As a lifelong owner and lover of the Arabian Horse, I have had occasion to hear a lot of things about the breed. Most people – equestrians and non-equestrians alike – will immediately notice and comment on the obvious refined beauty of this ancient breed. Unfortunately, it seems that many people have also latched on to certain myths that keep the Arabian Horse out of the running for “Perfect Partner”. As someone who has seen thousands of Arabians in hundreds of different situations, I feel it’s time to say,
Move Over Myths, the Arabian Horse Could be Your Perfect Partner.
Myth #1 Arabians Are Too Spooky
Okay, so it is common to think of the Arabian Horse and picture a jumpy, jittery animal that shies from every discoloration on the ground and snorts whenever something strange passes by. Sure, some Arabians can be this way, but the majority of the breed is quite level headed, and possibly has a “survival intelligence” that rivals all other breeds. How many horses do you know that will allow themselves to be covered in drapes, bells, jingling chains and a rider wearing a flowing headdress that tickles the hindquarters every time he takes a step? Well, there is actually a “class” in the majority of Arabian Horse shows in where this very thing happens to the roar of a cheering crowd. Of all horse shows that I have attended, Arabian Horse shows tend to have the most in the way of large, loud, cheering crowds, dogs running up and down barn aisles, stall drapery, fancy tack with shiny silver, etc., and the Arabian horse handles it like a pro.
Myth #2 Arabians Don’t Make Good Trail Horses
I’ve owned Arabians for most of my life – the only breed that I have owned as a “personal horse” – and I can say with experience that my own horses, and those of friends with Arabians, have ridden everywhere from riverbeds to mountains, the beach and through trail obstacle courses. When I was younger, I even used to ride my show mare along a busy road to get to a local trail spot, and even with cars whizzing by, she handled things like a champ. At Arabian Horse Shows, Arabians traditionally compete in both English and Western tack in “Trail Classes” that incorporate bridges, poles, water, dragging of obstacles, etc., and the breed seems to be made for this type of level headed decision making. Out on the trail, the breed is bold, tends to be level headed in most situations, and my own horses have handled everything from coming upon a rattlesnake, to having small children give them a “pat” as they stand quietly. So, with experience, I can say that the Arabian Horse has the ability to be a fantastic trail partner.
Myth #3 Arabians Aren’t Good Kids Horses
When it comes to the Arabian Horse World, the “Youth” classes are typically the most full and broad. There are likely twice as many youths showing than adults at any given horse show, and the Arabian Horse handles this beautifully in everything from Native Costume Garb to Trail Classes and Reining. I began riding and showing my first Arabian horse at 10 years old, and I did everything from my own tacking/untacking, stall cleaning, trailer loading, schooling, etc. I took my horse out on trail when I was a young teenager. At horse shows, it’s not abnormal to see tiny children riding horses in arenas filled with other horses being ridden, lunged, etc. The Arabian horse stands quietly while children paint his hooves with hoof black, and as youths climb atop them from fences and mounting blocks. Some of the best “babysitters” that I have ever seen have been seasoned Arabians.
Myth #4 Arabians Aren’t Versatile
Today, Arabian horses compete successfully the majority of equestrian sports – from horse racing, jumping, dressage, trail, reining, pleasure, endurance, driving, and even ranch work. I spoke to an older “cowboy” a while back who was in in 70’s. He still runs a successful and active “beef franchise” and spends his day checking fences, herding, etc. He rides a 15-year-old Arabian horse named “Buddy” (registered and purebred). When asked why he chose an Arabian for his line of work, he said,
“The Arabian is smart. He doesn’t get himself into trouble by being careless like a lot of other breeds. I had a Quarter Horse who was great ranch horse, but he was always getting lazy, being careless, and he didn’t have the get up and go that I needed when it came to chasing down a loose cow. Buddy is quiet, easy going, has a comfortable stride, but when I ask for it, he can run down any cow on the ranch.”
So, it seems that the Arabian is suited for not just Arabian Horse Shows, but also for just about everything else that can be done on horseback.
Myth #5 Arabians Are Fragile
Being a somewhat “fine boned” and “refined” breed, it’s easy to mistake the Arabian horse for being “fragile”. The truth is, though, that the Arabian is an extremely hardy breed. They were bred for use in the desert, as work companions, as family members, etc., and they have grown into horses that have successfully carried riders through mounted shooting courses, carried ranchers along fence lines, lived and thrived in snow and desert heat, etc. As endurance horses, the Arabian consistently shines in athletic ability across all types of terrain – rocks, mountains, muddy trails, hills, etc. They can go without water for longer, go longer distances without rest, handle uneven ground, and, traditionally, they tend to have better scores at “vet check points” with more consistency. There is a reason that the breed is the top choice for this type of sport.
I have personally seen an Arabian running at full speed down a fence line after a cow, stop and turn back on a dime, cut a cow, and get down so far on his haunches that it looks as though he’s sitting in the dirt. I’ve seen Arabians pull carriages, drag logs, score top percentages in Dressage, and carry inexperienced riders up and down steep and deep sand dunes. So, though fine boned, the Arabian is far from being fragile.
In the end, this is a good lesson for not judging a book by its cover – or its reputation. In society today, this seems to happen all too often in so many ways, and this is a good first step to opening your mind to something different. The Arabian Horse can, indeed, be the Perfect Partner!
Photos: Sarah Williams – Mirror’s Edge Photography