The 2018 AHO Breeders' Championship in Egypt
The 2018 AHO Breeders’ Championship in Egypt
~With an Introduction to the Arabian Horse Organization with Ahmed Adel Abdul Razik
By Lisa Abraham
The 2018 AHO Breeders’ Championship took place on December 13th through the 15th and was one of the last important shows of the year. It was heavily attended by an enthusiastic local crowd, who loyally participated from the very beginning of the show to its conclusion. Although there were many outstanding qualities of this show, the warm ties shared by the guests and participants were certainly special as it was a genuine gathering of community. However, there is another reason why the AHO Breeders' Championship had unique meaning, both to the Egyptians and to the history of the Arabian horse culture in the Middle East. Not only was this the eighth edition of this event, but also, in its initial edition, it was the first show organized by the Arabian Horse Organization (AHO).
An Introduction to the Arabian Horse Organization
AHO was founded in 2010 by Chairman HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Alsaud along with Ahmed Hamza (EGY), Ahmed Adel Abdul Razek (EGY), Essam Abdullah (UAE), Hassan Al Fadail (MOR) and Mohamed Machmoun (MOR)—who also comprised the original Board of Directors. As part of the AHO Constitution it was decided then that each member would serve for three years and could be reelected for consecutive periods. It’s current Board of Directors include Chairman HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Alsaud and Executive Committee Members: Ahmed Adel Abdul Razik, Essam Abdullah, Mohamed Machmoun and Salem bin Salem Al Barraq (KSA). The founding member countries were Egypt, Morocco and United Arab Emirates. Since that time, membership has expanded to include Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Palestine and Tunisia.
The primary focus of AHO is to empower the breeders of Arabian horses. In addition to offering shows organized strictly for this group, another method of accomplishing this goal is usage of a slightly expanded marking system. Like the ECAHO system, the five overall categories of evaluation are: TYPE, HEAD & NECK, BODY & TOPLINE, LEGS and MOVEMENT. However, in the AHO system, the final scores for HEAD & NECK and for LEGS are averaged scores. In the case of HEAD & NECK, the two criteria are judged separately, then averaged together for a final score. In the case of LEGS, the front legs and the back legs are evaluated separately, then also averaged together for a final score.
Q & A with Ahmed Adel Abdul Razik
Lisa Abraham: What was the reason for forming AHO?
Ahmed Adel Abdul Razik: At an ECAHO (European Conference of Arab Horse Organizations) Show Commission meeting, in which I represented Egypt, I was working with Mohamed Machmoum and Essam Abdullah. Together we felt the same thing—not only were the breeders being overlooked, but also, no one even remembered their names or knew who they were. It was obvious that the opportunities were only for those who were able to purchase the very best quality to compete, while nothing was being done to improve the circumstances for breeders. We believed that since the breeders were not getting the benefits or even enjoyment from their hard work, this could be an important factor to the overall decline of the Arabian horse.
The problem is that one can breed the very best, even one capable of becoming a World Champion, but the chances of this foal reaching full potential in the show ring with his or her breeder is slim to not even possible. If the breeders are not being appropriately valued and their opportunities with their own horses are minimal—why should they continue? Every year the number of Arabian horses born and registered is getting less and less—and this is a problem. In our current system, for a horse to reach full potential, he or she must be in the ownership of someone at the very top. This dynamic is making breeders sell their horses and give up because they have no chance to be competitive on their own. So we created AHO to support the breeders around the world, but primarily in the Arab world.
Another problem we wished to address is education. In this part of the world, the breeders are not dedicated students. They don’t understand that they need to read and to study the history of the Arabian horse. They need to know how to evaluate horses, to stay current with reproductive studies and to understand the concepts of breeding. But most of all, they need to understand why Arabian horses are so precious and why so many people are working hard to keep this heritage from vanishing.
AHO began with these two ideas: to become an organization that would take care of the breeders; and to provide education about breeding and the value of the Arabian horse, both in the Middle East and outside. To accomplish these goals, we created competitions which are meant for breeders only. We have originated the concept that anyone who is to compete is to do so with his or her own breeding. In other words, all horses who are to compete must be bred by their owners and each owner must be registered as both owner and breeder; AND the competing horse must have remained in the possession of the registered owner since birth—not leased or changed ownership for any reason. We are so appreciative of HRH Prince Abdulaziz for his full support of the inception and growth of AHO so we can move forward in empowering all breeders of Arabian horses.
Lisa Abraham: Where on the path do you feel you are now?
Ahmed Adel Abdul Razik: In the beginning it was a big struggle and it was not easy as there were many rumors and misunderstandings. ECAHO thought that we were organizing to compete against them, which was never our intention. Although it took time, once they realized we were just trying to assist breeders, they were more cooperative. In time, ECAHO also started to give more consideration to the breeders as well with their own Breeders’ Championship. Now there is an agreement between AHO and ECAHO and we are both doing the best we can together. Although ECAHO’s membership includes countries in both Europe and the Middle East, our members are strictly from the Arab countries. However, for the past six years, we have organized two Championships in Chantilly, France: one for the European breeders and the AHO World Cup. We feel these are two of the most successful and trusted shows in Europe. We can say this based on the number of breeders who participate.
Lisa Abraham: The scorecard is very detailed--what is the reason for dividing the scoring of HEAD and NECK and the front legs from and the back legs?
Ahmed Adel Abdul Razik: At our shows, the horses are not being evaluated for the buyers or trainers—only for the benefit of the breeders. Therefore, we felt we needed to provide more specific and accurate information so that breeders could identify weaknesses in their programs. We split the head and the neck because we felt that they were important as separate areas of evaluation from a reproductive perspective. For example, a horse can have a super head, and a terrible neck—but because of the head, the horse could be awarded a 19.5 or more, which could be misleading if the horse really had a 20 head and a 17 neck. To know exactly where improvements are needed, this is critical information. The same is true for the legs—is the problem in the front legs or in the back?
I have been breeding horses for the last thirty years and have attended shows for twenty. When I took my horses to the compete, I did not always know why they would win or lose. Although I am a horse man and I know a good horse from a bad one, without the guidance of being advised on my horse’s weakest points, I found improvement to be more difficult. I used my own experiences at shows to develop the criteria for evaluation at AHO shows. We want breeders to understand their horses better so they can address faults if they choose to do so. In addition, at any show organized by AHO, breeders can get a copy of the judge’s cards and comments and have a discussion with any of the officials regarding the evaluations. From the very beginning, we have made the judges aware that they must be available for these discussions if requested by a breeder with a horse who had competed.
The AHO Breeders’ Championship
The AHO Breeders’ Championship took place at the renowned Rabab Stud located in Giza, Egypt and owned by Sheikh Khaled bin Laden. Rabab Stud was established in the early 1980’s and was named after Sheikh Khaled’s foundation mare Rabab, a daughter of the legendary EAO stallion Alaa El Dine, an important reference sire to many influential breeding programs around the world. Rabab Stud is a full equestrian center which is devoted to two primary endeavors: breeding Arabian horses and cultivating their athletic abilities with show jumping and dressage facilities along with competitions hosted by the farm. Currently Rabab Stud is home to over eighty horses. The arena in which the competition proved to be an excellent venue as it was obviously designed for comfortable viewing, showing and media coverage. Visibility was good from all angles, while the show space was perfectly adequate for hosting events for both halter competitions and performance—just big enough without being too big. So long as there is enough room to allow a horse to showcase MOVEMENT, I’m personally a fan of the smaller arenas as it is easier to keep the audience engaged. The arena at Rabab Stud, was the perfect size to accomplish both endeavors.
The overall ambiance is also critical to the success of a show—and there are many factors which contribute to the quality of time spent while attending a show. Since a big part of our business is social and sitting in the stands and at the VIP tables encompass most of the long hours, comfort and enjoyability are critical considerations. It is also important for the organizers to know exactly how they want guests to feel while in attendance—and this can be many things. It was highly evident that the organizing committee of the Breeders’ Championship took thoughtful and strategic measures to ensure various goals were to be accomplished by choices made regarding this important subject.
Maha Nour: It was my job to design the VIP section for guests. Because of the stress of showing horses in a competition, I wanted to create a design that would make everyone feel relaxed. For example, I used greenery to give guests the feeling that they were entering a garden. While I chose primarily softer colors to establish a calm and peaceful environment. Although all the elements came together for a luxurious VIP section, my choices were based on affecting guests more subliminally—to create a feeling of comfort without drawing attention to any single factor of the design.
~Maha Nour is a Board Member of Egyptian Arabian Horse Breeders Association
Another element that can have a profound effect on the show is the announcing—an important consideration that is also multifactorial. For example, decisions must be made regarding which languages are to be offered; what type of information is to be used to create and maintain engagement; and, very importantly, how is the arena arranged such that the speaking doesn’t get lost in the overall “space”. In larger venues, not only is it easy to lose the speaker’s vocals as there is little to contain the sound and therefore gets lost in space, but also, the competition for attention can be saturated. The arena at Rabab Stud was set up in such a brilliant way, that there was enough space for guests to be comfortable, but clear announcing was not overlooked. As for the content, AHO was very focused. Outside of the announcement of scores and moment-to-moment show happenings, education seemed to be the primary theme. The scoring system was a continuous topic of explanation as well as the AHO’s dedication to the breeders and how that was fulfilled throughout various aspects of the show.
The team of announcers included veteran Guy de Fontaines (FRA) and Omnia El Sherifa (EGY). Although Guy is able to announce in Arabic as well as English, he announced in English, while Omnia communicated in Arabic. As a side note I would like to write that although Omnia’s work in the business has been as a Disciplinarily Committee member, this was her first time announcing—and she was outstanding. As a team, the two worked together seamlessly to effectively keep audience informed, engaged and entertained.
Guy de Fontaines: The commentators’ role in a show is to enhance and explain the procedures, while at all times remaining impartial. The timing of announcements must be spot on and in sync with what is happening in the arena. Although normally the commentaries should be kept short and clear, blank spaces between classes or through unexpected interruptions, require lengthier speaking and should always be interesting and instructional for the public as well praise for the organization and sponsors. In these longer intervals, knowledge of the breed background is particularly important.
I started my commentating career at the age of 22 with the very first European Arabian Horse Championship at the Salon du Cheval in Paris, which is now known as the World Arabian Horse Championship. I was working as a volunteer with the organizing team and they were without anyone who knew the breed and could speak English. Since that time, announcing at shows has become a profession for me.
The Breeders’ Championship was my first AHO show thanks to H.R.H. Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Ahmed ben Abdul Aziz Al Saud. The AHO’s dedication to the breeders is most encouraging considering the business of Arabian horses has become governed more and more by trainers and show organizers. In addition, the AHO marking system, even though based on the traditional ECAHO five topic evaluation, is very sound. I felt the balance of score calculation to be well thought out and I especially liked separating the categories of head and neck. Finally, I was pleased to see in that the AHO rules are much tougher about stress on the horses and handling. My hope is that this Organization will be more active in this aspect of respect as the Arabian has a very bad image with horsemen who shun away from anything artificial.
Omnia El Sherief: I feel the AHO shows are some of the most important in the world because they give us insight into how breeders think. They are not all about money, but rather about seeing the breeder’s vision and plan through the structure of the show and results. As this was my first opportunity to be a speaker, I felt hesitant and insecure. But it was a relief to work with Guy because in addition to making it easy and fun, he taught me how to keep it simple, yet still be interesting. I thank him for sharing his experience and for helping me to increase my self-confidence as an announcer.
A total of 165 horses, representing 45 breeders, competed valiantly against their peers for the hope of medal recognition. There was a total of nine Qualifying Classes, most of which were divided into divisions due to the high level of entries. The Yearling Classes were particularly competitive. There were 46 Yearling Fillies who competed in three separate cuts: while 26 Yearling Colts were divided into two cuts to compete. The Championships were held on the final evening of the show after a thrilling light and laser show. Also on Championship Day, Al Gabry Stud (EGY) was honored with the AHO Breeders’ Championship Best Breeder Award. The AHO Breeders’ Championship was supervised by the Egyptian Arabian Horse Breeders Association and was managed by Nahlaa Baraka (EGY).
For a FULL-SIZED gallery of Images by Lisa Abraham:
For show results:
For info on the Arabian Horse Organization:
For info on Rabab Stud:
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.