Athena, a 1997 Anglo-Arabian mare, owned by Rita Mason of Fair Oaks, CA, was expected to be a hearty endurance horse, thanks to her sire’s successful endurance career, but at age three, Athena started training level dressage and began winning from day one. “When Athena was four, Rita took her on a 30-mile limited-distance ride and they finished, but Athena clearly wasn’t having fun—so back to the show ring they went,” said Peggy Ingles, one of Athena’s nominators.
Athena has gone on to win a national championship at Fourth Level, several AHA regional wins, open and United States Dressage Federation (USDF) honors, but it is Athena’s presence at horse expos, charity events and educational seminars that bring the versatility and trainability of the Arabian breed to the general public. Athena and Rita’s bridle-less dressage demonstration is a crowd favorite.
“Athena is truly a noble and gracious mare, in the tradition of her proud and ancient heritage. She is beautiful to behold,” said Marjory Hammer Pope, AHA Life Member.
Gilet is a 24-year-old purebred gelding that has seen racetracks, show rings and football fields. As the mascot for the Conemaugh Township Indians, Gilet has pleased football fans for eight years, galloping from one end zone to the other and then standing with a quiet and dignified demeanor for the young and old to come by and meet him. Gilet’s other ambassador-worthy activities include being part of the annual high school homecoming parade and playing the native costume model as elementary school students learn about the Arabian breed.
But Gilet, owned by Lisa Devineni of Johnstown, PA, can also hold his own in the show ring. Started on the race track, Gilet was sold and made rounds as a competitive trail horse before landing with Caitlyn Thomas, daughter of trainer Beth Thomas, where the pair hit it off and eventually went Top 10 at U.S. Nationals in the open working hunter division. When it was Devineni’s chance with the gentle gelding, the two shined with two National Top 10s in working hunter and hunter hack as well as the AAOTR working hunter regional championship. Devineni even earned her Rider of Honor with Gilet.
“Calling Gilet just a horse is below him and all that he does. He is a friend. He is a companion, and a true ambassador to the Arabian breed,” said Caitlyn Thomas.
TH Barbarian or “Bear” is owned by Jean and Maddie O’Leary of Fontana, WI. Bear is a son of the great Barbary+++ and started life as a show horse, winning numerous titles in English pleasure, pleasure driving and equitation. With a “go forward” attitude, Bear became known as the "Little Engine that Could." At only 14.2 hands, Bear is everything an Arabian should be. “Aside from his beauty, intelligence, and athleticism, he is friendly and adores people,” said Stacey Dunn, one of his nominators.
Now at 28, Bear serves as an ambassador to the breed in many ways. He stars as a demonstration horse for the breed in a variety of venues, including the Midwest Horse Fair, 4-H education days, Girl Scout meetings and also serves as an academy horse, teaching four- and five-year-olds to ride. “What makes Bear special are those intangible qualities; when you know you are in the presence of a truly great horse,” said Dunn.
TS Black Tie Affair has spent the last 16 years giving his all in the show ring, on the trail, but most importantly, to entertaining and educating the public about horses, especially the Arabian horse. The black and white pinto Half-Arabian stallion was bought by Jan Sharp as a three-year-old and began to display his intelligent, gentle nature immediately.
“Since I trick train all my horses as an additional way to interact with them, I immediately started training Black Tie. On day two, I began to teach him to lie down. On day three, I walked past his stall and he jumped at me. I yelled at him and he went to the back of his stall and lay down. He didn’t know what I wanted, but he learned that laying down made me happy,” said Sharp.
Black Tie has traveled to schools, story hours, libraries, rodeos, churches, Equine Affaires, been featured in magazines and even has made several television appearances. “He’s stood among thousands of tiny feet, wheelchairs, and walkers. He lowers his head into baby strollers, closes his eyes, and lets the touching and poking of his nose begin,” said Sharp.
For more information about the Arabian Horse Association’s Ambassador Award visit www.ArabianHorses.org/activities/recognition or call (303) 696-4500.