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Liz Bentley: Judge, National Champion and Horse Addict

Liz Bentley comes from a family of horse addicts. From breeding to showing professionally and as a hobby, she is more than well-versed in the world of Arabian horses.

“As a family, we got into it when I was about five years old,” Bentley said. “We got a pony, of course. My sisters and brother then got another horse. We got involved in 4-H and started showing in local and open shows. Then we bred a Thoroughbred mare that was a Pleasure horse to an Arabian stallion, got our first Half-Arabian and started showing him in Class A.”

Bentley had just finished showing Khaberet PGA+//, a Multi-National Champion Western Pleasure and Sidesaddle horse.

“It was a family project,” Bentley said. “It was to keep the kids out of trouble. Keep them working and have leverage over them,” she added with a laugh. “It was effective, and it worked. I took it a step further. I was lucky.”

Bentley specializes in Western Pleasure and Hunter Pleasure, and she also does Show Hack. Although she has a background in English Pleasure, for the last 20 years she has enjoyed specializing in Western and Hunter Pleasure.

Her prodigious experience and boundless perseverance has led her to win several National Championships. Khaberet PGA was the unanimous National Champion Sidesaddle for the last two years, and he was the 2012 National Champion in Western Pleasure Open. She has also won National Championships in Hunter Pleasure, Western Pleasure and Half-Arabian Western Pleasure.

“It’s the only way I’d ever want to spend my life with horses and dogs,” Bentley said. “Especially Arabians. It’s just fun. It’s a challenging sport. The variables are innumerable, and when you master it or it all comes together, and you get to make those victory passes, it’s addicting and fun. The people involved that you go down the road with, compete with, or help achieve their goals with, are a lot of fun. You get really tight with them, and it’s like family. It’s a lot of support. It’s a hard way to make a living and hard work, but it’s also fun and rewarding.

“And the horses, especially Arabians and Half-Arabians, are so much fun to own,” Bentley added. “You can trail ride on them, and they’re personable, beautiful and versatile horses. Our family loves them.”

Even though Bentley and her family adored horses, Bentley admitted her favorite was the Arabian breed, especially Half-Arabians.

“Arabians were very intelligent, kind and forgiving,” Bentley said. “I was eight years old when he was born, and I had to be his trainer. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I just got on and tried, and he put up with me. They’re wonderful. We have a Quarter Horse, and I like them, but the personality on the Arabian won us over. And I like the people the best of the Arabians. They were friendly like the horses. So, it was a no-brainer for me. Arabians all the way and the Arabian people.”

She advised new and current riders to always keep improving, and keep an open mind about strengthening not just the horse, but the riders’ bodies as well.

“Just perseverance and patience,” Bentley said. “I try to get my clients that show to do inner core workouts, stretching and balancing. Not just riding horses, but they need inner core strength, balance and flexibility. Perseverance, patience and a good sense of humor will carry you far when you’re training and showing horses. I have to work on the last one.”

To further prove her love and admiration for the Arabian breed, Bentley is also an active AHA member.

“I’ve been an AHA member my whole life,” Bentley said. “I’ve been active as a delegate in the past, I’m on a committee, and I’m a judge. So, I’m active in AHA. I’ve been a judge for almost 30 years.”

When recounting her years of dedication in the judging world, she recalled all her experiences as being positive.

“It’s a good way to travel, meet other horse people, have a good time, and judge beautiful horses,” Bentley said.

As someone who has been in the industry for years, Bentley loves judging not only to improve herself, but to help others as well.

“I love it because I like to judge one week and go show next week,” Bentley said. “I think it makes me a better competitor. When I’m judging, I think it makes me a more compassionate judge because I understand the pain of what you go through. It makes you more human.”

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