Personality - Bart Van Buggenhout

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What do you envision for the Arabian breed 10 years from now? It is clear that the universal Arabian horse was once a combined athlete in many performance disciplines and had the looks to win in the show ring. Today, that standard is being chopped up to create a very specialized horse for competition. There is no Arabian racehorse anymore that would make it to the World Championship in halter, neither a World Champion halter horse that would make it to be a Tevis Cup champion in endurance. This is a fact, and the practice will continue to grow as breeders and trainers are professionally pushed to extreme limits. Further, I truly feel that only the top 10% of the market today has value and that these are also the only ones being promoted at the competitions in halter, performance, race, and endurance … controlled by professional handlers. Frankly, our breed is controlled too much by professionals and our organizations like AHA and ECAHO do not do enough to help promote the remaining 90%, including encouraging the true amateur and backyard operator to have fun and be a part of this Arabian horse breed. The consequence is clear: professionals travel around the world scanning and picking out the few top

quality individuals and taking them to their facility to train, show and market. They make a good living out of it through training and sales, and leave the leftovers to the breeder. The breeder had to breed in numbers because only every 1 in 10 or 20 foals will give you that one top horse the trainer searches for, a fact! But after breeding two to three years, the smaller breeders are happy to sell that one super product for a good price so they have money to feed those horses at home that the professional trainers don’t want! This is the reality now, and the first reason why breeding is in decline and lots of small breeders just quit. It is not because they don’t like to do it anymore, or that they lost their passion for it, but because they are forced to it for financial needs! The reality is, the good ones are marketed, promoted, and sold overseas. They show there, breed there, die there ... lost to the local blood pool. Breeders’ programs are now in decline. Sorry to say, but 15 to 20 years ago, the quality at the Egyptian Event in USA / Europe was astonishing. Nowadays, if you want to see the same quality as then, you need to go to Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi, Egypt, Israel … a total shift has happened. Middle Eastern horses are far superior to anything bred and competing in Europe or

Bart during an Aljassimya Open House.

the USA. That’s the reality in the Straight Egyptian, and now also in the general purebred Arabian lines. For a few years in a row now, the Scottsdale Champion filly was placed where in the World Championship? Only Poland, through sheer numbers, seems to be holding up. If the great sires of the past, Morafic, Ibn Halima, Padron, Bask—without whom the breed would not have developed—were to exist today, these sires would be sold to the Middle East at the age of one! The breeding in the Western world depends on Middle Eastern kindness to share their top stallions. This has been gladly done, (Marwan Al Shaqab for an example). But still, everyone is blind to the fact that good breeding comes only 35% from the stallion and 65% from the mares. The Middle East is smart ... they do not share mares! That is what the near future is, and over ten years from now, the breed will be easily dominated from the roots where it came from. Breeders such as the Marshalls, Kelloggs, Gaineys ... all the greats from this country … these people owned horses for a joy, and were committed to preservation rather than

the gain of coin because of desperation of survival. In those days, the organizations where run by such people, people who had no commercial interest. Unfortunately, many in those organizations now do have commercial interest, which makes our world more centered around professionals than hobbyists. How many halter shows in the U.S. are truly amateur, not professional amateur, or over qualified amateur, but really amateur? What is the percentage of professional shows versus amateur shows? The professional and semi-professional scene for which all this show organizing happens is, at the most, a few thousand strong. The real amateur scene in this country could be 365 million strong! That’s a giant market unexploited right now simply because there is nothing really available for these hobby people to do with their horses if they would own one. America and Europe need to understand they do not need to export at all. They need to just reinvent themselves. Better to close their borders and let it all grow again from the bottom up! Start with the regionals and lowest levels and build it back up. For every professional competing at the top, there should be 30 amateurs competing at the bottom. Now that’s a healthy pyramid! Not the other way around!

You know why you all love American football or soccer so much? Because it’s played by millions, in every little club in town, even on the corner of the streets! And you know from these millions, only a few become pros, but these pros do make a living now and do have a fan club and do have television … all because now the millions from the street want to see how the real boys do it! More money is spent on the thousands of small clubs around, than on the few top clubs, maybe 10 dollars to 1 dollar. In our Arabian horse industry, we spend zero dollars to every 10 dollars, and then we complain that nobody comes to see our shows! Tell me about the first time you saw Ansata Halim Shah and Ansata Hejazi. What did you see in each of them and how do they play a role in breeding horses for you today? I think Ansata Halim Shah has been largely undervalued as a stallion in the USA. He was a top sire without question, one of those that could breed colts and fillies in equal quantity and quality. He was consistent in

producing strong bodies, well laid back shoulders, and amazing tail sets with thick, long, bone that stands high. He also produced eyes; incredible eyes, and eye sockets. And above all, predictability ... he was homozygous grey. Ansata Hejazi was much like his father, but brought a touch more stretch and athletic ability. I was lucky to have him in my care for almost a year at Al Rayyan Farm. His greatest charm was when you took him out of his box, he grew … he grew effortlessly next to you, becoming an incredible horse, a horse you would want to mount and run off to battle on, a horse you could face your worst enemy with—without fear. But once back inside, he turned gentle, respectful and friendly. Hejazi was a good, solid friend. How would you like to see your contributions as Aljassimya Farm manager impact the breed over the next decade or so? Sheikh Jassim has put me in a very

Aljassimya’s Gold Champion Yearling Filly with Giacomo Cappaci.


privileged position. We need to be successful in breeding great horses that can be used for show, but also with the needed athletic ability to do more than just that. Further, we need to market and promote the Arabian and lead our organization, which contains many professionals and individuals, through the safest possible waters to a general success. Aljassimya Farm is built on team spirit, not individuality. Each member is needed, respected, and given opportunities. This is what Sheikh Jassim wants, and I see to it that it happens. Our bigger hope is that we can inspire young people to venture into this business, a scary but gratifying future. We hope our horses inspire people to want to own them and to join us in the general Arabian horse community on all its levels. We hope to be a good solid example, earning respect and deserving of the success we earn by hard work, determination and dedication.

Bart enjoying his assistant role to photographer Emma Maxwell.

When I look at the pedigrees of the some of the mares and stallions you have chosen for your program ,I see the mare Saskia RJ frequently popping up. Please tell me why. Saskia RJ was one of my childhood heros! I loved her, and I am so thankful to have had her in my care, too, for a while. Saskia is probably one of the mares—competing with Estopa—that produced the most World Champions in direct line over the last 25 years and especially the later years. Most people look at stallions; I always look at mares. I will never love a stallion unless I love his mother! Saskia RJ is like Estopa, Ansata Bint Bukra, the P line from Janów, or the E line from Michalów, she is right there at the top for me. The Wayne Newton program was loosely based on a layering of beauty, generation after generation and quite successfully. Is the focus at Aljassimya similar to the WN program? I do think that Aljassimya has the classic style and looks that Wayne Newton was looking for with Aramus, GG Samir, and Arnet Perlane in its early days. However, I think Aljassimya puts more into searching for great mares who come from mares that have proven themselves with consistency in reproducing. Tell me a little about Ashhal Al Rayyan as a horse and as a sire (I am very fond and respectful of this horse). Ashhal Al Rayyan is one of those once-in-a-lifetime horses. I knew him beginning when I worked at Al Rayyan when he was just a year old. He went through a rough baby time with some illnesses. He was this young colt, very gangly and out of balance, skinny and with a tendency to self-destruct. Luckily, he grew out of all of that with the necessary help

Bart with the legendary Ali Jamaal.

Bart with the beautiful Ashhal Al Rayyan showing in Qatar.

Bart with Kris Johnston winning the 2014 Arabian Foal Festival Futurity Gelding with Jafar AJF.

Bart with the 2013 Arabian Foal Festival Best Large Breeder winner.

Bart with legendary breeder and entertainer Wayne Newton.

and care. I worked with many horses, was responsible for hundreds over the years, but very few of them really knew me other than as a guy who checks on them, handles them, shows them. But Ashhal knew me—I knew him too, but I think he is the only horse ever to know me—who I was, who I became. I grew from a boy to a man with him having been my best friend, so you can imagine this horse is beyond special for me. As a sire, he had three crosses to Ansata Halim Shah close up, but with more refinement, movement, and attitude. Judi Forbis would not want me to say this, but OK, she will forgive me … Ashhal maybe was one notch up, but he could have never been what he was without Ansata Halim Shah. Ashhal produced a certain look, he produced everything Halim Shah did, but with more leg underneath, more snort and blow, and a touch of self-destruct in some cases, but I loved that about his foals. His babies just popped out with glaring eyes saying, “here I am, and I’m coming to give you trouble!” I had a wonderful time with them. You are contributing in a major way for California breeders with the Aljassimya sponsored Foal Show. What is your hope behind this project for all American breeders and owners? My major hope is that a new market can be developed for the middle range horses. We want to put good geldings and the $10,000-35,000 range fillies back on the market with a purpose. These horses make great family horses. The foal show was developed with the idea of making a family event where people would be attracted by cute babies, with a simple way of presentation, and with a good educational background as the judge explains what he/she is doing. All this would be at no cost for the breeder or participant beyond entry fees. No professional training/handling fees and so on, it’s a do-it-yourself event. Right now, the few do-it-yourself people are still a bit weary and scared. We need to set up some workshops for them and help guide them into a routine of conditioning and caring for their horse in a better way. It takes up a lot of time, but its work that needs to be done on a local basis. People are too much involved on the national and international scale these days, and not enough with community work. The foal show is a fun way of changing that into a new habit. Furthermore, it brings the local breeders a bit closer together; a must because together you can do so much more. What characteristics most impress you in a horse? First of all, I like a complete horse—correct build, well balanced,


and sound moving. This needs to be topped off with big black eyes, nice ears, and thick, long, tail bones that carry straight. It needs to be a horse with the ability to be a good breeding horse. Some top show horses make poor breeding horses and vice versa, so be careful with that. Which characteristics can you not live with? Straight shoulders, small eyes, and crooked tails. If you could bring two horses back to life, who would they be and why? Ansata Sinan was one of those that I really loved; not a correct horse but very pretty, who proved to sire well (his colts were better than his fillies). I don’t think he was given the right chances in life and was wasted in some ways to the breed in general. Ashhal Al Rayyan is in bad shape now and probably will not live long. He was a top sire and could have done much more than what he did. I wish more people could have seen, admired, and loved this horse. He was very special, and I miss him. Bart, please share your most memorable show ring moment and what horse it was with. The show was in Qatar. It was the International Stallion class: me and Ashhal Al Rayyan versus Michael Byatt and Al Adeed Al Shaqab! Michael won, but we sure gave him a serious run for it! The crowd loved it, and was supportive. There

Bart with longtime breeder Sigi Siller of Om El Arab International in an award winning moment.

were a few other top stallions in the class, but the battle was just between us really. I loved it. What three breeders do you look back and admire today that were in business during your first few years in the breed? Judith Forbis, Dr. Nagel, and Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bin Khaled Al Thani. Do you prefer the ocean or the desert and why? I like both. They are lonely, barren places, full of hardship,

The Arabian Foal Festival Team: Michelle Kelly, Robin Hopkinson, Bart and Jenn Trickey.

Aljassimya’s win in Paris 2014 with their World Champion Yearling Colt Ghazwan Aljassimya.

Enjoying a win at Menton.

challenge, and surprise, but also full of peace, quiet and rest. We could not live without either one of them— that’s the beauty of it. Describe the thrill of the win with Ghazwan and Minwa in Paris and what each of the two mean to the future of Aljassimya. Minwah and Jasmeenah where nice wins and both deservingly so. I was especially happy for my boss and for Aljassimya as a whole to be on the map with good horses. We had two world champions in three years’ time, which was amazing. Ghazwan Aljassimya, yes, this was a very special win.

A winning moment from Scottsdale 2014 for Team Aljassimya.

Since I started working with Sheikh Jassim, we discussed for hours and hours on the phone about breeding and possible successful combinations. The plan to buy Athina El Jamaal, Ghazwan’s mother, was made during those discussions. I saw an advertisement for her, and told Sheikh Jassim that she could be a nice, solid broodmare to do the combination we had discussed and mapped out. We were looking for an Ali Jamaal daughter or granddaughter to breed back with to Marwan. So Sheik Jassim bought her despite some contrary advice of others. I shipped the mare to Zerlotti and bred her to Marwan Al Shaqab as planned. Unfortunately, the combination


only happened once because Marwan Al Shaqab was on limited use. We shipped the pregnant recipient mare to California and Ghazwan Aljassimya was born. As always, at first I was disappointed that it was a colt! But in the end, he is a World Champion colt and only the third baby born at Aljassimya since the start of my employment. So yes, this was an amazing win. I needed some time to realize its impact and now, a few months later, I am really only just realizing the extent. Ghazwan set the bar, and he set it rather high. Who knows, maybe a filly would still have been better!

We started with several, but we are narrowing down now. Time goes quickly, next year we are already breeding our first group of Justice daughters, going to stage 2.

Please tell me a little about your plans to increase the use and, therefore, value of the Arabian colt/gelding? Maybe 80% of all people who get involved with horses start with owning a gelding. They are the most affordable and most comfortable to handle and get involved with. They are such incredible marketing tools, yet they are not being used to the full extent of their potential. Therefore, the Foal Show board started the gelding futurity, which will be a consistent growing and changing program. From last year to now, we have come up with some different ideas. It should help the owners of these geldings to better prepare them for a life under saddle. Normally these boys stand in a pasture till they are three, and then they go through a rather violent change in life to become a performer. This program makes a bridge between the two, and gives these boys something to think about from a young age on. The program is designed for each and every one to participate, and to make the access as big as possible. I think there lies the secret of our geldings ... they could turn our business around if we would appreciate them more ourselves.

What is your favorite non-horse destination and why? I’m still searching and will continue to do so. I enjoyed India, Thailand and Jordan ... still more planned.

Describe your thoughts and feelings when you recently looked at the young crop of fillies bred by Aljassimya and what that says to you about your future? I feel confident that we are on the right track to achieve what Sheikh Jassim was envisioning. I am happy that I get to achieve some personal wishes alongside those goals. We will be able to do it in less time than I was first thinking it would take to be there with our full-blown program. For me, the definition of a breeder is someone that finished his third generation of crosses, and with it accomplished his/her own look and type of horse. So 95% of the people today who say they are breeders would not qualify to my specification. With Aljassimya, the first base was to create a combination of WH Justice produce that could be crossed with carefully chosen dam lines.

Why is the Nazeer sire line so powerful today with so many separate branches? I think Nazeer could be named the horse of all times. He was a brilliant sire, one with the ability to make sons and daughters with equal qualities. Not many stallions can. We would be nothing without him today. It seems the modern Arabian horse starts with him.Â

What is next? A cup of black coffee, preferably from the Valley Grind, and everything life has to offer beyond that ... I will let you join on your next visit. n

Bart traveling abroad and enjoying good times with his mother.

Bart enjoying time spent with a beautiful grey mare.