The Eternal Flame of Pyro Thyme SA l 23 May 2000 – 12 January 2024
All photography credit Stuart Vesty
One of the brightest lights in the Arabian horse world has been extinguished with the passing of Pyro Thyme SA on 12 January 2024.
Bred by June and Tom Yahola in Oklahoma at the turn of the new millennium, Pyro Thyme was a visionary product of Shaman Arabians unwavering commitment to creating beautiful Arabian horses that were supremely versatile athletes. His sire was June’s pride and joy, Pryme Thyme (Negatraz x Touch a Spice by DWD Tabasco), an intensely Kuhailan-style stallion with four essential crosses to the immortal *Bask in his exemplary pedigree through two of his most prolific and venerated sons – Negatraz (ex Negotka by Negatiw) and Gdansk (ex Gdynia by Comet) – and two of his most precious Polish-bred daughters, Baskvienna (ex Halali Fortunata by Fortel) and Bask Caress (ex Diamond Coryiah by Corsair). The *Bask influence and phenotype was intensified two-fold in Pyro Thyme via his dam, Holly Onfire JW (Katz x Kailabaska), who was not only blessed with the invaluable influence of her maternal grandsire Baske-Tu (ex Nafta by Nafsi) and three of the most beloved and influential daughters of *Bask – Belbowrie Baskana (ex Anhar by Karoon), Basks Maria (ex Judith-B by Buszmen) and HMR Julie (ex Bint Bint Gulastra by Gulastra) – but also with beauty and athleticism of three of the most enduringly successful sires in the history of the breed: United States National Champion Stallions Khemosabi (Amerigo x Jurneeka by Fadjur), Raffon (Gazon x Vadraff by Indraff), El Paso (Czort x Ellora by Witraż) and Bay-Abi (Errabi x Angyl by Raseyn).
While the eight astounding crosses to *Bask in Pyro Thyme’s star-studded pedigree were celebrated throughout his life as badge of indisputable honour, the pure Polish prominence in his aristocratic heritage extended well beyond the greatest Arabian icon on the 20th century. Most remarkably, Pyro Thyme was blessed with twenty-five crosses to the original source of Polish-bred Kuhailan virtue, *Bask’s paternal grandsire Ofir (Kuhalian Haifi or.Ar. x Dziwa by Abu Mlech), whose famous ‘W’ sons born in 1938 at Janów Podlaski – Witraż (ex Makata by Fetysz), Wielki Szlem (ex Elegantka by Bakszysz) and Witeż II (ex Federacja by Burgas) – all of whom can be found in Pyro Thyme’s pedigree, had a profound effect on the global expansion of the Arabian breed worldwide post-World War II. Even more impressively, Pyro Thyme could count thirty essential crosses to the unequivocal queen of pre-war Polish breeding – the Janów-bred Gazella II (Kohejlan x Abra by Anvil), a superbly constructed powerhouse athlete whose enduring legacy still resonates with exponential positivity in breeding programmes, show-rings and the broadest range of performance pursuits throughout the global equine industry.
Pyro Thyme’s stellar career in the show-ring began at a very young age, debuting with a win at the Tulsa State Fair in September 2000 as five-month-old weanling. As an orphaned foal, Pyro Thyme always had a natural affinity to humans, considering himself more human than equine, so the transition to the spotlight of the show-ring was natural and stress-free for a horse with an abundance of assured self-confidence and commanding charisma. That special Pyro Thyme magic and magnetism earned him a devoted fan base of admirers following an exhilarating turn as United States National Champion Futurity Colt in 2003 with Mike Neal at the lead. Two years later, Mike and Pyro Thyme gave breeder and owner June Yahola the thrill of a lifetime by winning the ultimate honour of Scottsdale Champion Senior Stallion, exactly forty-one years after his illustrious ancestor *Bask was awarded the same title, as well as Champion Park Horse, in his era-defining show-ring debut. Later that same year, Pyro Thyme and Mike earned one final distinction for June as owner/breeder: United States National Reserve Champion Junior Stallion behind another legend on the rise – Marwan al Shaqab.
In late 2006, Pyro Thyme entered the lives of two special families – the Larsons and the Sellmans – whose destinies would be forever entwined henceforth, when June asked Andy to campaign her prized possession in the season ahead and stand him at stud at Argent Farms in Hudson, Wisconsin. This was the beginning of lifelong love affair for both Andy and Angie, whose overwhelming appreciation for Pyro Thyme piqued the interest of Claire Larson, who considered the horse “the most beautiful stallion he had ever seen” according to his granddaughter Angie. After considerable persuasion, June agreed to part with Pyro Thyme in early 2007, which made Claire and his wife Margaret his proud owners when he was named unanimous United States National Champion Senior Stallion in October of the same year. For Andy, who had dreamt of success as an Arabian horse trainer since childhood, the trip to the winner’s circle with Pyro Thyme was life changing. “I will always be grateful to Claire, Margaret and June for taking a chance on me,” shares Andy candidly, “and especially to Pyro Thyme for making it look so easy, as his win of the prestigious title of National Champion Stallion was my very first. Soon after we left the ring, my good friend Keith Krichke came to congratulate me, making it clear that this horse and that win would change everything for me. I could never have imagined at the time all of the wonderful blessings that this horse would bring into my life in the years ahead.”
For Angie, who became his primary caretaker at Argent Farms, the bond with Pyro Thyme was intensely personal. “Our partnership was a constant for almost a decade” exudes Angie. “Wherever Pyro Thyme would go, I was there with him – riding in the back of the transport to and from shows, sleeping at the stables, attending to his every need. He had such a kind and gentle soul, which made his charismatic performances in the show-ring so much more special for me.”
The personal connection and time spent with Pyro Thyme also gave Angie the opportunity to strengthen her bond with her grandparents, who enjoyed the magnificent journey of the stallion’s success as both a show horse and sire together. “I will always cherish our shared love of the horses,” Angie generously reveals, “and the joy and closeness that Pyro Thyme brought into our lives as a family. For me, he was the horse of a lifetime – a true friend and companion. Spending time in his presence was the highlight of every single day. I adored him more than words can ever truly convey.”
While Pyro Thyme’s 2007 US National Championship altered the trajectory of the lives of both Andy and Angie irrevocably, it was his return to the contend for the ultimate continental honour a second time in 2012 that is treasured as the most rewarding. “Pyro had serious competition from so many exceptional younger stallions that year,” Angie recalls, “so our expectations in the championship final were tempered. Once all the contenders were in the ring and showing, however, it became evident that despite the depth of quality in the class with so many top trainers, Pyro Thyme had aged with perfection and was in his prime, and that special bond that he and Andy shared – so much more than just a handler at the end of the lead – made all the difference for the pair as the intensity of the moment grew.” Angie beams with pride recalling that “Andy showed Pyro to absolute perfection that night and the crowd was so supportive of their performance. The arena was electric with excitement, and when Pyro Thyme was announced as National Champion, a flood of fans and admirers poured into the ring for the win shot – vets, farriers, performance trainers, photographers, June Yahola, Mike Neal and so many more. It was an incredible moment that I will never ever forget!”
With just under 200 lifetime foals to his credit, the enduring impact of Pyro Thyme the sire continues to reap positive dividends throughout the breed worldwide. Like the greatest sires and performers of the past from whom he proudly descends, Pyro Thyme can be found as an essential ancestor is the pedigrees of elite athletes and national champions in nearly every division of equine sport in which the Arabian horse excels. Under saddle, the Pyro Thyme descendants have been particularly adept as Hunter and Western Pleasure horses, with a special affinity for the sport horse disciplines both as dressage and hunter types. In the halter arena, Pyro Thyme is celebrated in the pedigrees of dozens of international champions on all six inhabited continents, whose unmistakeable presence and superb functionality continues to illuminate show-rings from Australia and New Zealand to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Great Britain.
Pyro Thyme was incredibly fortunate to spend the final years of his charmed existence in retirement at Om El Arab in Santa Ynez, California. Janina Merz reveals that “it continues to amaze me how beautifully life works out at times. My mother and I always appreciate good horses, no matter their breeding, and Pyro Thyme was most definitely one of the special ones. Having based the Om El programme around linebreeding to the immortal *Estopa, we had the greatest respect for Pyro Thyme’s linebred pedigree to the iconic *Bask. As expected, Pyro Thyme was a perfect fit and a beloved distinguished guest of honour at the farm.”
Pyro Thyme was granted pride of place at Om El Arab, the corner stable nearest the driveway and the entrance. With a spacious window open to the front to see and greet arriving visitors as well as a low stall front on the main barn aisle to interact with resident humans and equines as he pleased, Pyro Thyme was an immensely popular ‘rock-star’ resident who loved to toss around his overabundance of hair and express himself in very lively conversation – grunting, blowing and squealing with appreciation. The many selfies sent to Angie from visitors as they passed through the stallion barn and snapped a photo with her ‘heart horse’ never failed to bring a smile to her face, constantly reassuring her that she had made the right choice in relocating Pyro Thyme to Om El for his golden years. Angie is especially grateful that “the riding academy kids always took the time to visit Pyro Thyme and showered him with affection and treats. They had an innate reverence for him – even though they knew he was someone really special, for them he was the just the reliably kind, loving and appreciative gentleman that was always happy to see them.”
For Janina, “it was a privilege for the Om El Team to be his caretakers, not only of his physical needs, but also protective of his emotional ones. Whatever you would willingly give to Pyro Thyme, he would give back in spades.” With the recent decline in Pyro Thyme’s health and comfort, Janina reached out to Angie to discuss the best possible solution for his transition. With the decision made to give Pyro Thyme the peace and rest he deserved, Angie flew to Santa Ynez to spend her final day with the horse she has loved most in the world. “His last day was picture perfect,” Angie reminisces warmly. “Blue skies, clear bright sunshine, just the right amount of warmth, full of optimism and hope, so much like the horse that had positively changed the lives of so many. I spent the morning feeding him a very large bag of carrots, knowing that no amount could be too much. l hugged him countless times in gratitude, talked to him about our lives past and present, and braided his tail for the last time. He grazed the delicious winter grass contentedly, a knowing assuredness in his eyes and his presence, surrounded by his people and those that loved him most.”
While the improbably bright light that was Pyro Thyme has been extinguished, the flame that he so effortlessly lit within the Arabian breed worldwide still blazes on. We owe an immense debt of gratitude to everyone – June Yahola, Mike Neal, Claire and Margaret Larsen, Andy and Angie Sellman, Sigi Siller and Janina Merz – all those who gave the best of themselves so that Pyro Thyme could shine at his brightest and most illuminating. May we all long continue to celebrate and honour the enduring legacy of this Arabian icon, not only in our memories but in the generations of superlative descendants he leaves behind.
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