By Linda White
On June 2-6, 2015, the Kentucky Horse Park (KHP) in Lexington, Kentucky was filled with the excitement, sights and sounds of the 35th Annual Egyptian Event. This now world-famous celebration of the Egyptian Arabian horse has been held at the KHP annually since 1981. The Pyramid Society, sponsor of the Egyptian Event, was organized in 1969 by a nucleus of committed breeders whose common goal was to preserve, promote and perpetuate the rare Egyptian Arabian horse. Today, 46 years later, the Pyramid Society’s influence extends globally.
The show has grown and metamorphosed over the years, but one element has remained constant: the Egyptian Event continues to be as much a showing of horses as it is a horse show. The gathering provides a unique opportunity for Egyptian Arabian horse breeders everywhere to showcase their finest, in a context where good sportsmanship, zeal, generosity, and passionate commitment to their collective passion are foremost. Competition is keen; good-natured rivalries develop; significant prize monies are won; and the Event draws participants and Egyptian Arabian devotees from six of the earth’s seven continents!
This year’s theme, Stallions: Kings of the Nile, spotlighted straight Egyptian stallions. As one-half of the stew in the genetic cauldron, stallions are essential catalysts who positively influence the pure, a.k.a. straight, Egyptian Arabian population. Wider recognition of their contributions is reflected in the Pyramid Society’s steadily growing stallion-centered incentive programs like the Golden Scarab Sweepstakes and the Egyptian Breeders’ Challenge. This was the fourth year for the Heirs Apparent/Kings of the Nile presentation of straight Egyptian stallions three years old and older. The Heirs Apparent was held Thursday afternoon, June 4, in the Covered Arena.
Pyramid Society Director Anna Bishop, who has attended every Egyptian Event since 1985, was delighted with the 2015 turnout. “Our numbers were up, the show’s overall energy was almost palpable, and this year, the prize monies surpassed $170,000. To date, participants in the Pyramid Society’s futurities and breeders’ incentive programs have taken home more than $1.5 million.
“We also added Egyptian-sired open classes back into the schedule, which were positively received,” added Bishop.
Education has become a valued Egyptian Event tradition. “All of our educational seminars were well-attended this year,” Bishop said. “The Patrons’ Lounge, where most of the seminars were held, was full for each of them.” Markel, a longtime Egyptian event supporter, presented Larry Jones’s “The Sport Horse In-Hand” clinic in the Covered Arena on Saturday morning. Kimberly Douglas, Markel’s representative, was very pleased with the participation and enthusiasm of the 100+ attendees at this clinic.
First of the instructional offerings was Wednesday morning’s “Harnessing the Power of Social Media and Web Advertising”, presented by Augusta Hammock and Kay Wilcox. On Thursday morning, Sue Harris’s “Anatomy in Motion: The Visible Horse”, which utilized both the Patrons’ Lounge and the main show ring it overlooks, attracted a healthy crowd; as did Joe Ferris’s “Stallions: Kings of the Nile” offering, on Friday morning.
Progressive barn parties are an often high-spirited Egyptian event happening, and Thursday’s late afternoon social was no exception. Camaraderie definitely was the order of the day. “It was such a pleasure to see people enjoying each other at the barn parties!” said Judy Sirbasku, longtime Pyramid Society and owner of Arabians, Ltd.
“Overall, this was a very positive Event,” Anna observed. “We have a dedicated group of volunteers, and their involvement this year exceeded all our expectations. This was Lisa Cifrese’s first year as our show chairman, and she did a terrific job. Our volunteer coordinator and ‘go-to’ girl was Jill Spizale, who also received our 2015 Volunteer of the Year Award. We had ordered more than 30 volunteer hats – and Jill gave out every one!”
Guests especially enjoyed Friday evening’s formal affair, appropriately dubbed “An Evening of Elegance.” This year’s annual gala and fundraiser took place at historic Spindletop Hall, on the south side of Iron Works Parkway, down the road from the KHP. “Having our gala evening at Spindletop, made it a very special occasion,” Bishop told us. “We hadn’t been there for a number of years; in fact, some people had never been there.”
The elegant evening featured an auction of seven exclusive items, including two fabulous trips, and pieces of beautiful artwork. Another highlight was the presentation of the inaugural “Milestone Award” to Dr. Nasr Marei of Albadeia Stud in Egypt, in recognition of the farm’s 80 continuous years of breeding straight Egyptian horses. Dr. Marei’s poignant acceptance speech was enthusiastically met with a standing ovation. In addition to the fund-raising, the evening’s agenda included a bit of fun-raising as well: a cigar bar, signature cocktails, and a crowded dance floor, capping off the evening. The familiar quote, “a good time was had by all,” summed up the evening at Spindletop.
Saturday midday saw a book signing by Dr. Marei (see above), in the Pyramid Society lounge on the concourse above the Covered Arena’s show ring. Later that afternoon, an EBC “Shopping Social” preceded the always popular EBC Stallion Auction, sponsored this year by Lone Star Arabians, LLC. “The EBC is a very important breeders’ incentive program,” explained Anna. “This year’s EBC amateur-to-handle winners took home prize money exceeding $100,000. It’s easy to understand why the bidding can be intense!”
Leann Allen was elated to have gotten the final bid for a breeding to Ali Nadal B at the EBC Stallion Auction. Ali Nadal B is Bergren Family Arabians’ 4-year-old Ruminaja Ali son (x Showboat CAHR, by Safeen). Ruminaja Ali died in August 1997; Ali Nadal B is a product of frozen semen the Bergren family has retained.
Allen will use the breeding on her Ali Rashan daughter, Imtal Anck Su Namun. “I took the name from the old Boris Karloff movie, The Mummy.” She rolled her eyes, smiling. Allen attended her first Egyptian Event in the early 1990s, and still owns and trail rides the 19-year-old first straight Egyptian she bred. She got to meet dynasty-building sire Shaikh Al Badi in his later years, and owned a Ruminaja Ali daughter at one time.
“I’ve been riding most of my life,” she explained, “so I believe in using my straight Egyptians: in allowing them to reach their highest performance potential in the disciplines where their talents lie.”
An upgraded slate of performance classes has boosted the show’s appeal to performance breeders and exhibitors who have discovered – or long known - that athleticism, a willing temperament, and reliability are among the straight Egyptian and Egyptian-related Arabian’s many gifts.
One ever-popular Egyptian Event tradition is its many fun and educational activities for young people. Daily youth activities this year began with Tuesday’s “Meet and Greet”, and ranged from a “Kings of the Nile” art project and “Horse Nutrition, and How to Make Horse Treats” seminar, to Saturday afternoon’s ice cream social. All were held in the Youth Booth on the concourse above the show ring in the Covered Arena. Youthful exhibitors and enthusiasts thoroughly enjoyed Saturday evening’s “mocktail hour” and preparations for the stick horse class.
“We tried to inject something fun, something light-hearted, for everyone,” Bishop said. “We had a ‘Who’s Your Daddy’ contest on Thursday afternoon which tied in perfectly with the Heirs Apparent/Kings of the Nile theme. We had drawings, like ‘Let’s Make A Deal’, and the stick horse class was just silly fun - and people had a great time, clowning for Arabian Horse World’s hilarious ‘Strike a Pose’ video. Don Stine, our long-time show photographer, always banters back and forth with Judi Forbis about her turban. This year, they dialed up their friendly back-and-forth, so Judi finally came down into the ring and helped Don with his own turban.”
Saturday morning’s complimentary Members’ Breakfast was followed by the annual Pyramid Society Membership Meeting. Both took place in the vast Alltech Arena, a KHP improvement created for the Rolex Kentucky international competition held there. That makes the KHP a prestigious location for two prestigious international events. The 2015 Egyptian Event truly reflected the overarching mission of Pyramid Society members everywhere. Their annual celebration of the Egyptian Arabian horse is unique in all the world.
Also see: Arabian Horse Celebration