The Arabian Horse Association of New England (AHANE) held their 63rd annual show June 29 through July 1 at the Eastern States Exposition Fairgrounds in West Springfield, MA. Admission was free to watch the three-day event that many New England riders use to qualify for the Region 16 Championship held at the same venue later in the month.
According to AHANE officials the show attracts over 1,000 people, including exhibitors, family members, show barn owners, their employees and the general public. In addition to watching all the action, visitors can also go into the barns, pet the horses, and meet their owners and trainers. Those stopping by the show can also do a little shopping at a number of vendor booths where they will find a variety of horse-related collectibles such as clothing and jewelry, as well as tack including saddles, bridles, halters and more.
Show Secretary Lurline Combs says Arabian horse owners were not the only ones participating in this year’s show.
“Most exhibitors come to this show because it is fun and it’s also the last opportunity to qualify before the Regional Championship show which runs July 12 to 15,” Combs said. “Also this year the show is popular with the Sport Horse exhibitors because the U.S. National Sport Horse Championships are in Raleigh, NC in September.”
Despite a wider range of exhibitors, the total number of registered horses at this year’s event was just 110. This was down slightly from the year before which had 120. There were 135 registered horses in 2015.
Combs says the AHANE is not overly concerned by the declining numbers because the horses that are on site at the show are being registered for several classes because there are so many offered.
The show also caters to a wide age range of riders and skill levels. Riders under 10 and over 65 are able to participate in classes such as ranch riding, equitation, pleasure, trail, walk trot and showmanship. As an extra bonus, those seeking to qualify for regionals got plenty of opportunities to do so this year with over 21 added classes.
“The show offers TBA classes that can be purchased by exhibitors,” Combs said. “The class has to be from one of the regular Arabian Horse Association classes not offered in the show. This gives an exhibitor the ability to go in a class that would not be offered and then they can qualify for regionals. We also sold three additional classes this year in addition to TBAs.”
Also part of this year’s show were two days of Pro/Am and AM/AM dressage classes to benefit the Arabian Horseman’s Distress Fund. This nonprofit organization was established in January of 2005 in order to help individuals throughout the Arabian horse community during times of crisis.
“This fund and the national fund have helped numerous members of the horse community,” Combs said. “Some were helped with medical expenses due to illness, injuries or barn fires and other calamities. It has been a lifeline for many.”
As a regional club made up of members throughout seven northeastern states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont) the AHANE is one of several Region 16 Arabian horse organizations doing their part to help others. The AHANE is part of the Arabian Horse Association (AHA). It was established in 1954 to help encourage breeding, exhibiting and promotion of the Arabian horse. The club’s existence today helps to educate individuals within the New England states on how to preserve the Arabian breed.
Combs says the AHANE is made up of board members who play a key role in coming up with creative ways to make the show a success each year such as putting on special exhibitor parties.
“The board tries very hard to try to think of ways to make the show enjoyable,” Combs said. “This year there were no classes Friday evening and the barns had an aisle party. After a long day of showing, the exhibitors are happy to have a break. It gives the trainers and exhibitors a chance to relax and engage others socially.”
Another way AHANE board members have helped to strengthen the show in recent years has been to provide more experienced riders with the opportunity to bring home some generous cash prizes during championship classes. They were able to generate additional revenue and instituted a marketing idea which gave the show the nickname “Big Money.”
“This show is called the Big Money Show because in years past they offered some big prize money,” Combs said. “As the years have gone by the entries have gone down. The club couldn’t continue to offer the amount of prize money as in the past.”
In order to offset its waning finances and continue the “Big Money” tradition, the AHANE has looked to local businesses as well as exhibitors for support through sponsorships. All sponsors are announced throughout the show and are listed on the sponsor page in the AHANE show program. Those who contribute the most get a link to their website for one year on Ahane.org, a free one-page advertisement in the show program, and 4 champion class sponsorships.
While experienced riders are an important part of the show the AHANE recognizes that youths and adult amateurs are the future of the sport. To help support this group of riders the AHANE helps to sponsor the Region 16 AHA $1,000 Scholarship. It is awarded each year to a qualified individual pursuing a higher education while at the same time having an ongoing interest in and commitment to the Arabian horse. Individuals who are interested in this opportunity can learn more about it by going to the AHANE website.
For more information about the AHANE including results from this year’s show visit their website at www.ahane.org .