The 2022 Abu Dhabi International Arabian Horse Championship ~ Breaking The Mold!
The 2022 Abu Dhabi International Arabian Horse Championship
~ Breaking the Mold!
By Lisa Abraham
With a Postscript by Peter Pond
I would like to start this coverage with a memory from 2017 as it relates to my experience with the Emirates Arabian Horse Society (EAHS). I interviewed Dr. Hans Nagel (GER) and Klaus Beste (GER) to share the history of the All Nations Cup, from their perspective. One of the things I keenly remember was the passion Klaus had for the show. He stated, “For us, the ANC was the highlight of the entire year. On a day-to-day basis, we maintained a routine consisting of administrative matters. However, as the year passed and as we got closer to show time, the more enthusiastic we all became. I, myself, would get excited as I really loved the show, and somehow, was able to transfer this passion. For all of us, it was far more than a job--we were engaged with our hearts and our minds. Every year, when we arrived in Aachen, my colleagues carried this excitement with them and gave the warmest welcomes to everybody attending. Because we were so committed, we created a kind of spirit that one doesn’t find at other shows.”
Since the beginning of my relationship with EAHS, nearly all my communication has been with Hamda Alkhajeh, the Events Administrator. From our very first dialogue, she has been friendly, informative, approachable, and reachable. But more than that, her heart is in it. On February 10th, at 12:35 am, just hours before the start of the 2022 Abu Dhabi International Championship, I received a WhatsApp message from her, “Just leaving the showground…super tired but excited for tomorrow.” At that point in the evening, this was the second message Hamda sent me regarding her happy anticipation of the show—for me, that was a perfect example of the passion from which the Emirates Arabian Horse Society operates.
The 2022 Abu Dhabi International Arabian Horse Championship began on February 10th and went through to the 13th. It was held outdoors at the beautiful Abu Dhabi Equestrian Center and was well supported. I have to share that not only was the venue ideal but also, the design included features situated optimally making it a pleasure for photography. Both videography and photography are crucial considerations for show promotion, while the show is taking place and for the many instances, the resulting media will be required afterward. Ensuring a high number of quality images is a difficult job and every possible opportunity must be utilized. However, at this show, because interesting and lovely backdrops were in every direction, the task was far easier.
Although due to its size, it was difficult to photograph in its entirety, one of the most impressive features of the arena was a near-exact replica of the Qasr Al Hosn, a National Monument with great importance in the history of Abu Dhabi. As the oldest stone building and standing structure in Abu Dhabi, Qasr Al Hosn was built in the late 1700s to overlook the coastal trade routes and protect the settlements living on the island. Throughout its history, it had been home to the ruling family; a seat of the government; and housed the National Consultative Council, which was founded by the late Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of the UAE. In 2018, after a decade of restoration, Qasr Al Hosn was transformed into a museum. Today Qasr Al Hosn is part of the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation, which was founded in 1981 as a resource for art and education. The Foundation hosts a variety of events which include exhibits, lectures, concerts, movies, and art workshops; and is operated by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage. Although its original color was different, after being painted a bright white while being renovated in the 1970s-80s, it has become known as the White Fort. Qasr Al Hosn is also protected as a Heritage Site which is reserved for official locations where pieces of political, military, and/or social history have been preserved due to cultural value.
The biggest story of the 2022 Abu Dhabi International Arabian Horse Championship was one of innovation. The EAHS Organizing Committee addressed long terms subjects of great interest to both professionals and enthusiasts and incorporated them seamlessly into the show, and in turn, added a heightened degree of ambiance and entertainment to the event.
In every way, photography is important to the world of Arabian Horses. Breeders rely on the photos of the past to understand important considerations within pedigrees; they use photos to document the growth of their offspring; and then, finally, for advertising. Although the reasons are more limited to marketing, imagery is just as important to shows and/or events. The importance of a social media presence and the ability to promote an event in real-time as in Livestream video, or near real-time with still images, is imperative. I would like to share my admiration for EAHS for having invited photographers who specialized in other subject matters, to learn about photographing the Arabian horse. There were eager photographers everywhere with many interesting observations and questions. As the show photographer, at first, I was unsure how to handle this as my job was to produce quality imagery. However, although this subject matter was new to most of these individuals, they were professional and exceptionally respectful, so I found it a pleasure to incorporate them into my work.
Like all other breeds of horses and even disciplines within breeds, photographing an Arabian horse takes specific knowledge. On a very basic level, as it applies to commercial imagery, for favorable representation, understanding conformation is crucial when evaluating images to publish and/ or market. Further knowledge of the specific features of the Arabian horse and how to naturally accentuate them in images is also required. Then there are atmospheric considerations such as light which can make or break a composition. To say the least, there is a lot to know. On the issues that were specific to the competition, these photographers were learning as fast as they could. However, for me, it was insightful to hear some of their perspectives many of which were unique and refreshing.
As a wildlife photographer, I have had opportunities to capture various animals in natural settings. However, much like photographing horses in a competition, one doesn’t always get to choose where or how that will be. I was excited about the invitation to participate, and I went with no expectations. But along with knowledge of my camera, I had confidence in my ability. This was going to be a learning experience and I enjoy testing my abilities and learning new skills.
I knew that this was a beauty competition, and the objective was to photograph the horses as favorably as possible. Upon arrival, I studied the arena, the light, and which were the best places to shoot. Then I studied the body language of the horses. I paid close attention to how the horses moved and the position of their heads. From this, I observed several things. If I stood directly in front of the horse, I realized it could not see me. But they did react to movements along their sides, which helped me understand their vision. At first, I was concerned that my black abaya was scary to them. During the individual presentations, I found the constant movement and speed to be a challenge. Additionally, I was told that the ears much face forward, which added to the difficulty.
I would also like to share a final observation as it affected my ability to capture certain shots as it pertained to the overall comfort of the horse. I found the relationship between the horses and the handlers to be impactful. Some entered the arena with a positive vibe, and it was obvious that the two shared a long-term relationship. While others seemed as though they had just met, and the discomfort was evident.
I’m looking forward to learning more about the beautiful Arabian horse and their world. My overall experience was amazing and the setup next to the Arabian sea was very nice. I’m grateful to EAHS for this unforgettable experience—it was a first but will not be the last.
~ Suaad Al Suwaidi
World’s first Emirati and Arabic female wildlife photographer
Portraying the Arabian horse in art dates back over 3,500 years ago. Since that time, artists have continued to be inspired by the beauty and unique character of the Arabian. I would even be so bold as to state that the Arabian horse and art go hand in hand, as the connection between the two remains unbroken. Alongside the arena was a large indoor exhibit, which primarily featured portrayals of Arabian horses by UAE artists. The layout of the display was thoughtful, and the art was quality. However, in the aisle between the gallery and the arena and as the show took place, artists were at work. I loved this and felt it created uniqueness to the experience of being present. I appreciate and collect art so seeing the work of the UAE artists meant a great deal to me. I enjoyed chatting with them as much as watching them paint.
Although the experience of live painting during a horse show is a challenge for the artist, it adds a touch of vitality and creativity to the event. With one eye, the audience enjoys watching the presentation of beautiful horses while with the other, follows the stages a painting goes through to completion. As the first person to present this idea, I feel very proud as I have also had multiple successful experiences of organizing and participating in doing the same at horse shows around the world. My congratulations to EAHS for incorporating this exercise into the 2022 International Championship. In addition, one of the artists was a student of mine at the University of Sharjah for many years. I was proud to see him painting with confidence in front of the audience at this show.
In many parts of the world, there seem to be small improvements in the business and participation of Arabian horses, if only just a little. But in the UAE, both at thriving. Furthermore, the resourcefulness taken at this show is an excellent example of why this county is experiencing success. Inviting photographers and artists to participate did create a depth of personality to the show, but it did something else—something infinitely more important. EAHS seized the opportunity to invite the outside community to experience the Arabian horse for the first time. The influence of this cannot be understated and is an initiative that could and should be adopted by shows around the world.
The show followed the ECAHO system of rules concerning all aspects of the competition and did not require qualification. 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 & NECK, BODY & TOPLINE, 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. From the perspective of the actual presentation, the horse was only allowed one stand-up. For individual presentation, after the initial MOVEMENT into the ring, the horse was immediately required to walk for the judges. Once the judges were satisfied, the horse was then positioned by the handler.
Panel of Judges: Anna Stojanowska (Poland), Bérengère Fayt (Belgium), Bruce McCrea (USA), Elyas Faraj Ebrahim (Bahrain), Gianmarco Aragno (Italy), Lucas Gozdzialski (Poland) Marianne Tengstedt (Denmark), Mohammed Oussidhoum (Morocco), Sylvie Eberhardt (Germany) and Tom Hulshof (Netherlands)
As this was my second show organized by EAHS, I must compliment the Organizers for another huge success. A total of 358 horses competed, with 193 owners—these are remarkable numbers! As an International show, it was also well supported by Bahrain, Jordan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. On a side note, I would like to share how much the Bahrainis added to the show. Not only did they bring their horses, but also a lively cheering section which certainly added to everyone’s enjoyment. In attendance were also, Peter Pond, the President of WAHO, and Jaroslav Lacina, President of ECAHO.
Postscript by Peter Pond
My wife, Jenny, and I were very pleased to accept the invitation to attend the recent 2022 Abu Dhabi International Arabian Horse Championship, held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayad Al Nahyan. The show was held at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club in a fabulous show arena that had every facility necessary for the guests, judges, horse owners, and handlers. In addition to Arabian halter events, the Equestrian Club caters to many different Equine activities including flat racing and jumping. The Club is well managed by Mr. Kim Elliott, who is also from Australia.
This International Show had over 350 Purebred Arabian horses entered and were judged over four days by ten judges, from four different continents. The final day was devoted to the Championships and was attended by Sheikh Zayed bin Hamad Al Nahyan, Vice Chairman of the EAHS Board of Directors, who awarded some of the Championship prizes to the very worthy winners. The trophies were of magnificent quality and spectacular in design. My wife and I were also impressed with the quality of the horses and felt that most could compete successfully around the world.
I was particularly interested in the displays in the Arts Centre located just beside the Show Arena. Apart from the many beautiful exhibits, mostly from local UAE artists, there was a historical display of the establishment of EAHS and its association with the World Arabian Horse Organization (WAHO) over the earlier years. As the current President of WAHO, this meant a great deal to me.
In conclusion, I wish to offer a special thanks to H.E. Mohamed Ahmed Al Harbi, General Director of EAHS, and to his excellent staff—it is tremendous work to organize a show of this quality. I also wish to thank our EAHS hosts for their wonderful hospitality during this event and the days which followed.
President of the World Arabian Horse Organization
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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.