WATW - Dawn Martin

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At Chantilly, 2015.

Who was the first Arabian horse you ever laid eyes on and what was the experience like? I went to watch an Arabian horse show in Milwaukee when I was young. There isn’t one specific horse that I can recall, but I remember thinking how beautiful they were and how many different things they could do. I found it funny how the handlers looked twisting their bodies around like contortionists trying to get a horse to stick its neck out. 376 | A R A BI A N HOR SE T I MES

What does your dream horse look like? A Karen Kasper bronze. How has the Arabian horse enriched your life? It has filled my life with joy and opportunities. There is almost nothing better than walking into a barn in the evening when it’s quiet, and you can smell the hay and grain and hear the horses happily munching, or see a group of mares and foals in a paddock and watch the foals play

together. So many people are stuck in an office and don’t get to experience these things on a daily basis! I have met amazing people and travelled the world. Who have your mentors been in the Arabian horse business? Eileen Verdieck and Michael Byatt. Those two have taught me everything I know about training halter horses, gave me the chance to work in all facets of the industry, and the opportunity to travel the world and work in many interesting places. I met Michael at my first job at Karho, and then also ended up with him at Sandspur. I was working in his office at the time and showing Saddlebreds on the weekends for a friend. One day he was short staffed and asked me to come help get

horses ready for him to school. I remember watching him, and wondering what he was doing and why, because I never really ‘got’ the halter showing thing. One day I summoned the courage to ask, why he did just this and why did just that. At first the vein in his forehead popped out (anyone who has worked for him will understand what this means), but I told him I was just trying to learn. He started to explain to me his process, and which reaction he was trying to get. I continued to help prepare the horses for him, and just watch how he would proceed from one step to another, sometimes working on just one thing or several at a time. I watched him take horses that had been shown for years and were completely sour and miserable, and

Maliha Bouznika with Dawn.

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Shahin Al Shaqab with Dawn up.

turn them into horses that wanted to work for him. The key is ‘wanted.’ He made them want to do it rather than forcing them. I recall one time at U.S. Nationals where an owner came up and remarked to me that they had never seen their mare come to the front of a stall at a show and stick her head out with her ears up. She had been showing for 10 years, had been through all the major trainers, and they said she would always stand at the back of the stall. They were amazed at how happy she was. He is such a naturally talented horseman, with incredible timing. After he became partners with Eileen Verdieck, she gave me the opportunity to really put to use what I had been learning. She sent me to her overseas clients to prepare horses and train them for her to show, and in the time I wasn’t overseas, I would come back and train


her horses for the Egyptian Event. We worked together quite successfully, and it was a huge learning experience as well. She sent me to Al Shaqab first, and it was there that I trained horses like Gazal, Al Adeed and Marwan as weanlings for their first shows. I always knew they were quite special, but at the time, I had no idea how special and “game changing” those three would become! Do you prefer the desert or the ocean? Ocean. If you could resurrect any two horses, who would they be and why? JA Rave Review, because he was just simply the best; in every way. He was so smart and sweet and beautiful and talented and funny —just a very special soul. He embodied everything an Arabian horse should be. People in the U.S. will know him as he was one of the most successful Arabian performance horses ever. He


was a gelding, so didn’t contribute anything to the breed per se, but I loved him dearly. I was with him for the first few years of what ended up to be an amazingly long and successful career full of national championships. I think I would choose Padron as the second one, for his long lasting influence on the breed which continues to this day. He was at Sandspur when I worked there, and although I was working in the office at the time, I was so impressed by his style, beauty and athletic ability. He has contributed not only winning halter horses, but performance horses as well. If you loved the gelding Rave Review and you rode Saddlebreds, you must also have loved Imperator? Who didn’t love Imperator? He had the most amazing slow gait. I saw him go World Grand Champion once and also was in Freedom Hall the night of one

Dawn with Al Adeed.

DAWN of the most incredible 5-gaited stakes that ever was … his showdown with Skywatch. Skywatch won and Imperator was reserve. They were both such naturally talented and exciting horses to watch. Name a handful of Arabian mares alive today that make you weak in the knees. Emandoria, AJ Sawahi, Najdah Alzobair, Panarea by Palawan, Thee Vision and Mozn Albidayer (I know she isn’t a mare, but she is amazing). Without thinking for more than five seconds, why have Mattaharii and DL Marielle become such treasured breeding stock? They both produced champions for us.

What do you feel lies beneath the magic of Marajj? He was the first Marwan foal to really come to the forefront and kick off the whole Marwan craze, especially in the U.S. He is such a lovely and balanced horse, and although he is a Marwan son, he produces his own look, which is completely different and is very consistent. He has been a great show horse from the start, but I think what amazes people when they meet him is how sweet and kind he is, because what they have seen in the ring is the horse that he has become because of what he thought the trainers wanted from him. He looks like a complete fireball, but when it’s done, he comes back down to earth and wants a scratch or a carrot. For example, in the UAE he had a cat. A typical barn cat that would spend the afternoon in his box or lying on the wall or in the window, where they would watch the show jumpers work in the evenings in the arena opposite

MARTIN to our stables. The cat would wind herself around his legs, and he would gently rub her with his muzzle. People would come to see him and tell me I was wrong when I would tell them this was Marajj. They couldn’t believe it. They expected some crazy stallion, and instead this is what they saw—a naturally beautiful and solidly built stallion who hadn’t had any special conditioning in the past few years, with fine skin, a gleaming coat, and completely clean legs even at his age and with his years of work, just walking over for some attention. Up close, they also seem to be surprised at just how pretty his face really is and how beautiful his eyes are. At our open house this year, rather than bringing him in and letting him trot around and rear and do his show deal (which

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then it comes back in. I should probably not admit this, but I have some dresses or jackets that I bought ages ago. When I’m stuck for clothes for a show, I search through and find something. I still get compliments on them, so I guess that’s good! In fact, the other night I tried one on that I bought when I was 21. I used to wear it a lot, but haven’t in many years. I may make it to Paris this year; we will see … What is your favorite part about foaling out mares? The look in a mare’s eyes when she reaches around to touch her foal for the first time.

Dawn and Safi Al Shaqab (Safir x Poema) in Qatar, 2001, with Sheikh Hamad Bin Ali Al Thani from Al Shaqab Stud.

was what people expected) we presented him ridden, without a bit or reins, and he bowed at the end to thank everyone for coming. The people just loved it! He just wants to please ... and his foals are the same way. They have very easy temperaments. Also, nowadays when you visit farms, you can go to 100 barns all over the world and without exception, every single one of them will have a batch of mares in foal (or foals by) exactly the same stallion. The one that happens to be “hot” that year. And, of course, a percentage of those foals will work out, but they aren’t unique anymore. Sheikh Mohammed had the opportunity to do that with Marajj, and oversell breedings, but he chose not to, and when the breedings got backed up, he just closed the book on Marajj and brought him to the UAE. So although the “masses” cannot see a ring overloaded with Marajj foals in Europe or the U.S., the few people who got the early breedings (and who are purchasing breedings now) are having foals that they really treasure, especially the fillies. What two characteristics do you like most about the Arabian horse? Big, beautiful eyes, and their curiosity. You wear really beautiful clothing. Do you prefer buying online or in the stores? Stores. I can’t trust the fit of online stuff. Although, if I find something that fits really well and I really like it, I will wear it for a while then keep it in my closet. It goes out of style …


You seem to be a woman who creates long lasting relationships in the Arabian horse breed. Why do you think that is? I try to be fair and honest and work hard. What is your favorite horse destination to travel to? Paris (show destination), Santa Ynez for the whole horse experience. Scottsdale is amazing and special, but I prefer the way the horses can be kept in Santa Ynez. What makes you happy? Pretty sunset, great glass of red wine, good company, a field full of foals playing. What is your greatest life achievement so far? TBD. What do you think sets Albidayer Stud apart; what makes it unique? Many Middle Eastern (or new) farms are trying to earn instant success in the show ring either through political influence, or through mass production of foals knowing that a small percentage will work out, not caring what happens to the rest. We spend a lot of time trying to select the right stallion for each mare. Of course, not all work out, but we have a reason to do each breeding beyond which stallion seems to be “in vogue” at the time and breeding every single mare to those one or two stallions. And Sheikh Mohammed is very strong in his conviction to do things properly, so when we achieve a win, we know it has been earned honestly and fairly, not because of pressure or through financial influence. For me, this is what sets Albidayer apart. What do you know as a result of living in the Middle East for several years that you would not have known if you hadn’t gone there? How good a shwarma tastes at 2 am after a long night out.


When you were a little girl, what did you dream of doing with your life when you grew up? Working with horses and traveling. I had absolutely no plan as to how this would happen, since the horse business was not as global and varied as it is now, so those two things normally would not have gone together. But as fate would have it, here I am.

and I have had others work for me. I have a complete understanding of every point of view and how each person might be feeling as I have probably been there at one point in my life.

You seem very considerate of other people on your team. What makes you that way and why? I have been involved in every aspect of the horse business. I have been a groom and slept in stalls at horse shows, ridden to those shows in the trailer, or driven the truck that took the horses to the show. I have foaled out mares and fed orphan foals every few hours all night long. I have been a secretary in the office and helped organize auctions. I have trained, ridden, driven and shown in various disciplines. I have worked for others,

At this point in your life, if for some reason you were to leave the Arabian business, what would you do? I would love to cruise the Mediterranean on a huge yacht, being served champagne by handsome men and stopping at various ports and wandering the cities. We can all dream, right?

What is one thing people may not know about you? My natural hair color is light blonde.

How long before you got back on the ship? Ha! I guess that depends on who I met along the way! ■

Dawn and Palestra

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