I love this time of year. Every July for six years now, Albuquerque has been hosting the Arabian Horse Youth Nationals. For eight glorious days (and nights) one can see full and part-bred Arabian horses performing in all different events. There are several divisions of youth all the way up to 18 years of age (they must only be 17 on September 1st to quualify for the upcoming year but may continue to compete for the remainder of the year).
There are so many classes! Arabians can be shown at halter, driven, western, and english. In the english division there are both hunt and saddle seat classes.
There are halter classes where the horse is shown in a beautiful fine show halter with a chain throatlatch thin as a necklace. The halter is only half a halter. The back is a thick chain drawn through the underside of the jaw and ending in a long lead strap. Each horse is presented one at a time to the three judges for evaluation. The exhibitor works to get the horse showing at his best, using a whip as a prop to stretch the long swanlike necks. The horses are trotted on a very loose lead so one can see them almost running free (think Black Stallion). Some of the horses have such beautiful animated or floating strides! And they are are so well groomed and conditioned! The horse is judged on conformation (correct body), although presence and spirit are extremely important. It's interesting to watch the exhibitors try to set up their horses when presenting them. I notice different training methods but the general result is that the horse puts ihis front feet together a few inches apart and stretches forward snaking his nose into the air. The hind legs are either together or one foot more forward than the other. The tails fan out naturally. Some of the horses are fidgity and restless. I have seen horses rear and buck and even break away from their handlers and still win!
There are lots of western classes. They use western saddles adorned with lots of silver. The blankets and pads are often flashy and colorful. The junior horses (under 6) can be shown in a rawhide bosal and horsehair reins but most horses are shown in beautiful engraved silver curb or shank bits and romal reins weighted with large silver beads. The ladies wear western hats, fancy jackets or outfits with lots of glitter and glam, chaps and cowboy boots. The men are much more subdued and usually wear plain solid colors along with their chaps, western boots and hats.
There are trail classes, reining classes, and cow classes such as working cow and cutting horse.
In the hunt seat division, there are jumping and flat classes, some judging the rider (equitation) and some judging the horse (pleasure). The horses are shown with hunt seat saddles and the riders wear hard hats or helmets and hunt coats, britches and knee high boots.
There are dressage classses, up to fourth level. They use dressage saddles and wear knee high boots over britches with riding coats and hard hats. The horse and rider perform tests and are scored. When they pass the required tests at a certain level, they can work on moving up to the next level.
In the saddle seat division, there are three types of classes all ridden with a double bridle and a cutback saddle. The riders wear saddle suits and derby hats.
- Country Pleasure (easygoing)
- English Pleasure (high action)
- Park (EXTREME high action. These horses are fiery and the audience whoops and hollers to make them even more hot and animated. This is the last class of the show and definitely one of the favorites.) Arabian shows always end with a BANG!!!
And there are costume classes
- Native Costume - horse and rider dress in outlandish Arabian fashion, some with authentic saddles. There are lots of tassles, sequins, velvets, and silks. Lavish and beautiful, the horses are shown at a walk, trot, canter and hand gallup. This is a crowd favorite and the audience loudly cheers as they run around the arena in their flowing robes.
- Freestlye Reining -horse, rider, and, sometimes, ground crew dress up with a theme and ride a reining pattern they've created to music of their choosing. They must include several slide stops, rollbacks in both directions, lope and gallup a figure eight with flying lead changes, and back up.
- Western Sidesaddle -The ladies (sorry, guys) don beautiful long dresses and sit balanced with both legs on the left side of the horse. They must ride at the walk, jog, and lope. They wear beautiful long western skirts and cowboy hats.
- English Sidesaddle - Again, this class is for ladies only. The saddles are plain leather, usually hunter style, and the clothes are beautiful, often Victorian.
An Arabian show is never boring!
to be continued...