”

As a director of the Arabian Racing Association of California, John attends about five board meetings a year. In February he will travel to Harris Ranch on Interstate 5 in the central part of the state for a meeting. Sometimes Arvie accompanies him to the meetings.

“It’s been a huge privilege to share our lives, our kids’ lives, with these animals,” said Arvie.

   
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