By Linda White
Since 1980, the first week in June, the Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington, Ky.’s premier tourist attraction, has come alive with a horse show that is unlike any other: the Egyptian Event. This year the excitement, enthusiasm and prize payouts were over-the-top. Although horse numbers dipped somewhat, members’ and enthusiasts’ passion for and commitment to the Egyptian Arabian horse were in the stratosphere. At Friday evening’s live auction, competitive bidding by breeders from Egypt, Qatar and the United States saw a halter worn by iconic Egyptian Arabian stallion Nazeer sell for $230,000. (Ed. Note: Nazeer was the most influential Egyptian sire in the 20th century; he never left Egypt.)
That $230,000 halter was part of the “Gleannloch Farms: The Legend and the Legacy," fundraiser auction and gala, held at Lexington’s Embassy Suites Hotel. Texas breeders Douglas and Margaret Marshall, as beloved as they were influential, collected hundreds of gorgeous, one-of- a-kind items during their world travels. Friday morning’s Gleannloch Legacy Showcase Auction and Breakfast, a prelude, was held at historic Fasig-Tipton Thoroughbred auction center near the Kentucky Horse Park.
“Never again in our lifetime will there be anything like it,” marveled Pyramid Society Executive Director, Anna Bishop. “Gleannloch was a Camelot; but when the story ended, there would be no more. We were overwhelmed by the Marshall family’s generosity.”
“The auction exemplified the ‘halo effect,’” agreed Gleannloch project chair, Middle East historian and Pyramid Society Board member Cynthia Culbertson. “People had special sentiments about the items, and were willing to pay for them. The Marshalls, and the Gleannloch horses, touched a great many lives.”
Created in 1969, The Pyramid Society’s mission is preserving, perpetuating and promoting the Straight Egyptian Arabian horse. “We knew that our entry numbers would be down this year and last, because the slowed economy accounted for people’s breeding fewer horses, beginning in 2008,” Bishop explained. “This naturally has resulted in fewer young horses to be enrolled in our futurities and other incentive programs. Still, our prize monies this year were very healthy.” Payouts exceeded over $154,600.00. Clearly, this was one for the record books.
The Egyptian Event is the world’s largest showcase for the Egyptian Arabian horse. The five-day celebration, a gathering place for an international group of Straight Egyptian Arabian breeders and devotees, is often described as a showing of horses, rather than a traditional horse show.
“This is not just another horse show,” stated Pyramid Society Board member Gail Mailloux, who first saw the Gleannloch horses in the 1970s. “The Egyptian Event is a breeders’ show, designed to showcase the Straight Egyptian Arabian horse. For many years, we also have offered a ‘World Class’ performance and halter program for Egyptian-sired Arabians whose dams are not straight Egyptian. Over time, most of the Egyptian-sired horses have not come back after their 2-year-old year, so we’re phasing out the World Class program and introducing ‘The Golden Scarab’, which includes payback classes for Egyptian-sired yearlings, as well as amateur halter and performance classes for those horses as they mature. While we appreciate and respect the beautiful, exciting Egyptian-sired Arabians, our primary responsibility is to safeguard the Straight Egyptian Arabian gene pool.
“This year’s show was a knockout,” Mailloux added. Two years ago Jillian Whitlow, a longtime Pyramid Society member and new mother, approached Anna Bishop with an idea. “There was not a very active youth program,” said Whitlow, “so Anna and I upped our game. People have been generous in sponsoring activities for all kinds of fun and educational activities, and we really had a full schedule this year! Artist Christen Benat worked with the kids on a collage project on Tuesday, and Wednesday, photographer Don Stine presented a photography seminar – with a live horse. On Thursday, Virginia Goodwin’s Markel-sponsored conformation clinic, using live horses, was a big hit. Friday, we took the kids to the Explorium to see the new exhibit. Tara Carpio, of Belvedere Farms, sponsored Saturday’s ice cream social.”
“Saddles Up! The Versatile Arabian Horse”, a traveling exhibit, was what the youth visited at the Explorium, a children’s museum in downtown Lexington, Ky. Markel, the Pyramid Society, the Arabian Horsemen’s Distress Fund, and the Arabian Horse Galleries, is sponsoring the exhibit.
“We were very excited to have the exhibit’s debut coincide with this year’s Egyptian Event,” stated Markel’s Kimberley Douglas, who created the exhibit. “Lexington, ‘Horse Capital of the World’ was the perfect place to launch it, and this is the perfect time for an exhibit that will increase the public’s exposure to the Arabian breed,”
On Saturday morning another program for youth drew an enthusiastic audience. The third annual Heirs Apparent presentation showcased young straight Egyptian stallions. Each was shown individually, and spectators then were invited to come down into center ring to meet them. Heirs Apparent was held in the KHP’s huge covered arena, as was the week’s full schedule of halter and performance classes, including the Egyptian Breeders’ Challenge and Pyramid Society Futurities. Over $1.5 million has been paid out since the Pyramid Society Futurities’ inception. Despite earlier concerns about the lower horse numbers, The Egyptian Event is alive and well, thanks to the multitude of passionate members and supporters who champion its cause so effectively.
Visit www.pyramidsociety.org for more information.