Can Arabian Horses Hold Their Own inDressage? - Chuck Grant

Horse and Rider December 1977

Can Arabian Horses Hold Their Own inDressage

By Chuck Grant

Gahalla, a six year old Arabian, has been shownall the way up the dressage ladder from First Level through theinternational Prix St. Georges Level, a difficult test of ahorse's abilities. During her four competitions in 1977, Gahallahas ranked in the top three ten times, winning six classes.

Most Arabian dressage competitions do not offerclasses above the third level, therefore Arabians that aretrained above the third level do not have a chance to show unlessthey go into open dressage shows. In my opinion Arabian wellschooled in dressage should be able to compete against any breed.

A good dressage horse should posses thefollowing: Normal or above normal intelligence. The Arabian horsepossesses this quality to a great degree, perhaps more so thanmost breeds. The dressage horse must be free in all hismovements, and he must be able to stride long. The Arabian can dothis well. The dressage horse must be supple and flexible. TheArab does not normally show this, but this is due to the mannerin which he is trained. The dressage horse must be true in allhis gaits and paces. No breed enthusiast can say that all horsesin that particular breed are true in all gaits and paces, nor canthe Arabian people say that. In my opinion the average number ofhorses with faulty gaits and paces would be about the same in anybreed. Some faults in the gaits of the horse are due to thetrainer, but many of them are inherited.

Some say that the Arabian is not big enough fordressage, that he is short-strided. The Arabian horse is smallerthan most breeds, but then the Jaguar is smaller than theContinental. The average Arabian, well started in his earlytraining can go stride for stride with any breed. Generally,Arabs are trained by people for Arabian shows. I do not thinkthey have a counterpart anywhere in the world and that is notgood. Dressage is one of the three disciplines governed by theFederation Equistre Internationale, and it is this body whichsets up rules for international competition. Dressage rides areset up to be performed in a pre-determined time and each time ischecked. The geometry of the dressage ride is important andtherefore the number of strides in a given space is important.

I recently watched a Trakehner horse take 27strides across the diagonal at the collected canter. I watched anArab do the same thing in 24 strides.

Until the year 1915, polo horses had to be 13-3hands or under. It wasn't until the early 1930's that poloplayers were allowed to use bigger horses. One seldom sees a polohorse over 15-2 hands. I'm not saying that polo players useArabians; I am giving an example of the usefulness of smallerhorses compared to bigger horses.

Can Arabians make it in dressage? Sure theycan.

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