by Denise Hearst
In September 2018, Executive Director of The Pyramid Society for over 30 years, Anna Bishop, will step down, and Cynthia Culbertson, who served as chair of the Marketing and Promotion Committee, will assume the role. We recently caught up with Cynthia to hear her thoughts about leading The Pyramid Society forward.
You have recently made the life-changing decision to accept the job of Executive Director of The Pyramid Society. Please tell us about your personal history with the organization in general, and with Egyptian Arabians, specifically. What was the first Egyptian Event you attended? Fondest memory from Events past?
I have always been entranced by Arabian horses, but fell completely in love with the straight Egyptian when I first beheld them in my teenage years. The love affair has never stopped. I was fortunate to be at the very first Egyptian Event in 1980 and have only missed three since then. There are so many great memories — one that comes to mind is walking down the aisle of the Big Barn when it was filled with stallions that are legends today — The Egyptian Prince, Ansata Shah Zaman, Imperial Imdal, Ruminaja Ali … Yet the beautiful horses are equaled by the great people I have met and become friends with throughout the years. I have also been fortunate to serve on the Board of The Pyramid Society as well as The Pyramid Society Foundation, Inc., and feel privileged to have had a long association with this great organization.
Will you be moving to Lexington?
The current vision is for me to work virtually for the most part. I am quite used to working on projects around the world from right here in New Mexico, and with modern technology it becomes easier each day. There is no substitute for face-to-face interaction, however, and to ensure a smooth transition I will be traveling to Kentucky several times leading up to this year’s Event.
Much has changed in the horse world in recent times, with purebred horse registrations down in most breeds, and horse ownership in general in decline. Are there any initiatives you feel The Pyramid Society should introduce in order to enhance the breeding and marketability of Egyptian Arabians?
While it is true that Arabian horse breeding and ownership are declining in Europe and the U.S., we are still seeing an explosion of interest in Egypt and the Arab Gulf states. Straight Egyptian breeding in the U.S., for example, has not decreased proportionally as much as the Arabian breed in general, which is very encouraging, as is the growing number of straight Egyptian breeders in the regions mentioned earlier. This presents a superb opportunity to highlight the status of the straight Egyptian as a highly desirable equine that is appreciated throughout the world. I also believe it is important that the Society remains dedicated to education which is so vital in ensuring that these horses are preserved at the highest standards for the breeders of the future. Quality is directly related to marketability, but we have a wonderful advantage in that straight Egyptians are icons of classic type — and classic, by definition, is always in style!
I realize that the Executive Director serves at the pleasure of the board members, but do you expect to bring your own new ideas to the fore? In your opinion, what is the most urgent issue that The Pyramid Society needs to address? What do you sense are the most urgent issues for your membership?
I feel honored to serve under a great Board of Directors, and remember that we have an amazing group of Trustees as well, so there are literally decades of experience and history to guide us. But I do believe that The Pyramid Society, like all horse organizations today, needs to adapt to a rapidly changing world. Again, we are fortunate that the straight Egyptian is a “global” horse, valued and bred in countries around the world. This means that as a Society, we need to adopt a global approach. There is so much potential for uniting breeders, owners and enthusiasts around the world so that we can work together to ensure the brightest possible future for these magnificent horses. One only has to look at the pedigree of almost any world-renowned champion Arabian to understand the incredible influence of the straight Egyptian. This is truly a “breed within a breed” well worth preserving as a distinctive and precious bloodline group. Promotion and outreach are vital in communicating the importance of these horses, which is one of the best ways to serve our membership.
What do you feel is the strongest aspect of The Pyramid Society? What would you like to see improved?
I think the strength of The Pyramid Society is its members and their dedication to the straight Egyptian Arabian. Our members are truly the “Guardians of the Treasure.” The most obvious indication of our strength, of course, is our longevity — in 2019 we will celebrate our 50th anniversary! I do think we need to consider reimagining our Egyptian Event as we move forward — perhaps combining competition, a breeders’ showcase and adding a strong outreach element, while keeping the fantastic social camaraderie for which this gathering is known. I also think it is important for all of us to remember our ultimate commitment is to “the horse” and our responsibility to be good stewards of the straight Egyptian as breeders and owners.
In recent years, one change to the format of the Egyptian Event sparked a big reaction. Namely, that the Supreme Championships would be open to straight Egyptians only. What are your thoughts on that?
I always go back to the Society’s mission — we are an organization dedicated to the preservation, perpetuation and promotion of the straight Egyptian Arabian. It seems fitting that our championships showcase the straight Egyptian and their distinctive qualities by judging them within their own group and awarding them our highest honors. It is the Egyptian Event, after all! At the same time, we also encourage the use of the straight Egyptian as a source of classic Arabian type and refinement, so have traditionally included classes at the Egyptian Event for Egyptian-sired horses. But I also relate to this decision from an educational and breeder perspective. It is important to be able to distinguish the “archetype” of the straight Egyptian and, indeed, to maintain and celebrate it — thus it is vital to see and judge these horses as a distinct group.
What’s the best advice that Anna has given you about your new job? What are you most looking forward to about your new role? Any trepidation?
What can I say about Anna Bishop? The Pyramid Society has been so blessed to have had her loyalty, dedication, and many talents for over 30 years! Thankfully, she will be by my side until this year’s Egyptian Event, and I hope to absorb as much as possible. There is no doubt she is a tough act to follow, but that said, every person brings their own individual knowledge and capabilities to a position. While I know I cannot be “Anna,” I hope I will be a good fit for The Pyramid Society going forward. I do know that we are in challenging times when it comes to the equine world in general. But I have a true passion for the straight Egyptian, as well as the good fortune to have traveled and met so many breeders here and around the world, so I hope these experiences will help guide me as The Pyramid Society looks forward to its next fifty years!