Good breeding

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Arabian horses, Marion County will be featured during convention

By Stephen Lega

Nancy Bliss was first introduced to Arabian horses through Leadership Lebanon-Marion County, and her love for them has only grown since a visit to a Bradfordsville farm nearly 10 years ago.   That's when she met a mare named Kamirah.

"I fell in love with it and bought it," she said.

Today, Bliss and her husband, Bob, have 13 Arabians, as well as several large dogs, which any visitor to their farm learns quickly upon arrival.

Next month, the Blisses will have the opportunity to showcase their horses during the annual Al Khamsa Convention, which is scheduled for Sept. 10-12 in Lexington. Part of this year's event will include a visit to AraBliss Arabians horse farm, located on Sam Browning Road.

Al Khamsa is an organization devoted to the preservation of the Arabian horse. The convention will coincide with a special exhibit about Arabians at the Kentucky Horse Park and will be held a few weeks before the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (Sept. 25-Oct. 10), the premier equestrian event in the world.

Just as the Kentucky Horse Park is preparing for a global audience next month, Bliss is looking forward to hosting international guests. She knows the Al Khamsa Convention will include participants from Canada, Europe, Jordan and throughout the United States.

"I think people will be very impressed when they come out here," Bliss said, referring to Marion County in general.

She's planning to give them a taste of Kentucky culture as well. She's planning to serve barbecue that evening.

But the Al Khamsa event is about the Arabians, and Bliss does not hide her affinity for the breed.

That affection appears to be reciprocated when she visits with her horses. They nuzzle with her when she comes near, and it's clear that is something Bliss appreciates.

"If I'm having a down day or night, I can just come out here," she said.

She praises the horses for their temperament, their intelligence and their beauty, adding that they have a "big heart" and a willingness to please.

She explained that like other social animals, Arabians have a hierarchy with an alpha mare at the head of the group. (Bliss's two stallions are kept separate from the females and her one gelding.)

On the Blisses' farm, the alpha mare is a white horse named Mimrah. She is 16, and one of her foals, Aleah, 2, is also on the farm. Mimrah is also pregnant after she was bred with a stallion from a farm in Texas.

Bliss said she has done some preservation breeding, which kept alive a particular bloodline, but she said she mostly breeds for confirmation.

She added that Arabians are also a versatile breed. They will likely be represented in almost all of the eight disciplines during the World Equestrian Games, she said.

"Once they understand what you want, they are very willing," Bliss said.

According to Bliss, all breeds of light horses (such as thoroughbreds and quarterhorses) came from Arabians, which go back to the Bedouin tribes in the Middle East.

These origins are celebrated in "A Gift from the Desert: The Art, History and Culture of the Arabian Horse," a special display that will be at the Kentucky Horse Park through the end of the World Equestrian Games. According to the horse park's website, the display and an symposium will examine the impact of horses - and Arabians, in particular - on Near Eastern culture.

For Bliss, who moved to Marion County from Massachusetts, the Arabians have become an integral part of her life.

"They've cost me a lot of money over the years," she said with a laugh.

But somehow, it's easy to think that she doesn't mind.

"I'm sure out there somewhere, there is an Arabian with an attitude," Bliss said. "But I've never met one."