Tell me about Arabs in dressage

I’ve begun horse shopping on a budget and am certainly not opposed to “off-breeds” with upper level potential. I’ve come across a couple of cute young Arabians, but I don’t see a ton of them and haven’t known that many myself, though a few distantly. A barn acquaintance went 4th level with her Arab gelding many years ago. If you’re in New England, you might know of Obie.

I’ve had Lusis/PREs for a few years and have kind of settled on them being “my” breed. I’m not made of money and always end up inheriting some with training/behavioral issues. I would like my next horse to be something I can hopefully bring up the levels. I’m a smaller person and feel good on 15hh. I like a round horse and a short back.

Does anyone have an Arabian/Arabian cross in the upper levels or know of any? Success stories, challenges, etc.


I don’t have lots of experience but I did find this you tube clip of an Arab going PSG/l1.


Arabs come in a few varieties.

The short back, flat croup “main ring” halter horse variety will have big movement, but can’t use their body to move up the levels.

But the riding/working/racing lines still have that big movement, plus conformation better suited for dressage.

I grew up with Arabs and many of our purebreds (and half Arabs) did dressage. That speaks to their inherent ability because we had NO clue what we were doing yet were able to compete successfully through 2nd level. These days I take dressage lessons regularly on my Selle Francais x Arab and still can’t get back up to 2nd level! (Rider limitations, not the horse, and take regularly with a grain of salt because I’ve been on a bit of hiatus :rofl:)

Honestly, having owned and ridden both, I think it’s easier to bring a good Arab up through the levels than an OTTB. I know that’s not what you’re asking, I’m just saying that as a reference point.

Also, the Arabian Horse Association has a wonderful dressage program. Many of their breed shows offered dressage classes judged by USDF judges with the ability to qualify for Arabian Sporthorse Nationals. If you’re feeling insecure about breed biases, you could make a very good competitive career for yourself exclusively doing Arab shows.


Call me breed biased, I will never own a TB for dressage. They are not my thing.

I’m not in the know enough to know which Arabs are halter or riding lines besides being able to look at a horse’s functional conformation and being able to guess more or less how it will move. Know of any big names I should look out for or avoid?

Nothing wrong with that! I just mentioned it for the sake of comparison: Arabs tend to be sounder. Arabs tend to be naturally balanced. Arabs tend to have less tension to contend with.

I’m so far removed from Arab breeding these days that I couldn’t name you any lines by name. People have their preferences (Crabbet, Polish, Russian, etc.), but honestly, I think functional conformation will get you a lot farther than hunting for specific bloodlines.

Arabs can have some wonky conformation faults (offset cannons, club feet, etc.) but something pretty incredible is how sound they tend to be regardless of those faults. My experience is they have above average predisposition to stifle injuries, so that is something to keep in mind when vetting.


I have an Arabian Sporthorse (Arab/Hannoverian) schoolmaster who has competed successfully at I1, and has it in him to go further if we get to that point before either of us dies of old age.

He’s about 16.3, solidly built with more of a Hannoverian head. Old style Hanno dam, well known lines Canadian sire (Padron/Patron)

He’s sensitive, quick, athletic, a bit spooky and a fast learner.

Because they are fast learners and athletic, i think there is a temptation to push them too fast and teach them the “tricks” without a solid physical foundation, so watch for that.


This pair is local to me and Lea just finished her silver medal in August!


Closest thing I’ve got to a conformation shot on my phone :slight_smile:


I’ve actually been around Arabians a lot for someone who is not very into Arabians. :stuck_out_tongue: If I was looking for one for dressage, I would be weeding them out first based on canter (well, first on size, but I’m 5’9 with long legs). I did see one about a year ago that had an excellent canter, and if I’d been in the market, I would have looking hard at him. I have friends who do AHA sport horse (not heavy into it, but bred their own for that purpose) and they can still have lateral tendency in the canter. They have two with AHA sport horse national titles at training/first but haven’t gone beyond second, one due to injury, the other probably just due to consistency in training. Some of the arabian/warmblood crosses are very nice for a lower price than full WB, and you have the option of competing in the Arabian Sporthorse shows.


I have a good friend who earned her bronze and silver medals on her purebred Arabian gelding several years ago. He was 15 hands mostly Padron bred but the bomb for being sensible and a giving it his all. She rode him through I2 before he had to be retired. I earned my bronze on my purebred Bey Shah son out of a Khemosabi daughter. He was also very sensible and signed up for whatever I asked. He was 15.1 hands tall and heavy boned. Though I’ve been a breeder of Welsh Cobs for many years, I always had an Arab or two in the barn, mostly for my kids and their endeavors but everyone always did double duty which included open dressage shows. We stuck with mostly Polish and Crabbet lines. It was rather common to have people ask if ours were part warmblood because we focused on big bone, decent to really good canter (as opposed to looking like they were stomping snakes) and of course a great mind. If you google and look up those winning at the Arab Sport Horse Nationals you’ll get a good idea of what’s being bred and what’s out there.


Look up EA Cygnus. He was brought up from Training level through Grand Prix by a former trainer of mine. Then with a Junior/Young Rider, went on to set a record of 75 lifetime Grand Prix rides. (I think ultimately he did 77.)

Another Arab also started by this trainer was sold while still at a low level but went on to Grand Prix with his new owners.


Dawn Jones-Low is having a great time with FCF Oberon’s Vanity–he’s currently at Intermediare II I believe, and working towards GP.


Yes, that is Obie mentioned in my original post. Catherine Waterman Hill rides him in the I2. He is local to me. A gelding he sired is for sale, just outside of my budget and there’s a couple things about his conformation that make me look twice.

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There are a few of us on this forum that show Arabians in dressage. :slight_smile:

Where I board my horses, we now have a collection of DIY Arabian/Amateur owners. The general consensus is that they are all pretty amateur friendly horses. We’re just doing the thing with lessons and the occasional clinic.
Another local friend of mine went PSG on a little self-trained purebred. They have a lot of grit and heart. Same friend now has a Hispano-Arabe that she’s showing, except he’s a lot trickier to ride and is a lot more unpredictable. Our horses range all over in terms of blood lines, but all receive pretty dang good comments in terms of gaits and quality and have regional/national titles.

But if you like a smart, sensitive horse, then you may be able to find the fit for you, especially if you ignore any kind of looking or spooking. I don’t think of my local group of friends, any of us paid more than $3k for our horses since we were all younger/broke amateurs.

In terms of breeding, I don’t really see such a hard and fast rule anymore. There’s bloodlines I personally don’t jive with in personality, but looking at Arabian sport horse nationals, there were a number of horses at FEI that have ‘halter’ or even ‘western pleasure’ bloodlines. Just look at the quality of the canter and the tension and I would make a decision that way.

I was just impressed that my coach has really enjoyed coming to the Arabian shows to coach us. At least in our area, there’s a very different vibe than many of the open dressage events in terms of being pretty amateur friendly. I could always find someone to help leg me up or everyone is cheering for each other/etc.

I like that I have the option to do both Arabian and open dressage events. Many of the Arabian events are more affordable in my area too.


I do see this quite a bit. In your experience have you seen them grow out of this as they become more balanced?

Lateral? Been around arabs for years and never seen lateral canters. Some lines, especially those bred for main ring do tend to be hock trailers which is a natural result of breeding them so upheaded.

Or are you referring to the classic “pogo stick” canter that some arabs do?


I think it can be improved if you can get them more supple over the back, but IMO that is tricky because they can also tend towards curling.

I know they can pogo when they’re really tight in the back and excited, but IME, an Arabian that stays soft over the back and shows good natural hind leg separation in the canter is somewhat rare. It’s what I would look for if I was in the market, and I know it’s rare because I still remember being so impressed with the video of that one gelding’s canter.


I would definitely agree that many Arabians have a lateral tendency at the canter. Not incredibly obvious but the outside hind and front travel together. I don’t think I’ve seen one that was truly lateral where I would consider the horse unsound but there’s definitely the chance of being marked down for gait impurities on your test.


I don’t find it rare at all, especially when focused on arabs bred for sport horse. Perhaps you were around a lot of main ring horses.

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