Tell me about Arabs in dressage

No as I said in my post, the ones I’ve been around most recently are bred for and showing sporthorse. Haven’t been around halter or saddleseat arabians since I was a teenager.

OK! Guess mine must be unique then or I’m biased. I thought about sharing video but I know how that tends to go :slight_smile:

Perhaps the OP should consider a different breed.

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I don’t know this person but it’s a public YouTube video which seems to be posted to demonstrate a lateral canter. This is a “tight” canter with an obvious lateral tendency. I attribute this to a straighter hind leg and holding tension somewhere. Both very possible in Arabs.


I’m considering almost all breeds.


You pick your favorite breed then pick the best one for the job, and understand that your arab will almost ALWAYS get beat by someone’s leg flinging warmblood (ducking) which will frustrate you but you don’t care because you love the breed. If you do care then you should pick someone bred more purposely for dressage. If you go into the breed thinking they all have bad canters or buy something with a bad canter then what you get is a bad canter.

I don’t have any arabs that have lateral canters but they are never going to move like warmbloods and I don’t usually care. My arab is considerably more broke, better trained, and better moving than my potato but because my potato moves like a warmblood it always scores better despite being belligerent and feral. I’m not going to sell my arab though :slight_smile: I’ve had kids on him but he has A LOT of canter and despite his pocket sizing is not a kids horse.


Just so.

“I want to compete at upper levels in dressage–what breed of horse should I buy?”
“I want to buy an Arab–can we compete in dressage?”
are two different questions.


This is so important. Non traditional breeds in dressage are typically rarer and ridden by people extremely good at dressage with access to world class instruction. Us fat old ammys on our pocket horses can either get stuck in dressage and fight with our horse’s natural conformation and scoring issues or we can enjoy ourselves. I do dressage on my arabs because I love arabs first. If I wanted to climb to the upper levels more then I’d buy something that gave me that advantage.

Also, when riding at recognized dressage shows we can ride our pocket horses into the bit check tent so the bit checkers don’t get rained on and promptly cause 6 DQs to swoon. Then later we spook at B because it is after all an Arabian.


This is the truth. And I absolutely love calling your other horse a potato, lol!

But I think many of us don’t care so much about being the top scoring horse/rider in the country and rather enjoy the process of getting there. Zoom, zoom, little sports cars.


i have a 20yo arab mare. She is hock-stiff and pretty much always has been. Little articulation on those back legs. Her pasterns are very mobile and her hips are fabulous and strong. She moves like a daddylonglegs. She has good bone all around, the kind of leg i love… but she moves from the hip and always has.
edit: ‘always’ is relative! i adopted her from humane society. She was over 12 then


There’s a saying in dressage: “you buy the canter”. The general consensus is that you can modify and improve a trot a tremendous amount, and just pretty much hope to not wreck the clarity of the canter and walk.

So, settle for nothing less than an absolutely wonderful, indelibly three beat, not flat, excellent canter. These are not things that Arabians are famous for, but they are out there. I have seen them…


This is a pessimistic outlook IMO. Like I mentioned in my original post, I have Lusitanos and PREs. So I am not blind to the big movers scoring better at the lower levels. I think the rideability of the Lusis/PRE and other off-breeds like arabs and Morgans comes into play at the upper levels, if you can get there. I also just don’t enjoy the giant lap dog personality of many warmbloods.

I also don’t really believe in being “beat” by anyone in dressage. If your scores are where you want them and you’re improving, you’re winning, no? You don’t even have to win the class to get your medals, if that’s what you care about. I’m not sure if you’re intending your post to come off like you think I know nothing about any horse’s capability for dressage, but that’s how it’s sounding.


I’m a fairly capable rider with a trainer shopping on a serious budget. A horse with a lateral tendency because of tension at the canter is a manageable issue for me. Nobody is giving away gaits to die for without compromising safety or soundness.


I came to Arabians FROM the WB/all-breed world. That’s why I still rely on open world evaluations of my horses to help guide my breeding program. As a breeder, bloodlines DO matter to me because in order to get the functional conformation and other traits that are my goal, I need to use stock that is likely to produce those traits.

Part of the reason that Obie is working at I2 on the way to GP is because I chose particular bloodlines that had been bred over generations to have the traits that I valued from my education in the open sport horse world. I have also made sure he was developed carefully in accordance with his capability at each stage.

I switched to Arabians from WBs because I fell in love with the great minds coupled with the handy athleticism that was often still found in some of the CMK lines. I thought it was a shame that those lines were dying out so I started a small breeding program.

Because my eye was educated from being at dressage barns and attending various WB inspections, I chose Arabians that were more “dorsoflexed” in their natural carriage than “ventro-flexed”. Tension from reactivity/distraction or when not yet fit is still an issue because of the breed’s high responsiveness/sensitivity, but is something that can be worked through, IME. You DO need to ride a bit differently to obtain and maintain the relaxation.

A lateral canter is not something that any of my instructors or the folks who have ridden or trained any of my Arabs have ever commented on so I have not experienced that personally. I don’t spend a lot of time around Arabians except my own though.

Some of my greenies will swap behind or scramble a bit at the canter if they rush, but as they develop the strength and balance they have correct canters. The Arabians I’ve presented at inspections have gotten 7s or 8s on their canters. The full sibling filly to the gelding son of Obie referenced by the OP (unless it’s one of Obie’s Shagya sons) got an 8.9 on quality of gaits when she had a voluntary foal inspection at a Trakehner inspection a few weeks ago (where the point for me was to present her dam) with the comment that if she hadn’t been at a butt high growth phase she might have scored even higher! That dam was approved for Trak breeding. Years ago that little Arab mare also placed in the 3 year old filly class at Dressage at Devon as the only non-WB are to place in that class, and won the Arabian IBC that year which is only significant in that she beat both my 2 year old colt who was 2nd while Obie was just 3rd as a 5 year old stallion which was totally in line with my assessment as a breeder. There were 7 in that IBC class. Obie may be the one at I2 now, but my breeding program is based on more than Obie!)

In my younger days, I could sit the flamboyant moving WBs. Today that is not something that I have any interest in doing. I DO enjoy the nuances of dressage and the harmony of partnership with a horse. I really like the sweet and inquisitive temperaments of the Arabians I know and I find their athleticism to be sufficient for the dressage and hacking I want to do. They are not everyone’s cup of tea and that is fine. :slight_smile:

I’ve been around horses long enough and ridden enough different breeds and individuals to know that each one has strengths and challenges – none are “perfect”. The key is to find a partner that suits your goals and needs and whose challenges are manageable for you rather than disqualifying.

I think it’s cool that more people are considering Arabians and other non-WBs as viable options when it suits their preferences and goals. I love seeing lots of different breeds putting in really nice tests. I was once impressed by a rider with a Fjord who I saw score a 65.5 in PSG. It was really lovely riding and a correct PSG test with a horse who is built and moves very differently than a modern WB!!! (I DO appreciate what modern WBs offer; I’m just looking for something a bit different and can appreciate the variation in different breeds.)


My first Arab, Araba Tigris, had a decent trot, but an infinite range at the canter.
He was glorious.
Back wehn show hack was first introduced, he would always blow me away with his transitions between collected and extended canter.


I do not know why you keep insisting that all Arabs have bad canters, or that any within your serious budget will. None of mine were expensive in any way and all had good canters


No where did I say that all Arabs have horrible canters and nobody is insulting your horse. I was replying to outerbanks77 initial comment that many of them have lateral tendencies and then someone else’s comment that you buy the perfect canter. I think you can infer that I am quite a fan of Obie, who has been mentioned a number of times here. Lateral tendency does not a horrible canter make, and when you have high aspirations and a small budget you buy a manageable problem.


The stereotypical shortcomings of the breed are far more well circulated in the general horse world than the desirable qualities of the ones that ARE suitable for sport disciplines. Often the way people describe the breed to me is totally at odds with my experience with my Arabians (and with what I’ve seen in many other Arabians).

I’m encouraged that this thread includes plenty of descriptions of what makes some Arabians very suitable as dressage partners for some riders and not just a pile on of how Arabians are not capable of being good partners for developing up the levels.


Re: canters. This is where conformation and type plays a big role. Horses from a lot of those halter/liberty lines do not use their hind ends. They have these tight, funny croups and their hocks are set so high I don’t even think they can engage them. So you get pogo sticks, Pepe Le Pew, and other weird types of movement.

But that doesn’t mean Arabs with good gaits are rare. We literally had a whole barn of them growing up. Sure, the upper level Arab is a bit more of a diamond in the rough, but certainly not unattainable. As was suggested above, go check out the Arab sporthorse results and you will see a slew of bloodlines scoring quite well.

If someone says, “I want to be riding at a level where I get noticed for international competition,” I would never suggest an Arab. But if someone is open to alternative breeds and wants an affordable horse who has the capablility to compete at a high level, an Arab may be a good match.


One of my dressage trainers says my mini warmblood has easier to sit gaits than my arab so that’s amusing! Granted she’s a long way from a Valegro but I do enjoy how she always has a place to sit and kids ride her easily, although I think her flying change will be more difficult compared to my arabs who have always had natural changes due to the jump in their canters but then the gaits always make them harder to ride. I get a lot of kids who want to buy my current arab because he’s fun sized but the ones that I let ride him find his gaits hard to manage.

Your experience has been the same as mine, I’ve seen more arabs with good canters than the pogo stick style in barns oriented toward sport horse that I’m frankly in disbelief at the number of lateral canters others have seen!

Buy your breed, then buy the best gaits within that breed. I don’t feel that’s out of the OP’s budget.


I’m sorry, I still disagree strongly with you that a bad canter is something you just have to accept or can afford when buying an arab for dressage.