Celebrating the Horse without Borders – The Egyptian Arabian, a Global Ambassador
Text by Lisa Abraham
Photos by Don Stine, Lori and Victor Ricigliano, Suzanne Sturgill, Jenni Ogden and Lisa Abraham
The 2016 US Egyptian Event, which took place from June 7-11, was a show and an event that many of us will never forget. Straight Egyptian breeders and enthusiasts gathered from all over the world in Lexington, Kentucky (USA), for what was the 36th year for this internationally important show. What will mark 2016 as unique were the important changes that were implemented. The Pyramid Society (TPS) made great strides to address the concerns of not just our community, but also, those of many in the Arabian show world. These innovations were received by both the membership body and community with great support and appreciation.
The Kentucky Horse Park (KHP), which continues to be the home of this prestigious show, is one of the most beautiful Equine facilities in the world. The park, whose history is rooted in thoroughbred racing, became the property of the state of Kentucky in 1978. At the time, it was the only public park in the world dedicated to man’s relationship with the horse. The KHP hosted the 2010 World Equestrian Games and is home to the prestigious Kentucky Rolex Three Day Event-which is one of only six international events that competes at this top level.
Due to the beautiful scenery of the KHP, the Egyptian Event is an exciting time for photographers – both amateur and professional. It provides a convenient opportunity for some of the most prestigious photographers in the world to immortalise today’s super stars. As a photographer myself, through this very show, I have enjoyed meeting and working with many of the people who have inspired and influenced my own work. Although I have admired the work of many of my peers, upon entering this Arabian community first as a breeder and second as a photographer, I was consistently drawn to the work of the very talented Suzanne Sturgill. Not only has her work inspired me as a breeder to pursue information on horses she has photographed, as a photographer she has inspired me to improve my own techniques.
Suzanne who has been a familiar face at the Egyptian Event for six years, shared: “This year was a great one – the atmosphere was so positive and the weather was incredible! Not only were the people fun, they were being very supportive of one another. Everybody was willing to lend a helping hand and the sense of community was high. However, this year was extra special for me. After years of developing long term relationships with many of my clients, getting to share in their successes is priceless. I have been friends with Mike Wilson since before his boys were born. My favourite moment from this year’s event was when I photographed Jake Wilson, Mike’s youngest son, after winning his first Championship. After a few photos, Mike stepped in with his son for a photo with him – and when I saw my friend just beaming with pride and a bit emotional, even I shed a few tears.”
|Judith Forbis, Anna Bishop and Sirbasku.
Judy Sirbasku of Arabians LTD: The Exclusive 36th Anniversary Signature Sponsor
It is exciting to announce that the 2016 exclusive 36th Anniversary Signature Sponsor was Judi Sirbasku of Arabians LTD – most particularly as this was her second year in a row. For several years, Judy’s contribution and support of this show has been enormous. Not only has she bred and owned many of the horses competing each year, but she represents a strong client base as well. It is also important to note that an impressive number of Pyramid Society members and straight Egyptian breeders were initially introduced to this breed through the efforts of Judy, her late husband Jim and Arabians LTD USA.
Anna Bishop, the executive Director of The Pyramid Society (TPS) shared: “The late great football coach Vince Lombardi is credited with a quote which very effectively summarised the impact of teamwork. He stated ‘individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilisation work’. Certainly a spirit of teamwork and a belief in the group effort have been necessary for year after year success at the Egyptian Event. Judy Sirbasku and her team at Arabians Ltd have helped write that success – in spades! Judy’s ongoing sponsorships, as well as her commitment as our Signature Sponsor, their always impressive show string and equally large and dedicated client base, their support with the EBC and other fund-raising efforts, are only a few of the many examples of Arabians Ltd’s dedication and commitment to both the Egyptian Event and the straight Egyptian Arabian horse. We’re grateful for you, along with each and every other sponsor, breeder, exhibitor, attendee and enthusiast who help strengthen and unite our worldwide straight Egyptian Arabian team!”
|Judith Forbis and Omar Sakr during the presentaton of the new Stud Book.
Omar Sakr of Sakr Arabians: the exclusive 36th Anniversary Trophy and Ribbon Sponsor
Omar Sakr of Sakr Arabians, Egypt, is deeply influential in the world of straight Egyptian Arabian horses. Not only is Omar a co-founder of The Egyptian Arabian Horse Pyramids Foundation in Egypt, and serves as the current Chairman of its Board of Trustees, but he was also the President of the Egyptian Arabian Breeders Association for ten years. Omar has been a dedicated breeder of straight Egyptian Arabian Horses for over 25 years and has been instrumental in the publishing of several important reference manuals published in Egypt and educational conferences. Finally, Omar also serves as an active member of TPS Board.
Lisa Lacy, of Lakeridge Farm and the former Bentwood Farm, shared: “Omar Sakr is one of the recent visionaries who is responsible for providing the Egyptian horse with new supporters, breeders, and admirers. Once he discovered this unique horse and its heritage, Omar imported back to Egypt distinctly Egyptian horses that traced their own lineage directly to the Egyptian Agricultural Association’s legendary breeding programme. His was the first major importation of Egyptian bloodlines back to Egypt in more than seven generations, and revitalised Egyptian horse breeding in its historic homeland. Omar, his wife, Sherifa, and their family, developed their own breeding programme, which has had a substantial impact throughout the world. For example, Sakr Arabians captured three consecutive Egyptian horse World Championships in Rome, Italy: Nabila Sakr (Tallahsman x Ansata Nafisa), Champion Mare; Farouk Sakr (El Habiel x Desperados Fancy), Champion Stallion; and Adham Sakr (Imperial Madori x Ameera Sakr), Champion Stallion. Adham Sakr also won Senior Stallion honours in Kuwait in 2015.”
Not content to simply create a world-class breeding programme, Omar has also committed time and effort to mentor new breeders and owners through progressive and interactive seminars, such as the 2014 Egyptian Breeders’ Association (EBA) Seminar, in Cairo. The success of the EBA seminar caught the attention of TPS, who adopted the EBA format as the template for the TPS’s 2015 International Breeders’ Conference The Art of Breeding Egyptian Arabian Horses. The Egyptian Arabian horse has long been the archetype for visionaries, and Omar has carried forward the vision for his own generation and for the future. Most recently, Omar was the visionary for the creation, development and the publication of The Pyramid Society Stud Book for Straight Egyptian Arabian Horses Worldwide.”
The Pyramid Society Stud Book for Straight Egyptian Arabian Horses Worldwide
The 2016 Egyptian Event was the perfect occasion for the release of The Pyramid Society Stud Book for Straight Egyptian Arabian Horses Worldwide. With the hard work and dedication of several individuals and led primarily by Omar Sakr, this monumental reference manual has been in the works for several years. The Pyramid Society Stud Book for Straight Egyptian Arabian Horses Worldwide was sponsored by Sheikh Khalid Bagado of Al Khaled Farm, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, who also sponsored the seminar dedicated to introducing this important piece of reference literature. The seminar was followed by a an unprecedented book signing of several of the main contributors of the piece that included: Omar Sakr, Judith Forbis (USA), Mohamed El Bourini (Egypt), Kerry Wright (USA), Joe Ferris (USA) and Henry Metz (USA) in place of Christie Metz.
|Cynthia Culbertson, Judith Forbis, Omar Sakr and Mohamed El Bourini.
Cynthia Culbertson, who is known and respected throughout the world for her historical knowledge of the Arabian horse and for her many contributions to important industry related reference materials shared: “The publication of The Pyramid Society Stud Book for Straight Egyptian Arabian Horses Worldwide is a pivotal moment for both The Pyramid Society and the straight Egyptian Arabian. While the founders of The Pyramid Society carefully constructed the definition for a straight Egyptian nearly 50 years ago, having this stud book in print means there is now an authoritative and definitive reference regarding these horses: if a horse traces in every line of its pedigree to horses listed in the stud book, it is straight Egyptian! Thanks to the hard work and dedication of those who saw this project to fruition, owners and breeders can also now order certificates from The Pyramid Society attesting that their horse is straight Egyptian, and that will be beneficial both for the marketplace and show ring. The Stud Book serves to give owners and breeders certainty that their horse is indeed ‘straight Egyptian’ and will be a positive influence in eliminating any confusion over the bloodlines of these unique and influential horses.”
If we want our children to carry on our love for the horse, we must educate them, which is why programmes that teach our youth are so important. Four years ago Melinda Jeffries of Jeffries Arabian Center and Jillian Whitlow of Empire Egyptians joined forces to start a programme to do just that. Melinda shared: “As parents of young children, Jillian and I have a vested interest in educating our kids about the various subject concerning the Egyptian Arabian horse and our lives with them. Our goal is to promote and cultivate the youth to have the knowledge and leadership skills to be the next generation of ambassadors, breeders and participants of The Pyramid Society. We focus on well-rounded knowledge of basic horsemanship and camaraderie through fun and enjoyable youth activities.”
The centre for all youth activities was the ‘youth tent’, located on the arena concourse among the vendor booths. Not only was this the official meeting place for all activities, but it was also a place where kids could relax throughout the week with movies and snacks. The schedule of youth activities included: A meet-and greet; a show grooming clinic taught by Jeffries Arabians; a photography clinic taught by Don Stine; an art project taught by Jillian Whitlow and Melinda Jeffries; and, on Championship night, an ice cream social and stick horse competition.
Augusta Hammock of The Hadassah Reserve shared: “2015 was an important year of growth for the Youth meProgram at the Egyptian Event. It was before the EBC Stallion Auction, when darling art items created by the children were successfully auctioned off—this is when I knew I wanted to be involved. Once a seedling artist myself, I understand the significance of enabling the youth to express their creativity and recognising them for it. This year, not only was I honoured to sponsor the Youth Art Activity, but also, I was delighted to provide the commentary while the children’s art items were auctioned off once again. Together, we raised an astounding $900 for future youth activities!
“I reminisce about toting my sketchbook around at the Egyptian Event when I was a child. Most memorable was my encounter with Shary B. Akers, who graciously looked through my sketches and spoke words of encouragement over my future as an artist. Now, many years later, I see the effect that experience had on my life. From one artist to another – Shary to me, and me to our youth – we do what we are able to build up the next generation of creative minds. One never knows what the children we empower will accomplish someday.”
|Joe Ferris, Judith Forbis, Omar Sakr and Mohamed El Bourini.
|Bob Miars and Anna Bishop.
The Trustees’ Award is one of the Pyramid Society’s highest honours. It is an award chosen by the Board of Trustees that ‘seeks to acknowledge and formally recognise the lifetime of achievements and the passionate dedication of its recipients – both to the Pyramid Society and to the Egyptian Arabian horse’. Past recipients of the Trustees’ Award include Amid Abdelhamid, Anna Bishop, Joe Ferriss, Willis and Imogene Flick, Donald and Judith Forbis, Barbara Griffith, Martha Murdoch, Tom McNair, Dr Hans Nagel, Judy Sirbasku, Rhita McNair, Polly Knoll and in 2015, Bait Al Arab and Mr Mohammed J. Al Marzouk. Representing the Board of Trustees are: D. Joseph ‘Jody’ Cruz, Robert Fauls, Judith Forbis, Martha Lucas, Christie and Henry Metz, Sherry Mosely, Tom Salome and Howell Wallace. This year, the Rogers Family was recognised as the recipient of the Trustees’ Award.
|Majid Alsayegh with his aunt, Jean Howe (above); Jody Cruz and Janice Bush (below).
Henry Metz, of Silver Maple Farm, presented the Award. He shared: “Jean Rogers started with a dream over forty years ago and Herb, her husband, was there to support her. Jean she grew up with horses and become involved with Arabian Horses and from there got involved in straight Egyptians. Personally I find it significant that mother had a dream and a vision, dad supported it, and the kids first became involved, and then have carried the dream forward. To me, it is the epitome of what we all hope to have happen – that it becomes a generational venture which insures that the horses have a place to go.
“I have served on the board with both Nancy [Blankenship] and Becky [Rogers]. Not only did Nancy serve on The Pyramid Society’s Executive Board as Secretary, she also spent years as the Show Chair, which is not an easy job. When Nancy left the Board, we felt it important that a member of the Roger family be represented as they were an important mainstay within the organisation and community. So when Nancy left, Becky joined, starting at the very next meeting. Becky has also served also as an Officer and has been highly instrumental in many areas that have included marketing, public relations and the competition.
“The lifelong dedication of the Rogers family fits the criteria for the Trustees’ Award. They have demonstrated commitment; they have been generous; and they have given service. It is even more important for us to recognise this family as they have done everything in a very quiet way, never seeking attention. To me, it is people like them, who give without expecting anything in return, are the true givers in life.”
|Jody Cruz in action during the auction.
|Auctioning one of the art pieces.
Guardians of the Treasure: Gala and Fundraiser
The 2016 Gala and Fundraiser, Guardians of the Treasure took place on Friday 10 June and was an evening that will always be remembered as special. The Gala was the traditional formal in which guests enjoyed cocktails, a nice dinner, the Premier Auction and then an after party that included live music and dancing. Along with the rest of the week, there were several innovations to the enhanced both the success of the evening and everyone’s enjoyment.
|Lisa Abraham with Karen Kasper and her beautiful auction piece.
This year’s Premier Auction, offered a smaller grouping of high end opportunities included: a breeding to Imperial Madheen (Messaoud x Madinah); an original bronze by Karen Kasper; original paintings by Ali Alminmar and Jill Vanstone; a unique antique saddle from Northern Africa; and two European vacation packages. The total raised was an impressive $91,500. The top selling items included the Imperial Madheen breeding, donated by Omar Sakr, and purchased by Judi Sirbasku for $29,000. Egyptian Splendor, an original bronze donated by the artist Karen Kasper, was purchased by Jeff Sloan for $20,000.
Another change was the venue itself as it took place at Fasig-Tipton, an internationally known Thoroughbred auction facility. Fasig-Tipton epitomises all that is special about Lexington. Gail Mailloux, TPS’s Gala Chair, shared: “It has always been my personal desire to tap into the Fasig-Tipton for some of our show functions. Its location is ideal as it is on the way to the Kentucky Horse Park and close to our hotels. Fasig-Tipton is an incredible facility that offers a grand space of green grass, preened trees, immaculate stabling and the famous ivy-covered auction hall though which so many race winners have passed. Due to the facility’s size and ability to accommodate, we found this location ideal to suit our needs. One advantage was that the dining area was its own room. After the Premier Auction, most of us adjourned to the ‘walking ring’ with its rubber bricked floor—the same space where the Thoroughbred industry’s best are paraded. There we had plenty of room to enjoy the music and dance, yet others could remain behind in the quiet lounge areas in the nearby dining hall.”
Read more about the 36th Annual US Egyptian Event in the second article, published this Friday afternoon GMT. This will include news from the show itself and the Egyptian Breeders’ Challenge.