A Mover & Shaker In The Arabian Sport Horse Scene: Kaye Phaneuf
We don’t come across a mover and a shaker every day, but that’s exactly what Kaye is! She has been instrumental in moving and shaking to make Arabian Dressage an established discipline within the breed and within her region of the Pacific Northwest.
Kaye’s journey to the horse world was different than most people’s. Her journey started with books. Growing up in Michigan at a time when pleasure horses were in decline, riding opportunities were scarce. However, she discovered the library and soaked up every book that had anything to do with equines, especially Arabians. By the time she was in fifth grade, Kaye and her best friend agreed that someday they would have Arabians and that “If it isn’t Arabian, it isn’t a horse.” Her love of Arabians would carry long into her career.
Fast forward 20+ years and Kaye found herself on a road trip to watch the Arkansas Derby, where her girlfriend explained the concept of horse leasing and challenged her: “If you don’t do this now, you’re never going to do it.” On return to Kansas City she found an Arabian breeding facility near her home, leased her first horse and started her first riding lessons. She was 35.
Eventually, her husband’s job moved them to Oregon, and Kaye moved her horse with the family. In Oregon, she got settled to an Arabian barn where they were doing dressage. Now, Arabians were just starting to do dressage at this time, and Kaye, though admittedly not the best rider, just loved learning this new style. She joined the local dressage chapter and a local Arabian club, and became active in both.
Kaye’s life was not only about horses. In fact, she had a whole business based on her Mackintosh computer. She taught classes, did desktop publishing, created newsletters and more for her clients. And, the more she got involved in her local chapters and local shows, the more she realized that she could apply her professional expertise to the shows. She saw the way shows were being run with 3×5 cards and spiral-bound notebooks and figured that there had to be a way to use computers to organize them! Thus, began her career as a show secretary and how she got involved in the dynamics of the show structures.
Over time, Kaye’s involvement in the show organization led her to some pretty neat opportunities to help develop sport horses in the Arabian world. She started out simply serving as a delegate to the AHA conventions, learning the rules, learning the reasons behind the rules, and hearing the discussions of the association.
From the late 1980’s to the early 2000’s, Kaye heavily campaigned for more opportunities for Arabian dressage in shows. In 1996, Kaye was part of the group that put on the first Arabian dressage show, which was a cooperative venture between two clubs in two different regions. She says the USEF didn’t know what to do with them because this show was so out of the box! She even helped form a new Arabians in Motion club, which was a purely sport horse club. This club was the largest club in the region and focused solely on Arabian Sport Horses.
Kaye is currently the Vice-chair of the AHA Sport Horse Committee, and has previously served as the Chair of AHA Dressage Committee. She has been going to AHA’s convention since the 1980’s, getting to help form regulations, rules, and shape the industry.
As a competitor, she started asking questions of the stewards and technical delegates. She eventually got small ‘r’ and large ‘R’ Dressage Technical Delegate licenses, Vaulting Technical Delegates’ license, FEI Level 1 Dressage Stewards License, and her C2 Stewards card. She likes getting to be a TD because it gets her out of the show office and out in the arena near the horses and riders. She feels like she gets to enjoy the shows that much more! Kaye has also apprenticed with a wide variety of different people from all over the country to help get a well-rounded perspective of the sport.
More recently, Kaye has worked alongside Gwen Blake at Donida Farms to help execute some of the top shows in the regions. Three years ago, Gwen was asked to host the AHA Region 5 Sport Horse Championship show. No one had asked a private individual to take on a regional championship show, but their offer was, “you take the risk, you take the profits.” They’ve been doing it now for three years and it’s grown to a four-day, all-Arabian, sport horse-only show, with four competition rings running at once. The show is always the weekend after Memorial Day and this year they had 165 horses between pre-show and championships from Canada, Montana, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington. This show is second in size only to the Sport Horse National show! After the success of the Region 5 show, Region 4 is now testing out Gwen’s farm to host their show, which is a historic move for the region to take a show outside of the region itself. Kaye has been there with these core shows alongside Gwen and loves being part of this legacy in the Arabian horse world!
Kaye has been integral in putting Arabian Sport Horses on the map. In the words of a local judge, it’s due to her “shameless promotion of the breed.” Kaye feels strongly that the Arabian –purebred, Half- or Anglo- — should be taken seriously as a sport horse. It’s a versatile , “jack of all trades” type of breed. If you want to be an Olympian, you probably won’t do it on an Arabian, but there’s nothing stopping you from competing successfully in a fun, rewarding, supporting atmosphere. Kaye’s mission continues: to grow opportunities for the amazing sport horse that she has loved since she was a little girl!
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