US Nationals: The Judges Speak


Champion Half-Arabian Park GSF Alejandro (VCP Magnifire x Gingers Dance), owned by Bill Castro, Kettering, Ohio, and shown by Matt Siemon.

“Thank you for including us in your wonderful coverage on GSF Alejandro’s eight consecutive National Championships,” says Bill Castro. “This does not include a total of 19 U.S. and Canadian open and amateur National Championships.

“This year‘s win was so much more emotional than even the first one. This horse is so special and the relationship that he, Matt, and I have together is unbelievable. To be unanimous under three well-respected National judges was even that much more special. I look forward to being in those stirrups for the coming 2023 show season!”
Champion Half-Arabian English Pleasure AAOTR 50 & Over Emperors Fire (Afire Bey V x Ritida), owned by Starline Arabians LLC, Rancho Santa Fe, California, and ridden by Lori Lawrence.

Emperors Fire is a 6-time U.S. National Champion and Reserve Champion. His epic career spanned from his three-year-old year, when he was named unanimous U.S. National Champion Half-Arabian English Futurity horse all the way until he topped off at 14 years old with one last National Championship with Lori Lawrence in the irons, in an incredible Half-Arabian English AAOTR 55 and Over class.

Emperor never left a U.S. Nationals without at least one set of roses. Joel Kiesner garnered five National wins with him, including being undefeated in the open three times, Nicole took home nine sets of roses, beginning with the maturity two years in a row, and winning or coming in Reserve every other time she showed him until 2021. Lori was the catch rider when Nicole had her two children, Opal and Knox, and had the privilege of taking the last lap around the National’s arena with red roses across his shoulders once again.

“Special thanks to Victor Botha and Jim Stachowski for helping us extend this magnificent animal’s career under your care and guidance,” says Lori. “We know he holds a special place in both of your hearts as well as ours. I hope Emperor is remembered as one of the greatest of all time because in our hearts he has earned that title in and out of the ring. He is simply the kindest, most trustworthy boy, who always gave 110 per cent no matter who was in the saddle, and brought a deep measure of joy to Nicole, our family, and all who worked with him.”
Emperors Fire (Afire Bey V x Ritida) with Lori Lawrence and her daughter, Nicole Chapparone.
Emperors Fire (Afire Bey V x Ritida) with Lori Lawrence and her daughter, Nicole Chapparone.
Champion Junior Stallion Rhan Al Shahania (*Marwan Al Shaqab x Jwaaher Al Shahania), owned by Al Shahania Stud, Doha, Qatar, and shown by Michael Byatt.
Champion in English Trail, Western Trail AATR Select, Western Trail Derby, Ranch Horse Rail Pleasure Open and AAOTR 19-54, and English Trail AAOTR M Gettin Er Dun (SVS Fornaio x Otoes Gold In Motion), owned by Erin Moore, Evergreen, Colorado, and shown by Jim Hitt and Erin Moore.

“The 2022 U.S. Nationals made my dreams come true thanks to a very special Half-Arabian horse named M Gettin Er Dun (SVS Fornaio x Otoes Gold In Motion) ‘Stormy’ and the best trainer out there, Jim Hitt,” says Erin Moore. “My parents brought me to watch my first Nationals back in 1996, and I have been dreaming of the roses ever since. In total we took home six National Championships this year, along with four more Top Tens (two of which were third place).

I’m not sure there is another horse who has won that many at one horse show. That’s what makes working western so much fun — you can take one horse and compete in so many different events. My biggest thanks and credit goes to Mignon Stetman, C.D. Harbridge, Jim Hitt, and of course my family for their never-ending support. Mignon introduced me to the working western world and told me about the opportunity to start riding Stormy. C.D. encouraged me to show up for this year’s Nationals and do my best no matter the outcome. Jim worked tirelessly to get us ready for so many different classes. And of course, to Stormy, the ‘little mare that could,’ who gave it her all for each go. We ride horses to have connections, and this U.S. Nationals brought me together not only with an incredible mare, but an unforgettable barn family. Dreams do come true if you stay the course.”
M Gettin Er Dun and Jim Hitt.
by Denise Hearst

Richard Wright, of Fox Lake, Illinois, has been in the Arabian business in various roles from exhibitor, trainer, coach and judge for over 40 years. He won his first U.S. National Top Ten in 1972 with a Half-Arabian mare. “To this day I apologize to her for not knowing then what I know now.”

Richard was a member of the English judging panel at the 2022 U.S. Nationals. Among the highlights for him was seeing the Half-Arabian GSF Alejandro (VCP Magnifire x Gingers Dance) win his eighth consecutive U.S. National Championship in Half-Arabian Park. In addition he has won three U.S. National Half-Arabian ATR championships as well as numerous Canadian National Championships to date in his 11-year National career.

Another class that thrilled Richard was the Half-Arabian English Pleasure AOTR 50 and Over class, in which Lori Lawrence rode Champion Emperors Fire (Afire Bey V x Ritida),  Joe Kinnarney won the Reserve Championship with RGT Mercury Rising (Afire Bey V x Styling Time), and two Top Ten winners, Carol Skeuse-Hart on SF Top Notch (Vegaz x Mona), and Lori Foster aboard Pistachio PF (Undulatas Nutcracker x VTM Pistachia), each delivered thrilling performances. “Those were four statement horses,” Richard says. “It was an unusual circumstance in which each of those horses was ahead at some point in the class. All are superb, otherworldly. That class was indicative of the overall quality of the show.”

But perhaps the most moving moment of the show was when a perpetual trophy in memory of the late Ty Wallis was awarded to the Western Pleasure Champion Gazali VC (Aria Egzalt x VC Couture), ridden by Skylar Powell, who lost his mother, LaRae Powell, in the summer. “For so many reasons I felt the open Western Championship became the heart of what our shows should represent. A trophy given in honor of a revered colleague no longer with us awarded to another who has also experienced recent tragedy. In a class full of excellent horses and riders that could be legitimately pinned in any number of ways, the support and true sportsmanship exhibited was both humbling and uplifting and something that I will NEVER forget. For me that was a benchmark we should all try to equal, and seldom can.”

“This was my first time judging halter at the Nationals,” says judge Kim Morgan of Pilot Point, Texas. “I was humbled, honored, and a bit overwhelmed. I wanted to do a good job. I loved my fellow judges, Donnie Bullock and Brian Ferguson. Those showmen were unbelievable; I was so proud of everybody. For the most part they were quiet and effective, and showed their horses in a dignified way. John Powell kept order in the ring. He’s a horseman, so he can tell if a horse is acting up and needs correction, or if someone was close to doing more than they needed to. For the benefit of the public it’s important that we honor our horses. We judges talked about how refreshing it was to see the handlers do the job they did. It made us all so happy.

“The Futurity Filly class included at least four fillies that could have been at the top of the class. There was not a filly in there that I would not have been thrilled to bring home.

“The Junior Stallion class was a tough one. It was right down to the wire for me, because the two stallions that I had at the top both had great qualities. As I’m walking in I’m thinking, ‘OK, I have to make this decision.’ I had sorted out everybody else, but I’ve got those two…as I walked around I looked down the rail and Michael Byatt’s horse, *Rhan Al Shahania (*Marwan Al Shaqab x Jwaaher Al Shahania), was standing there, not showing. And the things that I loved about him looked even better. He was just standing there, relaxed, and I thought, ‘Wow. That speaks volumes.’

“Rhan and the Reserve Champion, Soul of Marwan AS (*Marwan Al Shaqab x RD Challs Angel), were both beautiful for different reasons. When Soul of Marwan lined up in front of us, I shook handler Sandro Pinha’s hand in congratulations. He was catch handling for Rodolfo Guzzo, who had been injured earlier in the show. Sandro mentioned that it had been eight years to the day when he had shown Soul of Marwan to National Champion Yearling. So he had a history with that horse, but when you change up the whole deal, it’s all so different for the horse. I was glad to see the horse show so beautifully.

“It was an exciting show and I was so honored to be a part of that, and to witness the great job the handlers did.”

Trail Judge Jeff Lee, of Stanwood, Washington, says the highlight for him was the Half-Arabian mare M Gettin Er Dun (SVS Fornaio x Otoes Gold In Motion), owned by Erin Moore, of Evergreen, Colorado, and trained by Jim Hitt. She won six championships including three in amateur classes: English Trail Open and AAOTR, Western Trail AATR Select, Western Trail Derby, and Ranch Horse Rail Pleasure Open and AAOTR 19-54.

“I really liked the trail course designs by Tim Curry,” Jeff notes. “Some designers try to trick the horses. To me it makes the horse look bad. Sure, there were still penalties in these courses, but the horses all looked good doing it. Tim wants the horses to succeed.”

Jeff also observed that the ranch riding and ranch pattern classes have been wonderful additions to our breed. “The ranch rail and the ranch pattern classes give people an opportunity to show at the National level, and you don’t need a $30,000 saddle to compete. People have fun, the pressure isn’t so bad, and they’re not trying to crunch those horses together. It’s really good for some of those horses that don’t want to be crunched together and bridled up the way people think they need to be for pleasure classes. They are so much happier and they move better. That’s been a great event for our horses.

“A good example is multi-National Champion Western Pleasure Khaberet PGA (*Khadraj NA x RA Kela), trained by Liz Bentley.  She had a lameness issue with him, and started showing him in ranch classes, and the horse started to get really happy and sound doing his job. Khaberet PGA was 2022 U.S. National Reserve Champion in Arabian Ranch Horse Rail Open and Top Ten in Arabian Ranch Riding, for the owners, Nancy and Bob Risen, of Murrieta, California, with Liz. He was the 2021 U. S. National Champion in Ranch Horse Rail Pleasure.”