In Review: The 2012 National Breeders' Conference, by Lisa Abraham

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 10:42am

Text and photos by Lisa Abraham

Lisa is an international Journalist and Photographer from the United States. She is also a breeder of Straight Egyptian Arabians.

The Pyramid Society's National Egyptian Breeders Conference, "Creating Excellence: Standards in Egyptian Arabian Breeding", sponsored by Markel Insurance from October 12-14, was another outstanding educational event. It was hosted by Hank and Sandy DeShazer in Tomball, Texas at their gorgeous farm, which is home to the prestigious DeShazer Arabian horses. Attendance was not only high, representation was not only global, but, most impressively, this conference transformed some of the world's most successful breeders, prominent judges and esteemed professionals into teachers.

Keri Wright, of Cariswood Arabians and the Educational Director of the Pyramid Society shared, "The Pyramid Society's slogan of 'Your Passion is Our Purpose' really is the impetus behind all that we do as an organization, and it couldn't possibly have greater application than in our commitment to meeting the ongoing educational needs of our members. We earnestly strive to quench the thirst we all have for greater knowledge and understanding as it relates to our passion for all things pertaining to our involvement with the Egyptian Arabian horse.”

Provided in the cost of the conference was The Standard of Excellence: A Guide to The Pyramid Society Straight Egyptian Arabian Horse (hereafter referred to as The Standard), which, in its introduction, states: “is designed to define and illustrate the classic characteristics of conformation and type that identify a Straight Egyptian Arabian horse.” Also provided was a several hundred page handbook which was packed with applicable information.

The handbook began with the history of the Pyramid Society stating, "The Pyramid Society's mission to preserve, perpetuate, and promote the Egyptian Arabian horse has shaped the breeding programs of countless individuals, providing them with the resources needed to make the informed decisions, as well as to connect and collaborate with likeminded breeders." Furthermore, The Pyramid Society has provided both breeders and enthusiasts "a globally-acknowledged breed definition, an unparalleled set of Breed Standards and a solid platform for Breed preservation.”

As not only a contributor to this conference, but also as one whose contributions have been invaluable to the global Straight Egyptian community, Judith Forbis pinpointed the mission of the conference in her own words, “Everyone has a dream and in order to make your dream come true--you have to wake up. That is what this conference is about--waking up to mastering the art of Breeding."

“The Desert Tradition: Reality and Romance” by Cynthia Culbertson

On Friday, Cynthia Culbertson kicked this conference weekend off with not only a lively discussion, but also an appropriate one as it related to the itinerary. Both Cynthia’s name and work are widely respected throughout the entire Arabian breeding and showing world, making the honor of being present for her scholarly presentation all the more significant. Although the author of countless works, she most recently co-curated “A Gift from the Desert: the Art, History and Culture of the Arabian Horse”--an international exhibition which featured several hundred objects from some of the most prestigious museums and private collections in the world.

Thoughtfully, through art, literature and archeological evidence, Cynthia made the connection between the desert Arabians and the horses we are breeding today. She stated, “The Arabian horse is the oldest breed of horse; it is the most influential; the most beautiful; it has transcended culture; and is still with us today.” She then displayed a timeline spanning 1400 years and continued, “I present this so that you understand that you are standing on the shoulders of generations of breeders.”

Cynthia questioned some of our thoughts and feelings regarding the Arabian horse as being rooted in either “reality or romance.” An example of one such question would be—was maintaining pure bloodlines romance or reality? The audience answered “reality.” To that, Cynthia replied, “Yes, of course this was reality. Maintaining pure blood lines was always the ultimate consideration. One likely reason for this is that genealogy was important to this culture: who are you in relation to your father and mother and from what tribe did you come? It’s typical that they would project these cultural considerations on to their horses.”

Cynthia then introduced a topic that would be discussed at length throughout the weekend--type.  She presented images which portrayed the Arabian horse in its basic silhouette which commonly emphasizes such things as a beautiful head, a long, archy neck and a short back. She stated, “I think there is a danger in emphasizing only those highly visible characteristics and ignoring the more definitive qualities of the Arabian horse.” She illustrated this point by showing an image of the desert, revealing the actual terrain to be quite rocky. For this reason, the Bedouins felt it imperative that their horses had round, hard “flinty” hooves that could withstand the harsh landscape. Cynthia strongly stated, “This is hard to find in the horses we are breeding today; yet it is a part of breed type and should be high on your list of considerations when breeding.”

Near the end of her presentation after reciting historical prose and presenting images portraying various artworks from different dynasties, Cynthia asked, “What do all of the images have in common?” The answer was: all images portrayed horses being ridden. With that, Cynthia concluded, “The Arabian horse is with us today because it has always been a unique combination of beauty AND utility.”

“The Making of Standards: A Model from The Pyramid Society” by Rebecca (Becky) Rogers and Lisa Lacy

Industry veterans Becky Rogers and Lisa Lacy were both deeply involved in the composition and development of The Standards and as such they were most qualified to explain the process. Becky is currently serving as Vice President of The Pyramid Society and is also the farm and breeding manager of Kehilan Arabians, a thirty year old Straight Egyptian Breeding program.  Lisa’s history with Straight Egyptian Arabian horses began with Al Karim Arabians, a family business that grew into the famous Bentwood Farm where she contributed to most facets of the farm until its dispersal in 1988. Lisa also served on The Pyramid Society Board of Directors from 1989-1995 and has a PhD in Middle Eastern History from the University of Texas, at Austin.

Becky began by quoting another breed organization, The British Cavy Council which is the governing board “Championing the exhibition and promotion of purebred cavies (guinea pigs).” She read, “Without clear standards, all breeding and judging of exhibition livestock would come down to a simple matter of opinion. Standards provide the fundamental basis of all forms of livestock competition in which the appearance of the animal, as opposed to its ability to perform tests, jump obstacles or run more quickly than its peers, determines success or failure. Standards state what breeders and exhibitors should look for in the perfect specimen.”

Becky continued, “We hope to unify current breeders across the world. As a leader in the greater Arabian horse community, The Pyramid Society has traditionally set a standard for Egyptian Arabian horses, owners and breeders. At this point we would like to unify a definition and an ideal of a standard to go forward. In keeping with The Pyramid Society’s tradition to educate, we want to build upon the experiences of previous generations and unify a standard to compliment The Pyramid Society’s definition of the Straight Egyptian Arabian horse. We want to lead.”

As such, according to The Standard of Excellence: A Guide to The Pyramid Society Straight Egyptian Horse the definition of a Straight Egyptian Arabian is as follows: “A horse must be registered or eligible by pedigree for registration by the Arabian Horse Registry of America AND trace in every line of its pedigree to horses born in the Arabia Deserta; AND trace in every line of its pedigree to a horse which falls within one or more of the following categories: (a)owned or bred by Abbas Pasha I or Ali Pasha Sherif; (b) used to create and maintain the Royal Agricultural Society (RAS)/ Egyptian Agricultural Organization (EAO) breeding programs , with the exclusion of Registan and Sharkasi and their lineal descendants; (c) a horse which was a lineal ancestor of a horse descried in  (a) or (b) OR (d) other than those excluded above, a horse conceived and born in a private stud program in Egypt and imported directly to the United States and registered by the Arabian Horse Registry of America prior to the extension of the EAO’s supervision to private Egyptian stud programs as reflected in Volume 4 of the EAO’s Stud Book.”

For her turn, Lisa detailed the development of The Standard itself. She shared, “The Standard includes documented impressions and information from a wide variety of sources including references from other international Arabian standards. We used standards written by the British Arab Horse Society, the Arabian Horse Society of Australian, from New Zealand, various breed societies around the world including those of British Cavies and Rhodesian Ridgebacks. However, at all times, a basis ofhistorical depiction has been sought with the intent to describe a horse distinctly bred for use in a harsh desert climate. Even though we are generations removed from the desert, those aspects of the horse for which he was bred in the desert, are what make him special to us today.”

Lisa referenced Cynthia’s lecture where they shared this perspective, “So much modern breeding marginalizes some of these characteristics. As we were making The Standard—we had this in mind. Where there may have been controversy The Standard chose the characteristic that would be desired for use as a desert war horse and Bedouin utilitarian and companion animal.”

Regarding the controversial subject of “style” verses “type”, Becky used the building of a house to illustrate the difference. “The Standard is the framework which would include, for example, strong walls and a properly built roof.  But it will not tell you how to choose certain details such as granite or marble in the kitchen. That being said, there is what has been referred to consistently through a variety of modern and historical sources, as the 5 hallmarks of type: the head, the ‘arched’ (not long or short) neck, short back, a comparatively level croup and a high tail carriage. For a horse to be truly exemplary in type, he must exhibit all five traits. Although styles can loosely relate to the strains, all of those are acceptable within the parameters of the broad standard. Can you have different styles? Yes. It’s up to the breeder to create their own style and their own vision so long as that horse still meets the criteria that readily identifies it as an Arabian.”

“Standards: Out from the Tent” by Emma Maxwell

Among the many prominent speakers and participants, we were very fortunate to have included Emma Maxwell. Majid Alsayegh, an Egyptian Arabian breeder and Pyramid Society board member, warmly introduced her and then later shared, "I met Emma for the first time in Paris at the Salon Du Cheval in 1989. She was at the show with her parents, Major Pat and Joanna Maxwell, showing a few of their own horses and a few horses for clients. The horses won several top placements, including a reserve Championship. Emma was only 19 years old at the time, but was already one of the top handlers at the show. She had a special connection and bond with the horses. She has continued to be a breeder, a trainer, a judge, and a talented photographer. She is certainly one of the most skilled horsewomen in our Arabian community."

With Emma’s focus being on the importance of character and temperament in the Arabian horse, she raised several singularly important issues. First among them was a critique of The Standard itself. After reciting several quotes illustrating the importance of temperament, she made the very strong point, “I would expect an explanation of the temperament and character of the Arabian to take up at least as much of The Standard as the type and conformation section—and it doesn’t. But in common with nearly every other modern western Arab horse standard there are over 20 pages devoted in detail to what the horse should look like and a page each for endurance and character.”

Emma then quoted Bazy Tankersly of Al Marah Farm, “Disposition is undoubtedly inherited. I have rule here--I have to be able to walk in the stall of any stallion, put on a stable halter with no chain and lead that stallion out. If not—he is a gelding—I don’t care how good he is because I don’t think there is an excuse for an Arabian to not have a superb disposition.”

With technological advances such as, but not limited to, cooled and frozen semen, and its ability to be transported worldwide, Emma stated that it has become more difficult for a breeder to get quality information on horses of interest. She recommended, “Visit, in person, any stallion that you intend to breed to. Ask to see him taken out, let loose, caught again, brought back to the stable and, at which point, ask if you can go into the stable with him while he’s loose. If any of these requests are denied without a satisfactory explanation, you must consider—do you want a colt on your farm with whomyou cannot do these simple things.”

She continued, “Character is one of the fundamental features of the Arabian breed. I meet many breeders who consider themselves to be ambitious, who will dismiss this idea. It would not be farfetched to link this attitude to registration figures that show that the Arabian horse is NOT a fantastically popular breed and it is NOT getting any more popular. Breeders like to think they are seeking loftier goals, turning their Arabians into luxury grands so that they have intrinsic value over and above their actual qualities which are: conformation, movement and temperament.”

Very effectively, Emma addressed how, to the outside world, the manner in which we market may be counterproductive by feeding into the strongly held stereotypes in which our horses are judged. She went on to state, “Public perception does matter. Limited by size, the most obvious recreational value for an Arabian is in pleasure trail or show riding and the lower levels of jumping and dressage. These sports are for the less ambitious rider, but for whom temperament is paramount. Arabians are frequently passed over by this category of riders because they have the reputation of crazy Arabs.”

“To the world at large, we are breeding a small size horse, whose most respected talent is without question, endurance racing. Outside the breed, opinions are divided as to whether he is outstandingly beautiful or a funny looking cartoon with a strange shaped head. Opinions are also divided as to his apparent virtues--is he spirited, faithful, loyal and trustworthy or an anxious animal scrambling about. My personal observation is that over the last 20 years it has become harder to find a pleasure riding horse among Arabians that are by products of highly competitive programs.  There is a trend toward an overactive horse that needs a more professional owner.”

Emma then moved her discussion to those qualities which constitute good character, temperament and those that effect the perception of behavior, either positively or negatively. She began by referencing a story regarding the qualities of a “wilderness or desert” horse. From it she read, “Before looking at the horse’s body you must insure it has 5 specifications of character: 1. Courage 2.Intelligence 3.Stamina 4.Spirit (And, above all) 5. Majd: (an Arabic Word which loosely translates to mean) Nobleness, gentleness and ethics of an aristocrat. If the horse lacks these virtues, no matter how pleasing he is to the eye, he is a worthless horse—do not waste your time. But if he does have them, then run your eyes over his conformation.”

Emma finalized her lecture with a very thorough explanation of traits which can effect interpretation of Arabian character (where not stated, all words within quotes are Emma’s):

1. Dominance: “Dominance is clearly a vitally important part of the man-horse interaction. Dominance is a crucial thing to consider because it will affect every moment of your interaction as some horses like to be in charge, while others like to follow. Horses that have been trained by the rest of the herd to be subservient are often in such a state of insecurity they find it hard to learn new skills. However, it is worth noting that many anecdotal reports indicate that many of the best performance horses, especially in racing are dominant within their herd.”

2. Anxiety: “Anxious horses are tense and hard to teach because they worry and don’t respond well to stimuli—they want to return to their comfort zone. The opposite of anxiety is security. Secure horses behave evenly in a wide array of situations. They settle in a strange stable; they always eat what they are served; they don’t sweat up in agitating situations; and they constantly relax. Security is a highly desirable trait because it means your horse continues to use its brain, regardless of the situation. I think this is the one feature that we need to seriously consider in every breeding mating.” After referencing an example of the Arabian horse being used as a war horse, Emma surmised, “Across all eras, an insecure horse is never really of the same value as a secure one.”

3. Excitability: “Although it’s superficially easy to confuse this with Anxiety as the two traits often come in the same package, it is possible to separate them. Excitability can also be described as energy or expression or spirit; and is, undeniably, a fundamental of Arabian type as Arabians score very highly in this trait. Excitable horses are alert, attentive and expressive because they notice and respond to stimuli fast and therefore are easy to teach. Excitable and secure horses are a delight to work with because they are both relaxed and charismatic—you can switch them on and you can switch them off. I think breeders need to think carefully about the difference between excitability and anxiety. Breeding for presence can lead us to always favor excitable horses without caring whether they are secure or not. If you bring excitable but insecure horses together, with the belief that you will breed some extreme show piece, you may well be disappointed when your weanling commits suicide while charging through a fence. A tense horse may at first look like a horse with presence, but it is not a particularly safe or usable horse. Tension is not charisma.”

4. Sociability:  “Life experiences in a big herd have positive repercussions for handling. Growing up in a big herd situation brings horses more experience at relationships. Dominant horses that have grown up in a herd are more tactful about how they present their desire to dominate and less offended when they are politely told no--whereas followers fall nicely in line. Conversely, a solitary lifestyle in its formative years can affect a horse’s trainability. A dominant horse who repeatedly argues over the same situation is usually a male horse that has never been in a herd situation or a female horse who is from a small herd environment over which she gained dominance at an unnatural age, like as a yearling. These horses have never experienced backing down from an argument and don’t intend to start with you.”

5. Inquisitiveness/intelligence; “This is something the Arabian is noted for and in interbreed studies has scored highest in this trait. This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing but rather dependent on the rest of their personality and on one’s consistency as a teacher. Unintelligent horses seem to have difficulty discerning between different forms of their own behavior and thus do not understand why one behavior gets praised while another does not. Clever horses are aware of subtleties of both their own behaviors and of yours. If your horse is really bright, you have to concentrate on your communication with him. A clever horse is a double edge sword, but when the chips are down, it’s the sort I would always rather have.”

6. Irritability: “Irritable horses have far more sensitive skin than other horses and can object to being touched around the ovaries, flanks and legs. This ticklishness makes them intolerant and can cause them to nip and/or kick—thus creating a reputation for bad behavior. In all fairness, an irritable horse can be fairly described as more sensitive. I would not call a horse bad tempered for being ticklish or overly sensitive.”

Emma’s perspectives were welcomed by several who also share strong feelings regarding this often overlooked subject.  Bridgette Orwig, of Pure Gold Arabians, later shared, “Emma Maxwell's talk on the temperament of the Arabian horse was particularly interesting and thought provoking for me. No breeder would ever claim to not have regard for the temperament of the horses they breed. Emma pointed out that, perhaps unwittingly, we are breeding a poor temperament for life as a riding or companion horse-- the realistic life that most horses will live. Although today’s halter show ring encourages ‘animation,’ few of us would want to ride an overly animated horse--certainly not a child or beginner rider. If animation is the result of self-confidence and a desire to show-off, than animation itself is not a problem.  On the other hand, if it is because the horse is nervous and jittery—then it is very undesirable.”

“In the Eye of the Beholder” by Judith Forbis and Rebecca (Becky) Rogers

Both Judith Forbis and Becky Rogers have developed breeding programs that are decades long. As such they were both able to share the development of their programs which served to further illustrate the beginnings and development of their own styles and preferences in relation to The Standard. 

Judith Forbis, of Ansata Arabian Stud, was the first to speak. Along with being a published author and artist, Judith is also an international judge, a co-founder of The Pyramid Society and has served as President. Keri Wright, of Cariswood Arabians and the Educational Director of The Pyramid Society, introduced Judith as a "Fabled person he once met years ago at US Nationals". He then went on to add, "I don't know of another human being who has given back again and again and again to The Pyramid Society and to the horses that she loves." Humorously, Judith responded, "Thank you Keri, but all idols have clay feet!"

In reference to The Standard itself, Judith began with a frank piece of advice, “I think you need to know your breed before you can breed. Although there are many aspects to learning about this, The Standard, as a basic guide, is one in which to begin. Then learn the history; study as many farms as you can; visit as many places as you can—not just books, not just videos, not just photographs--get out and see the horses while keeping The Standard in mind.”

Regarding the development of the Ansata style, Judith stated, “The horses we chose were based on what we envisioned as the ideal classic type—harmonious in all respects.” She further explained, “Type is an appreciation in the EDUCATED eye of the beholder. Classic type, which is overall balance and harmony, was our defining choice—no harmony, no balance, no good Arabian. A beautiful head is part of type but there is too much emphasis on the exotic head and not enough emphasis on the overall harmony and balance of the horse. A beautiful head without overall balance cannot be considered good type.”

As Judith has documented her history in her many books, most of us already had a general understanding of how Don and Judith began. However, in reference to forming a preference or style, she shared a personally defining influence.“Nazeer was the focus of our program as far as a sire line was concerned. He had a quality and an indefinable something—charisma or spirit or a sense of identity. He knew who he was—and was attractive to the eye. He was not the most perfect horse, but he had that something. To us, he stood apart.”

“His get had a look and a consistency. They were different from some of the other horses and foals that were at El Zahraa. You look for a certain quality that is distinct—and, for us, he had it. Not only was Nazeer our primary sire and the sire of most of the mares we initially imported, we never got very far from using him in some close-up respect. One thing Nazeer did was that he let the mares shine through. He put a certain overall quality to his get, but one could definitely see the difference between the mare lines.”

Becky followed Judith. Before discussing her own story, she took a moment to express an important sentiment as it relates to opportunities created by The Pyramid Society, especially at conferences such as this one. She began, "I want to make a point of mentioning how fortunate we are to be a contemporary of someone like Judith Forbis. As some point far in the future, people will pour over her documents and her books. They will say, ‘Gee, I wish I had the opportunity to pick her brain; I wish I could have sat at a conference and listened to her and see her photographs; I wish I could have listened to her.’ It would be like one of us getting to travel back in time and talk to Ali Pasha Sherif—THIS WOULD BE THAT SAME OPPORTUNITY. Such is the greatness that Judith Forbis has achieved with her horses and as the inspiration that she has become for everybody. This is an opportunity that you will look back upon and be grateful that you were here.”

Then on with her own beginnings, she shared, “There are different paths to becoming a breeder and we have a very different path. Unlike Don and Judi, initially we didn’t have a vision. We wandered around every little road ‘til we found our way. I would imagine that there is at least one of you out there that started that way as well. But at some point it becomes clear that you do need a vision, and that is when you have to start doing your homework.” Becky reiterated, “The Standard gives you the foundation, the style is what makes it uniquely yours.”

As a previous National Champion performance trainer, Becky’s life took a turn at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in 1982, when she saw Sakr for the first time. He was receiving his Legion of Merit Award and was being retired. She shared, “I will never forget the snow white, alabaster coat of Sakr glistening in the spot light, as he trotted regally around the ring with Tom McNair on his back, while the crowd yelled ‘Sik ‘em Sakr’. I will never forget when they pulled that saddle off and he threw his tail over his back and he floated—he floated across that stage. Now Sakr was not, as we know, extreme in the face. But you would have never mistaken him for anything but an Arabian. That night, this performance trainer changed her mind as to what it might be, in which she wanted to go forward. For 30 years, this vision has remained in my mind.”

“As performance trainers, it was a logical for us to be attracted to Sakr and all his winning. So at that time, we decided that it was an athletic Egyptian Arabian that we wanted to breed, but with an extra heaping of type.” Becky continued to share her fascinating path as she helped build an internationally respected Straight Egyptian breeding program with the early contributions of stallions such as Sultann, Nabiel and Makhsous.

“Measuring Excellence: Scope, Focus, Process in the Show Ring”

Saturday was an in-the-field, hands-on day. The gorgeous presentation arena at DeShazer Arabians served as the perfect outdoor classroom. Here we spent our morning learning how to evaluate a horse from a show ring perspective. Our judges/teachers were: Judith Forbis, Lisa Lacy, Emma Maxwell, Joe Polo and Shawn Crews. Joe Polo, who resides in Indiana with his family, is an international judge and trainer, a businessman and leader in his Arabian horse community. However, his primary focus is on the marketing, showing and breeding of Egyptian Arabian horses. Shawn Crews, also a judge, is the farm manager of Arabians Ltd in Waco, Texas. Perhaps there is no corner of the Arabian World which has not been affected by her work with such stallions as Thee Desperado, Thee Infidel and Mishaal HP.

Joe began, “Judging is difficult. Whether you are in your own country or outside, as a judge, you are controlling the show; you are conducting the mood of the show; you have to know all the rules; you have to assess the best horse in the class quickly; and in some cases you have show officials who will tell you are judging too slowly and to pick up the pace—it is challenging.”

  

After each judge shared a few personal thoughts or observations, the session continued to actual judging. Horses were walked in the presentation area and shown just as they would in a competition ring. Each judge evaluated the horse vocally so the process could be observed and questioned. It was interesting to note the differences in how each judge evaluated the same horse.

After a break, we broke off into five different groups. Each judge was assigned one horse while the groups rotated from one horse and judge, to the next. With each horse we were to judge ourselves, then hear how the assigned judged scored the horse and why. Each rotation afforded plenty of time for questions and answers. This was a unique opportunity to learn and understand from individuals, such as Lisa Lacy and Judith Forbis, who have judged at the highest level in our industry.

“Assessing Excellence in Breeding Stock”

Christie Metz of Silver Maple Farm, a 20 year breeding program, led this session. She began, “We are going to examine for excellence the very same categories used by the judges. But we are going to do so from a breeder’s point of view.  As we will be evaluating genotype AND phenotype qualities, our perspective will be both different and more comprehensive.” The rest of the panel of breeders included, Janice Bush of Somerset Farms, Hank DeShazer of DeShazer Arabians, Allison Mehta-Westley of Talaria Farms and Bridgette Orwig of Pure Gold Arabians.

Janice Bush then strongly stated, “I want to make it very clear, that although we do have the pedigrees, we are not looking at these pedigrees with the idea of either including or excluding horses in the pedigrees. But without the pedigrees you won't know what characteristics are translated--you will be focusing on qualities that you aesthetically like, but may not be able to reproduce."

Like the judges, the microphone made its way to each breeder. For Hank DeShazer’s turn he shared, “I believe we, as the breeders, who are taking this breed forward, need know as much as we can about the breed itself. You need to look at the horses, you need to compare them to each other and you need to understand the history of the stallions that you may use with a particular mare and how he is going to apply to the resulting foal. We need to educate ourselves.  Don’t look at a horse for just phenotype; you must use genotype as well. So when you hear--this is the daughter-of-this or this is the daughter-of-that, you need to know what to expect when you breed these two types together in terms of phenotype.  I guarantee you are going to see something different in an Imperial Imdal daughter than an Ibn Halima daughter or a Thee Desperado daughter.”

Then just as the horses were walked in for the judges, the horses were walked in for the breeders and each discussed his or her own personal thoughts and feelings regarding how they would strongmove forward with each particular horse. We then broke into groups with the same arrangement as with the judges and had hands-on teaching and discussion. On a personal note, it was a thrill that one of the horses being used for discussion was the 24-year-old Ben Malik (Malik X Nil Nour).

The DeShazer Arabian Horse Presentation

Saturday night belonged to Hank and Sandy DeShazer as they presented their horses--some of the most beautiful in the country. The presentation began with the introduction of mares including the matriarch Imperial Maysama (Imperial Madheen X Imperial Imtiarah), the dam of one of the new stars at DeShazer Arabians, Aziim Al Amaar (x Amaar Al Rayyan). Horses were presented in an orderly fashion according to strain and with the kind of information that was complimentary to the themes of the Conference. The presentation ended, as all do, with the stallions. After seeing several of his babies, the opportunity to see Laheeb Al Nasser was golden—but also bitter sweet as Hank announced that he had been sold and will soon leave for his new home in Switzerland, with Nayla Hayek of Hanaya Stud. However, DeShazer Arabians have ensured this stallion’s indelible mark on some of the most prestigious horses in the United States.

Throughout the weekend we were treated to delicious meals, tasty snacks and beverages of all types. To say the very least, the hospitality was Texas-style! After the horse presentation we retreated to the patio area of the show barn. That night Sandy and Hank treated everyone to a wonderful meal. They served Jack Daniels peppered rib-eye roast, grilled chicken breasts in an ancho chili sauce, garlic mashed potatoes and green beans, with bananas foster and chocolate cake for desert! As we ate, Hank passed out gifts. A lovely evening capping off a great day!

“Breeding Standards: Size Matters or Not” by Bridgette Orwig and Louise DeRusseau

The final lecture, illustrating the challenges facing a small breeder and the different opportunities available, was on Sunday morning. Presenters were Bridgette Orwig, who also served on Saturday’s panel of Breeders, and Louise DeRusseau of LD Arabians located in Cedar Creek, Texas.  Although both women are certainly smaller breeders, generally having 5 or fewer foals a year, Bridgette and Louise were able to offer distinctively different perspectives.

Bridgette, who was the first to speak, has been a horse woman for a greater part of her life. In 1998, she dedicated her breeding farm exclusively to Straight Egyptians. She has shown successfully and has bred horses that now live around the world. She serves as the Egyptian Event Show Chair and is a Pyramid Society Board Member. Bridgette is not only a mare owner; she has owned and stood stallions. She is a breeder who has developed her own vision and her own program.

Louise DeRusseau, who has been in the business for 12 years, was able to illustrate a very successful program based on a strong tutelage with a larger farm. She and her husband Dan started in 2001 by purchasing 2 fillies, thus beginning a long and fruitful relationship with Arabians Ltd, in Waco, Texas.Although many of the horses do live with them and they are deeply involved with their day-to-day care, they breed to the stallions at Arabians Ltd, where much of their marketing and showing is successfully managed.

Louise gave an in-depth look at their success in this business format.  She also spoke of the satisfaction they have experienced from the results of line-breeding to select horses, and the accomplishments they have achieved with the mares in their breeding program.

Bridgette is one whose contributions are deep, yet more often behind the scene. She has achieved respect both in this country and overseas. As one who has been breeding horses for over 24 years as a “boutique” breeder, Bridgette has developed a list of personal rules and recommendations which she generously shared. Considering the challenges of today’s breeding environment, each one of these is a precious pearl of wisdom (all words in quotes are Bridgette’s).

1. “Get your mare pregnant without blowing your entire budget. Breeding is a challenge. Of all domestic animals, horses are the most determined to not get pregnant, and with our limited gene pool, it’s even harder.” Furthermore, Bridgette advised, “Don’t knowingly take on the problem breeder.”

2. “Don’t even think about breeding horses if you don’t love them. Any other reward will be icing without the cake and icing without the cake will not be satisfying.”

3. “Don’t fall in love with a horse until you know it will work in your program AND can help you move forward.”

4. “Genotype and phenotype are equally important—one does not work without the other. If the horse in front of you does not reflect its pedigree it will probably not pass rule 5.”

5. “Consistency. Insist upon consistency in your breeding stock. Although every farm, large and small, likes consistency, this is vital for a boutique program. We cannot afford to roll the dice beyond the natural genetic selection. Look for consistency in the stallion of your choice, over a wide variety of bloodlines and phenotypes.

6. “Have a vision—you must have a vision. Decide what you like and stick with it.”

These three days in Houston Texas provided a lifetime of information. To say the very least, each day and each session was content heavy.  Although each presentation was different, there were a few things that were repeated over and over again, with just the slightest variation based on a particular individual’s perspective. They are as follows: (1) Through all means possible—educate yourself, (2) Visit horses of interest, either for purchasing or breeding, in person, and (3) Breeding for only certain features can create an overall loss in Arabian type. However, if I had to narrow it down to a single important message it would be: the breeding of a good Arabian horse is a deliberate act.

Bob Miars the new Pyramid Society president shared, "The 5th National Breeders Conference continued the very successful legacy of The Pyramid Society educational commitment to our members. The educational content, social interaction and the incredible venue provided by our hosts Sandy & Hank DeShazer made this conference one of the best. I am very confident our new Educational Chairman, Keri Wright, is up to the challenge of continuing this excellent Breeders Conference series and the Egyptian Event seminars for the Straight Egyptian Breeder."

I would like to conclude this editorial with yet another quote from Judith Forbis’s presentation. “To achieve a goal, one must have love, vision, knowledge, understanding, intuition, courage, creativeness, patience and the willingness to sacrifice MIGHTILY. In order to create there must be a dynamic force and what force is more potent than love. Love of horse is our motivating force for being here."