Arabian US Open - Report

Magic in Manhattan: The 2nd Arabian U.S. Open


New York City is full of iconic imagery…from the Brooklyn Bridge and Empire State Building to the emerald oasis that is Central Park. Miraculously preserved for posterity by forward-thinking city planners, the 843 acres that make up Manhattan’s “back yard” is also the home of the Arabian U. S. Open. One of the landmark sites within Central Park is the Wollman Ice Rink. Usually the home to a well-worn collection of carnival rides when it is not skating season, over the course of a few days every autumn, the rink is transformed into a world-class horse show arena. Bleachers are installed, a VIP seating area is constructed, and a Jumbo-Tron screen erected. A fleet of small, efficient vehicles brings load after load of the finest arena footing available from where it has been stored since last year’s show in a cave-like cranny beneath the Park’s hilly terrain. Additional footing turns a nearby ballfield into a stable area and warm-up ring.

It is a showcase setting for a showcase breed. AHA President Cynthia Richardson, VP/Paddock Manager Glenn Petty, Project Consultant Michelle Kelly, and the rest of the incredibly capable show committee work hand-in-hand with the greater Rolex US Open organizers to make the opening night event go smoothly. Collaboration with the various agencies responsible for protecting Central Park and complying with city ordinances is extensive and effective. Top trainer Michael Byatt, who handled the Gold Champion Junior and Senior Mares, Aria Quintessa and Aria Qatars Angel, and the Gold Champion Stallion, Aria Impressario, applauded the effort. “From the moment I walked into the stabling area, to the show venue itself, the energy and excitement was palpable,” he said. “We all owe a debt of gratitude to the many people that worked so hard to bring the NYC show to fruition. Congratulations!” Accolades well earned.

With only 50 horses per day allowed in the barn area, they are housed at Gladstone, the historic facility of the U.S. Equestrian Team in New Jersey. The horses are loaded into a string of vans that bring them into the center of the city during the wee hours of the morning when there is no traffic to contend with. One by one, the vans roll to a stop, their ramps are lowered, and the horses emerge, stepping the short distance to the stable area. The next day, they make their way along the pedestrian walkways to the southeast corner of the Park a half mile away. There, they get their first glimpse of the elegant arena that they will perform in later that night. The exhibitors experience the thrill of being in the heart of the greatest city in the world.

Cathy Vecsey has now shown her indefatigable partner HL Sanction to back to back Gold Champion Native Costume honors in Central Park. “You can use every adjective you can think of to describe this experience to other riders, but there are not enough words to describe how amazing this experience is!” she reports. “Those horses and riders who showed this year did it with style and class! This was the best of the best of the Arabian breed for the world to see and we should all be proud of our horses and the presentation they gave to the world.” Cathy was especially grateful to share the spotlight with Sanction once again. At 27 years old and with armfuls of National Championships to his credit, Sanction’s public appearances have become rare. “I was really nervous this year to show again! The first year was fun because I really had no expectation, but the second time I so badly wanted Sanction to do well since it may be the last time we ever show together. It is the only time all year that I show him anymore and I feel like I have been preparing all summer for a 10-minute ride! But if I only get to show him for 10 minutes, let it be under the lights in Central Park!!!”

Arabian Horse Times Publisher Lara Ames was both a sponsor and an exhibitor this year after supporting last year’s inaugural, shining in her half of the Pro/Am Country English Pleasure Championship on her homebred Ames Inspiration as they brought home the Silver Championship. “It was amazing,” Lara comments. “You did not really care about the color of the ribbon, but more the moment. The open sky, the lights… the exposure was just amazing!” Greg Gallún and his wife Nancy manage Sahara Scottsdale for Jeff Sloan, who along with his partners brought home the three Gold Championships earned by the horses that Byattt handled. “We all feel that the U.S. Open show brings a level exposure and grandeur that are unique and special for sure,” Greg said. “While the numbers were small, the quality was world class. The venue, just like the city itself, is magical, almost looks like a movie set in the night sky. So many people watched in person and on live feed, the calls and messages have all been so positive about the evening. The format is great; I like the pro-am idea in the performance division. Halter was great to watch and the horses superbly shown by all the handlers. A great showcase for our great breed.”

This being the second year of the show’s existence, veterans noticed differences from 2015. “There was much clearer communication to those of us in the stall area about when we had to leave for the ring (which is great since it is a 10-minute walk!),” commended Vecsey. “The basic info we received from Kelly ahead of the event was timely and pertinent, and any questions or issues were immediately handled. It was great seeing larger performance classes, and with such nice horses! I loved the pro-am concept!! It was also wonderful to hear Peter Fenton's voice and to see Van Jacobsen and Howie in the ring!” Larry Jerome has been breeding Arabian horses for over 50 years and enjoyed seeing the offspring of his legendary stallion Khadraj NA dominate Western Pleasure Championship, he being the maternal grandsire of Gold Champion PA Kid Khan and the sire of Silver Champion Possesion PGA. “The 2016 Arabian Central Park show was again an extremely impressive event,” he said. “The setting is truly unbelievable, the reception by people touring the park is exciting as their curiosity gets the best of them when they see these magnificent animals parading through this iconic park. I think things flowed together well with fewer hitches.”

Larry honed in on a particular facet of the Central Park show that sets it far apart from any others. “Participants, trainers, and assistants all banded together to help one another,” he stated. “I think that it is important to remember, that this show is not an end all competition, but rather a chance to showcase the Arabian horse to a part of the world where it is not an everyday occurrence.” Greg Gallún agrees, “The level of sportsmanship and support between exhibitors was great through the travel process to and from Central Park and throughout the show day. The logistics are a challenge, however all went really seamlessly thanks to Michelle Kelly and Kelly Charpentier. A big thanks to all of the team who made this a reality.”