The 2021 Dubai International Arabian Horse Championship FULL COVERAGE
The 2021 Dubai International Arabian Horse Championship
By Lisa Abraham
The last time I worked was one year ago at the 2020 edition of the Dubai International Arabian Horse Championship (DIAHC). It began just as the pandemic had been declared and through the duration of the show, countries started to close borders, one by one—all over the world. For those of us who were lucky enough to participate, it was an unforgettable time as it was the first to be organized with all the precautions that have now become second nature, and without spectators. The DIAHC Organizing Committee did a heroic job protecting us and ensuring our safety throughout our time in Dubai and on our passages home.
After a quiet year at home, on the second of February, I was grateful to receive an invitation to participate in this prestigious show once again. I must admit, outside of being forbidden to travel, nothing could have kept me from accepting. However, it was not without concern for all the current unknowns regarding international travel. When I first began to make reservations, even the airlines were unsure how to advise me as protocols were still changing by the day. Ultimately, I only needed a negative PCR Covid test confirmation to be taken 72 hours before departure and to be symptom-free. Also, I would like to note that my test result was required every step of the way, including for checking into the hotel. Although a 24-hour quarantine was not required, it was for some arriving from certain specific destinations.
In 2020, the protocols were masterly being developed as we worked. However, they are now firmly in place and respected. Since I have covered this event for several years, I have developed a small list of favorite shops and sights. Upon arrival, I was concerned about entering any public areas and risking even the smallest chance of exposure to infection. But it was abundantly clear that, in Dubai, precautionary measures were taken very seriously. Instructions were visible everywhere regarding the specifics of social distance; each store had a prominently placed sign which clearly stated its maximum occupancy and EVERYONE wore masks—CORRECTLY. Therefore, I felt safe venturing out—and glad for doing so. All over the world, travel is restricted, if even allowed. Therefore, those who are dependent on income from tourism are suffering. I was happy to spend money in Dubai and support those who are doing their best to survive these unfortunate commercial circumstances.
The 2021 DIAHC took place on March 18th through the 20th and at the Dubai World Trade Center. Although many positive things can be said about this important event, one of the standout qualities is the high level of professionalism in which this show is organized. In 2010, I started covering the Arabian Horse World Championship, in Paris—the pinnacle competition which finalizes the European Triple Crown. Over time as I learned more of how shows are promoted and organized, I realized at what a high level of management exists in Paris. It is a show which is structured so precisely that it seems to run itself and for which every moment is accounted. I use that as a comparison because this level of accomplishment is obvious in Dubai as well.
The Higher Organizing Committee consisted of Patron HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum; Chairman Ziad Abdullah Galadari; and Board members: Sultan Mohammed Kalilfa, Abdulrahman Obaid Al Belshawareb, Mohamed Al Tawheedi, Essam Abdulla Al Hameerie, and Qusai Obaidalla. Qusai Obaidalla also served as the show’s General Manager; while Adel Saeed Al Falasi served as the Executive Manager and Albina Patyka was the Show Event Secretary. Behind these individuals was a very dedicated staff and who were also committed to the success of this edition. However, with all the new layers of management required to organize a safe public event, responsibilities have increased, as have the liabilities. For example, not only did everyone who was leaving for home if it existed outside of the UAE, had to be tested with the PCR test once again, but also, countries exercised different protocols for entrance, even if one was only there due to a connection. Concerning these details and in how they related to those of us who were working for the show, was the enormous responsibility of Albina Patyka, who handled them with authority and grace—and this was an accomplishment that can not be understated.
Another factor that made a deep impression on me at this year’s edition was the presence of children. Our show world has become one of big business. Many of the horses competing in arenas around the world have value, some have great value, while even others are literally national treasures and are priceless. Although at smaller shows around the world, there is still a family presence. But shows that are organized at the highest level such as the DIAHC, it is a rarer occurrence. If one is not there to compete, one is there to do business in one way or another.
Sometime in the late 1970s to mid-1980s, famed Gleannloch Farms Arabian Horse Stud (USA), published an ad with the following text:
Its history predates all other breeds of horses, many of which were developed for one specific purpose. The Arabian horse, because of its life in the desert, developed hardiness, intelligence, and an affinity for people which make it unique and very special indeed. Although the Arab is not as fast as the fastest racehorse, does not jump as high as the highest jumper, does not trot in the manner of the fastest (or highest) trotter…yet it does all of these things and many more with courage and style. This ability has led to the concept of the family Arabian and of a sport in which amateurs and professionals compete happily with one another. It is our opinion that this concept must be preserved if we want to preserve the Arabian that we know and love and if we want to maintain a market for our horses. Each of us must make a decision as to the best ways that we can encourage integrity, good sportsmanship, and fair play in breeding, showing and handling these horses.
LET’S KEEP THIS A FAMILY SPORT!
Regardless of its purpose to each owner, the Arabian horse has always had a place in families. In fact, as we all know, it was common in past times for Bedouins to allow their horses to sleep in the tents alongside their loved ones, as treasured members of the family. Additionally, for many of us who own and /or take care of Arabian horses, we have experienced the incredibly special affinity that our horses can have for children, which is a cherished quality specific to the Arabian breed. So for me, the presence of youth in Dubai added emotional value. It also stood out to me how engaged the children were with the horses and the obvious comfort they felt with one another. As an example, I was most touched by the prizegiving to Senior Stallion Silver Champion D Seraj. He was literally surrounded by children all of whom were engaging with him—yet he was relaxed, and even quite soft—despite being only moments from the pressure of a medal-winning performance.
As a journalist, spectator, fan, and lover of Arabian horses, D Seraj’s temperament also touched my heart. At this point, the pressure to win is immense—and everyone can feel it. At shows, the immediate tension starts in the collection arena, then the handlers give everything they have to get the absolute best of their horses, the judges maintain deep concentration, the organizing committee remains at attention, while the audience is judge and jury—eyes are literally everywhere. The money spent is astronomical, the money earned is also huge and pressure for success is on the line at every moment. While at the end of the rope is the Arabian horse. Although it is a rare occurrence, which is also a testament to this breed, who can blame the horse when it can be more difficult or even snaps? But when a mature horse who is also a breeding stallion, could safely be smothered by children while being recognized with a medal—that alone deserved recognition. Although D Seraj was the horse that made the biggest impression on me, he was not the only one to exhibit this endearing quality.
Even though we are still living in a world threatened by the COVID-19, there is little doubt that the 2021 DIAHC was viewed by enthusiasts and breeders all over the world, thanks to Arabian Essence. Arabian Essence began in 2005 as a business partnership between Elvis Giughera (ITA) and Gigi Grasso (ITA). Since that time, Arabian Essence has become one of the Arabian horse community’s most important assets. In addition to providing encyclopedic content and other important marketing services, they produce a large amount of international live streaming for our shows. Arabian Essence ensures its client's strong visibility. According to the Live Stream Analytics provided by Arabian Essence, the DIAHC had over 77 thousand views. Its strongest concentration of views came from the Middle East and lead by the UAE with 19.5% of total views, followed by KSA (16%), Kuwait (11.4%), Israel (9.8%), and Italy (7.9%). Another interesting statistic was that 88% of the views came from mobile devices. To summarize, the live stream statistics are indisputable proof of the DIAHC’s importance.
It is important to note that the DIAHC closes the Middle Eastern show season—just as the Arabian Horse World Championship closes the year, which illustrates another strong correlation between the two shows. Furthermore, within the bodies of competition, history has proven, those who were successful in Dubai are often strong contenders in Paris. It must also be recognized that breeding programs from the UAE have been dominating many of the Arabian horse world’s most prestigious arenas for several years now. Not only have many of our most accomplished champions have been bred in this country, but also, UAE breeders have been recognized with countless special awards for their efforts.
The 2021 DIAHC featured an impressive number of 185 horses who competed valiantly for medal recognition. For the Qualification Classes, in which the judges rotated, scoring was recorded on a scale of 1-20. The categories of evaluation included: TYPE, HEAD, BODY, LEGS, and MOVEMENT. If a tie were to occur, the horse with the highest score in TYPE prevailed. If that failed to resolve the tie, then the score for MOVEMENT decided. If the tie remained, then one judge was chosen by random ballot to decide. The Championships were judged comparatively. In the Championships, a tie was resolved by the highest Qualifying Class score. If that failed to resolve the tie, then the rules for the Qualifying Classes were applied.
Ringmaster: Jean-Bernard Kupaj (FRA)
Judges: Raouf Abdel Abbas (EGY), Gianmarco Aragno (ITA), Eric Gear (FRA), Terry Holmes (USA), Murilo Kammer (BRA), Cristian Moschini (ITA), Gideon Reisel (NLD), Michaela Weidner (GER) and Tomasz Tarczynsi (POL)
The quality competing in Dubai was indisputably high beginning with the foals. Although nothing can be taken from the Champions as all deserved to win and were excellent portrayals of the Standard from which they were judged. However, sometimes quality can better be illustrated by those who did not win—particularly with the Senior Mares. In this Championship, although the three medal winners were quite firm in their placement, present in this Championship were three more horses who have competed successfully at the highest level and have earned international recognition: Wildona, Perfinka, and Delight’s Divah RB.
The pressure to judge horses at this level can be tremendous. As the level of breeding has become so high, producing physiques that are getting closer and closer to the Standard, judges require very specific and in-depth knowledge of the physicality and essence of the Arabian horse. It is my opinion that the Mare Championship was the most competitive of the six. Yet from the Class scores to the Championship ranking, there was relative unity and consistency among the judges. This is a strong indication of the cumulative skill present in the 2021 panel of judges and a compliment to the organizers for choosing these individuals.
Finally, I would like to close by thanking Qusai Obaidalla. I first met Qusai several years ago at the All Nations Cup, in Aachen, Germany. I remember he was sitting in a VIP booth alongside the arena rail, close to where I was working. He said hello and then asked me when I was going to come to Dubai, to which I told him I would love to have the opportunity. However, time passed, and I had lost hope of being invited to work. Then two years ago, as the show date approached, I received a formal invitation—and I was thrilled. However, I was also intimidated as I knew little about the show and how it was organized. But Qusai was inclusive, diplomatic, and on point at every step, which made me feel welcomed and comfortable. On the second day of the 2020 edition, I told him how impressed I was with his team. To my complete surprise, he looked me in the eyes and said, “You are part of us.” This compliment was a career highlight for me and one I will never forget. As the summer approaches, the international Arabian community is preparing for another important show--the Mediterranean and Arab Countries Arabian Horse Championship, which takes place on June 26 and 27th on the French Rivera, in Menton, France. As evidence of the high esteem in which Qusai Obaidalla has earned from his peers, he is also formally recognized and an Honorary Member of the Menton Organizing team!
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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.