Pure Bliss

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By Stephen Lega

Yassmin Atieh traveled from Egypt to visit Kentucky and Marion County over the weekend. She was clearly impressed by what she saw. "Kentucky is really wonderful," Atieh said. "For me, it's heaven. It's where all the good horses are." Atieh was among the dozens of visitors (including members of the U.S. Equestrian Team, see related story) at the farm of Bob and Nancy Bliss Sunday afternoon. The farm tour was the conclusion of the convention. Al Khampsa is an organization dedicated "to the preservation of the horses of Bedouin Arabia." The organization helps trace the lineage of horses back to the dessert. That is also part of the reason Atieh attended the convention. She knew members through online interactions, and the convention offered an opportunity for her to meet them in person. During the farm tour, Bob and Nancy Bliss introduced their horses to their visitors. Atieh said she saw many similarities to the horses on the Bliss farm and the horses of the Egyptian Agricultural Organization, the national registry of Egypt that is devoted to the preservation and promotion of pure Egyptian Arabians. "If it weren't for them [the EAO], we wouldn't have our horses," said Lisa Rettke of Crane, Mo. This year's Al Khampsa Convention was hosted in Lexington, and included a visit to the Kentucky Horse Park.  Jill Erisman of Bloomington, Ind., encouraged everyone to see the exhibit "A Gift from the Desert," which is all about Arabian horses, at the Kentucky Horse Park. It will be on display through the end of the World Equestrian Games. "It's an extraordinary exhibit," Erisman said. A farm tour concluded the Al Khampsa convention, and this year, it gave Marion County a chance to be on display as well. The visitors also got a taste of country life with ribeye sandwiches prepared by the Marion County Cattleman's Association.  Joe Ferriss of Quincy, Mich., provided the pedigree of each of the Bliss's horses as they were introduced. Ferris is a former Al Khampsa president and board member, and he has been involved with Arabian horses for 40 years. He said Bob and Nancy Bliss have put together a good group of horses. "They have a diversity of bloodlines, which gives them a diversity for future breeding," Ferriss said. He was equally complimentary of the rural setting. Ferris had been to Lexington previously for the Egyptian Event at the horse park, but he had never visited the central part of the state. "The Kentucky countryside is very beautiful," he said. At the end of the evening, Nancy Bliss said she enjoyed hosting visitors from across the country and the Middle East. "It was a lot of work and a lot of fun," she said. "I would do it again next year." And Atieh sounded like someone who would be willing to travel here again. "America is very, very beautiful with such kind and wonderful people," she said. But there is another draw for her as well. "Wherever there are horses," she said, "I'll be there."