‘The betterment of the Arab horse was always her driving force’: leading breeder dies aged 94

  • Joan Ratcliffe, the founder of Claverdon Stud, died on 26 April aged 94.

    Joan was a driving force in the Arab horse world; she was chairman of the Arab Horse Society in 1980, and a governor from 2002. She was an international judge and former chairman of the European Conference of Arab Horse Organisations racing commission. She was also chairman of the Arab Horse Society racing committee, before its transfer to the Arabian Racing Organisation, securing sponsorship for Arab racing in the UK from the Emirates of Dubai. She was a very successful breeder of Arabians, establishing the Claverdon Stud in Warwickshire, which is still thriving today under the charge of her eldest daughter, Joanne Lowe.

    From an early age, Joan was smitten by Arab horses after seeing the famous dressage stallion Basa, ridden by Henry Wynmalen. She bought her first mare, Moonbeam, soon after her marriage to John, a keen North Warwickshire hunting man. Moonbeam’s first foal, a colt, was Nur-El-Leyla, on whom Joan completed the inaugural Golden Horseshoe Ride on Exmoor in 1965.

    Claverdon Stud went on to produce numerous prize-winners in the show ring and in Arab racing, including the filly Zemire, who as a yearling was named junior female British champion at the Arab Horse Society national championships. The stud also bred the granddam and great-granddam of the US national champion Padron, whose progeny went on to win all over the world. In a perfect “coals to Newcastle” scenario, Joan ended up selling Arabian horses to the Arabs, including a colt, Al Aswad, to King Hussein of Jordan.

    Outside the Arab horse world, Joan held the position of chairman of the horse advisory board at the Warwickshire College of Agriculture, where she was instrumental in getting horse management courses started, and she became one of its first lecturers. But the betterment of the Arab horse was always her driving force. From her stud at Claverdon she sold horses all over the world, and welcomed visitors from all over the world. It was the part of her career she enjoyed the most, as did John, who was usually by her side on her travels. On retirement, they moved to Exmoor, where they were keen followers, then in a car, of the Minehead Harriers.

    Joan is survived by her children Joanne Lowe, Gerald Ratcliff and Gillian Newsum.

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