Can Arabian Horses Hold Their Own in Dressage? - Chuck Grant

Horse and Rider December 1977

Can Arabian Horses Hold Their Own in Dressage

By Chuck Grant

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

Most Arabian dressage competitions do not offer classes above the third level, therefore Arabians that are trained above the third level do not have a chance to show unless they go into open dressage shows. In my opinion Arabian well schooled in dressage should be able to compete against any breed.

A good dressage horse should posses the following: Normal or above normal intelligence. The Arabian horse possesses this quality to a great degree, perhaps more so than most breeds. The dressage horse must be free in all his movements, and he must be able to stride long. The Arabian can do this well. The dressage horse must be supple and flexible. The Arab does not normally show this, but this is due to the manner in which he is trained. The dressage horse must be true in all his gaits and paces. No breed enthusiast can say that all horses in that particular breed are true in all gaits and paces, nor can the Arabian people say that. In my opinion the average number of horses with faulty gaits and paces would be about the same in any breed. Some faults in the gaits of the horse are due to the trainer, but many of them are inherited.

Some say that the Arabian is not big enough for dressage, that he is short-strided. The Arabian horse is smaller than most breeds, but then the Jaguar is smaller than the Continental. The average Arabian, well started in his early training can go stride for stride with any breed. Generally, Arabs are trained by people for Arabian shows. I do not think they have a counterpart anywhere in the world and that is not good. Dressage is one of the three disciplines governed by the Federation Equistre Internationale, and it is this body which sets up rules for international competition. Dressage rides are set up to be performed in a pre-determined time and each time is checked. The geometry of the dressage ride is important and therefore the number of strides in a given space is important.

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

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

Can Arabians make it in dressage? Sure they can.

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