How It’s Done in Abu Dhabi ~ Full Coverage of the 2021 UAE Nationals
How It’s Done in Abu Dhabi!
From the UAE National Show to the Abu Dhabi International!
By Lisa Abraham
On February 10th through the 13th, the Emirates Arabian Horse Society (EAHS) will host the 2022 Abu Dhabi International Arabian Horse Championship. This will be my second opportunity to work in Abu Dhabi and I am grateful for the invitation as my previous experience was exceptional. Therefore, considering this important upcoming show, I wanted to share my observations from the 2021 UAE National Arabian Horse Championship, which took place on October 26th through the 30th, in Abu Dhabi and was also organized by EAHS and under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Presidential Affairs and EAHS Chairman of the Board.
A national show celebrates the best a country has to offer. At this point in our history of Arabian horses, it is indisputable that breeders from the UAE are currently producing some of the most celebrated and influential horses in the world. For years now, many of our world’s champions have been born in the UAE, and farms from this country are recognized with special awards for their efforts at many of our most prestigious shows. Most recently, at the 2021 Arabian Horse World Championship, which took place in Paris on December 10th through the 12th, the Dubai Stud was recognized with the following awards: Best Breeder/Owner in Championship, Farm of the Year; with Ladi Veronika as Best Dam in Championship and FA El Rasheem as Best Sire in Championship, both owned by the Dubai Stud. Although this show took place after the UAE Nationals, the results have been consistent for many years. As a country, the UAE has also been the recipient of the treasured “All Nations Cup”, the pinnacle award presented to the country whose participants earned the highest scores cumulatively at the All Nations Cup, repeatedly from 2016-1019. Therefore, with accomplishments such as these, the importance of the UAE National Show cannot be understated.
I feel it is safe to write that we are in what could be referred to as the “age of COVID 19”. At this point, nearing two years into the pandemic, it is obvious that permanent relief is nowhere in sight. Likely the largest hurdle to global recovery is a lack of international commonality regarding preventive measures and treatment. From this perspective, my experience in Abu Dhabi was enlightening in terms of exactly how a society can cooperate for collective health.
As a traveler to the UAE, and from the USA, I was required to have a PCR test with a negative result taken no more than 72 hours from final departure out of the country. Of course, with some variation from country to country, this was the standard for international travel. In nearly all instances, although proof of vaccination was not entirely irrelevant, a negative PCR test prevailed as most important and, in fact, mandatory. However, in Abu Dhabi, measures were significantly stricter. If vaccinated, travelers were required to take another PCR test upon arrival, then once again on day six in the country. For unvaccinated travelers, the hurdles were greater. But despite these additional steps, all was done in a professional, orderly manner. There were no fights, nor proclamation of rights—just peaceful tolerance and acceptance. Without question, Abu Dhabi, and its citizens, could be an example to the world on what measures must be accomplished to eradicate the aggressiveness of COVID-19 while still maintaining civility.
Since that time, the world has quickly become acquainted with the omicron variant of COVID-19. It was only on November 24th that World Health Organization received its initial report of it from South Africa, with the first known sample to have been dated back to Nov. 9th. This variant, which has presented itself aggressively, has earned the attention of governments around the world, many of which have implemented new measures for containment and safety. As of now, if one is from a green country (as considered by the UAE), the only new requirement for entry into Abu Dhabi is a negative PCR test taken 48 hours before departure. Once one had arrived in Abu Dhabi, all previous requirements remain.
A Side Story: Klaus Beste and Erik Blaak
When a show organizes a committee of officials to produce an Arabian horse event, it is normal for individuals to be invited from all over the world. Furthermore, our experiences can overlap and be similar, or they can be worlds apart. Often, we don’t even know the full extent of who our colleagues will be until the show begins and we see who has arrived. In these instances, special opportunities can present themselves—and for me, one certainly did in Abu Dhabi.
When one considers the extent of show organization—the prospects can be daunting as so much must be considered and it is layers upon layers of responsibility. Furthermore, choosing the right team of individuals to ensure the goals of the organizers is a critical task. As professionals in the Arabian Horse business, we each bring uniqueness in terms of experience. Of course there are instances when personalities can clash, but I would like to think that in most cases, enjoyment is derived out of learning from one another and sharing stories and experiences.
On the second evening after the Qualifying Classes of the National Show had ended and we were enjoying each other’s company over dinner, I suddenly realized that we had two of the most influential announcers, not only at the show as officials, but at the same table: Erik Blaak, the official show announcer, and Klaus Beste, a member of the panel of judges, but also well known for the work he did as a speaker, most notable at the famous All Nations Cup, in Aachen Germany.
Because of my history in show coverage, I have deep respect for this talent. My comfort level is either in the written word or behind a camera. When it comes to actual dialect—I can find myself “tongue-tied” and/or shy very quickly. Erik Blaak is incredibly talented and is certainly utilized worldwide as the official speaker at many of the top shows, presentations, and auctions. His voice has a steady and warm tone, and he’s both informative and interesting. Plus, and just as important, he knows how to “fill the space”. It cannot be understated how much knowledge a speaker requires throughout a show. Of course, this primarily concerns reporting the step-by-step event happenings as they occur, but also being able to explain instances and how they might apply to rules and/or circumstances. But there is also the need for additional knowledge to fill the dead spaces when information is required to maintain interest. It is in these instances when the speaker’s skill can be most evident, as well as his or her personality.
In the 1980s, while I was the manager of the German Arab Horse Society, I became acquainted with a show speaker named Mr. Holger Heck. At that time, he was not connected to the Arabian horse community as nearly all his work was with warmbloods and Trakehners. Those of us, who were organizing the All Nations Cup, were excited by his style and his fantastic “microphone” voice. In my opinion, he was brilliant. He spoke to the hearts of the people and could incite emotion. His coverage included a wide range of topics in which sometimes even poetry was skillfully used. Unfortunately, due to cancer, he passed away much too early and unexpectedly. At the time of his death, we were preparing for an upcoming All Nations Cup and were suddenly without a speaker. So, as a member of the Organizing Committee, I volunteered to take the position. In retrospect, it seems that I did not do a bad job as I was asked soon after by Ferdinand Huemer, who had the same problem, to speak at the European Championships which he organized in Wels, Austria. From then on, the invitations continued, and I spoke at many shows throughout Europe and the Gulf Countries.
It took some time, but I found my way. Firstly, I tried not to copy Holger’s style--a copy is never as good as an original. In general, each speaker must find his or her way to bring in personality. In the beginning, I tried to stick to the catalog information as this was required by ECAHO. But then I found it to be boring and redundant--after all, this information was readily available in the show catalogs. At that time, because of my position with the German Arab Horse Society and my experiences at shows around the world, I knew many of the breeders, owners, and visitors, as well as many of the participating horses. Because of these relationships, I felt comfortable interacting with the audience at opportune moments. During the Qualifying Classes and Championships, I stuck to the script. But when the horses were lined up for prize giving, I would take opportunities to enhance knowledge and atmosphere. For example, one year in a top ten line-up for the All Nations Cup, the best six all came from the Polish State Studs, and then another year, the top five were all Monogramm daughters. In my excitement from such results, I began to include my thoughts and emotions at appropriate times. By interacting with the audience, I found my voice. My career as a show speaker ended when I began my full-time employment at Bait Al Arab, in Kuwait.
Now Eric Blaak is doing his own thing and doing a brilliant job. Whereas I am very emotional, Eric is far more objective, and this style works for him. He also has a special sense of humor which he expresses from time to time. I most enjoyed Eric working with Mike Ashmore at the All Nations Cup. In my opinion, people can get tired of hearing the same voice all day long. As there was no one else with whom I could partner, I had to work alone. However, if the opportunity had presented itself, I would have loved to. But I have to say, their teamwork as commentators was amazing, and I very much enjoyed listening to them.
When I was in my 20’s and visiting shows with my parents who were Arabian horse enthusiasts, it was Mr. Klaus Beste one heard everywhere—it even gives me goosebumps to think of it now. At the time, I was impressed with his style and never realized that one day I would also be a speaker. Klaus is a horseman, and he knew everybody—so he interacted very well with audiences. He also knew both the stories behind the pedigrees and the people involved, therefore could draw on that information as needed, particularly in his work at the All Nations Cup.
I know I also have a unique style, but it’s hard to describe oneself. I feel as a speaker, my first responsibility is to maintain objectivity while encouraging the loudest applause for the horses chosen to be the Class Winners and Champions. However, another important element of my job is to create atmosphere, as well as to keep the audience stimulated. Like Klaus, I also feel it is important to have breeders and owners involved. As my experience has grown, so has my body of knowledge, which has allowed me a greater degree of relevant information to my coverages.
Another aspect to consider is that each show is different and that can include my responsibilities as well. I work as a speaker all over the world, and one thing I can say is that at each show there is something new and unexpected—which does add to the excitement of my job. For example, when I first arrived in Abu Dhabi, I was under the impression that I was here as the announcer for the arena audience. However, upon arrival, I was asked to do the commentating for the live broadcast of the show as well. The big difference is in the timing of information for each audience. For the TV viewer, the information is reported as it is happening. This includes the horses showing as well as continuous information such as the objectives of showing and details regarding scores. But for announcing to the event’s live audience, we are always two horses behind. So my challenge at this show was to maintain current information for two different audiences whole relative “currents” were not the same. For an average European show with around 100 horses, this would have been easy. But the UAE Nationals had over 400 horses so the challenge was quite great. But I have to say, although it was new for me, I enjoyed learning and accomplishing both objectives.
At the time the Emirate Nationals took place, the Middle Eastern show season was gaining momentum. Furthermore, the region’s competition had been strong and participation, enormous. Shows have been back-to-back, while several have even taken place simultaneously. It is fair to observe that after the long hiatus without traditional arena competitions, breeders and owners have been incredibly enthusiastic to return with the horses for which they were most proud. Furthermore, more shows are attracting between 400 and 500 horses ready to compete. Consistent with this statistic, the UAE National Arabian Horse Championship featured 433 horses, representing 204 owners, who fought valiantly for medal recognition.
Panel of Judges: Cedes Bakker (Netherland), Janice Wight (USA), Jonas Salzmann (Kuwait), Klaus Beste (Germany), Lucas Gozdzialski (Poland), Mahmoud Faraj (Bahrain), Majed Al Mehyawi (Kingdome of Saudi Arabia), Mohamed Machmoum (Morocco) and Urs Aeschbacher (Switzerland).
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.
The Classes were huge, and absentees were minimal. There were twelve Qualifying Classes, most with subdivisions. As in a show with this many entrees, there is bound to be variation in scores—and certainly not every horse was destined to be champion. However, the quality was high. For example, in the Mares 4-6 Section B Class, 14 horses competed. D Wasayef won the class with a score of 92.90. While the mare who finished 14th earned a very respectable score of 90.40. All mares finished within a 2.5-point difference which clearly illustrated exceptional representation.
I would like to share another favorable observation. The day before the show began, I purchased several UAE flags to be used in a variety of photo settings. So, in the latter part of the afternoon on the first day, I took out the flags and began to go table-to-table for photographs with those in attendance. However, after a few failed attempts, I realized that the guests were exhausted. So when I felt comfortable doing so, I asked someone why this was and his response was, “We have all been here since 4 AM…” To be honest, this response took me by surprise, but then quickly after, I was filled with admiration. Many of the people who were watching the show, not only had horses competing, but were also intimately engaged with their maintenance. The audience consisted of, not just breeders and owners, but also, of actual horsemen and women—for which I found refreshing. I tried again with the flags the next day, but needless to state, started much earlier.
The show ended on a very warm note. Following the Championships, The Organizers treated the Show Committee to a lovely poolside dinner. Then following our meal, we were presented with a cake which displayed a picture of the Judges. Before cutting the cake, Eric Blaak read a statement from Mohamed Al Harbi, the General Director of EAHS. He thanked everyone for coming to the UAE and participating in the show. Erik then, speaking for all of us, shared that the sentiments were returned. He continued, “for us, being in the UAE felt like coming home to family and that the efforts of the Organizing Committee were very much appreciated.” Jaroslav Lacina, President of ECAHO, who attended the show as a guest, cut the cake and it was served. A most perfect ending to a show that was beautifully organized!
Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the outstanding hospitality. The organizers took very good care, which I greatly appreciated; but it was obvious they worked hard to ensure everyone’s comfort and enjoyment. It is also important to mention that concerning COVID-19, which cannot be ignored these days, meticulous and precautionary standards were enforced, and it was safe. However, I was most impressed with the high quality of horses and felt they chose a very good judging team. Concerning the scoring, the high and low scores were dropped, which is a system in which I agree for fairness. Additionally, the atmosphere was very nice and the light colors used to decorate the arena were beautiful–really, everything was perfect. The breeders of the UAE must be very happy to have such a strong society with good show organizers. I enjoyed my time and look forward to returning to the UAE very soon.
~Christine Jamar (BEL)
I have to say that we are accustomed to the tremendous hospitality and professionalism in the Emirates. As a DC, my initial observations are normally centered around my immediate responsibilities and environment, and the EAHS organized a fantastic team of stewards and DC’s. Regarding the horses competing, for a National Championship, the quality was astonishing. In fact, it was the strongest Championship at this level that I have ever attended. However, I was most impressed with the kind atmosphere—and I know that this was appreciated by everyone. It was obvious that the organizer went to great efforts to make everyone happy and have an enjoyable experience. This was also evident in the setup of the arena which was simply beautiful. But all over, it was a very nice Arabian horse event with many happy faces and high-quality horses competing.
~Nils Ismer (GER)
I was very impressed with the personality of the UAE National Arabian Horse Championship. Five years ago, I attended an event in this arena, so it is from experience when I say that the transformation of the venue was incredible. Not only were the decorations great, but I also admired the entire facility and its ability to meet expectations for both guests and horses. I would also like to mention that several participants shared that they were very satisfied with the comfortable stabling and the large collecting ring so the horses could safely be prepared for entrance into the arena. The professional abilities of the show organizers were also evident as they were able to maintain the rules in such a large venue and with the number of entrees. Furthermore, regarding the difficulties which concern COVID-19, high standards were maintained, yet guests could still interact with one another and enjoy the show. My compliments to the organizing team under the leadership of Mohamed Al Harbi and I wish the EAHS good luck in their ambitious show season which is currently being planned.
~Jaroslav Lacina (CHE)
The 2022 Abu Dhabi International Arabian Horse Championship
Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister - Minister of Presidential Affairs, Chairman of the board of directors of the Emirates Arabian Horse Society, the Abu Dhabi International Arabian Horse Championship will be held From 10 to 13 February 2022 at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club.
Panel of Judges: Anna Stojanwska (Poland), Bérengère Fayt (Belgium), Bruce McCrea (USA), Elyas Faraj (Bahrain), Greg Knowles (USA), Gianmarco Aragno (Italy), Lucas Gozdzialski (Poland) Marianne Tengstedt (Denmark), Mohamed Oussidhoum (Morocco), Sylvie Eberhardt (Germany) and Tom Hulshof (Netherlands)
Live Stream of the 2022 Abu Dhabi International Arabian Horse Championship will be:
Further coverage of 2021 UAE National Arabian Horse Championship
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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.