By Linda White
For many Region 14 Arabian horse exhibitors, this show is a dry run before upcoming national events: Youth Nationals and Canadian Nationals are coming in July and August; the 20th Sport Horse Nationals is September 15-20; and October means the U.S. National Championships. The wide variety of classes Region 14 offers, and the superior individuals it attracts, both horse and human, have made this show an important prelude to those scintillating annual competitions.
Why do people keep coming back to the Region 14 Arabian horse Championships, year after year? Trainer Joe Reser perhaps summed it up best. “The show attracts top horses. If your Arabian horse can do well at Region 14, you’ll do well in national competition, no question about it. This show is held in a beautiful place, and it always attracts the best.”
“And how can you be an Arabian horse lover and not love the Kentucky Horse Park?” he asked rhetorically. “There is so much to see and do there, besides the hose show. The International Museum of the Horse, and the Al-Marah Arabian Horse Galleries? They’re great. And we’re always treated awesomely. The people who run the show do a fabulous job.”
Cindy Clinton has managed the show since 1998. “This was the best Region 14 show I can remember,” she said. “The numbers were up, our entries were up, and most people’s attitudes were great. They came to have fun, and I believe they did.”
Mike and Wendy Gruskiewicz definitely had fun. In fact, they had a wonderful time at the Region 14! Championships this year. Their 10-year-old Half-Arabian gelding, Riften (Triften x Rina), bought in December 2014 from owners Peter and Ronni Scocos, won five 2015 Region 14 championships in a single day, shown by three different people!
“Sometimes it takes a village to develop a champion,” laughed Wendy, who has judged national championship shows. “With his driving trainer, Sarah Vas, he won championships in both carriage driving, working, and carriage driving, reinsmanship. Riften was chosen Region 14 show hack champion with his under-saddle trainer, Danielle Blymier Hebler. After a short rest and a bath, he returned to the ring with Danielle, and for the third year in a row, Riften became the Region 14 Sport Horse In-hand Champion.”
Lastly, with amateur handler Jessica Litt, who had won the Region 14 Second Level Dressage Championship with her own horse, Riften became the 2015 Region 14 Sport Horse In-hand Champion, ATH. He was bred by Erin La Croix and developed at Stachowskis’.
“Region 14 is my favorite of the shows held at the Kentucky Horse Park, because it's such a melting pot of our breed,” Ohio trainer Sarah Vas told us. “I especially love to watch all the youth riders,” she added, alluding to Wednesday’s Bill & Betty Zekan Memorial Youth Show. “And if I need a change of scenery, there's always something to see, and something else going on, at the KHP.”
The Bill & Betty Zekan Memorial Youth Show, held Wednesday in the Youth Ring, gave youthful exhibitors a full day of performance and in-hand opportunities. This was the twentieth year Region 14 put on the event in memory of the beloved northern Ohio breeders. “This year, from the youth classes, to halter, to hunter pleasure, and western and English pleasure, the strength and quality were awesome,” Joe Reser added.
“We had some great judges this year, too,” Clinton offered. “For the Region 14 Championships Greg Gallun, Van Jacobson, Laura Gault and Eric Wolfe were our main ring judges. Bill Melendez judged reining and trail; we were pleased to have Charlotte Trentelman as our sport horse and dressage judge; and Steve Holm handled carriage driving. Our Silverama Show’s main ring judges were Susan Witte and Cathy Vecsey; Bill Melendez judged the youth show, Angela Littlefield handled dressage; Margaret Freeman did our sport horse classes; and Karen Homer Brown was the carriage driving judge.” The Silverama Show always precedes the Region 14 Championships.
What about this year’s uneven weather? “It’s typical to have a variety of weather conditions in Kentucky, and this year was no different,” said Duane Esser, whose Esser Valley Arabians is in Cleves, Ohio, near Cincinnati. “We had some nasty storms one evening, and the usual heat and humidity, but it became less humid after the storms, and temperatures were quite pleasant.”
Trainer Joe Reser also spoke about the weather. “When it rained, it wasn’t that great,” he said with typical candor. He began showing Arabians when he was six. “You always expect to contend with weather at the KHP. There are no covered work arenas: all the work areas are outdoors. With a covered work arena, the Kentucky Horse Park would be perfect.”
“It would, but bad weather is a deterrent at any event that’s held mostly outdoors,” countered Esser. “You know, back in the 1970s, I showed at what I think was the first show ever held here. We showed in a bull-dozed area, with snow fence put up around the ring for the rail! They were just developing the property. It was pretty rugged – but we were so excited to be at the Kentucky Horse Park! When I think of how far the facilities have come, and how much the KHP now has to offer ….
“This was a great year: a great show,” he continued, “but we have world class management. Cindy does such an incredible job; she was so excited afterward. She knows how to spot potential problems and keep them from happening, even with multiple rings going at the same time. She knows how to deal with people, and how to make good decisions. I think everybody enjoyed themselves this year.”
“I have a great staff,” Clinton responded. “Jean Hedger was our show secretary; Dave Daugherty was my right hand man; and Gloria Bush coordinated dressage. Thanks to everyone’s working together: and that includes Pat Webb, the USEF Steward; our announcer, the paddock managers, our ringmasters, farrier, show veterinarian, ring clerk - and too many others to even name, the show ran smoothly.
“A lot of fun this year came with the Hollywood Toi Trainers’ Equitation Challenge,” continued Clinton, who also lists Ohio’s Buckeye Sweepstakes among nearly a dozen Arabian and National Show Horse shows she manages. “Jenny Lau and Emme Moore made this the event of the year, with help from Lori Foster and Lori Davisson. Everybody stepped up to the plate, and helped make the fundraiser a huge success.”
“Last year,” Lori Foster explained, “Cindy and I discussed what Region 14 could support with a fundraiser in 2015. In January, I spent time with Jenny Lau and Emme Moore, and learned more about the Hollywood Toi Foundation they were starting in honor of the horse they had both shown and loved, who had died unexpectedly at the 2014 Youth Nationals. I decided then and there that the Hollywood Toi Foundation should benefit from our 2015 fundraiser. At the Buckeye, we really started to push clients to nominate their trainers for the equitation challenge; that started the ball rolling. By Region 14 Championships, everyone was on board.”
The Hollywood Toi Trainers’ Equitation Challenge earned the Foundation $60,000, far exceeding everyone’s expectations. “We had so much fun organizing and watching that class!” Jenny Lau exclaimed. “We put in a lot of hard work, but were paid back tenfold when we were able to raise so much money - and when we saw how excited everyone was about the idea.
“It was so exciting for us to see everyone at the show become invested in the event, not only because it was fun, but also because they believed in our cause,” Lau continued. “We can't thank everyone enough for their help and support; especially Lori Davisson and Lori Foster. Lori Foster came up with this idea last year; we can’t thank her enough for choosing us.”
“We can’t express enough gratitude toward everyone involved, for making our first fundraiser such a great success,” echoed Emme Moore, Lau’s co-founder and co-chair. The Hollywood Toi Scholarships, each $2,000, honor youthful exhibitors who uphold the values and sportsmanship instilled in them by competing in saddle seat equitation. See the Hollywood Toi Foundation website for further information.
In 1965 the Arabian Horse Association, then called the International Arabian Horse Association, first approved a system of designating certain groups of states and Canadian Provinces as Regions; the Regional map we have today was approved in 1976. The AHA Regional map snakes across North America, up the West Coast, from San Diego (Region 1) to Alaska (Region 5), across the midland states, and Texas and Louisiana, into the Southeast (Region 12), and then on to New England (Region 15). From there, the two Canadian Regions stretch from the Prairie Provinces (Region 17), and as far west as the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. Region 18 is comprised of Canada’s eastern Provinces, including Newfoundland, the easternmost.
As one would expect, a head count of the Arabian horse populations in each Region varies widely. Regional championships are a big deal anyplace, but a Region 14 championship is uniquely prestigious. Why? Do the math. For complete 2015 Region 14 Show results, go to: http://www.arabianhorses.org/competitions/showresults.asp.