The Arabian Horse Project: An Introduction
The Arabian Horse Project: An Introduction
By Lisa Abraham
This past year has brought nearly all global citizens to new challenges. Although the Arabian horse business has suffered, like many others intent on survival, show organizers and participants have adapted to a variety of new hurdles initiated to keep us safe. However, once life returns to what was a normal existence before the pandemic, I believe we will find that many of the resulting innovations and creative endeavors will not only remain but also, continue to be cultivated. The Arabian Horse Project has been the creation of Claudia Darius (GER) and me. It started simply as a project designed for two goals: (1) to sincerely enjoy a professional collaboration; and (2) to make a meaningful contribution. Initially, we had only one project in mind but quickly realized that we had created an umbrella with endless possibilities.
The concept for The Arabian Horse Project had an organic birth, but soon after our ideas began to take on lives of their own. Because of this, we realized a need to formulate structure and define our intentions. To be honest, this was not an easy task. Although our world is small, there are many opportunities in which to contribute, while also being fertile for innovation. So, maintaining a wide parameter of consideration was important. However, as Claudia and I are both dedicated and hard-working individuals, we agreed that in this new endeavor, our choices must also have value in terms of enjoyment. As for expenses, at this point our primary investment has been time, so we have chosen to be self-funded. Therefore, our mission statement is as follows: The Arabian Horse Project is a Not-for-Profit collaboration dedicated to the Arabian horse and its international community.
As a co-founder of The Arabian Horse Project, Claudia offers multifaceted experience. Claudia began her career as a breeder in 1987, with a concentration on Russian bloodlines. She dedicated herself to building a herd of exceptional broodmares with the ability to reproduce the qualities that were most important to her. Currently, Claudia is progressing with her fifth-generation while horses bred by Darius Arabians are making important contributions internationally. In addition to her work on the farm, Claudia is an ECAHO A-List Judge which has provided her with comprehensive insight into breeding trends and programs all over the world. Finally, Claudia is a gifted educator. Before becoming a full-time equine professional, Claudia was an elementary school teacher and served administratively as a vice mistress. Her passion for education successfully transitioned into her career with Arabian horses. She has been a featured instructor in courses organized to evaluate and test potential National Judges in both Europe and the Middle East and has developed a curriculum for teaching conformation and breeding theories.
Claudia and I met in Morocco at the 2015 edition of the Salon Du Cheval D’El Jadida. On a personal level, it did not take us long to realize that we had common interests. However, over time, we found the same to be true professionally. Our respected roles in this business have far different objectives, but our professional success and growth are both dependent on an in-depth knowledge of the physicality of the Arabian horse. Although this knowledge guides us to different and maybe even opposing objectives and directions of achievement, at the level of professionalism in which we work, neither job is possible without it.
In 2015, I felt myself to be on a plateau. I had devoted myself entirely to learning the business and creating a unique niche for myself as a member of the media. Although my technical skills continued to increase, my knowledge of Arabian horse conformation was not on an equal par—and for this, not only was I poignantly aware, but I also feared it was becoming obvious in my work. As my opportunities continued to get more prestigious, so did my audience and platform—therefore, mistakes and weakness could also be more magnified. But most challenging of all, I did not know how, or in which direction to turn for this knowledge. Being able to see an animal from the perspective of anatomy was not natural for me—I had to learn it little by little over time and my steps forward were small. Because the camera provides a square in which to view the animals, my ability to analyze physique as I worked was enhanced, but without the structure that the viewfinder enabled, the challenge was greater.
In 2016, Claudia and I were both working in Doha at the Qatar International Arabian Horse Show, which was held at Al Shaqab Stud. I was there as a media individual, in which my responsibilities included social media coverage through the duration of the event, followed by formal photo and text coverage; while Claudia was one of the Judges. After returning home and preparing to finalize the photo gallery for publication, I began to feel anxiety, which was progressively getting worse after each show as I reached this point. The primary source of my fear was publishing a photo that could potentially be embarrassing to an owner or a show. In this particular coverage, there were approximately five images in which I was unsure. But I chose to include them as I felt they were important enough to keep, and even though something bothered me about them, my knowledge was not at a point where I could justify not using them. At the time, I did not consider a feeling to be enough. So, after some thought, I asked Claudia to critique my work for any faults that were exposed in my images.
Although she agreed, she was justifiably cautious. After doing a quick run-through of the gallery, she said it was good, but if I wanted to be one thousand percent sure, which of course I did, she suggested I eliminate a few which she sent me back in screenshots, with a brief, yet sufficient explanation. Although for her it was likely just a “matter of fact” type of favor, for me it was the very beginning of one of my most important steps in personal growth as a photographer of Arabian horses.
The photos that I had reservations about, were the very photos she sent back for reconsideration. This was a huge validation and became the moment in which I started to trust my instincts. I realized that, even if I were not able to justify the usage of an image, my instincts were accurate, and it would be safe to follow them. From this point, my growth as a professional began to accelerate once again and my anxiety quickly disappeared. Although I never asked Claudia to critique an entire gallery again, from time to time, I do still send her photos to evaluate—which is a tremendous source of professional comfort to me.
Then 2017, Claudia provided me with a more formal understanding while teaching a seminar in Egypt titled “Get to Know Your Horse: An Access for Breeders,” organized by Horsemunity. As a friend, I followed the progress of the course and was engaged, but without a live stream, unable to observe the actual lectures. However, one of the students made a short cellphone clip of a discussion she was leading on the topic of “harmony” and posted it on Instagram. Up until this point, the concept of “harmony” was unclear to me. Of course, I was familiar with the term as I often heard it discussed both in private conversations and in seminars—but as it related to conformation, it remained abstract and therefore, a source of frustration.
In this clip, Claudia was discussing “harmony” as it referred to qualities that were visible in the head of an Arabian horse, although the principle was meant to be applied to all areas of the animal’s physique. Simply put, she stated that as one observed the head of an Arabian and found something “that was disturbing to the eye,” this would exemplify a lack of harmony. She continued to explain that behind a lack of harmony is an undesirable quality or a conformational flaw. Then in just a few easy sentences, it all made sense to me. Instantly I realized WHY I could trust my eye—and—WHY I did not require the words to defend what I chose for inclusion in my work. This lesson empowered me to evaluate at an even higher level, which resulted in improved skills with my camera—and my computer. Furthermore, it provided me with a baseline in which I will be able to grow for as long as I continue to work with Arabian horses.
Mares: A Collaborative Study
When Claudia and I began this endeavor, we had only one idea: a series of articles discussing aspects of the Arabian mare—a rich subject with endless material. We conceptualized three topics: (1) one that covered the more emotional aspects of our relationships; (2) one that discussed mares from the perspective of breeding; and finally (3) one from the perspective of showing and judging. We also agreed that this would include collaborations with members of the community at various levels of involvement, responsibility, and achievement. Another objective of ours was to work with artists to assist us in creating unique visual perspectives. However, as art has also been as paramount as word of mouth in the historic storytelling of the Arabian horse breed, we also seek to support those who make these important contributions. On that end, we are honored to announce that original work by internationally celebrated artist Deborah Rush DeRosier (USA) will be featured in “Mares: A Collaborative Study.”
Deborah Rush DeRosier
Enjoying art has always been an important part of my life, and I have always maintained close friendships with artists. Ironically, my introduction to Arabian horses was made to me through art, not horses. In 2006, Venus Stargazer, a Native American maker of jewelry and leather wearables, invited me to the US Egyptian Event in Lexington, Kentucky—a show that she annually attended as one of the many vendors and artists. At the time, I honestly went with the idea that I was going to attend an art show about horses, as I didn't understand what a "horse show" could be. However, I left Lexington as a new owner to a filly whom I met and could not live the rest of my life without—it happened that fast.
Over the next year, I acquired three more young horses and was entirely dedicated to learning how to care for them. Furthermore, although I did recognize my new venture to be far more of a risk than an investment, I considered myself to be in a safe position to pursue this exciting lifestyle. However, as my new passion consumed me, I began to feel concerned over what seemed to be a lack of self-control. Then one night I had a deeply insightful dream. I envisioned my horses standing in a manner that formed a circle—head to tail, head to tail. One at a time, I began to groom the horses, when the most amazing thing happened. As a brushed the areas around their withers and upper shoulders, wings started to take formation…on each one. Soon after, I found myself inside their circle with an older wise woman who gently, yet firmly advised me, “always follow the horses.” As a believer in the power of dreams, I trusted this message and was able to release my concerns—the path I found myself on, was exactly where I was supposed to be.
In 2008, I attended the Egyptian Event for the third time, and soon after I had my dream. Like everyone else, I was giddy with excitement to be there as it really was a magical show. The open arena at the Kentucky Horse Park was surrounded by stands, while at the top was a concourse filled with commercial exhibits such as farm booths, vendors, and artists. Although at the time I was unaware, many of our most famous international artists attended this show as it was a tremendous platform in which to sell and/or acquire art through either a booth or the fine art auction in which pieces sold for large sums of money and often through unforgettable bidding wars. Anyway, that year, as I wandered around the concourse, I came face to face with a print depicting a version of my dream. There were two winged horses, a mother and a colt, standing on the edge of a cliff—and it was titled “Time To Fly," by Deborah Rush DeRosier. Thus, was the start of my friendship with Deborah.
For several years, Deborah and I maintained loose contact. Then in 2018, Renata Schibler, President of the Swiss Arabian Horse Society, contacted me for an introduction to Deborah and to assist in a project for an upcoming event. Through this successful collaboration, my relationship with Deborah grew. Soon after, I wanted to treat myself to something special—something uniquely Deborah’s. Although we chatted off and on about ideas, as a believer in the creative process, I was entirely open to Deborah’s inspiration. Initially I requested a single head and neck study on larger paper, but ultimately Deborah saw a pair of drawings depicting mares “being mares”—aptly titled “Essence & Epitome.” As Claudia followed the progress of these drawings and was also touched by their powerful energy, they became our inspiration for the creation of The Arabian Horse Project—and certainly for our initial subject matter.
The chance to work with an artist of Deborah Rush DeRosier’s ability and experience is of great value to The Arabian Horse Project. To serious collectors of Arabian horse fine art, Deborah’s achievements are well known, and her original paintings and sculptures are treasured all over the world. Also, she has over twenty-five editions of prints, most of which are sold out. Thus far, this working experience has been enriching and we hope to successfully share the fruit of our efforts honoring the Arabian mare—a subject as dear to us as it is to you.
I would like to close by thanking Scott Bailey and Anthony Benicki. As an individual, I have been publishing successfully with Arabhorse since 2015. Not only has Arabhorse provided me with the perfect platform for my writing and photography, but also, world-class promotional support. As 2021 marks its 25th Anniversary, I am enormously proud to be part of this longstanding media and team. The Arabian Horse Project will continue in this relationship ~ and Claudia and I are grateful for the opportunity.
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