Everyone in the equine industry or passionate about horses knows the Arabian horse is famous for its spirit. As intelligent, loyal, courageous creatures, they learn quickly (and sometimes even take it a step further), demonstrate excellent attentiveness and are notorious for carrying their tail in a high and proud flaglike manner, making for the ideal show horse.
Around the world, countries organize horse shows in many ways. Some separate them into classes – such as Hunter/Jumper, Dressage, English and Western – or according to breed, such as in the United States with the Region 8 Arabian Horse Show Championship.
Showing a horse takes tremendous work and patience for both the horse and the rider, not just in training, but in learning to communicate and understand what methods work best for both sides. The horse can only go so far to understand what its rider is asking it to do, and the rider can only talk and train so much to make the horse comprehend the maneuvers and skills. Therefore, it is critical to know it is not just a trainer-horse relationship, but a partnership which needs to be honed and improved so both may succeed in competition.
There are many different events in which a rider can compete. Under the Fédération équestre international (FEI), the ten international show competitions include combined driving, dressage, endurance riding, eventing, horseball, paraequestrianism (for disabled athletes), reining, show jumping, tent pegging, and vaulting.
What is most exciting and fun about attending horse shows is not just the competition, but also the enjoyment of having the same passion, grit and commitment, just like any other sport.
“First of all, it’s a great family activity,” said Carrie Cada, a National Champion in Hunter, Western, Reining, Country, Saddle Seat Equitation, and who has won top ten in almost every division. Now, she mostly does Country Pleasure and Hunter Pleasure classes. “It keeps the kids busy, and it teaches them responsibility, teaches them humility, to work hard, and to have lasting friendships from all over the United States and Canada.”
Cada discussed how the kids in her barn become each other’s best friends. They help each other, watch and encourage one another when competing, and play games and spend time together outside of the competition.
“They’re each other’s biggest cheerleaders,” Cada said.
Karlan Downing, much like the fierce-spirited Arabian, has had a passion for horses since she was four or five years old and has competed in various showing events since she was young.
“We’ve enjoyed the shows,” Downing said. “I like them. I like the competition. But even more important than the competition is going in and knowing that you’re doing the best job you can for the horse.”
Her experience encompasses everything from Western Pleasure to English-style riding.
“If you can do it on a horse, I enjoy doing it,” Downing said. “What we do mostly now is the Working Western divisions.”
With thousands of years of history around people and an amicable temperament, Arabians make for a wonderful companion, and with their strength, adaptability and grace, they are a great candidate for almost every horse-related sport.
“The thing that I love the most about the Arabians is that they just want a little more personal relationship with their person than most breeds do,” Downing said.
Arabians, contrary to many breeds, are by nature more sociable and versatile, which makes them an appropriate fit for nearly any rider – whether it is a kid learning to ride for the first time or a veteran rider who has competed for years. Because of the variety of events available at horse shows, it is a great opportunity for those who own purebred Arabians or Anglo-Arabians to demonstrate what these beautiful, devoted animals can do.
What makes horse shows unique is their ability to connect like-minded people and create a community of individuals who are passionate about their horses and the endless hard work and training to prepare for the competition.
“It’s something that brings people closer together, and it strengthens family ties,” Downing said.
Many who compete emphasize not only the fun and rewarding nature of the competition, but also that being part of these events builds relationships mirroring those of a team. Everyone in the community is tightly knit. They encourage others to do their best and transform the environment from competition-oriented to that of a supportive family whose focus is on each other’s progress and success. This dedicated sportsmanship is not seen in most sports and is something everyone should pursue to create a better future for those who love the sport, love the horses, and love the people who make it an enjoyable and gratifying experience.