25 Years Of The Most Successful Arabian Partnership On Record

Afire Bey V, Dave and Gail Liniger and Tim and Marty Shea …

25 Years Of The Most Successful Arabian Partnership On Record

by Christy Egan

How did a man who has been characterized as one of the world’s 50 most powerful people in real estate get involved with Arabian horses? He fell in love.

“One of my vice presidents lived in a rural area and we were at his home for a barbecue,” says Dave Liniger, chairman and co-founder of RE/MAX™ International. “He owned an Arabian mare that he rode on the trails and I was fascinated. She was charismatic and all fired up that evening. She put on a great show, just what you’d expect … snorting, tail flipped up over her back. I thought, wouldn’t it be great to own a horse like that? My host gave me a copy of an Arabian magazine and subsequently I discovered the Scottsdale show. His wife and my wife thought that sounded like fun and the four of us went to Arizona in February. He and I golfed. We all went to the Chauncey Sale and I thought, wouldn’t this be great as an escape for me from the real estate business?”

It was a match well made. Arabians inspire great passion in their breeders and owners. Dave Liniger was built for the Arabian horse encounter. This is a man who is at some sort of activity or job 24-hours a day. Ask him about his work and he laughs, “… I don’t work. I have a passion for what I do. I’d PAY to have this job!”

In February of 1989, Dave and Gail Liniger joined a star-studded group of successful bidders for the first time at the Scottsdale Arabian horse sales. There were 11 auctions in seven days that year and the sale horse “theatres” on Bell Road were the places to obtain some good Arabian horses and some media coverage. Linigers bought three horses at The Legend Sale (Adam’s Arabians) and one at the Karho 1989 Excalibur Classic. They purchased the Barbary daughter Flame Dancer (x Autumn Flair, by *Eter), a Bask Flame mare named Flames Lullaby, Baskazelle, by *Bask+, and Miz Charisma, by GG Jasbask. Dave was quoted in the Arabian trade magazines as saying that he and Gail were “in the process of building a herd of foundation stock,” and that his hopes were “to have a major Arabian breeding farm in the future.” A cynical media person apparently shrugged at the time and remarked that Linigers had the same ambitions as many others before them and then smugly predicted that they would undoubtedly be out of the horse business in a few short years. Dave Liniger has never forgotten the comment and likes to tell the tale, smile and say that he took it as a personal challenge. Twenty-five years later the challenge has been met. It’s almost impossible to match the Maroon Fire Arabians’ and Shea Stables’ success story.

Personal challenge aside, Dave Liniger seems to have approached the creation of Maroon Fire Arabians much like he did the development of his company, RE/MAX™ Realty. His mantra could translate to … listen to honest, knowledgeable advisers, build a team that can do the job, gather the right building blocks (or bloodstock) and keep moving forward in a positive direction. He got into the horse business because he was intrigued with the horses. In the late 1980’s he started systematically seeking advisors and gathering information about the Arabian horse. He still has the 200 legal tablets he filled with notes about breeding horses those first few years.

“I asked people that I met in the horse business who was the best breeder and trainer, and Sheila Varian’s name came up frequently,” Dave says. “I found Sheila at the Scottsdale show, introduced myself, and asked her to talk to me about breeding Arabian horses. She was open, gracious and generous with her advice. Don DeLongpré and Richard Petty also advised me openly and sold me many good horses, as did trainer Gordon Potts. It was Don who told me to pick a stallion that I liked and buy his daughters; understand the stallion’s strengths and what exactly he was capable of as a sire.”

For a time, while they were showing nationally, Maroon Fire kept horses in several locations around the United States. It was Sheila Varian who recommended Tim and Marty Shea, trainers Sheila was utilizing in Michigan. Their good business sense, integrity and horsemanship won Dave and Gail’s confidence and they would eventually consolidate all of their bloodstock at Shea Stables in Michigan.

“The Shea’s are also marketing wizards,” Dave notes with a smile. “We’ve purchased and sold literally hundreds of horses with them.”

In 1988 it was Sheila who placed a top, young three-year-old colt by Huckleberry Bey out of the *Bask daughter Autumn Fire in training with the Shea’s. Liniger remembers his first encounter with Afire Bey V very well.

“By the time I got around to seeing Afire Bey V, I had looked at over 50 Arabian stallions,” Dave says. “I already knew his pedigree quite well. Gail and I had been to Sheila’s on numerous occasions by that point. The Sheas were training mares for us. We were there in the fall. They brought him out and I remember the leaves were just changing. He had been laid up for something minor but it didn’t hinder his ability to show one bit. He shot through the leaves, blowing and dancing. Within seconds I knew he was the horse.”

Their stallion procured, Dave and Gail immediately set about buying more broodmares for Afire Bey V, including the national champion Mark IV Coronation. Linigers are the first to admit that they purchased many mares while building their herd and certainly did not keep all of them, but their original choice of mares at the 1989 Scottsdale sales was actually both astute and ideal for Afire Bey V. Three of the four mares they bought that February produced national winners and two of them, Flame Dancer and Flames Lullaby became an integral part of the foundation for their future. Six of Flame Dancer’s eight offspring are national winners. Flames Lullaby also produced a solid handful of national winners with Afire Bey V, among them three national champions, including multi-national champion Afires Lullaby+, Afireandbrimstone SCA and 10-time national champion Romeo Afire. The contribution of DeLongpre and Petty was more than simply good conversation and solid breeding advice. It included *Eter (Comet) daughters and an impressive number of Barbary daughters out of *Eter daughters. This was the legacy and foundation of DeLongpre Arabians and it quickly became the backbone of the Liniger/Shea program as well. Today, the heritage of Barbary and *Eter have provided the most successful cross to date for Afire Bey V. Broodmares sired by *Bask and numerous *Bask sons followed suit with the next most successful being The Chief Justice, Cognac, Zodiac Matador, Bask Flame, Promotion and his full brother Pro Fire. Daughters of the *Bask grandson, line-bred Witraz and multi-national champion, MHR Nobility, figured prominently in the Shea and Liniger breeding program as well and later, helped inspire the purchase of his son, IXL Noble Express. *El Paso and his son Pask also provided outstanding females that generously assisted in the creation of Afire Bey V’s national winning success as a sire.

There is no question that Afire Bey V with his stellar pedigree and physical quality, was an ideal candidate for stardom as a breeding stallion, but the broodmares provided by Linigers and Sheas certainly made the difference between great and the greatest. And the promotion of Afire Bey V, orchestrated by both Linigers and Sheas was a veritable masterpiece of equine marketing and consistency.

“I don’t think there is another horse in the Arabian breed that has been photographed as much as Afire Bey V,” says Marty Shea with a smile. “Dave had us in photo sessions three or four and more times a year … year after year, with different photographers, but especially with Stuart Vesty. We were on the back cover of theArabian Horse World for twenty years, a deadline and a creative responsibility I worked hard to meet and improve upon every month, year after year. Afire Bey V has been the most visible horse in the Arabian horse industry for two decades. No horse has ever been better supported throughout his entire lifetime. The mares, the marketing and the solid, ethical business decisions … it all worked hand-in-glove to help make and keep Afire Bey V the breed’s leading sire.

The support provided on the ground for Afire Bey V through the Shea Stables training and management matches well with the support provided by the Linigers. Marty Shea in particular has played an important role in making breeding decisions for the farm’s program, assisting clients with their personal breeding decisions, handling all of the magazine advertising throughout the past twenty years, and watching the daily panorama of young Afire Bey V horses in training and on the road to greatness, trotting by right below her office window. It has been Marty and Tim that provided many of the strong ideas and standards that enhanced the Maroon Fire and Shea Stables breeding program to its most successful peaks. Through forty-five years of working in the industry, Marty has also become quite expert in understanding the magic necessary to win in the show ring and in matching horse to human, helping with precisely the right selections for buyers.

“I have become quite good at visualizing the end product when I look at the young horses,” Marty laughs. “This is nice because it has given me the ability to present the right young horses to people, whether they are trainers, amateurs or children … making matches that work. It’s taken years but I do it all the time and it’s satisfying to have it work out for the horses and their new owners so much of the time.

When Afire Bey V was ten he became the leading Arabian performance sire and then quickly took over as Leading Combination Halter and Performance Sire. For over fifteen years he has led the breed. A few years ago he overtook even *Bask’s record and became the Arabian breed’s leading all-time sire of champions, national champions, national winners and offspring. Afire Bey V was selected by Linigers for more than just his pedigree and beauty.

“We were at Scottsdale with Afire Bey V maybe a year after Dave Liniger bought him. Marty and I had been out to dinner and came back to our barn at WestWorld to find the horse was not in his stall,” says Tim. “My groom told me that Dave had walked in while we were gone and told him that he was taking the horse out for a walk around the grounds. Well, I wasn’t too worried at the time. Dave took the horse all over the grounds and enjoyed conversing with people here and there about his horse. He could have bought a lot of horses, a lot of different stallions and he chose Afire Bey V.”

“It was a good choice for a lot of reasons,” adds Marty. “Certainly his pedigree and conformation were the best but the horse also has a kind disposition and that great Arabian intelligence. That’s important for Dave and for Gail too. She really enjoys interacting with the horses. Afire Bey V always knew when to be fiery and when it was time to be quiet. Dave took the horse out in Albuquerque during the show too. Maroon Fire jacket, cap and matching cooler on the horse. The horse needed to mind and be a nice guy walking around the grounds and he was for Dave. He always has been.”

Afire Bey V was not an overnight sensation, but almost. When it became apparent that Afire Bey V’s daughters would be the backbone of the future Maroon Fire and Shea Stables breeding program, the partners began looking in earnest for another breeding stallion.

“We saw a video of IXL Noble Express and then went to see him in Montana,” Dave remembers. “The weather was very bad. Tim rode the horse and we all recognized that he was powerful, eager, talented and strong in the hind end. Eventually I said that we ought to buy him and so we did. Each of the stallions that we’ve utilized, from Barbary and *Eter to Huckleberry Bey and Afire Bey V brought something important to the breeding program for all of us. HBB and Afire Bey V had that superb break at the pole and they were smart and trainable. IXL Noble Express brought a real depth of talent and beauty and more hip and hock. For Gail and I the Arabian horse must be a family horse as well. That was a wonderful trait that Barbary shared with his daughters and Afire Bey V as well.”

“In the beginning Sheila taught me a lot about what it means to be an Arabian horse breeder,” says Dave. “Right after we bought Afire Bey V we went on a quest for Arabian mares for him and I looked at Sheila’s best mares and I thought ‘… these are the mares I want!’ One day we were all visiting the Sheas at the same time and we went out to dinner. I said to her ‘… why don’t we just cut to the chase. I want to buy three of your mares. What do you want for them?’ They were Sheila’s top mares and, though I inferred that I would pay a large sum of money, she told me that, no, she wouldn’t sell them, not for any price. They were her foundation bloodstock and what she taught me that night was that breeders don’t sell their best horses until at the very least there is a proven daughter or son or several to replace them. I’ve never forgotten. That’s what made me take Flame Dancer’s filly off the sales list at the Sheas open house. Every June or July we get out to Michigan to see the new foals. We were there at Shea’s and there was an open house the following day. Flame Dancer had a beautiful filly at side, maybe two or three months old. I saw her on the Friday before the open house and I told Tim to take her off the sales list. I remembered what Sheila said about that kind of quality and decided that the filly wasn’t for sale. Gail named her Foxy Afire and now she’s the dam of our good, young stallion Noble Ffyre. ”

“We sell all of our colts as a routine policy but we decided to hold on to Noble Ffyre,” Tim admits. “He’s a wonderful, tall and stretchy colt. He has an artist’s concept of a beautifully arched Arabian neck. He won the AEPA yearling class at the Buckeye two years ago. He was both the youngest and the biggest colt in the class. We started him under saddle this last Christmas and he really is a different breed of cat, the next step up the ladder. We’re going to start by breeding him to the Afire Bey V daughters as well as several of our other mares. We’ll wait until he’s four to bring him to the show. I think he’s our next great show horse.”

“Looking back on 25 years of Arabian horses and breeding, I still remember what Sheila told me about the horses,” says Dave. “She said that I would fall in love with the broodmares and even when they were older they would still be beautiful to me. Still so beautiful even at twenty, because the memories they give to us are irreplaceable. Now there is this new colt and he’s young and handsome, and four generations, and 25 years of our breeding. It’s always about tomorrow, isn’t it? Every foal crop is different. Sometimes you break out the champagne and sometimes the beer.”

“Marty and I feel as though we have been very fortunate in our lives,” says Tim Shea. “Everything has come together for us. At one time we trained for owners all over the country. Sheila Varian came along and put horses with us and then the Linigers approached us and we became the breeding and marketing force behind Afire Bey V. He was a good horse with a good pedigree but nobody knew at that point if he was a breeding horse. It was a gamble. To his credit, Afire Bey V’s dam, Autumn Fire (*Bask x Sparklingburgundy) was a great mare. And then, there were the Linigers. Most people get into the horse business and buy a big farm, a big van and some nice horses … but often not great horses. The Linigers did just the opposite. They bought and they bred for great horses.”

“Perhaps most importantly, they really listened to the people they asked for advice” says Marty. “They’re always making changes in their herd and always looking for better bloodstock. They apply their solid business principles to the business of horses. Their honesty and integrity are phenomenal. Through good luck and bad luck, they’ve stayed the course.

IXL NOBLE EXPRESS

Foaled in 1997, IXL Noble Express is sired by MHR Nobility (*Elimar x Har Nahra, by *Bask) out of RY Fire Ghazi (*El Ghazi x RL Rah Fire, by Le Fire). He was purchased as a four-year-old by Maroon Fire Arabians, Inc. as their chosen cross for daughters of Afire Bey V. From the start he had the right pedigree and individual quality for both the Liniger’s and the Shea’s.

IXL Noble Express is descended from an outstanding line of national champion performance horses, including his sire, 6-time national champion and reserve park horse, MHR Nobility; his dam’s sire, Reserve U.S. National Champion English Pleasure, *El Ghazi, and his maternal granddam, 3-time National Champion Informal Combination and English Pleasure, RL Rah Fire. IXL Noble Express made his first show ring appearance in 2004 at the Ohio Buckeye Show and, like his sire before him, came home as the Buckeye Champion Park Horse. In 2004 and 2005 he was Top Ten Park at the U.S. Nationals and then became the 2006 U.S. National Champion Park Horse. When he returned to show in halter competition, his correctness and outstanding quality made the multi-dimensional horse an instant favorite with horsemen, breeders and judges. IXL Noble Express quickly became the 2007 Ohio Buckeye Champion Halter Stallion, and then a Top Ten Halter Stallion (third) at the 2007 U.S. National Championships.

The first foal crop of IXL Noble Express arrived in 2003 and among them were his first national winners: A Noble Cause (x Sweet Summer Fire, by Afire Bey V), A Noble Pass (x SA Passing Fancy, by DW Zask), Expressamo (x Mystic Bey V, by Huckleberry Bey++), Global Express (x Ohernastraum), and Queen of Soul (x Koralina). The debut for IXL Noble Express offspring at the National level came in 2006 when A Noble Pass took top ten honors in the U.S. National English pleasure futurity. A Noble Pass went on to be named 2008 Canadian National Champion English Pleasure Junior Horse and was the U.S. National Champion Show Hack in 2010 and 2012. Leading national winning offspring of IXL Noble Express are A Noble Cause (x Sweet Summer Fire by, Afire Bey V) with 12 national awards (5 national championships and 6 reserves) in pleasure driving and English pleasure; Expressamo (x Mystic Bey V, by Huckleberry Bey++) with 17 national awards, (8 national championships and 1 reserve) in park, English pleasure, pleasure driving and informal combination, and Brave And Noble (x Sweet Bravada V, by Bravado Bey V) with 16 national awards (1 national championship and 2 reserves) in country English, show hack and costume. Fifty percent of the purebred national winners sired by IXL Noble Express are out of Afire Bey V daughters.

As of April, 2013 IXL Noble Express is the sire of 324 registered Arabian and Half-Arabian offspring. Thus far, 126 IXL Noble Express offspring are champions. Among them are 58 national winners that have taken 208 top ten awards, 33 national championships and 22 reserve national championships. Over 87 percent of his purebred national winners won their awards in an English division.

AFIRE BEY V

Bred by Varian Arabians and owned by Maroon Fire Arabians for 25 of his 28 years, Afire Bey V (Huckleberry Bey x Autumn Fire, by *Bask+) came to public notice as a 4-year-old when he won the Region 13 English Pleasure Junior Horse Championship in 1989 with trainer Tim Shea. He was also the Ohio Buckeye English Pleasure Champion during his show ring career. By 1992 he had switched from English pleasure to park and was a 1992 U.S. National Top Ten Park Horse, but it is as a sire that he has made a lasting contribution to the Arabian breed.

In 1995, ten years after his birth, Afire Bey V’s first offspring launched onto the national scene and made their first serious impression at the U.S. National Championships. Afire Lullaby (x Flames Lullaby, by Bask Flame) was national champion pleasure driving and Can Can Dancer (x Canadette, by Al-Marah Canadius) was national champion English pleasure junior horse. Both were just 4-year-olds.

At the beginning of 2013, there are 1,311 registered offspring sired by Afire Bey V. Afire Bey V’s most successful purebred offspring are Whiskey Glow+// and Casablanca Afire+//, the former with 78 national awards (15 national championships and 11 reserves) and the latter with 75 national awards (14 national championships and 10 reserves). In addition to these two, MWF Benedykt has 47 national awards (11 national championships and 7 reserves) and Spirit Afire has 36 national awards (10 national championships and 5 reserves). Among his most successful Half-Arabian offspring are Americanbeautie with 44 national awards (14 national championships and 5 reserves), Got The Blues with 31 national awards (4 national championships and 6 reserves), Adams Fire with 28 national awards (12 national championships and 2 reserves) and SA Rapid Fire with 26 national awards (5 national championships and 5 reserves). Each year at the U.S., Canadian, Youth and Sport Horse National Championships, new Afire Bey V superstars make their mark and become legends in their time.

At the end of 2012, adding together his purebred and Half-Arabian credentials, Afire Bey V has sired 702 champions (Class A champions and reserves, regional and national winners), among them 348 national winners. These national winners have accumulated 2,288 national awards. His total national winning offspring include 120 national champion horses and 56 reserve national champion horses that between them have accumulated 332 national championships and 244 reserve national championships. The national awards have been taken in Halter, English Pleasure, Informal Combination, Country English Pleasure, Country Pleasure Driving, Pleasure Driving, Native Costume, Hunter Pleasure, Ladies Side Saddle, Show Hack, Competitive Trail and Dressage. There are few English divisions in the Arabian and Half-Arabian rosters where the Afire Bey V offspring have not made their mark at the top.

To understand the true impact of Afire Bey V on the purebred Arabian saddle seat horse of our time, a look at the past decade of the U.S. National Championships is helpful. Consider the four top, purebred English classes: English Pleasure, Country English Pleasure, English Pleasure Junior Horse and Country English Pleasure Junior Horse. Afire Bey V offspring have been national champion or reserve national champion 33 times in these classes over the last decade. The U.S. National English Pleasure Champion has been sired by Afire Bey V in seven out of the ten classes. The U.S. National Champion English Pleasure Junior Horse has been sired by Afire Bey V five out of the ten times. Some years these classes have been virtually overrun by Afire Bey V offspring. In 2009 Afire Bey V get were champion and reserve in boththe English pleasure and the country English pleasure championships. In 2007, out of the eight national and reserve national champions honored in these four classes, only one horse was not sired by Afire Bey V. Perhaps most importantly for a stallion who is the obvious progenitor of a new sire line in the Arabian breed, at the 2012 U.S. National Championships all but one of the eight national and reserve national champions in these four classes was sired by either Afire Bey V or one of his sons.

As of this date, Afire Bey V is the Leading All-Time Arabian Sire of Champions, National Winners and offspring in the breed. 

The Steps Up

Over the 25 years of their partnership, the combined Liniger/Shea breeding program has resulted in many awards. Nominated for the APAHA Horsemen’s Awards on numerous occasions, the Linigers have won the award twice and the Shea’s once. The partners have been nominated for the Arabian Horse Times Readers’ Choice Awards. Two of the farm-bred horses have been nominated for USEF Horse of the Year: Afires Heir and Adams Fire. These same two horses were nominated to the USEF and Equus Foundation Horse Stars Hall Of Fame. Most recently, Liniger’s and Shea’s were also the winners of the USEF Pegasus Award for 2012 Breeder of the Year.

“The 2011 USEF Pegasus Award had special meaning for me because it’s open to all breeds and has only been won by a few other Arabian breeders,” says Dave. “My mentor, Sheila Varian, was one of those most honored breeders. As far as I can tell we are the only winners of this award to have been mentored by a previous winner. It made me feel particularly proud.”

A Note From Home

A message sent to Marty Shea a few weeks ago perhaps sums up some of the feelings about Afire Bey V expressed by those in love with Arabian horses in our time.

I have been involved with Arabian horses in one way or another for over 50 years. In that time there have been four horses which have truly captured my imagination: *Witez II, Bay-Abi, Khemosabi and Afire Bey V.

I’ve been going through my old Arabian horse magazines starting with the 1990’s and 2000’s. These are certainly the Afire Bey V years and I have torn out every photo and every article. Either you have been very wise in your choices, or he doesn’t have a ‘bad side’. I printed out an extended pedigree to add to the pile. I can see why he is at the top of the heap – he certainly has the bloodlines to be there.

I know Afire Bey is now in his senior years. On behalf of all of us Arabian lovers who appreciate the importance he has been to the modern Arabian breed, and who value the strength of his impressive bloodline, I would like to thank you for your care and devotion to him. I hope he has many more years on his earthly pastures.”

—­Linda Manwiller Stouchsburg, Pennsylvania

The Next Step

Dave Liniger has co-written a number of books about RE/MAX™ International and his successful life as an entrepreneur, but his latest book, The Next Step, released on Amazon, April 26th is a remarkable memoir. It tells the story of his extraordinary recovery from a horrific staph infection along his spine that left him paralyzed from the neck down and in excruciating pain.

His inspiration for recovery was his wife Gail and his devoted, supportive children, as well as his personal mantra, “Just 10 steps.” He believed if he could walk just 10 steps, he could walk 20. If he could walk 20, he could walk a mile. After months in a coma, three critical surgeries and six grueling months in the hospital, Dave was able to return home. Now he’s back at RE/MAX™ International and getting stronger every day. My Next Step is no doubt on track to being a best seller. It pre-sold 11,000 copies before its worldwide release. It’s inspirational, filled with hope and meaning and offers more than a little insight into the man who created one of the most successful real estate companies in the world and provided the support and determination behind the Arabian breed’s most successful stallion.

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