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The Santa Ynez Arabian Foal Festival You Have To

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by MARY KIRKMAN Last year, when the Santa Ynez Valley Arabian Horse Association inaugurated its Foal Festival, there were plenty of people who hailed it as a breath of fresh air. Held at the Santa Ynez Equestrian Center over a relaxed weekend in early October, it offered an entirely new concept: it featured only foals and amateurs, none of whom had shown before. The presentations were natural (no whips or chains, no hard stand-ups, dams included and no fancy show clips), and in addition to the traditional conformation evaluations, there were trail classes for halter as well. The atmosphere was relaxed, a generous mix of ring time and social gatherings, with a stallion parade and a recognition ceremony for longtime breeders Paul and Carol Hemming. On Sunday afternoon after the last class, as everyone drove home smiling, they might be forgiven if they were wondering how the club would ever top that act this year.


Show organizer Michelle Kelly, announcer Robin Hopkinson, host Bart Van Buggenhout and show supporter Jenn Trickey.

The verdict in 2014? Despite killer temperatures that leveled off at 105 degrees, the Second Annual Arabian Foal Festival, held October 4 and 5, was even better than its predecessor. All of its signature elements were back—the amateurs, the foals, the gentle handling, the relaxed and friendly atmosphere, the recognition of historic breeders (this year, the honorees were the Mari family)—but popular new ones had been added too. Competition was expanded to include a Get of Sire, Produce of Dam and 2-year-old Filly classes, and was the opening of the Gelding Futurity and the first step in the group’s innovative Breeders Challenge. The show’s popularity appears rooted in two factors. One, it focuses on amateurs, not the so-called “professional” ones, but the ones who are legitimately brand new to showing or only barely experienced. And two, it has no far-flung aspirations. Local is the name of the game. “We don’t have to always be global,” says Bart Van Buggenhout, manager at Al Jassimya Farm and the one who originally conceptualized the show. “This needs to be about community.” It was about community in more ways than one. Designed to attract more people to Arabians, it appeals to both newcomers to horses and fans of other breeds. And it strengthened the ties of local Arabian enthusiasts. “Breeders are coming together over this,” Bart reports. “They supported it flawlessly, and I think that is important for supporting each other. Now the sky is the limit.” Sheila Varian was runner-up for Best Large Breeder of the show. Volume 45, No. 6 | 137

A Highlight For The Future—The Breeders Challenge One of the new features in particular, the Breeders Challenge, promotes the solidarity of the Santa Ynez Arabian community. Twelve breeding farms in the area and two from the central coast participated in the program, which requires that they be located within a 50-mile radius of Santa Ynez. In a drawing on Saturday night, a representative of each farm selected the name of another operation’s stallion, and committed to breed to that stallion during the 2015 season. “It’s very imaginative,” says Sheila Varian, whose Audacious PS is a featured stallion. One of the challenges, she says, is that not every stallion fits with the bloodlines in every other breeder’s program, so the owners will have to get more acquainted with the possibilities of their neighbors’ horses in order to decide on the right mare to use. “Everybody who has a stallion drew a name, so it’s going to be really fun.” The foals that are produced will be shown at the 2016 show.

Bart Van Buggenhout presents a check for $4,500 to Kris Johnston, owner of the Gelding Futurity winner Jafar AJF.

A Highlight Now—The Santa Ynez Gelding Futurity The Gelding Futurity also earned high marks. Like the Breeders Challenge, it is open to breeders within a 50 mile radius, and the first group, foals of 2013, entered the show ring this year. The 2015 edition will open next spring, when breeders must nominate youngsters born in 2014. The nomination fees vary, Bart says; smaller breeders will pay lower fees. Why? “Because smaller breeders usually doesn’t own a stallion,” he explains. “Those people have already paid out a breeding fee and have more money invested in a foal. A larger breeder, who has his own stallion, has less money invested in a foal.” The funds then go into the prize money that will be paid out over the three year course of each Futurity.


The next step is that the breeders geld the colts and submit a vet record, photo and video of each horse to be included on the sale page of a special auction, held in the summer and managed by Addis Live Online Auctions. All the money that is collected there, minus taxes and Addis’ expenses, is then added to the prize money pool. While the young geldings don’t generally attract high prices, they do recruit buyers because of the opportunity they represent to win prize money (this year, the winner alone took home $4,500). The first year of competition features a halter class, where the entries are judged on athleticism and future

Ringmaster and event coordinator Joel Desmarteau.

performance potential. As in the rest of the Foal Festival, the yearlings are shown by amateurs, stand naturally and, while they need to be in good health and weight, they are not show clipped. In their second year of competition, they compete in trail in-hand, and whoever has the fewest mistakes gets the trophy. At 3, the entries face a combination of the show and trail classes. “This year, about 20 percent of the prize money was paid out,” Bart notes. “The second year it will be about 30 percent, and about 30 percent in the third year.” For the 14 competitors in the 2013 Gelding Futurity who were in their first class this year, that means that about $14,000 will be available in both 2015 and 2016, with $7,000 slated each time for the winner. Bart observes that the Gelding Futurity is more than just a chance for breeders to recoup some of what they have invested in the young geldings. “I want my foals to have a career,” he says and adds that while that is easy for the superstar youngsters, it is often difficult for the lesser ones, even though they are good horses. “This way gets them a good home and training for a later career.” As the geldings move on into whatever they do (and many of them will find success in the halter or

Om El Al Azeem was one of the headliners in the Famous Horses of the Valley parade.

performance show ring), they can be good advertising for the program which bred them. In part, he says, the Gelding Futurity represents an understanding of the Arabian world today. “The reality is that the top three percent is driving the industry,” he says. “We also need to gear for the other 97 percent. This is a long term investment, but it is a solid one. Most of the people who are ‘someone’ in this business started with a gelding. The Arabian gelding is the breed’s best ambassador.”

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This Year’s Show The 2014 Santa Ynez Arabian Foal Festival came in at its target enrollment, which was approximately the same as last year’s, at 75 to 80 horses. The halter classes were divided by age and gender, while the in-hand trail event was an opportunity to see what some of the young Arabians would be suited for when they grew up. The judges were Janene Boggs and George Zbyszewski in the show division, and Lori Conway and Cynthia Richardson in the performance division (halter classes

Judges, l-r: Lori Conway, George Zbyszewski, Janene Boggs and Cynthia Richardson

focusing on suitability for later careers in performance). As usual, after each class, one judge from the panel explained the first and second-place ribbon choices to the audience. That was just one example of the educational aspect of the Foal Festival. Another was apparent on Saturday evening following the last class. With many famous Arabians from years past living in the Santa Ynez Valley, the club offered the perspective of history—and a heartwarming presentation of influential horses. Manny Lawrence, of Jade Creek Arabians, brought his 29-year-old Khemosabi daughter, Canadian National Champion Fforever Rose, and thoroughly enjoyed watching her in her first show ring appearance in 17 years. “It was so cute to see her,” he smiles. “Her eyes lit up and she started prancing around.” For him, it was the sort of special, personal moment appropriate to the Foal Festival. “She was one of my first-ever purchases in the horse business. She’s queen bee of our farm.” Also on Saturday night, the Santa Ynez Valley Arabian Horse Association recognized the Mari family for its contribution to the breed. Horseman Frisco Mari was known as one of the first importers of Polish Arabians after World War II, and stood the stallion Ferseyn, who proved to be a dynamic cross with the Polish lines. He bred the Ferseyn son Amerigo, sire of one of the breed’s most popular individuals, four-time national champion Khemosabi. On Sunday afternoon, after all the championships had been handed out, the show awarded “Best” titles for Small Breeder, Large Breeder, Sire and Handler. It is easy to see, however, that for the Best Handler, the title might have bittersweet implications: amateurs who become too accomplished have to step aside in favor of the incoming new amateurs.

Best Small Breeder (under 5 foals) awarded to Gallún Farms.

The Mari family, recognized for their contribution to the breed. 140 | A R A BI A N HOR SE T I MES

Kristy Gillot received the Best Handler Award.

Into The Future “I will admit that last year, I was very skeptical,” says Manny Lawrence. “I’m the first one to tell you that I was dead wrong. Being at the show last year changed my mind, seeing how these youngsters were shown—just natural, with a lead rope and standing at their dam’s side—and the smiles on the faces of the people who were doing it. And the biggest percentage of them had never done it before. “In my opinion, the Foal Festival is the best show of the year,” he adds bluntly. “It’s what it’s all about. It’s pointed toward the amateur handlers and just having a really good time. This is a whole new venue for people to see what the Arabian horse is all about.” “The word is refreshing,” offers Sheila Varian. “The Foal Fest makes you feel good. The quality of the horses is really good, and it’s an unworried, unconcerned, nicely-handled, lovely-to-look-at, not-overly-done horse that everybody likes. Not just some people, but everybody who likes Arabians would like this.” Even with the accolades, the management committee is eyeing improvements for next year. If the heat affected anything, it was the number of spectators, which might have dropped a little. Locations closer into Santa Ynez are being investigated, to better appeal to the town’s substantial tourist trade. “You have to bring the horses to the people,” Bart says, “not the other way around. That’s our next goal.” Still, the crowd in the bleachers (blanket-draped hay bales) was notable and appreciative. And there are other tweaks. “I’m very pleased for next year because they’re really going to expand the trail class,” says Sheila Varian. “They have classes for kids 10 and Under and 10 to14 and then adults. That was just hugely accepted. And the kids that will be able to enter these classes don’t have to have an Arabian horse. We’ll supply them with one.

Janina Merz with her mother Sigi Siller and young horseman, Luca.

how to do something.” And she is willing to do her part. “We’ll work with people here, so those kids and adults will be able to come in and learn how to handle around an Arabian horse.” She can name other area breeders who plan to put in trail courses with which to instruct newcomers. “The wonderful thing is that it is completely a rediscovering of the basic things,” says Bart Von Buggenhout. “The highest level [of the industry] needs to exist—we cannot live without it—but it is definitely time for us to think back to the groundwork. That was the whole idea for this show.” Manny Lawrence envisions the long term implications that shows like the Santa Ynez Arabian Foal Festival can have in creating new fans for the breed. “I want to go back to the days when you needed a search warrant to find a seat in an arena.” The management team for the Santa Ynez Foal Arabian Festival includes Bart Van Buggenhout, Doug Dahmen, Kelly Elm, Greg Gallún and Henry Metz. n

“If you want to bring new people in, this is how you do it,” she continues. “You have to get children involved and you need to have them do more than just give out a ribbon. We teach them

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Santa Ynez Arabian Foal Festival


Junior Filly (Yearling/2 Years) Performance Type Gold Champion KHATARINA JULLYEN ( Jullyen El Jamaal x Khantina Girl V), B/O: Varian Arabians.

Junior Colt/Gelding (Yearling/2 Years) Performance Type Gold Champion SHAHEEN C (Stival x Silken Sable), B/O: GallĂşn Farms.

Yearling Colt Show Type Gold Champion JERYAN ALJASSIMYA (WH Justice x Psierra), B/O: Aljassimya Farm.

Junior Filly Show Type Gold Champion SERENDIPITY V (Audacious PS x Satine IA), B/O: Varian Arabians.

Foal (Filly) Performance Type Gold Champion KIKI LEE JCA (A Jakarta x GH Athyla), B/O: Jade Creek Arabians.

Foal (Colt/Gelding) Performance Type Gold Champion MISSBAH AJF (Monther Al Nasser x RP Miss Surprise), B/O: Aljassimya Farm.


Foal (Filly) Show Type Gold Champion MONTAHA ALJASSIMYA (Monther Al Nasser x Ultimate Monisah), B/O: Aljassimya Farm.

Foal (Colt) Show Type Gold Champion JALAL ALJASSIMYA (WH Justice x Annais), B/O: Aljassimya Farm.

Santa Ynez Futurity Gold Champion JAFAR AJF (WH Justice x Psierra), O: Kris Johnston, B: Aljassimya Farm.

Get Of Sire Gold Champion WH JUSTICE (Magnum Psyche x Vona Sher Renea), O: Equid System Ltd., B: Wendell Hansen.

Produce Of Dam Gold Champion BINT BINT SAYO (Ali Saroukh x Samura), B/O: Silver Maple Farms.

Trail A Gold Champion JAMR AJF (WH Justice x Bruma Bahamas), O: Ali Brady, B: Aljassimya Farm.

Trail B Gold Champion MON AIMEE (Eden C x WCA Mon Cheriee), B/O: Gallún Farms.

Trail C Gold Champion LETISHA (FA El Shawan x BFC Shah’s Lullaby), B/O: Gallún Farms. Volume 45, No. 6 | 143

2014 Santa Ynez Foal Show  
2014 Santa Ynez Foal Show