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The ABWC Judges' Review

THE JUDGES' REVIEW OF THE
2009 AHBA ARABIAN BREEDERS WORLD CUP CHAMPIONSHIPS
By Beth Hunziker

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"If one advances confidently in the direction of one's dreams, and endeavors to live the life which one has imagined, one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." Henry David Thoreau

I remember when I was a child, an occasion when I was supposed to be dusting the shelves in my family's library area. But when my grandmother came to check on me, she found me curled up in a sunny spot reading yet another book. She stood before me with her hands on her hips and told me, "No, no my darling, work now, dream later." As much as I loved my grandmother, I believe she had that backwards. We have to dream first and then work to fulfill our dreams.

The 2009 AHBA Arabian Breeders World Cup is a perfect example of this belief. The people who came together to create this incredible event all shared a dream; to host an Arabian horse show unlike any other in America and maybe even the world. They have worked incredibly hard to bring that dream to life. This year, people from around the world came together to celebrate that dream - a dream that has achieved a level of success that even those who first dared to dream it could not have expected.

As the judges and I walked into the arena for the very first time, we were in awe of the beauty, the elegance, the spectacle that was before us. It was amazing - like a dream - but very real! As wonderful as that first impression was, it only got better. Over the next four days we experienced an event that was unimaginable - the organizing committee, staff, volunteers and everyone who participated came together to create a magical moment in time.

Everyone who attended the show has their own memories and opinions of it and perhaps some of the most noteworthy opinions came from the judges of the competition. After the championship trophies, ribbons and roses were awarded the judges seemed to have a sense of accomplishment and a desire to share their thoughts about this wonderful event that celebrates Arabian horses and their breeders...

 

 


 

- JACK MARITZ of SOUTH AFRICA -

After the last championship class of the Breeders World Cup show, I needed to unwind so I asked Jack Maritz, one of the judges at the show, if he wanted to meet for a cup of coffee. We slipped into a comfy booth at the Coronado Café and took a deep breath - finally we could relax. It was the perfect place to share our thoughts about everything we had seen over the past four days...

BH: Jack, how did you first hear about the Breeders World Cup show?

JACK MARITZ: I actually saw the coverage of the first two shows that appeared in the Arabian Horse Times and the Arabian Horse World. I thought it was an interesting idea for Americans to sponsor a breeder's show. I have attended other shows in the U.S. including the Scottsdale show, U.S. Nationals and the Egyptian Event. People I met at these shows spoke about the Breeders World Cup with such enthusiasm. They said that it was the show of the future for the U.S., so I had great expectations for this event.

 

BH: Sometimes when an event generates a lot of talk, it doesn't measure up to our expectations. What did you think? Did the show meet your expectations?

JACK MARITZ: No, it did not - it was so far beyond what I had imagined that it truly exceeded any expectation I could have had. I have judged at many international shows; Qatar, Australia, Towerlands, Aachen, and others. But in truth, I have never seen such a well-organized show. The attention to detail was really the best I have seen anywhere. Everything was done to make the show the best possible for the horses, the handlers, the judges and the spectators.

I have used the European system when I have judged at these other international shows and I have seen the comparative and point systems that are used at other shows in America, but this modified European system is the best I have ever used. I love the way the categories are grouped into type, head, neck and shoulder, body and top line, legs and movement. I think this allows judges to score horses more accurately. I like the emphasis on movement, but I don't think that category should carry too much weight - any gelding can be a good mover, but that does not mean it would have been a good breeding horse - carriage is also a characteristic of type.

Also, I like that this system eliminates the high and low scores from each category rather than the high and low total for an individual judge. I think this process removes any hint of politics and I think it was successful in bringing the best horses to the front of the championship line up.

BH: One of the most important aspects of planning the show is the selection of the judges. Each judging panel is unique and they seem to create an equally unique energy for the show. It seemed like the judges of this year's panel worked very well together and that they really enjoyed each other's companying. What did you think?

JACK MARITZ: This is absolutely correct. I would say that it was a global panel and each judge brought a great deal of experience to the group. I think that the fact that it was a global group of judges encouraged breeders, owners and handlers to bring a different style of horse to be shown.

 

BH: What did you think about the handlers and their presentation of the horses?

JACK MARITZ: I think the handlers did a very good job of showing, but the European handlers still have an advantage when trotting their horses and showing the movement. Over all I thought the horses were well disciplined and shown with care. There were still one or two that seemed over-disciplined which did not allow that horse to show to its best advantage. I think that in time the presentation of the horses will improve even more.

 

BH: With so many lovely horses presented at the show, did you have any favorites?

JACK MARITZ: There were so many great horses shown - too many to pick just one favorite. I guess if I think of it in terms of groups of horses, I would say that the Junior Mares group, that is the group with the yearling, two and three year old fillies was absolutely outstanding and my favorite group to judge. The Junior Colts were good too and I guess I could say that the Junior Champion Colt was a favorite. The yearling colts as a whole were exceptional. I loved the Senior Mares - they were all so pretty, so feminine - just the way an Arabian mare should look, and the Senior Stallions were very exciting, very powerful and very masculine. The performance of the Champion Stallion showed a very close bond with his handler - it was really wonderful to see.

 

BH: The show is called the Breeders World Cup. Do you think it lived up to its name?

JACK MARITZ: I think it did. I have not seen so many great horses - in all age groups - all at one show - not even at the Nationals. I thought it was wonderful that both the owner and the breeder of the horses were acknowledged.

If some one asked me, 'What is the one show overseas that I should attend?" I would have to tell them the World Cup! It is THE show to see! From the fantastic venue, to the great organization of the show, to the wonderful, friendly people, and the great horses, the Arabian Breeders World Cup is the one show you really must see!

 

 


 

- DR. MOHAMED MACHMOUM of MOROCCO -

Often times we have preconceived ideas about a person which can lead to us making judgments before we have the facts. This can be embarrassing or, provide a pleasant surprise. I experienced both when I met Dr. Mohamed Machmoum, one of the esteemed judges for the World Cup show. Perhaps I watch too many travel shows, but when I went to meet Dr. Machmoum, I was expecting to see a Gandhi-like character; a distinguished, elderly gentleman who was slightly bent and who wore round, wire spectacles, his hair would be white and he would certainly be wearing a classic red fez. He would no doubt be a serious, scientific man. Instead, I found an energetic young man with movie star good looks, a quick smile and charming demeanor - I thought, how nice, Dr. Machmoum brought his son! As with most prejudgments - I was wrong and when I confessed my surprise to Dr. Machmoum, he had a good laugh and graciously forgave me. I admit I was wrong about the personal appearance and I can vouch for the fact that Dr. Machmoum loves a good laugh and lively conversation. However, I was correct in one aspect - when it comes to the breeding of Arabian horses, Dr. Machmoum definitely has a serious and scientific perspective which he willingly shared in a personal interview after the show...

 

BH: How did you first hear about the AHBA Breeders World Cup show?

DR. MACHMOUM: When I judged the European Egyptian Event in Belgium in 2006, I met Scott Bailey and he told me about the plans for creating this show. I was agreeably surprised by the wonderful idea to organize this type of show in the USA. Since then I have studied the progress of the show and researched the subject via the Internet. I was truly delighted and honoured to be invited to judge the show. Before coming to the USA for this assignment, I prepared myself by reading and consulting a lot of the published documents on the AHBA web site concerning this subject.

 

BH: Sometimes when an event generates a lot of talk, it doesn't measure up to our expectations. What did you think? Did the show meet your expectations?

DR. MACHMOUM: Of course - YES! One of the keys to the success of the ABWC is the perfect and professional organization of the event. They have a very good team which works discreetly and efficiently. The schedule was charged quite full, but I found it was all very reasonable and easily accomplished with the perfect assistance of the staff. For me, it was a real pleasure to meet everyone and I hope to have the opportunity to keep in touch in the future in order to promote the Arabian horse around the world.

 

BH: What did you think about the handlers and their presentation of the horses?

DR. MACHMOUM: In general, the level of professionalism shown by the handlers and their presentation was good. In fact, I thought a few of them were perfect. There are perhaps two areas that I think some handlers may want to try to improve. One is in presenting their horses at the trot. For most the standing presentation was correct, but some may want to work on showing their horses more freely at the trot - I believe if they work on this, they will achieve a higher score in the future. Another area that could be improved is the standing presentation - some of the handlers positioned their horses with their head held excessively high. When horses are shown like this the judge can't correctly evaluate either the head or the neck. This can result in a lower score than if the handler showed the horse with its head positioned a little lower. As a judge I want to see the head, the face and the expression of the horse and I can do this most effectively when the horse is properly presented.

 

BH: It seemed like the judges of this year's panel worked very well together and that they really enjoyed each other's companying. What did you think?

DR. MACHMOUM: I thought that the panel of judges was harmonious. They were correct, professional and had a lot of experience and wisdom. Furthermore they were very sympathetic, or open minded and accepting of differences of opinions. We had some very good discussions after the classes when we enjoyed our dinner together. We spoke about a lot of subjects regarding the Arabian horse and I believe we all learned something from each other. Sincerely, I was very happy to participate in this jury.

 

BH: Did you see any horses that were your personal favourites?

DR. MACHMOUM: I especially appreciated the senior stallion and the senior mare classes. The quality of the horses in those classes was very consistent which resulted in some very close ties in points. I was very pleased with our selection of the champions.

 

BH: The show is called the Breeders World Cup. Do you think it lived up to its name?

DR. MACHMOUM: Yes - absolutely!

 

BH: If someone asked you to describe your experience at the Breeders World Cup show, what would you say?

DR. MACHMOUM: I would tell them that in my opinion, the ABWC is a top quality event. The Arabian horses presented there had the highest level of quality and I believe that it is the most perfectly organized show I have ever attended. The venue for the show is really something special - it has a perfect arena for the horses, the judges, and for the spectators too. In addition, the people were wonderful; the staff was very nice, the handlers were respectful and the judges were very knowledgeable and professional. I thought that the judging system was very interesting. Really, for anyone who loves Arabian horses, this event should not be missed.

Before I came to the show, I told friends in the Arabian horse community that I would be a member of the jury - they were all very happy and excited for me. Those friends who had already attended the first and second World Cup show told me I would be amazed. After the show, I understood their attitude - the Vegas show is pure magic!

 

 


 

- PETER GAMLIN of WALES -

After delivering three of the judges to the Las Vegas airport, I still had one charge remaining, the delightful Mr. Peter Gamlin of Wales. Do not let Mr. Gamlin's charming demeanor and infectious smile fool you into thinking he is not a serious person - especially when it comes to the breeding of fine Arabian horses. When he speaks of his family, his wife, sons and grandchildren, he is all lightness and full of praise. But turn the conversation to the subject of his favorite breed of horses, Arabians of course, and Mr. Gamlin's voice takes a deeper tone. This was my experience as we shared a cup of tea the morning after the Breeders World Cup show. Mr. Gamlin, like several of the other judges, said he did not like to be interviewed. So, we just had a conversation, a chat between friends, and it went something like this...

 

BH: Peter, how did you first hear about the Breeders World Cup show?

PETER GAMLIN: I first heard of the show from my good friend, Dr. Nasr Marei - Dr. Marei judged the first World Cup show, two years ago, and he assured me that I would really enjoy it because of the high quality of the horses and the wonderful atmosphere of the show. He was right! The quality of the horses was so high - much more than I had thought there might be and the classes were good sized as well, especially the yearling fillies and colts. Each class brought us more and more beautiful horses to judge - the classes of older horses were not quite so large - but the quality was always very good.

 

BH: Peter, what did you think of the organization of the show - the schedule, the venue, the judging system, etc?

PETER GAMLIN: Well first I must say that I think you have a grand team here! Everyone was so nice, so friendly and helpful - it made our job so enjoyable. The show was run in an extremely professional manner - on time and with a good pace.

The venue - that is to say the hotel with the arena right here, all in one - makes it very convenient and the restaurants were good as well. The arena was really tops - very nice - but the thing I really liked was the footing in the arena - it was nearly perfect for the horses and it really allowed the horses to move to their best advantage. This is so important. When the footing is good the horses can move with confidence and it really makes a difference.

I really liked the judging system - I think it is the best I've used. I particularly liked the division of the categories, which are a little different from those used in Europe, the Middle East and other areas where I've judged. At shows in those places, the head and neck are judged as one category. Here they are judged separately.  I have judged horses with a fantastic head, but its neck was not and, I've judged horses with very nice necks, but plain heads. What do you do? If you give a high point because it has a lovely face, but a poor neck, they may get the wrong impression. If you give a low mark to a horse with a fantastic head, but a poor neck - oh, the people get very upset! No, this system is much better - I really liked it. I think it worked very well and allowed us to select the best horses.

 

B.H.: What did you think about the handlers and the presentation of the horses?

PETER GAMLIN: I think the horses were shown well and I appreciated how courteous the handlers were to the judge, very respectful, that was nice. I do think that some of the handlers could ease up a bit on the horses. The horses were all well trained and well disciplined, but in just a few examples I thought they were a touch over disciplined. It showed in their movement and in their presentation, which would have looked better if the horses had a little more confidence with their handlers. Also, I liked it when the handlers gave it their all with their horses at the trot; I gave them an extra point for their effort. Some trainers just trotted in about half way and that was it, some of them had horses that were too hot to trot and just gave up. It's difficult to judge a horse on that little bit of movement. Those that at least made an extra effort earned the extra point from me. I love to see a horse with a beautiful face and good conformation, but the icing on the cake is their movement - to me is shows their inner beauty which is their spirit. I think that's when they look their most beautiful.

 

B.H.: This show has been designated as a "Breeders" show. As a breeder, what does that mean to you?

PETER GAMLIN: This is a competition to award those horses that represent the highest level of quality for the characteristics that define our breed - type, conformation, carriage, spirit - it's what we all strive for. The other night at dinner, someone raised the question, "Do you think we have reached the pinnacle of our breed?" I don't think we have. There were several horses that got points of 20 in different categories. A score of 20 is the highest score they can earn. I think we can improve and it will be seen as more horses earn more scores of 20 points in more categories. I think we can do it!

 

B.H.: If someone asks you about the Breeders World Cup show, what will you say?

PETER GAMLIN: I think this show has now become the number one show anywhere. The horses, the venue, the show committee, and the people are so nice. It really is the best show. I don't know how it could be improved. I think it will now grow from strength to strength and I hope to attend the show again in the years to come.

 

 


 

- MS. LENITA PERROY of BRAZIL -

The AHBA Breeders World Cup show was four days full of exquisite Arabian horses. But there were still some breeders and owners who had not seen enough - they wanted more - so after the show they continued on to the lovely Santa Ynez Valley in sunny, central California. On the Monday and Tuesday immediately following the World Cup show, visiting breeders and owners from around the world were welcomed to open houses hosted by some prominent breeders there. Among the international visitors was Lenita Perroy, world famous breeder and the only woman on the judging panel for the 2009 Breeders World Cup Championships. After the presentation at one of the open houses Lenita and I took a few quiet moments to talk about the show...

 

B.H.: This year the judges for the Breeders World Cup came from South Africa, Morocco, Wales, the U.S. and Brazil. It seemed like they each had a unique perspective. How would you describe your perspective for judging Arabian horses?

MS. PERROY: The marks that I gave each horse I judged were based according to my idea of the ideal horse and every horse I see I look at with a breeder's eye. I love to look at horses and the best way to look at horses is as a judge. It's wonderful! I am privileged    to see lots and lots of horses from many different places and I don't have to travel to go see them - the horses are brought to me! But when I see a horse, I wish to know the breeding. I understand why they don't announce the sire and dam of the horses at the show, but I think it's important for breeders to realize what other breeders are doing              - what is working, what breeding combinations are producing horses with type and quality and the style that they desire. This is what I like best.

 

B.H.: Lenita, you have judged at lots of shows all around the world. What did you think of the World Cup system?

MS. PERROY: At the World Cup show the categories are a little different than at the European shows. I think this system makes it an almost perfect way to judge the horses. The most important thing is the total picture - the horse as a whole. This system does that. In the end, the best overall horse, in my opinion, was placed first almost every time. But the quality was so high among the horses that there were actually some ties in the overall number of points that some of the horses were given. That shows the consistent quality of the horses and the compatible opinions of the judges. I think it was a very good panel of judges and that they used the system very well.

One thing that is different about this system is how they discard the high and low score in each category for each horse. It seems like the system doesn't use the judges totally. But if this makes the exhibitors, owners and spectators feel better then it's fine with me. The judges are here to serve. Another thing they do at this show to assure fairness is to pick one judge to sit out for each class. I understand the reason, but I hated it when I had to sit out a class. I want to see ALL of the horses - they were so wonderful!

Also, I think in this case it makes it more difficult to judge the championship classes because there are horses in the championship line ups that the judges that were sitting    have not seen and judged before.

 

B.H.: The Breeders World Cup show has worked hard to create an event that has wide international appeal. Part of that effort is the selection of judges from around the world. What did you think of this year's judging panel?

MS. PERROY: I thought we had a very good panel this year. This opinion is based on our work together and also our dinner conversations after the classes. I love to be with people who love horses! You can tell these people are very knowledgeable, very professional and very dedicated to their horses. Our dinner conversations were wonderful. We discussed the horses in general and their high quality. We also discussed some very interesting subjects, we discussed breeding, we talked about the great horses in the past, each judge's ideal horses, and a lot of other topics which made the conversations exciting - there was a very good exchange of ideas. In the end even if we did not agree totally, we enjoyed hearing each others opinions.

 

B.H.: Lenita, what do you think makes a good judge?

MS. PERROY: To be a good judge, or a good breeder, they need to know exactly what they want. The judging standard is very specific and the score sheet we used at the World Cup show gave the range of numbers to use for poor, average, good, excellent and ideal -but it's up to the judges to evaluate the level of quality a horse has in each category and to give them the appropriate score. That's where personal opinions come into the whole thing and I think the judges at this show did a very good job.

 

B.H.: What did you think of the handlers and the presentation of the horses?

MS. PERROY: I thought that the handlers were very good !!!!!!! The Europeans still seem to have an advantage when showing the horses at the trot, I believe that's because they train the horses to move like this, but there were some American handlers at the show that could do the same, plus standing the horses extremely well. Many of the younger horses did not get very high scores for movement because they were a little intimidated by the ring and the crowds. The older horses moved beautifully and so they got good scores. I thought there were a lot of good moving horses at this show.

 

BH: With so many lovely horses presented at the show, did you have any favorites?

MS. PERROY: There were many wonderful horses at this show - horses that the breeders could be proud of. It was a pleasure to see them and an honor to be asked to judge them.

 

BH: The show is called the Breeders World Cup. Do you think it lived up to its name?

MS. PERROY: Yes, I think it has because the emphasis is on the horses, rather than their presentation. The judging system they have chosen and developed allows the judges to direct their focus on the type, movement, carriage and conformation of the horse. The presentation is important, but the scores are all about the horse. So, this is good for the breeders. As a breeder, I enjoy this show very much. Although it is smaller than some shows in the US, the quality was superb. I think if you want to see the best horses in this country, you really must come to the World Cup show.

 

 


 

- TERRY HOLMES of U.S.A. -

For many of us the Arabian horse is a top priority in our life and for some of us our passion has become our profession. Terry Holmes is a veteran trainer and judge with more than 20 years of history in the industry. His work has taken him all around the globe. For example, immediately following his judging assignment at the World Cup show, Terry returned home to Scottsdale, Arizona to prepare for yet another trip which would take him to a large show near Atlanta, Georgia. I caught up with Terry while he was enroute to his next destination and we were able to revisit the whole Vegas experience...

 

B.H.: Terry, you attend the most important shows in the world. Did you attend the first two Breeders World Cup shows?

TERRY HOLMES: Yes, I did attend both the earlier shows and I also participated at some of the preliminary planning meetings held by the Arabian Horse Breeders Alliance when they were first talking about organizing a breeder's show. From the very start I thought it was a great idea. It has a touch of European flair combined with a little touch of American style and it awards the top breeders - it just sounded like a show that would be fun and that could attract other breeders from around the world.

 

B.H.: Since you had already been to the first two shows, did you have any expectations about the show?

TERRY HOLMES: Well, I knew that the horses would be top notch. At the first show the horses were really good - they had a level of quality and type that had not been seen at many of the American shows. At the second World Cup show the horses were even better. So I was certain this year the horses would be really special and they were! In that regard my expectations were met and even exceeded.

As the Scottsdale Signature Stallion Futurity Director, and a longtime member of the Arabian Horse Association of Arizona, I work closely with the people who organize the big Scottsdale Arabian show and some of those very same people organize this Vegas show as well, so I knew they would do a great job. I believe they did everything they could possibly think of to make this year's show the best one yet. It was just fantastic - over the top - it really was unbelievable how much they improved this show over the previous ones. And the venue - hey - it's Vegas! There's so much excitement and good energy. Really, I think we should move the U.S. National Championships here, but that's a whole other story! But wouldn't that be fun!

 

B.H.: Terry, you've judged in many parts of the world and so you are familiar with both of the judging systems used at the Breeders World Cup; the modified European points system used for the preliminary classes and also the comparative system used for the championships. After using these systems in combination, what is your opinion of the result?

TERRY HOLMES: I thoroughly enjoyed using the systems implemented at the show. I think the modified European points system provided transparency in the judges' choices and I like the way the categories are organized. In my opinion it's even better than the standard European system. I don't know that they need to throw out the high and the low score for each category, but I understand why they do it and I respect the fact that the organizing committee is doing everything possible to provide a fair playing field. I heard from several people that they thought it was the most fairly judged show they have ever attended. It made me proud to be a part of the panel.

If I were to offer one suggestion, it would be that they consider making some adjustments in the judging of the championships. In those classes the judges use the comparative system - I love that. However, it states in the rules that the champion horse must be pulled from one of the first place positions. After that, the judges can select any horse from any position as their reserve champion horse. The problem I have with that is, because one judge sits out in each class, there are horses in the championship line ups that the judges may not have seen or evaluated yet. Now they must choose a champion, but their hands are tied because the horse they want to give the championship to is not in the first place line up. Also, some of the horses in first and second place were actually tied in the preliminary classes - it was that close of a decision among the judges.

But in the end, I think the judges, and it seemed like the crowd too, were pleased with the results and felt that the best horses won that day.

 

B.H.: What did you think of the handlers and their presentation of the horses?

TERRY HOLMES: Overall, I think the handlers did a good job. It seemed like they were really making a conscious effort to keep the level of stress to a minimum. There were one or two horses that seemed a little over stimulated - especially among the yearlings. It's important to try our best, but a stressed or over stimulated horse cannot be presented or shown to their best advantage. A happy, confident horse will always be more appealing to the eye than one that is not. But I think the handlers did a good job - especially when showing the horses at the trot, which allowed them to move well.

 

B.H.: The judges spent a considerable amount of time together, but they seemed to get a long quite well. After working with them, what was your opinion of this year's panel?

TERRY HOLMES: I thought the panel was top notch. I think everyone did a spectacular job. I enjoyed working with each one of them. In fact, I think it was the fairest panel I have ever worked with.

One thing I thought was very interesting - in our conversations after the classes it was revealed just how close our opinions were about which horses were at the top. Of course there were some variations - we did not agree 100 percent on every point, but in most cases we were very close in our opinions. You know thinking about the panel; Lenita Perroy, Peter Gamlin, Jack Maritz, Dr. Machmoum, Steve Lieblang and myself; there was an amazing number of combined years of experience, expertise and knowledge in our group. Another thing that made it special was the fact that we all came from very different backgrounds which I think made it a well rounded group too. It was really a good time!


B.H.: Over the course of the show, I heard the judges commenting on the high quality of the horses. Did you have a particular favorite?

TERRY HOLMES: I thought the championship classes were particularly deep. Those horses were fantastic. It all ended way too soon - I could have stood there and looked at them all afternoon. They were that good. I remember thinking that Mostly Padron really stood out - even in the preliminaries.

 

B.H.: So, Terry, any final thoughts you'd like to share?

TERRY HOLMES: You know at first I considered it an honor when I was asked to judge this show. Now that it's over, I realize that it was more than honor - it was a privilege to be a part of that panel of judges, to see those horses, and to be a part of a show that many people now consider to be the best show in the United States. So, I'd like to thank the organizing committee for inviting me to judge. As for the future of this show, I think the potential is limitless - as long as people will commit to supporting it. The more support, the more attendance, and the more participation they get, the better the show the organizers can produce. I know I'll continue to support it any way I can.

 

 


 

- STEVE LIEBLANG of U.S.A. -

In a group of people who are as highly accomplished as those of the judging panel for this year's Breeders World Cup Championships, it might be intimidating to be the junior member. Although Steve Lieblang was the youngest person on the panel, he stood out for his ability to connect with the others, to make us laugh, and to enliven our conversations with his intellect, expertise and wit. Steve introduced many thought provoking questions which in turn provided for some very lively conversations as well as opportunities to share thoughts, experiences, opinions, and to learn from each other. Even though Steve was the "new kid on the block," in this group, he still has over 20 years of experience and has a lot to say about our industry and his experience at this year's World Cup Championships...

 

B.H.: How did you first hear about the Breeders World Cup show?

STEVE LIEBLANG: I first heard about the concept for the show from Scott Bailey and since then I have followed the event and how it progressed each year. But, I wasn't able to attend the show until 2008.

 

B.H.: Sometimes when an event generates a lot of talk, it doesn't measure up to our expectations. What did you think? Did the show meet your expectations?

STEVE LIEBLANG: I thought that the concept of bringing European style and excitement to the American show ring would certainly be a daunting task - especially in the halter scene here today. However, from the opening night gala to the exciting music during the classes and the elegant presentation of the horses, I would say that the show actually exceeded all of my expectations.

B.H.: What did you think of the organization of the show - the schedule, the venue, the judging system, etc?  Do you have any suggestions for improvements?

STEVE LIEBLANG: I thought the show ran very smoothly and the schedule and timing were pretty much spot on. The venue is terrific and the way they set up the arena with all of the spectators seated on the same side gave everyone the same point of view. This year the staging of the area was very dramatic and it created a wonderful feeling - you knew that you weren't in just any ol' arena during presentation. It made the whole event feel very special.

B.H.: What did you think about the handlers and their presentation of the horses?

STEVE LIEBLANG: As stated before, I thought that the class presentations were by far the most elegant and expressive presentations with VERY FEW horses hitting the hardest of stand ups. When that did happen the handlers were quickly asked to just relax and let the horse stand for a moment; this almost always changed their scores on body and top line - for the better! A horse that is presented with its rear end crouching can't show to the breed standard and therefore it doesn't score well.

In the past, handlers have concentrated on the stand up or posing the horse. But more and more the presentation has evolved to include the evaluation of the movement of the horse. At this show handlers realized that when points were very close between the horses, high movement scores could give them the edge they needed to win. No matter where you are showing, it is always important to remember to instill trust and happiness in your horse because an intimidated horse will not perform nearly as well as one that is confident and secure.

I have one last suggestion for handlers. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of mastering the art of tracking your horse in a straight line at the walk. We had to ask several handlers to repeat the walk because their horses were too jiggy or the handlers were not focused and just headed off to who knows where. If handlers want the highest scores possible, they must present their horse in the most effective way so that the judges are able to really see your horse and all of its finest qualities.


B.H.: It seemed like the judges of this year's panel worked very well together and that they really enjoyed each other's companying. What did you think?

STEVE LIEBLANG: I have not worked with very many international panels yet, but I would go anywhere in the world to judge with the people I worked with at this show. It was such a congenial group and we did have a really good time together. Obviously there were instances when personal opinions came into the judging process and that made a score a bit off from the rest of the group, but overall we scored the horses very closely. After the classes when we discussed the points we had given to the horses, we found that our opinions were very similar in almost all of the categories.

 

BH: With so many lovely horses presented at the show, did you have any favorites?

STEVE LIEBLANG: I think anyone could go look at scores given to find out which horses were our individual favorites. However, the championships on Sunday were INCREDIBLE! All I can say is this, "Don't ever say it is over until the last card is in!" I
think any horse on the first and second line of each of those championship classes
would be welcome in anyone's barn. From the oldest to the youngest, they were all pretty remarkable.

BH: The show is called the Breeders World Cup. Do you think it lived up to its name?

STEVE LIEBLANG: I would say a resounding, "YES!" From a breeder's perspective, almost every single horse shown had a very high level of Arabian breed type and conformation. Each horse was exemplary in its own right and I think deserved to be presented there. And, because with their high quality, any of the horses we saw could be capable of contributing to a breeding program in a positive way. As far as it being considered a World Cup Championship - I would say ABSOLUTELY! We had world-class horses from countries all around the world participating at the show and, I think the international panel of judges, the international handlers and also the international guests really made this a world-class show.

 

B.H.: If someone asks you to describe your experience at the Breeders World Cup show, what will you say?

STEVE LIEBLANG: Can I please judge it again next year??? I think that to see that many beautiful horses of different national origins, all in one place, in that short amount of time, is one of the greatest learning experiences anyone can have. It made me realize that classic Arabian type and quality conformation is the same standard no matter where it comes from...