The Israel Arab Horse Society: An Introduction
The Israel Arab Horse Society: An Introduction
& The Israeli Spring Show Season
By Lisa Abraham
The Israeli spring show season consisted of two important events which were both organized by Israel Arab Horse Society (IAHS) and in the region of Galilee. The first was the 24th annual Arabian Horse Spring Show, which took place on March 23-24rd; and the second was the 20th annual Galilee show, which took place on May 4-5th. Although the IAHS organizes many shows a year, the Spring Show was the only one exclusively for Israeli breeders, with horses born in Israel and presented by Israeli handlers. This show featured the competition of 161 horses and represented 150 owners. The Galilee Show, which was the first show of the year to be open for all to compete, featured 150 horses and represented 142 owners. As Israel has been a dedicated member of the European Conference of Arab Horse Organizations (ECAHO) since 1988, both shows were run under the rules listed in the Blue Book and were designated as C-Nationals.
The IAHS was established in 1983 and has over 1000 members. To be qualified for membership, each member must own at least one Arabian horse. Impressively, in this country, there is an annual average of between 600-700 foals born per year. Shelley Soloman is the IAHS Secretary, while Muhannad Darawsha has been the Chairman since 2012.
Lisa Abraham: What is the significance of the Arabian horse in Israel?
Muhannad Darawsha: There is something very special about the Arabian horse which is different than any other animal. Those who love the Arabian, do so with a passion that can over shadow everything--pride of ethnicity, religious beliefs and/or any other fundamental differences. This horse, which comes from the desert, has the power to unite people. The divisions in Israel are known all over the world, yet in our society and at our shows and events, there is unity. There are people of all ages, there are women and men, and most significantly, there are Jews and Arabs—all there to enjoy the Arabian horse as a community.
Lisa Abraham: What are your goals for the Society?
Muhannad Darawsha: Currently we organize four or five shows annually and I would like to increase that number to six or seven. But I don’t want to concentrate only on shows, I also want to invest in the education of our members. I am developing seminars for handlers and judges; breeding and genetic studies; art as it pertains to the Arabian horse; and those which would include improving the various levels of horsemanship skills present in our membership body. My primary interest is to empower the Israeli breeders with knowledge so that opportunities can be increased both nationally and internationally.
Lisa Abraham: How do you finance your shows and seminars?
Muhannad Darawsha: First and foremost, I refuse to accept sponsors. I feel this creates an imbalance of power that could have the ability to offset fairness and impartiality. Our Society is strictly funded from income developed from services offered to our members. This encompasses all fees associated with the Israeli Studbook, which includes Palestine, and income developed from shows and events. From a business perspective, due to the loyalty of our members, we have a strong foundation.
Lisa Abraham: What do you feel is important about organizing a show?
Muhannad Darawsha: The most important factor is the choice of judges. I can prepare the best of everything, but in the end, if I do not have quality judges, the show risks failure. For this reason, I carefully consider all factors and how they will influence the show. My first requirement is that they are accredited by ECAHO or have worked within the ECAHO system. Of the judges who are with ECAHO, I prefer to choose from the A List—which includes some of the most experienced judges in the world. Also, I never have two judges from the same country and try to invite judges from different parts of the world so that there are variations in style.
Lisa Abraham: Can you comment on the judging panels of the two spring shows?
Muhannad Darawsha: Renata Schibler (CHE), Jerzy Bialobok (POL) and Koenraad Detailleur (BEL) judged the Arabian Horse Spring Show; while Ann Norden (SWE), Faustino Scanzi (ITA) and Tomasz Tarczynski (POL) judged the Galilee Show. These are some of the best judges in the world. All six are straight and can evaluate quickly and with confidence. Judges are not machines—they are human. Therefore, I do not require absolute harmony in scores, but each panel worked exceptionally close together and the audiences accepted their marks. For me, this is what made both shows successful.
Lisa Abraham: What is special about the Arabian Horse Spring Show?
Muhannad Darawsha: Although the Spring Show has been a long-standing event in Israel, eight years ago I changed the qualifications. Now it is only for Israeli breeders with horses that were bred in Israel. Although all members of IAHS are equally important, most of our breeders are smaller in size, yet just as dedicated to the breed. I wanted this show to be one in which the competitive environment was as even as possible so that breeding skills could be rewarded.
Both shows were judged by a panel of three. The categories for scoring included: Type, Head, Neck, Body & Topline, Legs and Movement. Class scoring was based on a 20-point system with half points, while the Championships were judged comparatively. In the case of a tie, the horse with the most points for TYPE received the higher placement. If this did not resolve the tie, then the score for MOVEMENT decided. If this did not resolve the tie, then one judge chosen through random ballad decided final placement. Although ties are far from uncommon, in my tenure covering shows, I have only experienced two occasions in which a tie was broken by the evaluation of one judge. However, both teams of judges maintained such strong agreement throughout the shows that there were multiple ties that had to be decided through this method of final resolution. Not only did this speak highly for the judges, but it also reflected the IAHS’s strong insight into choosing judges and creating successful panels.
As a journalist who has covered important Arabian horse shows all over the world, both shows were a “breath of fresh air” as they were genuinely community affairs. Of course, the competition was intense as the quality of Israeli horses is known all over the world, but I found the story of the events in the hearts of those who attended and participated. The sincere emotion, the unbridled excitement and the genuine camaraderie were inspiring. However, for these same reasons, as a photographer, although the challenge was a fun one--taking the win photos was a difficult task. In the Classes, awards were given to the Top 5; while the Bronze, Silver and Gold winners were acknowledged in the Championships. However, for both the Class and Championship wins, gigantic groups of ecstatic people approached from all corners of the arenas to be included in the photos. There was smiling, laughing and hugging; and often people went from one winning group to the next—and then the next. Trophies were shared and passed around and it was very difficult to determine who the actual winners were as the excitement was shared by all. It was also very touching that children were included in the celebrations and were often given the very large trophies to hold for the photos.
In many parts of the world, it is common to hear the veterans of the Arabian horse community reminisce about the past and share that things are “no longer the same.” They have colorful stories of the fun they had at shows as well as the wide circle of fellowship they enjoyed and the depth of participation and cooperation. A particularly fond remembrance is of late night gatherings which lasted hours after the horses had been cleaned, fed and left to rest. In addition, at that time, breeders regularly visited one another and intimately knew each other’s horses and farms. Shows were not the sole ties that bound, but rather extensions of existing relationships. But the kinship many of us are missing is present and strong in Israel. I consider myself to have been very fortunate to experience this for myself as a welcomed guest. Furthermore, the Spring and Galilee Shows were not free to attend. Although the VIP section was obviously more expensive—the general admission still required an entrance fee—yet the stands were completely full of engaged participants and spectators.
I would like to close with another personal observation, which offers further insight into this community. As part of my coverage, when I am invited by the organizer, I like to discuss what he or she feels is special about their show or if there are any issues that he or she would like addressed. Although I spoke to Mr. Darawsha first, many were eager to share their opinions on this matter—and each person was primarily, if not exclusively, interested in one message. They wanted those outside of Israel to know that what is covered in the news is not always accurate. Of course, there are seeds of truth to all news, but in this country, the peace among the various opposing groups is stronger than the strife. This is particularly true in the region of Galilee, which is a distance from the more common areas associated with conflict. Furthermore, among those of the Arabian horse community—I witnessed only warm camaraderie and mutual support. Attending a show in Israel is an experience that everyone who loves Arabian horses should make time to experience as the heart of this community is unforgettable.
The Arabian Horse Spring Show: FULL-SIZED gallery of Images:
The Galilee Show: FULL-SIZED gallery of Images:
For complete show results:
The Arabian Horse Spring Show:
The Galilee Show:
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.