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November 25, 2015     
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Frequently Asked Questions

What types of classes are seen at Arabian horse shows?

Horse Shows

In order to compete at the highest levels, both professional and serious amateur riders spend a lot of time on the road traveling from show to show working their way through competitive events at the major regional and national shows.

The participants include a ringmaster who coordinates the classes and keeps everything moving along. Judges rate and rank each horse and select the winners. The stewards are chartered with enforcing the rules. Most officials are licensed by the American Horse Shows Association, the governing body for most American horse shows.

Arabians are well known for their ability to show their stuff during competition in horse shows. If you believe your horse has the ability, action, and looks to be a winner, the best way to find out is to enter a horse show. You could go home with some ribbons or even a trophy. Keep in mind that horse shows are offered at many levels from novice to professional.

There are local Arabian-only shows where participants qualifying for the "regional" and "national" levels. At "open shows," Arabians compete along side other breeds in a wide variety of classes.

Arabian Horse Shows

Each class has to follow certain procedures that are defined by US Equestrian Federation, in conjunction with AHA. The rules are written and amended by the action of the AHA annual convention and submitted to US Equestrian Federation. Click Here, to view the rules for showing.

All Arabian horses participating in the AHA sanctioned shows must be registered with the AHA, The Canadian Arabian Horse Registry. Proof of registration is submitted to the horse show secretary at the time of entry.

The Arabian Horse Association approves more than 400 Arabian shows each year around the country. For those who want to compete at the highest levels, AHA offers 18 regional and several national events, including the U.S. Nationals.

Other national events conducted by AHA include the Canadian National Championship, Youth Nationals, and the Youth Judging Contest. Arabian only shows are managed at the local level by one of 270 local clubs.

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Breeding/Halter Classes

Arabian Halter horses are shown at halter in a light headstall or halter with a throat latch. The handler is allowed to carry a whip or crop, but it is not mandatory. Handlers may also use enticements such as carrots or grass to maintain the horse's attention. If a whip is used, it can be no longer than 6' in length including the snapper or lash. Excessive use of the whip will result in penalty or elimination.

The horses are presented to the judge in hand at a walk and trot. In colt-stallion and filly-mare classes, the horses are judged on the following criteria, presented here in order of importance:

  • Type, which are the standards of the breed that define the Arabian horse and set it apart from other breeds.
  • Conformation, which is how the horse is put together, the relationship of form to function.
  • Suitability as a breeding animal, for example, a stallion 2 years and older must have both testicles descended. Any transmissible weakness will be considered a fault in a breeding animal.
  • Quality, such as condition of skin and coat, weight and fitness, grooming.
  • Movement, which includes freedom of stride, style and way of going.
  • Substance, such as density of bone and muscle.
  • Manners, or the horse's behavior in the ring.
  • Presence, an awake and aware attitude.

Additional halter classes include:

Get of Sire or Produce of Dam - an entry is made up of at least two horses entered under the name of the sire or the dam. These classes are judged on reproductive likeness, uniformity, quality of breed characteristics, conformation and similarity.

Most Classic Arabian - open to mares, stallions and geldings over two years of age. This class is judged on Type, presence, animation, carriage and conformation.

Classic Head - open to mares, stallions and geldings over two years of age. The horses are shown in a plain, unmarked sheet or cooler. They line up in the center of the ring and are judged on entirely on the breed type of the head. Correctness of the bite is also considered.

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Performance Classes

Arabian horses are shown in virtually every capacity imaginable with the exception of gaited classes. Show ring opportunities under English tack include: Park, Pleasure, Country Pleasure, Hunter Pleasure, Show Hack, Hunter, Jumper, Dressage and Roadster Under Saddle. The Arabian Western horse can be shown in Western Pleasure, Reining, Working Cow, Cutting, Trail and Western Riding. The junior exhibitor is offered Equitation classes in Saddle Seat, Hunt Seat and Stock Seat as well as Showmanship and Western Riding.

English Pleasure horses give a distinct appearance of being a pleasure to ride and display a pleasurable attitude. They are ridden in informal saddle seat attire at a walk, trot, canter, and hand gallop. English Pleasure horses are judged on manners, performance attitude quality and conformation.

Country English Pleasure are meant to give the appearance of being a pleasure to ride and display a pleasurable attitude. They are ridden in informal saddle seat attire at a walk, trot, canter and gallop. These horses have a quiet, responsive mouth and move with willingness, obvious ease, cadence, balance and smoothness. Country English Pleasure horses are judged on attitude, manners, performance, quality and conformation.

Hunter Pleasure horses, as with other pleasure classes, give the appearance of being a pleasure to ride while displaying a pleasant, relaxed attitude. They are ridden in informal, hunter style attire at a walk, trot, canter, and gallop. The stride is regular, unconstrained and with good reach. Hunter Pleasure horses are judged on manners, performance, suitability as a hunter, quality and conformation.

Park Horses are ridden in informal saddle seat attire. The walk, trot and canter are distinguished by an animated motion. The horse drives forward with the hind legs, resulting in an airy and light front end. The resulting natural animation is meant to appear effortless. Park horses are judged on brilliant performance, presence, quality, manners and conformation.

English Show Hack horses are not necessarily dressage horses nor are they English Pleasure horses. A Show hack must be a well-trained animal showing balance, vitality, animation, presence and quality. Acceptable hack attire is required. This includes a conservative colored coat, breeches and boots. Formal attire of top hat and white breeches and tails can be worn. They are ridden at a normal, collected, and extended walk, trot, canter, and at hand gallop. The show hack horse is judged on manners, performance, quality and conformation.

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Western Classes

The western or stock-seat classes require the horse and rider to employ movements that model the work and activities of the cowboy out on the trail. The horse and rider must integrate agility and responsiveness with the savvy of experience.

Arabian Western Pleasure horses are shown in a stock type saddle and a standard western type headstall with any standard western bit. Junior horses five years old and younger can be shown in hackamores or snaffle bits, as long as the horse has not been shown in any western event in a curb bit. Riders wear western hats, long sleeved shirts with collars and scarves or ties. A vest, jacket or sweater may also be worn. Chaps and boots are required. The horse may wear boots or bandages only in Reining, working cow and cutting classes. The horses are shown at a flat footed, ground covering four beat walk. The jog is a two beat gait that is free, square, slow and easy. The lope is a true three beat gait that is smooth, slow, easy and straight on both leads. Open horses will also be asked to hand gallop. There should be a distinct difference between the lope and the hand gallop. In the Open division, the classes are judged on manners, performance, substance, quality and conformation. Junior horse classes are judged on substance, quality, performance and manners. Amateur and Junior exhibitor classes are judged on manners, performance, suitability of the horse to the rider, substance, quality and conformation.

Arabian Reining horses perform a prescribed pattern which includes circles, spins, lead changes, roll backs, runs, stops and backs. Stops require the horse to bring the hind feet and hocks under the horse, and slide on the rear shoes. Throughout the stop, the horse should remain straight, with ground contact with the front legs and the position of hind legs unchanging. Spins are a series of turns over a stationary inside hind leg. The location of the hind quarters should be fixed at the start of the spin and be maintained throughout. Rollbacks are 180 degree turns completed by running to a stop, rolling the shoulders back to the opposite direction over the hocks and departing at the lope as one continuous motion. Circles are maneuvers at the lope to demonstrate control with little or no resistance. Backing requires the horse to move in reverse in a straight line for a required distance. The class is scored on a scale of 0 to infinity with 70 being the mark of "average". Points are added or subtracted from the base score of 70 for faults, penalties or credits to arrive at the final score.

Arabian Working Cow classes are designed to demonstrate the horse's ability to hold, contain and work a cow. Each horse is scored on a scale of 0 to infinity with 70 being the mark of "average". Points are added or subtracted from the base score of 70 for faults, penalties or credits to arrive at the final score. Penalties will be counted for loosing a working advantage with the cow, passing the cow, loosing control of the cow, biting or striking the cow, and knocking the cow down.

Arabian Trail horses are shown over and through obstacles at a walk, jog and lope. This class is judged 70% on performance and way of going with an emphasis on manners. 20% on appointments, equipment and neatness and 10% on conformation.

Arabian Western Riding horses demonstrate the characteristics of a good, sensible, well mannered, free and easy moving horse. The class is conducted over a course which includes a gate, logs to step over and markers to designate gate and lead change positions. Horses are judged on quality of gaits, flying lead changes, response to rider, manners and disposition.

Riders in western classes use the western saddle with heavy stirrups and saddle horn.

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Hunter/Equitation Classes

Hunter Seat Classes - These classes test the rider's ability to gracefully manage the obstacles faced in the hunting field. Both conformation and performance are important with different classes emphasizing one or the other.

Arabian Hunter horses are shown over a course of a minimum of eight fences that would be considered a fair test for hunters. The distance between fences is set at multiples of 12 feet. Amateur, Junior Rider and Green Working hunters will be asked to jump courses that are between 2'9" and 3' in height with spreads no greater than 3'. Courses for Regular Working hunters will be between 3' and 3'3". Warm-up hunter classes consist of no less than 6 fences at heights between 2' and 2'6".

Regular Working Hunter Under Saddle horses are shown at a walk, trot and canter. The judge may ask the horses to hand gallop one way of the ring. Horses should be obedient, alert, responsive and demonstrate free movement. A horse must be entered in at least one hunter class over obstacles to be eligible to enter and show in the Hunter Under Saddle class when it is counted toward a Championship.

Hunter Hack horses are shown at a walk, trot, canter and hand gallop. Horses will jump two fences at heights of between 2' and 2'6". This class is judged on performance, manners and soundness. This class does not count toward any championship.

Arabian Hunters are shown in light, hunter type bridles with cavesson nosebands. Breast collars are optional. Martingales are not allowed in Hunter Hack, Under Saddle or tie breaking classes. Boots and bandages are prohibited. Arabian Hunter championships are offered at shows where a minimum of three classes are held, one of which must an Under Saddle class and the other two over fences. Hunters will receive points in each class toward a show championship.

Equitation Classes - The rider is judged on the ability to maintain form and control on the flat and while jumping over fences.

Appointment Classes - This class emphasizes the fox hunting clothing and tack. In some cases these events are limited to members of recognized hunts.

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The dynamics and beauty of horse and rider soaring over fences makes jumping a thrilling sight. Natural abilities and precise training prepare horse and rider for entry in the many different types of jumping competitions.

The Riders Position - In order to stay over a horse's center of gravity and to allow its head and neck to extend, the rider leans forward during a jump. Although a single pole may not seem like much of a jump, the rail teaches a horse to lift its legs and to pay attention to an obstacle in its path. Higher fences require horse and rider to find the correct take-off point.

Arabian jumpers are shown over courses of fences and are scored according to the American Horse Shows Association rules. The course and the order in which the horses jump will be posted at least one half our prior to the start of the class. Obstacles in Amateur and Junior to Ride classes will start at 3', with a maximum height of 3'3". Spreads can be up to 4' wide. Open Jumpers start at 3'3" to a maximum of 3'6" and with spreads to 5'. Horses may be shown in any type of English saddle. Any type of bridle is aloud. Martingales, tie downs, boots and bandages are allowed.

Grand Prix Jumping - The apex of show jumping occurs in Grand Prix events. The prizes are big, and so are fences and spreads.

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Dressage events are managed primarily by the US Dressage Federation: Contact the USDF (United States Dressage Federation). Arabian owners also compete in Dressage at the US National Arabian Championship at various levels of competition.

The word "dressage" comes from a French term meaning training. It is not only a method of training, but also a competitive equestrian sport.

"Dressage develops the horse's physique and suppleness and improves the horse's three natural gaits, making it a pleasure to ride. Dressage is considered 'classical training' because it uses gymnastic exercises-a series of movements and figures-which have been studied and developed for centuries. When done systematically and correctly, the exercises will cause the horse to be supple on both sides and to respond willingly and obediently, moving freely forward with pure gaits and an even tempo." - USDF

Sometimes Dressage is called basic training for horses because it incorporates a variety of exercises that develop both the horse's athletic ability and obedience. No matter if it's Western or English, most disciplines from racing, to reining, to jumping all benefit from Dressage training. Even so, many riders find great pleasure and a passion for Dressage even at very modest levels of competition.

Examples of basic-level exercises include figures such as serpentines and circles, movements such as lateral movements (sideways), and transitions such as trot to halt, or walk to canter. These exercises can be used to start a young horse or to retrain an older one, and can be used by riders primarily interested in other equestrian sports, such as western riding.

Dressage has been described as a combination of sport and art. Whereas more aggressive sports tend to be intuitive and instinctive to the horse and rider, Dressage perfects the rider's analytical skills and creates a more artistic fluid motion for the horse. This training tends to create a stronger bonding between the horse and rider.

Riders of all ages, from kids to seniors, are taking up Dressage. Improving the skill level of the horse and rider is the goal and ultimate outcome of this sport. Both the rider and the horse learn and improve together. It's not a sport where you can buy a winning super star horse and expect to win, you have to develop the skills yourself and that is the appeal to those with improved horsemanship in mind.

Arabian Dressage - This year, the US National Arabian and Half-Arabian Championship Horse Show will offer competitive dressage classes. Recognized dressage competitions use tests issued by the American Horse Shows Association. These tests are designed to confirm the horse's ability to perform at a specific level according to the objectives and standards of the AHSA. As the horse and rider progress, more difficult gymnastic exercises are introduced. As a result, the advanced horse becomes an athlete, developing strength, flexibility, and the ability to perform collected and extended gaits with lightness and brilliance. When the horse and rider work in harmony, this performance of grace and athleticism is beautiful to watch.

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Arabian Formal Driving horses are shown in a light show harness with blinkers, overcheck or side check. A four-wheeled show vehicle is required. They are shown at a true, cadenced four beat walk with animation and brilliance. The trot is natural, animated and cadenced with impulsion and power from behind. The animated natural trot is extremely bold and brilliant and executed with apparent ease. Horses are judged on performance, manners, quality and conformation.

Arabian Pleasure Driving horses are shown in light show harness with blinkers, overcheck or side check. Either a two or four-wheeled vehicle may be used, but the use of a two wheeled cart is encouraged. They are shown at a brisk, flat footed four beat walk, a balanced and free moving normal trot and a mannerly, cadenced strong trot with a lengthened stride. Open horses are judged on manners, quality and performance. Junior horses are judged on quality first, then manners and performance, while Amateur and Junior to Drive classes emphasize manners followed by performance and quality.

Arabian Country Pleasure Driving horses are shown in light harness appropriate to the vehicle and a bridle with blinkers, overcheck or side check. A two-wheeled vehicle is required. They are shown at a true, flat footed and ground covering walk, a balanced, relaxed and easy going trot, and a strong trot with a lengthened stride. High action is penalized. Open horses are judged on attitude, manners, performance, quality and conformation. Junior horses are judged on attitude, manners, quality and performance. Amateur and Junior to drive classes are judged on attitude, manners, performance, quality, conformation and the suitability of the horse to the driver.

Formal, Informal and Country Combination classes are both harness and undersaddle classes. The horses are exhibited first in harness as Formal Driving, Pleasure Driving or Country Driving horses, working both ways of the ring at the required gaits. Horses are then saddled and shown as Park, English or Country Pleasure horses at the gaits required, both ways of the ring.

Arabian Roadster horses are shown in light show harness and a bike. The bridle must have blinkers of the square pattern and an overcheck with a separate overcheck bit. Unweighted boots are optional. The exhibitor wears stable colors with a matching cap and jacket. The horses are shown at the trot in three different speeds; the slow jog-trot, the fast road gait; and at speed. Judges may ask the horses to walk. The Roadster horse should have animation, brilliance and show ring presence while maintaining form at all gaits. Open horses are judged on performance, speed, quality and manners. Amateur or Junior to Drive classes are judged on manners, performance, speed and quality.

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Mounted Native Costume horses are shown at a walk, canter and hand gallop both ways of the ring. The bridle may consist of bit, hackamore or any suitable headstall. No martingales or tie downs are permitted. The rider's attire is of native, Bedouin type. Flowing capes, coats, pantaloons, head dresses, scarfs, sashes and any other decorations in keeping with a colorful desert regalia are allowed, with safety remaining of utmost importance. All divisions of this class are judged 75% performance and manners and 25% on appointments.

Ladies Side Saddle horses are show in either English or Western tack and attire. Period attire is also accepted and encouraged to be researched as to the authenticity of the entire costume. Hat and boots are required. Horses are shown both directions of the ring at a walk, jog or trot, and a lope or canter. This class is judged 85% on manners, performance, suitability as a sidesaddle mount, quality and conformation. The appropriate side saddle attire is given 15% weight in the judging.

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