By Linda White
The Egyptian Event has become the world’s largest celebration of the Egyptian Arabian horse. What began modestly in 1980 as a showing of horses, rather than a horse show, today attracts enthusiasts from six of the earth’s seven continents. A true labor of love, the Egyptian Event is held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky. each year, effectively spotlighting the rare Egyptian Arabian and his ancient heritage as has no other equine event in history.
The Event, as it has come to be called, is a collaborative effort has great intrinsic, aesthetic, entertainment and financial value. One example of that last-mentioned is the straight Egyptian and Egyptian-related Arabian breeders’ incentive programs that attract more participants every year. Payouts at the 2013 Event totaled $157, 284. The Egyptian Breeders’ Challenge alone paid out $85, 950, and futurity classes paid out $61,690. Ah, but that’s not all. Thursday evening’s EBC Live Auction raised $165, 500. And that’s not counting the proceeds from the silent auction.
“The EBC was great this year,” said Anna Bishop, the Pyramid Society’s longtime Executive Director. “Based on the monies we raised, it will be even better next year. Our sponsorships were up, we had more commercial exhibitors, and Amber Zerbini’s performance on Saturday night, between the junior and senior mare championship classes, drew a lot of spectators.” Zerbini, a dressage, vaulting and trick riding specialist created another of the 2013 Egyptian Event’s highlights.
The ever-increasing class diversity the Event offers continues to increase the show’s stature and prestige. A win at the Egyptian Event has become a major career achievement. “The Egyptian Event boasts world-class halter and performance competition, superb shopping, expert-led seminars, live and silent art auctions, and fun social activities for all ages,” reads the Pyramid Society’s website.
Ohio breeder Ralph Demshar heartily endorsed that statement. “If I had one horse show a year to go to, it would be this one,” he told friends after the show. Ralph and Judy Demshar, his wife, first came to the Egyptian Event in the late 1980s, bought their first straight Egyptian mare at that show, and have been showing there annually since 2000.
But the online promo only hints at the week’s offerings. Throughout the week the 2013 show featured exciting stallion presentations, guided barn tours, live and silent art auctions, seminars, a full schedule of halter and performance classes, book signing by noted Arabian horse photographer Polly Knoll, prestigious futurities, and activities for visitors of all ages.
“Our entry numbers were down this year,” explained Anna B., “but that was a product of the recession. The less robust economy saw people breeding fewer horses. Fewer mares bred meant fewer futurity nominees, and we saw the effects of that this year. But next year entries will be back up, and our futurities will be bigger and better than ever!”
The Event has long been famous for its social flavor and hospitality. Wednesday evening’s progressive barn party, a longstanding tradition newly configured, was a huge hit. The next night, the Egyptian Breeders’ Challenge Live Auction, mentioned above, was complemented by an EBC wine tasting and shopping social, drawing record numbers of participants. Friday evening’s semi-formal, always eagerly anticipated banquet preceded the live art auction, and the Pyramid Society graciously hosted the cocktail party before Saturday evening’s championship classes.
Exhibitors concurred that the week was filled with excitement, camaraderie and sheer enjoyment. “This is the only vacation I take all year!” admitted Pyramid Society member Chris Johnson, who brought a straight Egyptian filly and colt, full siblings, to the show. This was Johnson’s tenth trip to the Event.
“Everyone is always so friendly,” observed Janna Allen, Johnson’s friend and fellow Wisconsin breeder. “I truly feel welcomed. And it’s so nice to come down here and have people who have been in the business a long time compliment and encourage me. The Egyptian Event is like a family gathering.”
“And it’s still affordable,” added Allen’s husband, Tim. “We look forward all year to coming here … and my wife was successfully addicted to showing here yesterday, after she presented our 2-year-old filly in the novice amateur class.” The couple first came to the Egyptian Event in 2001.
Egyptian Arabian breeders join Arabian horse breeders everywhere in recognizing that the future rests with our youth. The Event has focused on its youth since the get-go, and activities this year included a Kentucky Horse Park Mare and Foal Show at the Kids’ Barn; a Youth Booth where young participants gathered often-and not only to decorate stick horses for the stick horse classes. There were seminars for youth on subjects ranging from manners-horse and human, that would be, and grooming-again for both horse and human; to photography tips and horse-themed crafts. The popularity of Friday noon’s ice cream social at the Youth Booth was no surprise. And audiences at trainer Tommy Garland’s 8:00 a.m. clinics on Tuesday and Thursday mornings included attentive youth and grown-ups alike; taking in the highly regarded horseman’s every word.
Educational opportunities are another Egyptian Event tradition. On Wednesday morning, photography clinics for youth and adults were presented, variously, by Melinda Jeffries, Lisa Abraham, Randi Clark and Jenni Ogden. Also on Wednesday, from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., Texas breeder Becky Rogers, pinch-hitting for Cynthia Culbertson, enthralled her audience with her “Standard of Excellence” lecture. Rogers’s presentation was given in the Patrons’ Lounge that overlooks the covered arena. Thursday morning from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., again in the Patrons’ Lounge, Rogers and Jeremy Whitman, DVM discussed "Managing the Aged and Problem Broodmare".
At 1:00 p.m. Friday, afternoon classes resumed with futurity competitions for straight Egyptian yearling and 2-year-old colts and fillies. The Event’s relaxed schedule has always been a plus. This year, classes began at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, June 5. Afternoon classes resumed at 1:00 p.m. and evening classes began at 6:00 p.m. in the Horse Park’s covered arena. Classes for straight Egyptians and Egyptian-related halter and performance horses continued daily through Saturday, June 8. Also on Saturday, the second annual Heirs Apparent presentation showcased up-and-coming young straight Egyptian stallions. Saturday classes began at 11:00 a.m.
Despite, or perhaps because of the Event’s ever-growing visibility and popularity, its founders’ original objectives have remained constant. The Pyramid Society that conceived and brought the Egyptian Event to life and light is dedicated to preserving, perpetuating and promoting the straight Egyptian Arabian horse as the world’s premier source of Arabian type. The Egyptian Event has been steadily advancing that mission, year after year for 33 years, and will doubtless continue to do so into the foreseeable future. [For class results and information about the Pyramid Society and its incentive programs, visit www.PyramidSociety.org; ww.facebook.com/The PyramidSociety; https://twitter.com/PyramidSociety;or email them at info@PyramidSociety.org.]