The 2018 Egyptian Event ~ Cairo: Innovation in Egypt
2018 Egyptian Event ~ Cairo:
Innovation in Egypt
By Lisa Abraham
The 2018 Egyptian Event ~ Cairo took place on November 1st through the 3rd in Egypt--one of the most historically important countries in the world. The show, which is in its second edition, was held on the outskirts of Cairo at the Pegasus Equestrian Center in Dreamland. Besides being a beautiful venue, Pegasus Equestrian Center was within walking distance to several major hotels and facilities which made attending comfortable as well as convenient. This was an exceptionally pleasant feature for the international guests and visitors who cheered alongside a strong local presence.
Cairo is the epitome of a “destination” location. For many, getting to visit Egypt is a dream. Most would not consider flying into such a historic part of the world for a show and then leaving at its conclusion. Rather, extensive vacations are planned around events which take place here. From a show perspective, this was a nice compliment to the marketing of the event. As Social Media has become a main form of communication and marketing, it plays a major role in the varied perceptions of any show. Since the Straight Egyptian community is a tighter knit one, this added a very warm element to the overall experience. Several guests arrived days before the show to enjoy the sights that one can only see in Egypt. Their posts created both excitement and curiosity, as well as a sense of being together—which is a very important feature of attending shows in person, as opposed to relying on live stream for coverage.
The Egyptian Event ~ Cairo was organized by The Egyptian Arabian Horse Pyramids Foundation whose founding members include: Omar Sakr (EGY), Judith Forbis (USA), Gulsun Sherif (EGY), Dr. Nasr Marei (EGY) and Dr. Hans Nagel (DEU). While it’s Board of Trustees include: Chairman, Omar Sakr; Vice Chairman, Ahmed El Talawy; Secretary, Gulsen Sherif; Treasurer, Hassan Aboul Fetouh; Members, Ahmed Mounib, Nagwa El Daly and Sherif Foda (all EGY). The Qualifying Classes took place on Thursday (1st) and Friday (2nd); and the Championships on Saturday (3rd).
With his role as President of The Foundation; as a longstanding board member of The Pyramid Society; and as an influential breeder of Straight Egyptian Arabians, Omar Sakr has been a leader in the community. So although the show was organized by strong group effort, it was spearheaded by Omar himself, therefore it commanded international support through actual physical attendance. Literally, members of the Straight Egyptian community attended from all over the world. The VIP section was filled with a roster of “Who’s Who”.
One of the most impressive qualities of the Egyptian Event ~ Cairo was the elegance throughout every aspect of the show. In my opinion, it was every bit as nice as some of our most prestigious competitions in the world. The décor consisted of a black and white color scheme with a lovely bouquet of red roses on each formally set table. There were also many subtle accents which were meticulously coordinated with one another to create an overall feeling of luxury. The hospitality of the show was executed in this same manner. Meals were formal and served in courses. The enormous wait staff was dressed as though they were serving in a five-star establishment with all the appropriate manners. Finally, the meals themselves were outstanding—it was fine dining.
However, even though great effort was made to ensure that attending was something very special and memorable—it was still a horse show—and an important one. As a competition in an industry in which many things have become standardized, the organizers of the Egyptian Event ~ Cairo took some brave and innovative measures to create a more natural presentation of the horse, both to be judged and to be viewed by the audience. According to the show program, in the section titled, “Rules of Conduct”, the following addressed the appearance of the horse:
~Horses appearing with a PANDA eye or black shaven muzzle WILL BE DISQUALIFIED and may not be allowed entry into the show ground.
~No alteration to the basic color of the skin, coat or hooves is permitted. Hoof paints, colorless varnishes (slight sanding or polishing of the hooves is permitted) and coat dyes are prohibited. Use of ginger or any other substance that alters the horse’s natural tail carriage is forbidden. Whip marks or any other form of abuse will be regarded as full and adequate grounds for disqualification.
~In all classes, horses may be fully or partly body-clipped with no more than a 10 blade. Whiskers and eyelashes are not to be touched and the hair outside the ear may be clipped but the hair deep inside the ears stays untouched.
As a normal show procedure, a day before the start of the show, the Disciplinary Committee (DC's) made an initial inspection of all horses who were to participate for adherence to show rules. I was very fortunate to join Dr. Mohammed Hammad and Vivian van Eerten, the DC’s for the Egyptian Event ~ Cairo, as they did their first walk through. Each horse was thoroughly examined from top to bottom--some inside the stall, some outside; some required a more detailed inspection, while other were obviously in compliance. From this experience, I can report that they took the show’s policies regarding appearance very seriously. In the few instances when a grey area was approached, such as clipping which had been done for a previous show, they reported their findings to the Show Organizer for a decision.
Innovation was also made in the full presentation of the horses. Judging for MOVEMENT and conformation were done separately. Upon the start of each Qualifying Class, the horses entered the arena one by one at a walk till all were present in the ring. After completing two laps around the arena, the group exited. Then each horse returned to the arena in the same order to trot individually to showcase MOVEMENT—one after another. Each horse was permitted a very generous TWO LAPS around the arena, although for most one lap was enough. Once the MOVEMENT presentation was completed, the horses then returned individually at a walk for the stand up so that the remaining criteria could be evaluated by the judges.
Q & A with Omar Sakr
Lisa Abraham: You have introduced some bold AND innovative measures in the Egyptian Event ~ Cairo—can you elaborate on your reasons?
Omar Sakr: We are just trying to go back to the basics. I want this to be an honest portrayal of the participants—it’s that simple. You go to a show to compare your stock with your peers, to promote your horse and hopefully to influence the industry by encouraging people to use your bloodlines, whether it be from the stallion services offered or through purchasing breeding stock. But if you are not showing horses in their true form by altering their appearances and creating false phenotypes—then the audience will be fooled. Shows have become detached from breeding—and that’s a problem. Although one cannot play with the pedigree, what I’ve seen lately is that the horses are disfigured as they are going out to be judged. Personally, I can’t tell if a horse has a large eye or a small eye, the muzzles are all shaven and covered in heavy oil--it has all become artificial. The stand up and the stretching of the neck and the subtle twists are also a way of disguising faults, like for example: fixing the hip; flattening the topline and/or enhancing the neck. Not only is this deceiving, but it is also disrespectful to the horse and that really bothers me. This show is meant for participants to honestly promote their horses and for those attending to pick the winners and consider them for inclusion into their breeding programs.
Our show policies regarding appearances competing are zero tolerance. Specifically--you are not to touch the horse’s face. We want the horse’s natural face to be seen. This is a problem that exists everywhere, not just in the Straight Egyptian world—and the reason for this is that the trainers are the same. However, shaving is just one part of it—there are several more issues regarding the altering of appearances. These practices will not be tolerated by any shows organized by The Foundation and we will maintain and enforce these rules strictly. Also, I would like to comment here that we have never had a problem. Because the DC’s know that they have The Foundation’s support, they were able to enforce our policies. The two must work hand in hand—if the DC’s do not have the support of the organizer for fear of losing horses and /or sponsors, they will not be effective in their positions. It is my hope that other shows will follow in this example and that we can all work towards getting back to a more authentic appearance of those competing.
I have also divided the show into six championships to give a fairer opportunity for those of similar ages to compete. There are the Male and Female Junior Championships which are open for the one and two-year-old’s in which to qualify; the Mare and Stallion Championships which are open for those of ages three to seven; and then finally the Senior Categories for those of ages eight years and above. In particular, this was more advantageous for the younger horses so they did not have to compete against those of greater maturity due to age. As a result, we did experience higher attendance in the younger age divisions.
Lisa Abraham: How did you come up with the style of presentation used in the show?
Omar Sakr: In the past, I never liked the way the horses were stood up and then asked to trot—it’s not natural and some horse were placed at a disadvantage as some were able to do this, but most were not. Also, in the beginning, we did do everything at once as is done at all other shows, but I found that every horse that moved well, got also a good score for TYPE—and MOVEMENT is not TYPE. In my humble opinion, I felt there was confusion regarding these two categories of scoring. Another issue we hoped to address with this format is that if there were fifteen horses in a class—the horse who was last was at a big disadvantage from the perspective of exhaustion. While preparing to show, this final horse, as well as with the few before him or her, has been stood up and down repeatedly, while waiting for the other horses to show. We felt that by having the entire class presented for MOVEMENT in the very beginning, these issues would be neutralized and the circumstances around each horse being presented were more equal for all categories of evaluation. Furthermore, walk is a part of MOVEMENT. So as the horses were walked out, they were calmer and were able to show a more natural stride. Last year was the first year we implemented this and there was some confusion and a few delays with the transition. Everyone, including the judges supported this policy, but advised us to find a way to be more efficient—to close the time gap. This year it went very smoothly.
Lisa Abraham: How important do you feel the choice of judges is for a show?
Omar Sakr: Although this is an important consideration, you will never know if you made a good choice till he or she judges your competition. Before making my selection, I first look at available records and get recommendations from other show organizers. Primarily I use ECAHO (European Conference of Arab Horse Organizations) judges as that seems to be the easiest way due to proximately and availability of show records. Usually I start with the A List, but there are many very good judges on the B list as well. This was the first year we chose an Egyptian judge, which I supported, but this has been something we have avoided in the past due to issues regarding conflict of interest. Personally, I favor the Polish judges as they are horse people. We also have a policy that judges can only be invited back every three years so that we maintain diversity in the panels. Our system is not perfect, but as long as a judge is consistent throughout the show, their scores should be respected.
Lisa Abraham: Do you have any thoughts for next year’s show?
Omar Sakr: I haven’t yet had enough time to evaluate the show for anything that can be changed for next year. It seems it was successful as everyone enjoyed themselves and the feedback has been very good. But our method of presentation is not going to be changed—that’s for sure. Overall though, I was very happy with my team. There is a lot I can do myself, but I can’t do everything which makes each person important. But because we shared the same goals regarding the show and believe in the overall concept—we were able to create a success.
The Egyptian Event ~ Cairo was only open to Straight Egyptian Arabian horses. According the show guide, “A Straight Egyptian Arabian horse is a horse that is registered or eligible for registration by a registry approved by the World Arabian Horse Organization (WAHO) and traces every line of its pedigree to horses listed in The Pyramid Society Studbook for Straight Egyptian Arabian Horses Worldwide.” As a side note regarding this studbook, Omar Sakr was also a primary force behind getting this vital information compiled and published.
The Qualifying Classes were judged on a 20-point scale in which half points could be utilized. The categories to be evaluated according to the Straight Egyptian Breed Standards included: TYPE, HEAD & NECK, BODY & TOPLINE, LEGS and MOVEMENT. In the case of a tie, the score for TYPE determined the winner. However, if the score for TYPE was also tied, then the show took another innovative approach to choosing the victor. In this instance, the horses who remained tied were presented tothe ENTIRE PANEL, facing one other. The judges were then ALLOWED TO CONFER with each other as they chose the winner. The Championships were judged comparatively.
Judges: Marek Trela (POL), Renata Schibler (CHE), Raouf Abbas (EGY) and Dhari Al Meghhem (KWT)
On the last day of the show, time was taken to recognize the contributions of Dr. Nasr Marei, who passed away on October 17, 2017. Not only was he known for his talents as a breeder in which he stood at the helm of a ninety year breeding program; as an ECAHO A Judge as well as a member of the ECAHO’s Executive Committee; and as a photographer with a talent for capturing the essence of his horses; but also, and more importantly, as a friend to countless individuals all over the world. His family was in attendance to accept this recognition and it was a touching and very emotional moment, both for them and for those of us who also loved Dr. Marei.
Finally, although it was not judged, another unique and exciting feature of the show was the Stallion Parade. It took place on Thursday night, as the finale of the evening classes. By this time, the stands were busting with guests who were primed for this presentation of male power. One by one the stallions entered the arena. As the arena became full, the excitement mounted with powerful stallion muzzle to muzzle showdowns. Judging by the roars of the crowd, this was certainly a show highlight!
Complete show results can be found:
From Members of the Community
I thought the method of showing horses for Qualification introduced by this show was very interesting. It was like how we evaluate the Championships: the horses were judged at the trot movement individually, but one directly after another; and then they were judged, also individually, at the stand for type and conformation. This created a more objective presentation for the judges and for the horses themselves. When they trot one after another—it’s much easier to compare the quality of movement and give the most proper points. Then, because their evaluation while standing was done after the entire group was presented, as opposed to immediately after trotting, they were quieter and less excited. This method also allowed more time with each horse and increased my ability to concentrate without feeling rushed. In addition, although the show could have moved faster from the perspective of the audience, separating the movement from the stand up was better for thehorses as they were calmer when presented individually to be judged. They can also show a better walk when they are not so agitated. Overall, I liked the show very much. It was a beautiful venue with tremendous style and a nice set up for the grandstand and VIP tables. Particularly I enjoyed the music because it was pleasant and not aggressive which fit into the overall ambiance of the show.
~Judge Marek Trela
The Egyptian Event ~ Cairo organized by Omar Sakr was a testimony to his skills at organizing and insisting horses be presented in a natural way without all the grease, excessive clipping and shanking that is sometimes found in other equine activities. It was a pleasure to sit and watch the show in such a beautiful setting, and even more exciting for me to see the high level of quality achieved by Egyptian breeders over the years since I had attended such an event.
Furthermore, the presentation of Omar's horses at his farm, that followed on another day was, as usual, a special treat. To see two families of his foundation mares (Alidarra and Ansata Nafisa) presented followed by a group of their subsequent progeny demonstrated beyond a doubt that Omar is gifted with an artist's eye and has established himself as a master breeder. The overall presentation was unique and a joy to behold. It also provided an opportunity to visit with many old friends from near and far, further proving these horses are a catalyst for bringing individuals and countries together regardless of international politics.
~Judith Forbis (USA), Ansata Arabian Stud
The Egyptian Event ~ Cairo was a lovely show--congratulations to Omar Sakr and the show committee for a job well done! The horses were a marvelous reflection of what a great job the Egyptian breeders have been doing--type combined with motion, and an impressive diversity of bloodlines. The atmosphere was especially congenial--no stomping and shaking in the stands, leaving more time for conversation and to admire your favorite horses. It was also refreshing to see horses presented without excessive make-up as well. As guests, we were all warmly welcomed at the show, and then treated to lovely farm tours after the competition. All-in-all it was an upbeat and delightful show with plenty of gorgeous horses to inspire and enjoy!
~Cynthia Culbertson (USA), Executive Director of The Pyramid Society
Everything about the Egyptian Event ~ Cairo was so positive. The hard work, dedication and attention to detail on the part of the organizers were everywhere present. The quality of the horses was excellent, especially among the mares. The sportsmanship was impressive, and an example of the way things ought to be in any competitive environment. The involvement and cooperation of breeders at all levels--the young, the old, the new as well as the experienced--was inspiring. It was also good to see that the Straight Egyptian Arabian horse is in such capable hands there in the mother country and also how things have come full circle. As I looked around I saw people from many nations throughout the world who were celebrating the enduring, classic beauty of the Straight Egyptian Arabian horse, all of whom had, at one time or another, benefitted from seed stock that came from this country.
My wife Carolee and I were so excited to be back in Egypt. Arriving several days before the start of the show, we were able to take in many of the wonders of the ancient world which have been beautifully preserved by those with the vision and foresight of what this would mean to the country of Egypt and for people from all over the world who would come to see them. In thinking of this I was also reminded of the role that Sayed Marei had played in the preservation of the Egyptian Arabian horse and the EAO at the time that Nasser had come to power in Egypt. When I think of what a terrible loss the Arabian horse community would have sustained had these horses and the institution not been preserved, my heart is filled with immense gratitude. And, of course, to think of Sayed Marei, is to think of Albadeia, and to think of Albadeia is to think of our dear friend, Dr. Nasr Marei.
Our visit was bittersweet as we continue to mourn his passing and at the same time recall with fondness his many kindnesses to so many. Shortly after our arrival at the show grounds, as we were getting settled in our seats, someone mentioned that members of Dr. Marei’s family were also in attendance. Carolee was not immediately available so I went over and introduced myself. There I met his niece, Alya (daughter of his sister, Amina), his nephew, Sherife (son of his brother, Hassan), and Sherifa (daughter of his cousin, Hussein). Also, his good friend, Pat Canfield, was there. We all shed a few tears as we shared memories of this great man. Later, I took Carolee over to have her meet them as well. She stayed to visit with them for a while and upon returning to our seats, she leaned over and whispered to me that it had been the highlight of her trip to Egypt thus far.
After the show was over, we all gathered at Albadeia. It was a wonderful way to remember our friend and so gratifying to know of his family’s commitment to continue on with the Albadeia legacy. As I stood there watching the mares being turned loose in the paddock and running free with the sound of the Call to Prayer in the background I again was reminded of the many choice associations and friendships that have come into our lives because the Straight Egyptian Arabian horse and the people of passion, vision and commitment who are attracted to it. Over the years there are many who have stepped forward to serve as guardians of this magnificent horse at critical junctures in its history. Fortunate, indeed, are the people, both past and present, who’ve been drawn toward this horse, and, in turn, drawn toward each other in wonderfully unanticipated ways to bring additional depth and meaning to life as we know it.
~Keri Wright (USA), Cariswood Arabians
As interior design is a passion of mine, I was most impressed with the overall look and feel of the show. For a design to be a success, the placement of all factors is critical. I found the overall look of the event to be very, very elegant. Particularly, I was impressed with all the small details which had to take great thought and planning. For example, the color scheme of black and white was a tremendous compliment to the fresh flowers that were on every table as well as woven into the screens which lined the walk way to the VIP section. Upon first entering the arena, there was also a wall which displayed the logo of the show with an enormous display of roses—it was an impressive first glimpse. Overall there were so many artistic elements layered together which complimented each other perfectly and contributed to what I felt was a special ambiance.
The presentation arena itself was also well thought out. There was a good balance between being decorated, but not so much that it was a distraction for the horses or for judging. When there are several show officials in the ring, media and décor it can be difficult to see the horse(s) and therefore to properly evaluate--this was not a problem. Also, the footing was very nice—safe for the horses and comfortable for standing all day. However, the most impressive feature of the arena were the red carpets—only at the World Championship have I judged from a red carpet!
The catering also maintained the same care to details. Not only was the food excellent, but it was also served in the manner one would find in a gourmet restaurant and the food was displayed very artfully on the plates. Finally, I would like to comment on the music—it was the very best. It has the right rhythm for the horses without being too loud--and in the perfect moments, enhanced the presentations of the horses.
~Judge Renata Schibler
This year’s Egyptian Event ~ Cairo was filled with so much fun that it was difficult to focus on it all. Good friends sharing their breeding programs in an energized atmosphere is possibly the best summation—and a positive one for sure! It was educational to see the various breeding programs represented, many of which are multi-generational families of horses as well as humans. The competition featured horses of diverse styles, but all unmistakably Straight Egyptian Arabians. Overall, the horses exhibited a high quality that is rarely seen in today’s show rings. I was inspired, entertained and enjoyed every minute.
~Christie Metz (USA), Silver Maple Farm
It was pure joy to attend the show and see one after another exquisite Straight Egyptian Arabian competing for top honors, while enjoying the company of friends from around the world. Omar’s incredible efforts as show chair were readily apparent as no stone was left unturned for any of the attendees or guests. The added days for visiting horse farms were icing on the cake. I was also so pleased to again return to Egypt and felt the same sense of awe at visiting the historic EAO as I did in 1990. Such hallowed ground. Every aspect I’ll cherish, including a ride on a camel at the pyramids with Pyramid Society friends. However, the memory eclipsing all others will be the profound sense of pride and dedication of the Straight Egyptian breeders in their individual breeding programs....and with good reason. Egypt is a renowned land of countless treasures--with the Straight Egyptian Arabian being such a beloved treasure to us all.
~Anna Bishop (USA), Former Executive Director of The Pyramid Society and a current Trustee
There is something spiritual about viewing Egyptian Arabian horses with the backdrop of the Egyptian desert and Great Pyramids. It was twelve years ago that I last travelled to Egypt and finally fulfilled a lifelong dream to visit several of the most famous Egyptian monuments, historic city sights and museums; and to take in all that is Ancient Egypt. At that time, I attended a show for purebred Arabians as well as one for Straight Egyptians, with a milestone visit to El Zahraa Stud (EAO). So it was with great anticipation that I returned to attend the second annual Egyptian Event ~ Cairo, whose organizers share a strategic alliance with The Pyramid Society.
In addition to the scenic location, the Event simply dazzled with wonderful décor, upbeat music, delicious food and a superb staff--and then came the horses! I must admit, to me, the horses were really the highlight. I was particularly impressed with the extraordinary depth of quality, consistency of type and diversity of bloodlines represented. In the mare and filly classes, I would have been very happy to take home any one of the entries--not just the winners. The section of three-year-old fillies was so deep and large it was split into two qualifiers—and all were breathtaking with outstanding beauty, movement and charisma. The horses were generally well conformed and balanced, but the overarching impression was one of authentic desert type. An interesting observation I had was that horses of all colors were represented with equal quality and refinement. I would also like to congratulate the show committee for their strict adherence to showing the horses without excessive clipping and grease. For this longtime Arabian breeder, it was a distinct pleasure to view the horses in a more natural and beautifully presented manner. Another nice touch was the addition of the aged mare and stallion classes and splitting the Championships into Junior Champion (Colt or Filly), Champion (Mare or Stallion) and Champion Senior (Mare or Stallion).
However, possibly the most exciting aspect of the event was the camaraderie and vibrant community which included many newer farms and young people. It was wonderful to meet these breeders and owners and witness their passion for the Straight Egyptian horse combined with their quest for knowledge of bloodlines from around the World. And while they love to show and win – who doesn’t? It struck me that the focus was not only on winning, but rather the entire experience. They have developed an “eye” and have learned to appreciate horses that were shown well but did not take the first prize. The established breeders have done a great job of encouraging the newer farms to embrace the entire continuum of breeding. That horses have good days and bad, judges are but one opinion and sometimes the third-place horse could be the best fit for their program. They were excited to discuss their own horses and share their vision with the many international guests in attendance and their enthusiasm was contagious. On a personal note, I was surprised and delighted to be able to view a Kehilan bred female win her aged class and go on to win Bronze Champion Senior Mare for her owners El Farida Stud. As a breeder this was a very rewarding moment.
Of course, the many farm tours were simply magnificent – each one. From the larger, fancier farms to the small breeder with a handful of dearly loved horses, the passion for this breed was evident. The EAO was equally impressive. The quality and type they have carefully bred forward since my last visit was a delight to behold. Thank you to the exhibitors, owners, and breeders in Egypt for your hospitality and passion; and kudos to The Egyptian Arabian Horse Pyramids Foundation and Omar Sakr for such a marvelous Egyptian Event - Cairo!
~Rebecca Rogers (USA), President of The Pyramid Society and owner of Kehilan Arabians
For a FULL SIZED gallery of Images by Lisa Abraham:
Lisa Abraham is an International Journalist and Photographer from the United States. Although she does free-lance for various media, her primary dedication is to Arabhorse.com as a Premier Contributor and Representative.