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The 2014 AHBA WORLD CUP by ANNE STRATTON
It is fair to say that when the AHBA World Cup was inaugurated in 2007, it took the Arabian horse community by storm. Seldom has a show become so popular so quickly. The Arabian Horse Breeders Alliance and its show committee, it seemed, did everything right; for starters, they chose glitzy, glamorous Las Vegas as the site for their new event, and then they created a scoring system which welcomed European horsemen and satisfied American owners and handlers as well. Some of the world’s best halter horses have come to compete, and visitors arrive from around the globe. And in the years since—this year marks the show’s eighth edition—the World Cup has maintained its momentum, repeatedly listed as one of the most acclaimed fixtures on the show calendar. One of the keys to the World Cup’s success has been its commitment to maintaining a manageable amount of horses and encouraging plenty of social interaction. “We want to stay around 225 to 250 horses,” says Show Committee Executive Director Phyllis LaMalfa. “We do not want a marathon show with long, tedious days of classes.” The result is that while the show has sustained its numbers and the high caliber of its horses, it has seen its audience attendance and participation grow steadily. This year, for example, an Australian contingent of 40 or more breeders and fans
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is booked to come in, and, LaMalfa points out, that kind of international interest has increased the show’s renown as an active marketplace. “People want to come and be a part of it,” she notes. “It’s a good venue to see the top horses and be able to market them, and of course, there are the other breeders from around the world. At first, people were just trying to figure it out, but now, it’s a good meeting place to go, get your horses set up for the year and see what’s out there.” All that success has not come without its challenges. The most significant comes every year when the show committee sits down to figure out how to top the previous
April’s event. At first, there were tweaks that needed to be made, and there again the group drew rave reviews, quickly making adjustments and polishing what was good into better with a remarkable lack of fuss. But as time went by, the committee realized that the real test was to keep it all fresh, and in doing that this year, they took a balanced approach. They introduced a new prize money program, but more subtly, they are playing to the show’s basic strength— they are promoting the camaraderie of those who come to the show, as well as letting Las Vegas work its magic. Translation? There will be plenty of what is familiar, along with a little spice to change things up.
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What’s Familiar “We do kind of have a formula that works,” reflects Show Manager Taryl O’Shea, “but that’s not to say that we don’t reassess it every year and try to encourage people who show on an international basis to come to the U.S., come to Las Vegas, bring their horses and have fun. So, this year the structure of the show is staying the same, very similar to last year.” The venue remains the South Point Equestrian Center, an equine mega-complex connected to the South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa, and the show takes place in the facility’s spacious arena. Not only is there plenty of room for tables surrounding the ring (which are assigned to show sponsors based on the size of their patronage; last year there were 60), but there is theatre seating too and a well-appointed bar which overlooks the enclosure. As usual, the show’s schedule is relaxed and easy to follow. Taking place on April 10-13, of this year, classes begin at 9:00 a.m. each day and most days offer a one-hour break for lunch. On Thursday, competition is projected to end around 4 p.m., while Friday is planned to close by 7 p.m., and Saturday is designed to end by about 5 p.m. Amateur classes are scheduled on Thursday, with championships on Sunday morning, and 40 | ARABIAN HORSE TIMES
other competitions’ final titles—gold, silver and bronze awards—are slated for Sunday afternoon after opening ceremonies that feature the Flags of Nations. The World Cup has always been known for the international diversity of its judges, and this year is no different, although of course the faces are new. On the roster are Shannon Armstrong (U.S.A.), Peter Gamlin (U.K.), Steve Lieblang (U.S.A.), Vico Rocco (Brazil), Irina Stigler (Russia) and Eileen Verdieck (U.A.E.). What’s Changing If you are a regular at the World Cup, you’ll have noticed that the Gala Opening Party, which for the past seven years has put the fireworks in Thursday night, is not on the timeline. Nobody has given up social events; they’ve just shifted the time and the venue. This year, the brandnew World Cup Breeders’ Bash will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday evening. Its location is ringside—especially convenient for horsemen—instead of in a Vegas nightspot, and it promises to be a more casual affair, a user-friendly gathering with music and cocktails. “It will be more ‘come and visit and mingle,’” says LaMalfa, “and if you have to go feed and blanket, you can just go downstairs, do it, and come back and play. We all still have those responsibilities!”
“We wanted to make it more inclusive of the Arabian horse community,” nods O’Shea, “make it easier for people to come and have a good time, and encourage camaraderie between the competitors and owners.” The other big “breaking news” angle of this year’s World Cup is the addition of its North American Jackpot Program, for which awards will be presented on Sunday afternoon during the show’s championship classes. “These are for horses that are bred and owned in North America,” says LaMalfa. “We’re about everybody breeding Arabians, of course, but we’re also about North American people breeding horses and about promoting this group of horses that we have here. “We have a lot of international people that come in, which is wonderful and we certainly love having them,” she continues. “But we didn’t want to lose sight of the fact that some of our North American breeders come a long way, and some of them are not large breeders. We want to stand behind all of our breeders and reward those for breeding Arabian horses here in the U.S., Canada and Mexico as well.” So strong is the commitment that the funding for the new awards ($32,000 this year) is a line item in the World Cup budget, a permanent part of the show’s future. The prize money will go to the top three placing North Americanbred and owned horses in the supreme championship classes designated under the new program. The provisions call for $8,000 of Jackpot money to be offered in the senior mare, senior stallion, junior mare and junior stallion supreme championships, with $4,000 going to the highestplacing horse, $2,500 to second-highest and $1,500 for third-highest. And There’s More In The World Of The World Cup Showing and social activities are not the only attractions at the World Cup. Kelly Charpentier organizes the education seminars on the schedule annually. “They will be amazing this year,” she promises, “very informative and educational.” The names of the clinicians are not yet available, but Charpentier notes that they will be highly respected names in the industry, addressing topics that relate to the fundamental principles of the event. “This is a breeding and in-hand show,” she explains, “and we like to stay on top of things to stress in our industry, whether they be in breeding or the show ring.” For example, last year’s list
included topics as diverse as, among others, standards for judging and how to prevent stomach ulcers in show horses. Another attractive element of the show is its strong corporate sponsorship. “We have great corporate sponsors who have been with us from the beginning,” says Charpentier, “including all the publications, both foreign and domestic, who have been working with us.” That worldwide exposure guarantees strong interest from foreign breeders, and over the years has been helpful in building the show’s reputation in Europe, South America, Australia and the Middle East. And finally, the World Cup offers world-class shopping. “Our commercial exhibits include some of the most beautiful and appealing things from horse equipment to art to boutiques—all kinds of different things,” Charpentier smiles. “It’s so diverse, I can’t list them all; you’ll have to just come and see them!” At The Heart Of The World Cup One reason the World Cup has risen so steadily has to be not only the strong support of both the national and international community, but also a committed board and the steady hand of experienced, long-term management. On the Show Committee, LaMalfa, O’Shea and Charpentier have all been involved since the show’s inception, as has Scott Bailey, and press representative Riyan Holte, a lifelong member of the Arabian community. That continuity has inspired strong support in sponsorships, vendors, trainers, owners, breeders and fans—what every show needs. “This is a different show from any other show in the industry,” observes O’Shea. “It is in North America, but it has such an international flair.” And she emphasizes once again that there is that other point that the committee takes seriously: as wonderful as showing horses can be, there are other important elements, namely the people of the community and what they like. The show’s location is part of the overall experience for Arabian horse people. “Our focus is not only to put on a really cool, internationalstyle show, but we also want to encourage the attendees and competitors to experience Las Vegas—go see some shows, go shopping, go to some of the great restaurants.” For 2014, Phyllis LaMalfa expects another exciting, competitive show. “How bad can it be?” she laughs. “Go to Vegas and show horses!” n Volume 44, No. 10 | 41