The Modern Arabian: Not Just Another Pretty Face

With their trademark dished faces, high tail carriage and extreme endurance, the Arabian is one of the most distinctive horse breeds in the world today.  Evidence shows that horses with these characteristic features are seen in artwork and records dating back nearly 4500 years, making the Arabian arguably the oldest modern breed in existence.  In fact, nearly every modern breed of horse, most notably the Thoroughbred and even the American Quarter Horse, has some Arabian blood running through its ancestral veins.  

The official breed registry for the Arabian, Anglo-Arabian and Half-Arabian was founded in 1908 and has registered more than a million horses in that time.  To this day, the Arabian horse remains one of the top ten most popular horse breeds in the world.  Popularity is due not just to the beauty and grace of these amazing animals, but even more so due to their incredible versatility.  The nomadic Bedouin tribes, who first bred these horses, prized them for their courage, trainability, spirit and eagerness to please, and throughout the years, these characteristics have been honed to create a modern breed that can, and does excel in nearly every discipline.  From gentle and tolerant babysitters to the rigors of the modern show ring, Arabians truly can do it all.

Most modern horse breeds are well known in the horse world for specific abilities.  When you think of the Clydesdale, you picture a big, beautiful horse pulling a carriage, or when you think of a Thoroughbred, you imagine a sleek and agile racehorse.  The Arabian, on the other hand, is difficult to tie to any one discipline.  It is true that Arabians are most notably “show horses”, but beneath that broad brushstroke are horses that compete successfully in Western Pleasure, Saddleseat, Sidesaddle, Hunter, Trail, Reining, Reined Cowhorse, Pleasure Driving, Equitation, Native Costume…and the list goes on.  The Arabian Horse Association is dedicated to promoting the breed as a versatile member of every “horse family”, and indeed Amateur and Junior rider classes make up more than half of the class list at any given A Rated show.  Additionally, the association boasts a large number of members who use their Arabians as trail mounts, lesson horses, parade horses, exhibition horses, endurance horses, sport horses, etc.

The Central Coast has long been a prominent area for Arabian enthusiasts.  It is nearly impossible to attend an A Rated Arabian Horse Show without coming across at least a hand full of champions that have bloodlines originating from the internationally recognized Varian Arabians, which is located right here in SLO County.  Also, the Santa Ynez Valley, just to our South, has long been referred to as “The Valley of the Arabian Horse”, due to the many ranches and breeding facilities that have dedicated themselves to continually supporting, promoting and showing Arabian, Anglo-Arabian and Half-Arabian horses.

Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara, CA plays host each year to two of the most prestigious recognized Arabian shows in the state, the Region 2 Arabian and Half-Arabian Horse Championships and the Pacific Slopes Championships, both shows that require riders and horses to earn enough points and/or placings to qualify for entrance.  Arabian enthusiasts from SLO County play a large part as competitors in classes ranging from Trail and Reining to Hunter Pleasure and Show Hack.

So, it is safe to say that while the Arabian remains one of the most beautiful horses in the world, beneath that “pretty face” is an animal that can do just about anything if properly motivated and kindly treated.  The spirit of the Bedouin people’s hard work and dedication is alive and well in the horses that we still cherish today.

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