Earlier in February, friends gathered to celebrate the extraordinary life of our dear friend Liz Salmon. Capturing the essence of such a driving force in the Arabian Horse industry who accomplished so much is not an easy task. We did our best to remember what Liz represented as we celebrated with deep gratitude all that we gained and learned from being a part of Liz’s amazing life.
Liz Salmon was truly committed to the whole world being united in our desire to breed and promote beautiful, athletic and good-minded horses. She travelled to 83 countries helping everyone she met to understand the qualities of a good horse in an effort to educate them about type, quality and other components of a quality horse. In addition to her traveling, she wrote many articles for almost every major Arabian Horse Publication both in the US and abroad on subjects such as conformation, type, movement, genetics and much more. She helped small breeders with educational seminars, clinics, open houses, horse shows – you name if you needed Liz you could count on her. Liz traveled to the Middle East, to Paris, and of course to every major US horse show. She taught by setting an example to always volunteer to help others, write, teach or go meet with your fellow breeders and help build the community. It’s the small breeders who really keep the community together.
There are certain things that Liz stood for beyond horses. First and foremost – it was important to her to do everything possible to ensure her friends success and peace of mind. Whenever she saw the opportunity to help a friend – she did. Carol Maginn recounts “Liz knew that I dreamed of being a professional equine photographer. She knew the photographers in the business who I worshipped – Scott Trees, Gigi Grasso, and a few others. She called me at work one day and said “Carol Guess who I’m with today? Gigi Grasso! He’s here and he wants to talk to you.” Can you imagine how stunned I was that day? Apparently Liz told Gigi how much I admired him and within seconds there was Gigi Grasso on the phone asking me to help him with a new project he had started called Arabian Essence. He asked me to help him with the Scottsdale coverage for the new e-Magazine. I don’t think I could think about my “real job” all day. Liz always made a commitment to help people with their most important dreams.
Liz had another friend some of you know– Denise Shannon. Denise dreamed of working as the farm manager for a great Arabian farm. One day Liz interviewed Denise for a position at LA Cabreah back before Denise had her final interview. Sure enough Liz was very confident of Denise’s abilities and recommended Denise who went on to work with the Zehrs and Psyche group. Denise later went on to work as the farm manager for what most would call the greatest Arabian horse training, breeding and promotion farm in the world – Michael Byatt Arabians. That was the thing about Liz – she would do everything possible to help any good friend who had a dream. Friends who shared with Liz what their dream were – could always count on her full support. In speaking to Denise this past week she said “Liz was a bright light in the darkness of this business. Always shining honestly and with the breed best interests at heart”. Liz always helped people advance their careers, their programs or their goals in life.
I am writing this article now 5 months after Liz’s passing, and I continue to find people she mentored and helped. One such person is Medhat Gaber from Egypt. I shared with him all the amazing things that Liz did to help others. Medhat got quiet for a few minutes and then said to me “I would like to share a recommendation that Liz gave me which has given me my start here as a marketing professional in Egypt”. As I read the recommendation, tears started to flow. The email was written to Dr. Nasr Marei – one of the most well thought of straight Egyptian Breeders in the world. She shared with Nasr how much it would mean if he would become a mentor to Medhat and how important she felt it was that young people be encouraged to take over from “us older ones” eventually. Today Medhat is employed by Dr. Marei at his famous Albadeia Stud in Egypt. In addition he had founded a new online magazine called Horsmunity designed to bring the horse community together online. I wonder how many other people out there had their first big opportunities because of Liz.
Liz was a very open minded person. She often debated with friends about national politics, but she always fought for everyone’s right to their own opinion. It was important to her that all of her friends spoke openly about their views, so that we learned from each other. Her lesson was to always be open minded and learn from your friends views (and also from your advisory’s views)
Although Liz was very open about the politics in Washington, the thing she hated most was politics in the show ring and in the breeding shed. She hated bloodline bias and encouraged all breeders to consider all bloodlines based on quality and to never exclude a line based on what was in fashion or political favor. I found this very courageous in a time when the horse market is faces numerous challenges. Liz’s message was clear – don’t judge a horse on pedigree alone. Consider all aspects when judging horse – but don’t limit yourself first by bloodlines – look at the whole horse.
Though Liz had both her judges’ card in the US and abroad, he eventually turned in her US Judging card because she refused to join the good old boys club and felt that it was only fair to judge a horse based on its individual merit rather than his ownership. She simply would not play politics. Liz also wouldn’t ever stay silent when she saw any kind unethical activities going on. Once while judging a show she noticed two judges comparing notes – a total show stopper for her. She immediately reported this questionable activity and faced severe political penalties. She didn’t care – she felt she had to stand up for what was fair and ethical.
At the US Nationals once Liz Salmon and Carol Maginn witnessed a trainer whipping a filly in the yearling class. She said “Carol we must say something. We cannot just stand by”. Recounts Carol “I was terrified – Liz asked me to report the trainer with her and I was not comfortable going public about a well known trainer. Of course Liz convinced me it was the right thing to do, and so I photographed the incident and she reported it to AHA. She never worried about the consequences to her politically. She cared more about the welfare of the horses”. That inhumane treatment happens every day at shows everywhere and many people just look the other way. That was just not Liz’s style. She could never just look the other way, and would always stand up for the humane treatment of horses.
For someone who claimed to not be a religious person, Liz’s philosophy on life embodied the best of all regions.
According to the Mormons, The purpose of life is to find joy and happiness. Liz had an amazing gift of finding the joy even in the most difficult situations. Throughout this corageous battle she always found things to be happy about. She loved her friends, her family and the whole Arabian horse community. On the Wednesday before her passing she shared her prognosis with Carol Maginn. Says Carol ” I asked her if she was afraid. She told me that for some reason she was not afraid at all, and that she loved life – even despite the situation. She said she couldn’t wait to open facebook and see what everyone one was doing and to read all the positive messages from all over the world. And she told me she was so glad I made it home safely”. Liz would always find the Joy and Happiness in Life. She was always positive and would never give up.
According to the Hindu’s Life is about repaying debts to the gods and their blessings though rituals and offerings, to parents and teachers by supporting them and passing along knowledge to others, to other human beings by treating them with respect, goodwill or any other help that is appropriate. No one shared more knowledge than Liz. So many breeders speak of how much they learned from sitting with her at the Egyptian Event, or Scottsdale or Paris. For years she sponsored tables in Paris so all of her fellow breeders could sit together and study the horses in each class. Her message to us was to share your knowledge and help everyone as much as you possibly can.
In Buddhism, the primary purpose of life is to end suffering. The Buddha taught that humans suffer because we continually strive after things that do not give lasting happiness. We desperately try to hold on to things – friends, health, material things – that do not last, and this causes sorrow. Don’t hang onto the past – look to the future. No matter what challenges you find you are suddenly facing – that you didn’t expect to have to deal with, don’t look to the past, find the joy in the future.
Although I agree with the Buddists philosophy in principal, I think we all would agree that the joy and the knowledge that Liz gave all of us will last forever.
**Written by : Carol Maginn & Medhat Gaber