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What to look for in an Arabian

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  • What to look for in an Arabian

    If a person wanted to be successful in the dressage ring on an Arab, say at 3rd level tops, what are some things to look for? Feel free to suggest bloodlines to look into or avoid, conformation traits, etc. If you're looking at arabs that have done mostly breed shows, is there a certain type that makes an easier transition to the dressage ring? (I.e., is a hunter type horse going to make the switch easier than a country english pleasure type?)

  • #2
    I am far from an expert! But I do own an Arab and we are involved with dressage, so I can share what little I know with you.

    It is my understanding that the Polish lines have the conformation that makes them the most suitable for dressage (when looking at all the different Arabian lines). I often have people tell me that my gelding can't be a PB Arab because he looks more like a mini-Warmblood than he does the "typical" Arabian. Even horse people are surprised that an Arabian doesn't have to look or act like a jacked up halter horse. But, unfortunately, that is the image that many horse folks have of Arabians.

    Look for a horse that can lower the head and lift the back. Rounding and reaching down for the bit seems to be a bit of a struggle for many of the Arabs I have seen in dressage. I know that my own horse would often rather travel with a higher head and an inverted back, although that has more to do with my lack of skill as a rider and less to do with his mechanics.
    Sheilah

    ETA: I *think* a hunter type would have an easier transition than an English Country Pleasure horse, simply because of the movement. Those ECP horses have a ton of knee and hock action. Of course, a lot of that action is coming from training gadgets that force that upright movement and padded and weighted shoes. But have you ever seen photos of weanling ECP prospects? That high action is naturally present in some of them.

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    • #3
      Not an expert by any means, but I can tell you about my experience...

      I have an Arab now; will be making her show debut at 2nd level next month (that's the plan at least!). She is definitely capable of at least 3rd!

      She's of older Polish lines, "stockier" isn't the right word, but she's definitely not as dainty as a lot of the breed-show-ring-types. Conformationally, she's put together very well. About 15 hh and very compact. If I'd change something about her conformation, it'd be her neck. I'd stay away from an Arab with a very "upside-down" muscled neck. She was like that when we started, and it's been REALLY DIFFICULT to get it muscled correctly. She just was never used to carrying herself round like that. Her original training was to be an Arab racer, but she never made it to the track.

      She's awesome at collection & very forward. Sometimes I think she prefers lateral work than going straight. Smart as a whip too. Lenthenings & extensions are not as good... and definitely never as flashy.

      If I wanted to put her in a discipline where she'd win every time, she should've been an endurance horse. But she tries really hard to please, & we've come a long way! And I definitely have a soft spot in my heart for Arabs... she's taught me SO much!

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      • #4
        I second the polish. I have a spanish bred mare and a polish bred. the spanish mare works her butt off, but is naturally built more for wp. My polish mare has talent up the yazoo, but we are working on developing her work ethic. She is built up hill and has a terrific canter. However, as ibw25 said, when looking keep an eye on the neck shape and natural head carriage. My mare came with the upside down neck. Now after two years, it is looking really good, but her default avoidance is to lift her head and put her ears in your nostrils, and she can do it very quickly! But when she is through, it is georgeous.

        I personally would avoid the egyptian lines for serious dressage.

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        • #5
          I'm not an expert, either. But ... I do have Arabians and ride dressage. My horses are also from Polish lines. They're not particularly tall -- all ~14.3-15h -- but they're all correct and fairly stocky.

          The horse in my profile pic is a pretty good representation of what the others look like -- short-coupled, nice hip (esp. for an Arab) and balanced conformation. I show him in dressage and hunter pleasure at Class A breed shows.

          I *think* a HP horse would be a better bet than a CP or EP horse because the mechanics of the saddleseat discipline are different. But I don't have any experience to base that on. Most judges these days in HP aren't pinning the horses that are all rolled up front with the prancy trot, like they used to. They'll pin a correctly moving horse (as long as there is one in the ring ). To be honest, I use a different saddle in HP, but I don't ride my horse any differently in the HP classes than I do in dressage and we do well.

          As far as specific bloodlines, I've heard Bey Shah grandget do well in sporthorse and dressage. Odd, I know because that horse used to be poster child for crappy feet and crazy halter horses. But apparently someone must have gotten the nick right.

          The horse in my profile is by Monogramm out of an imported Polish mare. Monogramm also has some nice, athletic get out there, doing all sorts of things. BTW -- my horse was a regional halter champion in a previous life. So don't discount halter or ones that have halter horse in their bloodlines. Some of them, when they're not being asked to jump around, are very nice.
          __________________________
          "... if you think i'm MAD, today, of all days,
          the best day in ten years,
          you are SORELY MISTAKEN, MY LITTLE ANCHOVY."

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          • #6
            Is Heather Mason the BNT who has shown a lot of Arabians? Anyway, I THINK it was she who said in an article that in choosing an Arabian for dressage, you should pick the same type you would pick to do stock horse/reining work, as opposed to the more "elongated" "extreme" types. Locally, the most distinguished dressage Arabian (FEI levels) is a 14.3 Crabbet line Arabian.

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            • Original Poster

              #7
              thanks guys, this is all great and helpful info.

              for someone who knows nada about arab bloodlines, how can I tell if I'm looking at a polish/egyptian/other horse?

              I took my first lessons on an arab, and have ridden them in between but never owned one. I do appreciate that their gaits are (IMO) much easier to sit and their pricetags much easier to swallow than their warmblood counterparts. I've been kicking around the idea of leasing a horse, and I happen to live very close to two big arabian show barns who do have lease horses available, but I'm not really keen on only doing the breed shows. I don't know about both barns, but one of them starts their horses very correctly, does a lot of long-lining and I am pretty sure any lease horse they'd have would be a quick study in the dressage ring. Neither of them does the sport-horse types, but I'm hoping if I can get some good pointers here, I may be in a better position to see if one of their show horses could work out to be a dressage partner for me. Thanks again for all the helpful info and keep it coming!

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              • #8
                You need to evaluate the HORSE. What the HORSE's gaits are. What the HORSE's attitude is. What the HORSE's conformation is.

                There are excellent examples of dressage horses of Crabbet, of Russian, of Polish, of Egyptian, of Spanish, of American lines.

                It depends on the INDIVIDUAL. Kind of like saying I want a GERMAN horse. But only the HANOVERIANS are any good. Or any of the Westphalens are any good.

                I have had success with converting a very uphill, high moving PARK horse to dressage. I have had success moving a hunter pleasure type to dressage. A reiner to dressage.

                Again it depends on the horse and what they are willing to do.

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                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by mjhco View Post
                  You need to evaluate the HORSE. What the HORSE's gaits are. What the HORSE's attitude is. What the HORSE's conformation is.
                  Totally agree and understand, but I'm very much appreciative of any experiences others want to share that could make this an easier selection for me. As an ammy, temperament is always the #1 criteria. I'll have to bypass any arab that is too good at that teleport trick! (you know, the one where they're under you then poof! they're on the other side of the ring!)

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                  • #10
                    For what it's worth based on years of showing Arabians and then dressage with both warmbloods and Arabians:

                    I'd look for an Arabian that was bred for and is showing under saddle in the sporthorse classes instead of the ring classes. Reason is that MANY of the ring class horses have been trained with gadgets to "set the head" without regard to using the back and hind end. And it can be very difficult to change that up later. Not impossible, but difficult.

                    Or even better - buy one that has not been started yet. You'll get a better price and can spend that money saved on CORRECT dressage training for the horse.

                    As to the "variety" or bloodlines, I think you'll find good ones in Polish, Crabbet and Russian lines. Look for those whom, at liberty, push off from behind without getting strung out behind. Those are the ones that use their rear ends, hocks and backs. If they travel naturally with their head straight up in the air with a upside down back and legs way out behind, you will have problems with them for dressage. These are what some call "leg movers" and they can do well in the ring classes, but stink at dressage.

                    AS to knowing which type (Polish, Egyptian, etc) an Arabian is - it takes a long time to learn enough about the bloodlines to recognize them by pedigree. But most for sale have their type advertised. If they don't, ask the seller.
                    Visit Sonesta Farms website at www.sonestafarms.com or our FaceBook page at www.facebook.com/sonestafarms. Also showing & breeding Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

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                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      Originally posted by Sonesta View Post
                      As to the "variety" or bloodlines, I think you'll find good ones in Polish, Crabbet and Russian lines. Look for those whom, at liberty, push off from behind without getting strung out behind. Those are the ones that use their rear ends, hocks and backs. If they travel naturally with their head straight up in the air with a upside down back and legs way out behind, you will have problems with them for dressage. These are what some call "leg movers" and they can do well in the ring classes, but stink at dressage.
                      Ah, yes, one of the biggest complaints I hear is the "trailing hocks" though I think your description above is much better.

                      I wish I had the time and knowlege to get one and start it specifically for dressage but that's the main reason I'm looking for a lease...don't have the time to get one going and keep it going with my job and kids. It's a shame because I'm sure that all those polish arabs that were siezed in my neck of the woods will be flooding the market sometime in the future, but I'm looking for something I can hop on and go with now.

                      On a good note, if the dressage types are not what gets ribbons in the ring, maybe those are the ones I could finagle a cheaper lease on to get them out of the show barn!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by meaty ogre View Post
                        thanks guys, this is all great and helpful info.

                        for someone who knows nada about arab bloodlines, how can I tell if I'm looking at a polish/egyptian/other horse?
                        Unless you're breeding, I wouldn't worry too much about bloodlines. As mjhco said, look at the horse. I mentioned bloodlines and disciplines because you asked about them. They can hint at what you might expect, but they're not an absolute.

                        And I also mentioned halter horses because so many people dismiss them as unsuited for anything else. Yes, some are the longer and leggy, the kind of frame Sandy mentioned. But many of them are quite nice and correct.

                        ETA re: Sonesta's point -- I retrained my WP mare in dressage. And I started out with my gelding as an HP horse. What I've found is that when they're allowed to go forward unrestricted to the bit, they're quite happy to do so. But my horses were never in a show barn -- as in, part of a program that cranks out horses for rail classes. A horse that's been doing the rail thing for years may not be so easy to reprogram.
                        __________________________
                        "... if you think i'm MAD, today, of all days,
                        the best day in ten years,
                        you are SORELY MISTAKEN, MY LITTLE ANCHOVY."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by meaty ogre View Post
                          On a good note, if the dressage types are not what gets ribbons in the ring, maybe those are the ones I could finagle a cheaper lease on to get them out of the show barn!
                          It's not that they don't win because they're 'dressage types.' It's more like they were never trained to lift their backs and use their hindquarters correctly. If they've got the conformation, they can do it. It's a question of whether they're amenable to learning a new trick. Both of mine were. The biggest obstacle has been me -- I had to learn new tricks, too.
                          __________________________
                          "... if you think i'm MAD, today, of all days,
                          the best day in ten years,
                          you are SORELY MISTAKEN, MY LITTLE ANCHOVY."

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by meaty ogre View Post
                            Totally agree and understand, but I'm very much appreciative of any experiences others want to share that could make this an easier selection for me. As an ammy, temperament is always the #1 criteria. I'll have to bypass any arab that is too good at that teleport trick! (you know, the one where they're under you then poof! they're on the other side of the ring!)
                            Where are you located ? I know a rider with two 4th level Arabian dressage horses. One she paid $800 for on an online auction out of a farm in CA (we are in NJ.) She knows the bloodlines so well she can pick a good one just by pedigree.

                            I will pm you with her centerlinescores report.
                            "Friend" me !

                            http://www.facebook.com/isabeau.solace

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I wonder how Gladys Brown Edwards would have answered this question.

                              The problem of finding an Arabian suitable for dressage will also entail finding one that has withers and enough hindquarters to get underneath. The show breeders went all out in getting that ''table top croup", something I abhorred. That is going to prove an issue, it's going to make it hard to find a decently conformed horse. If you don't have enough of the hip to tie muscle to, you aren't going to get a horse that lifts his back. Also, many Arabs are mutton withered. I can tell you right now, finding a dressage saddle that will fit the typical Arab is going to be difficult. (I'm looking right now!)
                              Lets not forget that most Arabs are barrel ribbed. My little fleabit grey, Crabbet/Egyptian, could NOT keep a saddle in place. He was bowling pin shaped!

                              But don't be dissuaded. My current Arab has a croup AND withers, and while he is hard to fit in ANY saddle, he is very amenable to dressage. He's a Bask son (Bask was Polish, and raced two or three years before his importation.)

                              The best thing, I think, of Arabs, is how quickly they catch on. I would introduce something new and my Arabs would 'get it' after two or three goes. I don't know about other breeds, but the two Quarter Horses I owned would need ten or so tries before they finally understood what was wanted.
                              Good luck!
                              The best thing to do on a golf course is a GALLOP!

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                              • #16
                                Don't be fooled by the croup when looking at build - it's the hip that matters, and where most breeds have a croup which follows the hip, Arabians typically don't. If you get Equus look back at the conformation clinics over the last few months - that topic was covered.

                                I think with an Arabian personality is the #1 thing on my list. A good-minded Arabian can be amazing, but a flighty one would be very difficult for dressage. You can teach a horse who is naturally trailing his/her hocks to bring the hind end under, though of course it's easier if they already bring their hocks under! Beyond that, you want to look at the same things as any other dressage prospect - overall build, are the uphill or do they carry themselves uphill naturally, how will the horse fit you, and what does the natural movement look like? Many hunter-types just absolutely float across the ground using their back end naturally, but chances are if you see that it'll be one they want to keep showing!

                                Good luck - Arabians can be very fun if you find the right one for your personality and wishes!
                                Originally posted by Silverbridge
                                If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.

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                                • #17
                                  I have to second hrsmstr there. It is paramount that you find an Arab with a strong hip, which can be tricky at times. A decent wither will also make your (and the horse's) job easier. As far as types, just has been stressed you need to be looking at the individual horse, not it's bloodlines. Your biggest obstacle will likely be the more common upright and hollow headset.

                                  For what it's worth, in my profile is a pic of my Arab who has only just begun dressage training. He is middle-aged with something akin to PTSD so I'm only really doing this to give him a job which will engage his mind and keep him fit...and to improve my own skills. However, had I got my hands on him much earlier I think he would have been a decent local competitor. He's got that smooth floaty HUS movement but the trainer doesn't think he'd do well in a huge class simply due to the excitement of it all. Which I'm cool with. Said trainer's 18 year-old purebred Arab who has been showing well 3rd level has extremely similar confo.
                                  My own horse pictured there is by GS Khochise out of a Polish saddleseat mare, and was mostly a western trail horse before I knew him.

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    Originally posted by mp View Post
                                    The horse in my profile is by Monogramm out of an imported Polish mare.
                                    mp, I just checked out your profile pic, what a lovely horse. As an aside, are you riding in an A/P saddle? On smaller horses I like to shorten my stirrup so I don't have to lift my heel so much to find their sides, but then my knee is often painfully over the block on the dressage saddle. An AP saddle would help solve that problem, and yours looks like the flap is not so forward that it would impair your position at all.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I bought my Arab from Craigslist. He has a little bit of everything on his pedigree, but his most important quality is his disposition (sterling) and his good legs and nice gaits. He was as ugly as a mud fence when I bought him but has grown into himself (15.3!!) and matured into a very very nice horse. I was lucky.

                                      My current coach likes Arabs, but says that they can be difficult in the beginning because being round, relaxed in the topline, and just not gaping at everything can be hard for them. Once they have learned to round up and relax, he says they can do just fine.

                                      So, I concur with the others that say look at the horse, not the pedigree. But, the pedigree can be helpful so just for some background info, the August/September 2010 issue of Modern Arabian Horse had an article about the top 25 dressage sires, 1960 to the present. I know that this study has a lot of flaws, but it's the best we've got so far, so... here goes. Am giving this to you so if you see these names on a pedigree, you'll have some idea of what's what. Parenthetical comments are mine, and are mostly broad statements (not a pedigree expert)

                                      1. Khemosabi (Crabbet/domestic)
                                      2. Desperado V (Varian, basically Polish)
                                      3. Ivanhoe Tsultan (domestic)
                                      4. Bey Shah (Varian/Polish)
                                      5. Aladdinn (Polish)
                                      6. Huckleberry Bey (Varian/Polish)
                                      7. Huckbey Berry (Varian/Polish)
                                      8. Bask Flame (Polish)
                                      9. Perkee Rhoyal Gem (domestic?)
                                      10. Fame VF (Polish/domestic)
                                      11. GS Khochise (Khemo/domestic)
                                      12. Padron (Russian)
                                      13. Abi-Sha Polka (Polish)
                                      14. GG Jabask (Polish)
                                      15. Novator (Russian)
                                      16. Cytosk (Polish)
                                      17. Negatraz (Polish)
                                      18. Monogramm (Polish/Russian)
                                      19. Napitok (Russian)
                                      20. Percussion (Polish/domestic)
                                      21. Out of cyte (Polish)
                                      22. BA Bey Elation (Varian/Polish)
                                      23. Safire (Bask/Polish/maybe domestic?)
                                      24. Le Fire (Bask/Polish)
                                      25. 8-way tie for 25th place between Afire Bey V (Varian/Polish), Promotion (Polish), Barbary (Polish), El Kasaka (Mostly Russian?), Oran Van Bandy (Crabbet), Muscat (Russian), Bey Oro (Polish?), Al Marah Canadius (Crabbet)

                                      There are people who purpose breed Arabian sport horses, both purebred and partbred. There is a sport horse section on Arabian Breeders Network, so ask your question there and see what people have to say. There is also a group for Arabians in sport (IASA? can't remember exactly) who would also be a big help.

                                      Good luck, have fun looking, and don't be afraid to look at horses that have flunked the main ring or who might be diamonds in the rough. Consider going to Sport Horse Nationals (at the KY horse park this year) and looking for a horse there, or making contact with folks who might have a horse at home that would suit you.
                                      Last edited by oldernewbie; Jul. 19, 2011, 06:24 PM.

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                                      • #20
                                        Agree with everything said here----need a deep set hip, low croup. Horse that moves in his or her whole body....And GOOD pasterns. Ringbone and club feet are VERY common!!! Get X-rays of the pasterns for sure in the PPE, and also the hocks.

                                        Love the Polish, Russian, and CMK horses! Polish--Aladdin type-- horses are awesome but the ones I have ridden have been HOT buggers.

                                        The biggest issue I have with my mare is tension especially in the back. Mental and physical "plyability/letting go" is my biggest challenge.

                                        Regarding breed shows, I think they tend to try horses in all the diciplines (to a point) so I wouldn't get too hung up on that. My mare was started WP but can really move out if asked. Personally I would not look at any horses ridden in gadgets. With the tendency of arabs to natually go deep/BTV and not step into the contact this would be quite the challenge when this habit has been encouraged....

                                        Check out ex-endurance and pleasure trail horses. They are often very sound, have seen things, and ready to go. Not as many bad habits either from poor training--show training wise, anyways.

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