Love of horses keeps Vicki Niles busy

Posted June 14, 2012 at 1:22 pm


H Vicki, Carol, Cutie.jpg

Trains, buys and sells Arabian horses worldwide

“I was born loving horses,” said Vicki Niles. That love has remained constant throughout her life. According to their website, Arabians by Design, Vicki and her husband, Doug, “have been breeding Arabians for over 30 years. They live near Inwood with their band of select broodmares. They breed to the top stallions every year and have produced many regional and national champions and had many of their foals exported.”

Vicki was born in the middle of Sioux Falls with not a horse in sight. Never mind that — she saddled up the rocking chair and rode that instead. As she got older, she saved her allowance and used it to go ride horses. At the age of 12, Vicki’s family moved to what was the outskirts of town at that time, around what is now the Western Mall area close to O’Gorman. To her delight, a horse farm was located nearby and she would go visit often — very often. Eventually, she went to work for the owner. She thinks he figured he couldn’t get rid of her so he might as well put her to work. He bought her a pony and kept it at the farm for her. Later, she moved up to riding a horse.

After her high school graduation, Vicki’s love of horses took her to Sioux City where she began working for Dick Wallen, a world-renowned horse trainer, including training horses for the Shriner’s White Horse Mounted Patrol. Her training under Wallen and work with saddle breds and Arabians would serve her well in the future.

After she married Doug, the couple lived in Sioux Falls where she first began her business before moving to an acreage near Inwood in 1996.

Vicki raises and trains her own horses. She buys or retains mares and breeds them to well-known sires, selling them and their offspring. Most of Vicki’s horses are Arabian quality halter horses to walk, trot and stand up to show as yearlings.

Arabians are one of the most sought after breeds, mainly for the shape and beauty of their head, which has a dished profile with prominent eyes, large nostrils and a small teacup muzzle. In addition, they are known for stamina and agility, as well as their friendly nature and willingness to work. The Arabian horse generally measures 14-15 hands, weighs 800-1,000 pounds, and has long, high carriage tails and long manes. Arabians come in a variety of colors including gray, chestnut, bay, black and occasionally roan.

Every day involves time-consuming chores for Vicki, especially cleaning out the stalls for her five brood mares, five foals, two riding geldings and yearling filly. Since the animals are valuable, Vicki puts them in stalls each night to protect them from storms and predators. During the day, they are let out to graze. Vicki also feeds her animals hay, grain and supplements.

Sleep deprivation is a problem during foaling as Vicki checks on her mares hourly when they are close to giving birth. Horses have an 11-month gestation period, and Vicki uses artificial insemination so that her mares are bred to high-quality sires. Stud fees can average $3,500 or more. Horses can foal until they are early- to mid-20s in age.

At four months of age, the babies are weaned and Vicki begins to train them with a lead rope. Horses which she does not plan to keep are sold as weanlings in the fall before winter sets in. By now, the Niles are well-known and many of their buyers are repeat customers. Some people see her horses at shows, while others learn about them at Vicki’s website (www.Arabians by Design.com).

Mass e-mailings to prospective buyers is another way Vicki gets the information out when she has horses for sale. She has sold horses all over the world, including to Australia, Sweden, Wales and the United Arab Emirate. Sales overseas involves hiring someone to transport the horses to a major international airport such as Chicago, Los Angeles, etc. Upon arrival at the airport, the horses are quarantined, tested and held at a site designed for this purpose. Once three horses are available for shipment, they are put on a specially-designed pallet and loaded onto the airplane for a direct flight to their final destination.

Although Vicki sells horses, she also buys them, saying, “If I see one I can’t live without, I buy it.” One she presently owns and the mother of a foal aptly named Cutie, is Celebrate Carol, which was imported from Brazil two years ago. This beautiful 16-year-old horse has already been named Youth Reserve National Champion Mare; Reserve Champion Mare ATH at Scottsdale, Ariz., which is a huge show and award, and Region 3 Champion Mare. A horse’s pedigree is very important when an owner is trying to sell it. The more esteemed the sires and dams in a horse’s background, the more valuable it is, and Cutie will likely be considered desirable to purchase should Vicki decide to sell the horse as a weanling.

Some advice Vicki has for anyone interested in purchasing a horse, especially if entering into the buying and selling of valuable animals where pedigree is all important, is to talk to breeders and trainers who already know the background on a large number of horses, as well as their owners. Know what makes a horse something special and buy from someone who can help you.

“Do your homework,” said Vicki, “and always buy quality stock.”

Vicki, who fell in love with Arabian horses while watching “The Black Stallion” numerous times as a child, doesn’t mince words when talking about her love for the breed.

“They are beautiful and the most animated,” said Vicki. “They have good dispositions. They are versatile and have endurance. In my opinion, they are the smartest breed.”

Bla