The Judges Speak


Unanimous Champion Stallion, Aria Rakeem (FA El Rasheem x *MD Hibat Allah).

“All along we agreed that we would not show Rakeem until he was ready, “says co-manager of the Rakeem Partnership, Greg Knowles. “We vowed to take our time and not push him. The primary focus was the foals. His first show as a mature stallion prior to the 2023 Scottsdale show, was the 2022 National Breeder Finals where he was named unanimous 2022 Senior Supreme Champion Stallion. At that show, Rakeem did everything right –  he was bright and pretty and solid. Trainer Rudolfo Guzzo came out of the ring and said, ‘He is the best horse in terms of desire and try that I have ever worked with. Let’s take him to Scottsdale.’

“So we got him ready. I was a neurotic mess. Especially after Guzzo got hurt at Nationals. Andy Sellman showed Rakeem in the age class, and then we gave him to Ricardo Rivero to show, and he did an amazing job. And he was unanimous.

“What’s so fun is when something you believe has been affirmed by the community. It is amazing to be anointed by the judges and how the world perceives it at that point.

“So Rakeem is home and breeding like a crazy man. There are lots of good foals coming along, and some standouts. I believe he could be an icon in the breed. He’s beautiful, 15.2 hands, he’s got a short back, beautiful hip, great shoulder, and great legs placed where they should be. Rakeem has the potential to help so many of the mares we see today.

“And he’s kind. He’s a good boy.”
Unanimous Champion Scottsdale Signature Stallion Yearling Filly ATH and AOTH, Seraphic K (Dominic M x Vixxen K).
Champion Senior Mare, Alesia ENB (Atticus ENB x Aliyah Vision PCF) with Alcides Rodrigues for Rae-Dawn Arabians.
By Denise Hearst

Jeff and Roxanne Schall judged the International and Scottsdale Signature Stallion Half-Arabian Mares and Geldings, respectively. We think they probably speak for all the judges when they say, “Judging the 2023 Scottsdale Show gave us the feeling that we are now and forever a part of the illustrious history of this event. The experience surpassed any prior expectations that we may have had. We were overcome with a great sense of appreciation for the show committee, fellow judges, exhibitors, breeders and the wonderful horses that unite and bond all of us!”

Judge Tracey Lynch was judging Scottsdale for the first time, serving on one of the halter panels. “I couldn’t have asked for better people to judge my first Scottsdale with — Lisa Blackstone and Duane Esser,” she says.

“My favorite class was the Stallion Championship. The Reserve Champion, Aria La Croixx (Delacroixx x La Belle Shawan HVP), was equally as beautiful as the unanimous Champion Aria Rakeem (FA El Rasheem x *MD Hibat Allah).

“Aria Rakeem just took my breath away. It made me take a step back…the way that he was standing there showing, nostrils flaring…he knew what he was there to do. It was a huge honor to be in the arena with those beautiful stallions. The charisma as they came in  what’s not to love about that?

“I really enjoyed the Scottsdale Signature Stallion Yearling Filly ATH class; to my knowledge it was the biggest class of the show. There were two sections, which we judged outside in Wendell. The finals were Sunday morning, and were moved indoors into the South Hall. There were some beautiful fillies in that class — the Top Five fillies were phenomenal and my panel was unanimous. We were unanimous on half of the classes we judged, which was a neat feeling, especially for me, judging Scottsdale for the first time! The Champion, Seraphic K (Dominic M x Vixxen K), was an unknown to us. She also won the Auction AOTH class, once again shown by her breeder/owner, Katie McGregor of Snohomish, Washington. One of the most special moments for me was when, after we were done judging, Katie came up to us, in tears, and thanked us for pinning her filly. So of course I started crying. We didn’t know her connection to the filly until the announcer laid it all out for us.”

Champion Short Stirrup Reining JTR 10 & Under, Whata Doc Bar TR (What It Takes. x Smokums Miss Doc Bar) with Natalie Gaylord.

With her four big brothers, parents, and trainer Colby Powell cheering her on, ten-year-old Natalie Gaylord was named Scottsdale Champion Junior Exhibitor 10 & Under Walk/Trot. She also won Champion Half-Arabian Western Pleasure JTR Walk/Jog 10 & Under and Champion Half-Arabian Western Seat Equitation Walk/Jog JTR 10 & Under with Fixations Khash (Fixation x Khaadi). 

“His nickname is Khash, but we have other nicknames for him like ‘Garbarge Disposal’ and ’T-Rex,’” says Natalie. “My favorite thing about him is that he’s a goofball.” Natalie’s mother, also named Natalie, adds, “He’s a clown, and he’s so much fun to be around. But once you get on him, he is a different creature altogether. So soft in the bridle and so smooth to ride.”

With Whata Doc Bar TR (What It Takes x Smokums Miss Doc Bar), also known as “Teddy,” Natalie won Champion Arabian/Half-Arabian Short Stirrup Reining JTR 10 & Under. “I watch her ride Teddy, and he’s real rangy with real open motion. She can sit that motion like nobody’s business,” says her mother, Natalie. “She and that horse are magic together.” Adds little Natalie, “I love going fast on him. I like the run down and stop. He’s a big mover.”

This is Natalie’s fourth year of showing – she started riding when she was seven – and she’s already a five-time National Champion. “I think Arabians are a kind, loving breed,” she says. “And they are beautiful.”
Leah Perczak rode the gorgeous chestnut Sky High LR (Majesteit x Nottalooza) to AHPA Champion Half-Arabian Hunter Pleasure AOTR Jackpot, their second championship in the hunter classes at Scottsdale.

“A good friend of mine, Karen Bliha, bought him as a two-year-old,” says Leah. “I told her at the time that if he is ever for sale, to come to me first. The timing worked out when we were looking for a Half-Arabian hunter. He was four when we bought him; he is eight now. He started his show career with Sally Randle, and he is with Wendy Potts now.”

We asked Leah if she agrees with Bruce McCrea’s observation that the hunters are progressing faster than some other disciplines. “In the Half-Arabian hunter division, we are seeing more diversity because people are outcrossing to so many other breeds…Warmbloods, Friesians, and others,” she said. “Sky High is by Majesteit, who brings in Saddlebred and Dutch Harness Horse lines. As we integrate all these different breeds into the Half-Arabian, we’re getting big cadenced motion and beautiful necks. I appreciate how our industry has embraced big moving hunters. Over the past 20 years, we have moved toward hunters being lighter on the bridle.  Our horses are more upright and freer through the shoulder. It’s what I look for in a hunter.

“Sky High, aka ‘Bodie’ is about 16 hands, and really built. He’s incredibly smooth to ride. You could sit a full-speed trot because he’s so smooth and so equal on all four legs. He has a big personality. His former owner called him a ‘land shark.’ He’s very funny, very social. He is a barn favorite — he is in your face all the time. He wants to be in everybody’s business.”

Leah and her mother, Mari – both attorneys – enjoy showing together. “We’ve always shared horses. I am so fortunate that we do – it’s so much more fun.” 

Bruce McCrea has judged Scottsdale more times than he can count. And his mother, Lois McCrea, has been a member of the AHAA Board of Directors since 1985.

“It’s always impressive to see how the Scottsdale show can have that many horses and so many arenas going on at the same time,” says Bruce. “Everything seems to work. It’s an impressive show. This year I was on panel 4, which I’ve never done before. The first five days were the kids, which was fun  some really talented riders on some great horses. I praise the kids, they did a fantastic job. They were on great horses and were turned out properly.

“One of my favorites of the show was Natalie Gaylord, who was High Point Junior Exhibitor Walk/Trot 10 & Under. She had a Half-Arabian western horse, Fixations Khash (Fixation x Khaadi), that was stunning. She also won Champion Short Stirrup Reining JTR 10 & Under riding Whata Doc Bar TR (What It Takes x Smokums Miss Doc Bar).

“Our English, western, and hunter horses have gotten very specialized with specific pedigrees that people are seeking, in part, because of the futurity programs. Our hunters are progressing faster than any other discipline. AHPA Champion Half-Arabian Hunter Pleasure AOTR Jackpot, Sky High LR (Majesteit x Nottalooza), ridden by Leah Perczak, certainly embodied the elevated standard. It was an outstanding class. The AHPA does an outstanding job promoting the hunters.

“On Saturday night we judged one of my favorite classes of the show – Country Pleasure Elite AATR, sponsored by the Conways. It was won by Dancing On Heir (Afires Heir x DD My Dance) and Lindsay O’Reilly French, of Springfield, Missouri.”

Scottsdale Champion Signature Stallion Western Pleasure Futurity Whiskey Girl KM (Khadillac PGA x PF Kool Elise), owned by Suzanne Acevedo, Magnolia, Texas, and ridden by Joe Reser.

“She had an incredible go. Still, I was shocked when they called her,” says Suzanne Acevedo of Whiskey Girl. “Can you believe that Scottsdale was the first show in her entire little life? And she was unanimous; it was unbelievable. She’s a cutie. Joe Reser found her when I was looking for a purebred western horse. We saw a rough video of her and I thought she looked beautiful. Her face is so pretty. She joined us in Texas last summer, and we started getting her ready for Scottsdale. In the class for three- and four-year-old junior horses, she had two seconds and a first. She is now getting ready for the AWPA.”

Both Suzanne and her husband grew up on cattle ranches in Idaho, Wyoming and Utah. We asked Suzanne how Arabian horses entered her life. “On my family’s side it was all Quarter Horses. But one summer I was working at a county fair and met two brothers who had Arabs. They introduced me to their *Raffles-bred gelding and I rode and showed him all summer. My husband’s family had a ranch in Wyoming, and his grandpa told him that Arabian horses were amazing, and always spoke very highly of them, even though he didn’t have any at that time. When we got married, my husband already loved Arabians; in fact, he didn’t even want Quarter Horses on the place. He has been a great supporter of our Arabians. Our daughters are now college age and older. We showed for years with our black western mare that we bought in Las Vegas. We all showed her, and did it all on our own. We top tenned at Scottsdale  and won several Regionals with this mare. She packed us all. She did leadline and  walk/jog with the girls, and and amateur with me. She’s 27 now.”
Here is Sophie Yih with her Equitation partner CF Bella Luna. Sophie also won six Championships in show hack, country pleasure, and the AHA medal and saddle seat equitation classes.  As Sophie said, “It is a privilege to ride the Arabian horse – one of the most intelligent and gifted horses in the world. Their intelligence, athleticism, and sensitivity have taught me so much about the art of horsemanship and have helped me become a better rider. These magnificent creatures are truly a gift and have definitely enriched my life with their beauty, grace, and spirit. I’m forever grateful for the lessons they have taught me.” 

Mary Trowbridge

“I was on Panel 4, which was a wonderful fun panel to be on,” says Mary Trowbridge. “I did the youth western pleasure and hunter pleasure classes, and a lot of the amateur western, some country, and the AHPA class. It was great to be judging again – it had been awhile, since 2019, due to COVID. I’m looking forward to judging Nationals this year, too.

My favorite horse I judged was the Champion Scottsdale Signature Western Pleasure Whiskey Girl KM (Khadillac PGA x PF Kool Elise), ridden by Joe Reser for Suzanne Acevedo. She’s absolutely beautiful. She was exquisite. Refreshing. Exciting to see something by a different stallion. She was a beautiful moving mare at all three gaits. There was no tension, no pressure. She was absolutely my favorite horse. A beautiful class as well.

“One thing I’ve got to say after my experience at Scottsdale: I don’t want to hear people say there are no young trainers coming up in this breed. The depth of talent in the up-and-coming trainers are second to none. And they are getting great educations with a lot of good horsemen. Some that come to mind are the Powell brothers, Wyatt Budd, and the person who impressed me the most, Zane Bucher. He works for Greg Harris, and he’s gotten a great grounding from a number of different individuals. His horses were beautifully presented. They are all really good horsemen. There is a plethora of others coming up that could be mentioned.

“That was my favorite part of the show — the depth of the young talent, and the resiliency of my peers who are still in there knocking heads, working hard, bringing home the bacon,  and putting on a show.

“Looking at the junior ranks, High Point Champion Junior Exhibitor Sophie Yih showed a number of horses to us, and her ringmanship and talent made her a standout. She gave it her all coming through the gate. She was a joy to watch and to judge. She has passion and horsemanship and certainly nice horses…but they are only as good as their rider’s exhibit and treat and ride them. I think it’s important for us as judges to recognize that, too.

“There were other great riders that weren’t on the best horses and I hope they found a place on my card because they put in the performance. That’s the challenge. We all have to realize that every moment changes, every class changes, even in halter  horses change from class to class. And then it’s a matter of what our eye has time to take in.”