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Arabian Free Run at shows

Falling off is a DQ (or zero score, depending on the class) in most divisions of Arab shows. In certain classes - mostly saddleseat style classes - a fall may or may not result in a DQ depending on the circumstances and the judge’s discretion.

Most liberty horses show in other classes. A lot are halter horses, but many of them also show in performance. The horses have no trouble differentiating between liberty time and regular riding time - that factor isn’t any different than occasionally turning out or free longing in an arena where you also ride.

I’m sure there are some horses who are alarmed by the liberty environment, but a frightened horse isn’t going to show well. These classes are usually expensive “jackpot” type classes, so there’s not much incentive to repeatedly enter a horse who doesn’t enjoy it.

The cheering is not unique to liberty classes. It’s common in halter, most saddleseat classes, and all working western disciplines. Ever watched a cutting or reining class?


Even in his 30s my late Arab could look like that, tearing around the paddock. They can still take my breath away! That horse didn’t like he was running in a panicky way, just showing off.

My current pinto pony manages a short burst of maybe three canter strides, then stops and shuffles slowly away.


Just because it’s not what you want to see does not mean the horses are “terrified”. I’ve got Saddlebreds & Hackneys and have heard the same line of crap from ignorant people for years. A show horse like this is about as far from terrified as you can get. They are up, but not scared. They feed off a crowd.

We whoop and hollar at home. It’s Pavloh’s Dog. We reward horses for getting big, they hear ‘crowds’ at home, get a ‘good pony’ for looking out of the bridle and strutting their stuff. They get in front of a bigger crowd and strut more. Hard for you to believe, but they enjoy it. The ones that don’t enjoy it don’t get shown.

I want to see a horse walking calmly around as much as want my toenails pulled out. We all have different tastes, which is fine as long as you don’t go around making stuff up about things that you know nothing about.


I’ve been around horses enough years to know the damned difference between showing off and scared to death.

I have certainly seen Saddlebreds chased with bags on whips, tin can noisemakers, and even fire extinguishers who enjoyed the game. I know what that looks like.

I am speaking purely with regard to Arabian liberty classes.

I have seen liberty class exibitors who indeed, took the time to school their horses, and yes, those horses were putting on a show.

Unfortunately, there is a larger percentage, not infrequently young women/teenage girls, who seem to think there’s nothing more to it than turning the horse loose, hazing it with a whip, and letting it frantically try to find a safe space while the crowd behaves like plebians in the Roman Colisseum.

I find it exceptinally ugly as a performance, and detrimental to the horse.


In my younger days I saw an Arabian liberty class were a young mare was chased with rocks in a coffee can and a driving whip.

Poor thing was shaking. She galloped and around haphazardly, lost her footing and fell. I remember because it was such an unusual fall - she wiped out on her side. She was sweating and the arena sand stuck to her light grey coat. The handlers stopped chasing after that and led her out. Apparently she was a halter horse and the liberty thing was new to her. She just seemed so overwhelmed

Her owner really put her in a bad situation by throwing her in that liberty class. She just wasn’t prepared or suited to it.

The winner of that class was a lovely chestnut whose handlers let the horse prance and snort and show off his lovely trot. No noisemakers were needed - this horse reveled in the attention and took his time strutting around with confidence.

Just like any show class, there are good and bad examples. It all comes down to horsemanship and preparation. I think that some liberty entrants think it will be an “easy” class, and just throw their horse in the ring and hope for the best. But looking pretty running in the pasture doesn’t always equate to liberty success.


I was attending a show at a multi-use complex and during some down time I wandered into the indoor that was not part of the show I was there for, and it had an Arabian breed show going on.
Now, I admit my experience is two horses (two in a row) at that show, and only those two horses at that show.

But that is not even close to what I saw.

Handlers all over the ring with whips and things making the horse keep going and when the buzzer went off that their time was up, it literally took (for both horses, clearly one at a time) 10 minutes for anyone to be able to catch them.
Both horses were so upset that they were not letting anyone near them.

Maybe every other horse in the class did it as you described, but for sure the two I watched did not.


Like anything else theres good and bad examples and too many instant “experts” these days fed by the internet where it still is GIGO as it was from the beginning.

Unfortunately, Arabs have always attracted more then their fair share of instant experts and JAW trainer people.

BTW, Ghazzu is NOT an instant expert or any kind of JAW, shes the real deal.


Everything @Ghazzu said. I had an Arab back in the late 60’s and into the 70’s, and was a junior rider for woman who bred and trained them. As a matter of fact, my COTH name is part of the name of the Arab I had for 32 years. The liberty classes came into being in the 70’s. Done correctly, they’re fun. Done simply as a way to chase a horse until it’s terrified is not correct.

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I haven’t seen a bigtime Arabian halter class in many years. But when I did, it was not much calmer than the free run! Lots of whips and jerking to create “animation” and horses that spent most of the class rearing and flying around. I believe they then created a holding area so the handlers couldn’t do anything illegal or agitate them too much before the class.

The free run was also how they marketed halter horses to rich patrons. One barn showed the college group I was with how the patron sat in the luxurious lounge overlooking the arena. Lights were lowered and the smoke machine turned on as the horse was revved up in the makeup ring out of sight. Then music! spotlights! The horse runs in with tail flagging while discretely place helpers keep him going. Quite the show!

I am absolutely sure that there are very bad liberty classes and BSC in hand classes in Arab world. I absolutely won’t argue that.

My only point was that in this video I saw nothing more than I do with my own horses every so often in attended turnout.


Horse doesn’t look terrified to me? A bit amped up with the music, crowd and the encouragement from those 2 “minuscule” white flags that were used to encourage his forward movement but I wouldn’t call it abuse…

Not worth $2000 in prize money but whatever.

I did not comment on this particular video, but on the typical entries I’ve seen over 40 years or so.


Oh I totally believe you.

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We had a young stallion we showed in Liberty Classes back in the 70’s. We played with him that way at home in the arena so it was sort of rehearsed. But, the more the crowd cheered the higher he trotted. As I recall, the classes weren’t long, 2-3 minutes maybe. When it was done, wife who showed him, would put her arm around his neck and lead him out. Total on/off button on that horse. That was fun and it actually paid money. I think we once won $2500 at the Egyptian Event. Most money we ever made at a horse show in 25 years.


Definition please for older lady? GIGO, JAW? :rofl:

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Garbage In - Garbage Out


As an old fart whose seen plenty of Arab halter, the part where they led him in was much more objectionable to me than the actual liberty part. I hated the way they showed Arabs in halter in the 1980s (welts, shanking, waaaay too much evil whip action) and I hate the way they show them in main ring halter (as opposed to sport horse in hand) now - too much random trotting with the horse’s head up in the air etc. At least there’s much less evil whip action in the ring these days.

I recommend going to Arabian Sport Horse Nationals if you want to see sane Arabs.


DH and I went to the Scottdale Arabian show years go, as a break when we were hiking in Arizona. I come from hunter/jumper land and was shocked at the halter classes. Watched them “animate” a two-year old filly outside the ring before her entrance by shaking a coke can full of pebbles at the end of a stick under her feet. At least they did not hit her (there).

(Note: of course showing hunter/jumpers does have many of its own issues.)


The horse in the OP’s video does not look scared to me, when loose. He looks more scared of the man handler when on the line, and has obviously been shanked a whole bunch and smacked with that whip more than a few times.