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Tell me about Arabs in dressage

You are very clearly misinterpreting my words so you can continue to argue with me.


This is excellent insight, thank you!! I’m really curious about this gelding, not sure if he is The One but he definitely caught my eye.


I earned my bronze and silver on my now semi-retired purebred gelding (Crabett, CMK and Polish). I’m an average middle aged adult ammy and got him when he was 3 and did most of the training myself (With lots of lessons of course). He is what I’d say was an amateurs dream horse to ride and train since he was sane, willing and smart. His amount of heart and try was sometimes the reason for a blue ribbon in a class stacked with warmbloods and riders in full training. Several BNTs I worked with over the years said he had the talent to go GP…we ran out of time to get there because his hocks can’t handle it at 17…that and the fact I never had him in full training slowed us down. It was never the medals and shows that I cared about…the partnership and bond is unlike anything I have ever or likely will ever experience again. OP I hope you consider getting an Arab!!


I’m not trying to argue with you at all. I think there are plenty of arabs out there with good quality gaits that will be in your budget and suitable for dressage if what you really want is an arab.

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I bought a 5year old Half Arab last year. He was a main ring show horse. I bought a ton training and show experience that would have cost me 3x as much in a warmblood. He’s 16H, happy to work, never gets tired, and is good for a laugh. We are fully capable of the upper levels. He is perfect for me! It is so nice to have a sports car.
(A good friend of mine works in the Arab world so I had an ‘in’. He would never have crossed my path otherwise. If you’re interested in connecting with her, please message me.)


Suggestion: if you are a FaceBook user, peruse the Arabian and Half Arabian Dressage Marketing Page. I think that will give you a very good idea of what’s available right now. I joined about a year ago and there have been some nice horses listed there.
Suggestion: join the Arabian Sport Horse Alliance FB group
Suggestion: make plans to attend Arabian Sport Horse Nationals at WEC Ohio in September 2023 if you don’t have a horse by then. I have shown my Arab cross there in 2021 and 2022 and can tell you that there are a LOT of very very nice dressage horses being shown these days.

Other info: a show buddy of mine, Caitlin Heinz, has shown a partbred up to I1 and is currently showing a purebred at PSG. She routinely shows open dressage and wins. It can be done!

I am a dressage duffer but have had some success with a purebred and my current crossbred. Arab/Arab crosses are pretty, smart, easy to train, and versatile. They also generally have great feet and are healthy.

Bloodlines: I have an article somewhere that discusses the top 20 dressage sires at the time the article was published. The bloodlines were all over the place, so following the age old advice of judging the horse in front of you is really key. Some people don’t like Egyptian bloodlines for performance, or Padron, or halter or english pleasure bred, or blah blah blah. But I have seen excellent examples of all of these winning at dressage. If I had to suggest better bets, I’d say Crabbet, Polish, or Russian bloodlines. Or maybe Varian bloodlines of the working variety.

There are so many positive things happening in the Arab sport horse world - come over to the dark side and enjoy it with us! :smile: :smile: :smile: :smile:

ETA: If you want to join another FB group, join AHA Sport Horse Nationals Forum and browse for the National Horseman SHN issue. Lots of beautiful horses there!


Thanks kindly, this is lots of good info. Im about part of every horse sales page on Facebook known to god and man including that one. I really hope to have a horse by the summer but maybe if I’ve got an Arab I’ll want to go anyways.


There are lots of good Arabians and Half-Arabians who have the ability to go to the higher levels of dressage. It will be harder to get a lot of them there, as their conformation isn’t always conducive to collection.

If you are shopping for one, like others have said - buy the canter. You want hocks and stifles that articulate in the canter. Avoid the more stiff-legged canters. It’ll be harder for those horses to sit. At the trot, look for hocks underneath, not trailing behind. Its a common trait you’ll see in many halter bred horses. In general Polish, Crabbet, and racing-bred Arabians may be better dressage prospects.

And there will be people who managed to get their halter-bred, main ring horse to FEI levels too. I’m just suggesting paths that may be a little easier.

Arabians can be fun. I’ve had a few and we had a blast. I’ll still take a warmblood for dressage any day of the week, but I wouldn’t walk away from a good moving Arabian either.


Heather Oleson took one to GP, many years ago. She used to be in my neck of the woods and I remember watching her ride with Ernst Herrmann.
Years back, all I rode was Arabs. I remember asking my trainer if I was to buy one with dressage in mind, what to look for. She said, “find one WP bred.” Her meaning was the canter. Everything showing in the English classes was a pogo stick, including my own mare.
If I was looking for one today, I would do as others mentioned - look at the current shows and sales/breeding pages and see what lines are doing what and how consistently.

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A good horse is a good horse is a good horse…I have been on this board for many years. I have often said it before and will say it again, Ride what you love and love what you ride! As stated in an earlier post my kids more or less grew up on Arabs though my son did move on to an Oldenburg because he’s 6’4" and my daughter took over my Welsh Cob stallion eventually. He has since passed away and she’s considering getting another Arabian. My son is also looking for a part-bred (size is his greatest need). I hope they both find what they’re looking for in the Arab circles. The biggest reason isn’t just the fact that I think they can find the personality and disposition that they adore but also the Arab world is so much more supportive and welcoming. Yes, you can find gutter snipes in any discipline or breed but by and large it’s a far wider/open set of opportunities including dressage that are available with a pure or part-bred Arabian. There are a lot of part-breds out there that are capable though truth be told I’m partial to purebreds. As for riding big gaits, I will warn you that it’s still all about the individual, but it sounds like you’re well aware of that. I have a 5 year old Morgan who many think is a warmblood (or overgrown GRP). One reason is that he has a fantastic canter and he is such a back mover. I’m 59 and riding his canter, sitting his trot, etc all lovely require the abs of my 20s & 30s which are somewhat still there but oy vei… Good luck in your search. Even though I don’t have one currently, I wouldn’t hesitate to put another Arab in my barn if the opportunity were there…never, ever regretted any single one I had in the past.


Why not get the best of both worlds? An Arabian WB cross? I don’t know that I have seen your budget but they are much more budget friendly than a pure WB and as long as it’s done right they are still eligible as WB for some registries. I may be biased as I am purchasing such a cross but she checked most of my boxes. I could use a little more spice undersaddle but I am learning that is likely more how she was started than what’s really inside of her.


If we are considering Arab/WB cross why not go with Trakehner? :wink: Both Trakehner and Anglo-Arabians have tons of success in dressage.

I will be the outlier with a big caveat: there are Arabians… and then there are Arabians.

Most people have experience with the latter: cylindrical long body plan, straight high-set hocks, swan necks, etc. I think in the US Arabians can suffer from the same public perception the Morgans do, and unfortunately, there are a fair bit of Arabian (and Morgan) breeders who breed for the wrong reasons and their product tends to trickle into the LL market as a poor ambassador for the breed.

The US racing Arabians are very nice for sport. They share a similar body plan to the French, likely because they share a fair bit of blood; they are not the dish-headed halter Arabians most envision when they think of Arabians. They are stout, compact, and athletic. In my experience they don’t have the canter issues seen in other arabian lines, and they are smart and people-oriented.

In general, as with any off-breed you may find struggles. I think the posters warning you about tension and canter-work in the Arabian are right to do so. Any off-breed will have its share of struggles typical-to-the-breed. But there is nothing wrong with picking one for your journey. Not everyone wants or needs a warmblood.


I don’t have the budget for a “real” warmblood that isn’t unsafe or unsound. I also hesitate to say this in public but I’ve met so few warmbloods that I’ve really liked. Most of them have just been bigger than I need and so, so, dopey and dumb. The geldings especially. I’m not a Golden Retriever person and I’m not a warmblood person, despite dressage being my sport of choice.


Budget wise it would definitely depend on the cross and the individual. I think that most all horses are eligible for some warmblood registries as long as they pass the inspection. IIRC, Dawn who has posted here has a Trakehner approved mare and Obie is registered as at least one other thing.

The data used to determine those rankings is not the same as the data available in the WB world. Those rankings are based only on SHN placings in any level of dressage. There isn’t much predictive value beyond some generalizations which align with “these bloodlines have mostly been bred for some kind of athleticism more often than not”.

From a buyer’s perspective the breeding that produced the horse is only relevant in that it may help explain WHY the horse has the qualities that make it suitable for the buyer’s preferences or not. Ultimately the horse needs to be a good match for the rider’s preferences and goals regardless of the breed or pedigree, IMO. (As a breeder pedigree matters a great deal because I need to understand what a particular horse is likely to produce based on its close ancestors and how likely it is to be a good fit in my program.)

BTW, Caitlin and Groovin are a fantastic pair! They’ve placed very highly at USDF Regionals several times and competed at USDF Finals a few times if I recall – in addition to a lot of success at AHA’s SHN. They are great ambassadors for the breed in the dressage world for sure!


I do have an ATA approved mare and two Shagya-Arabian approved mares. (Shagya-Arabians are a sport horse breed with inspections and performance requirements.) Obie is approved for Trakehner, Rhineland, OLD-NA, and NASS (Shagya-Arabian). The head inspector for the ATA commented that Obie’s structure was like a scaled down Trakehner (he then added the analogy of “like if a Trakehner was a wool sweater that was accidentally shrunk in the laundry, but had the same proportions!”).

In addition to Arab/WB crosses (many of which are registered WBs because of parent approvals) there are also Anglo-Arabians and Shagya-Arabian breeds to consider for those interested in horses with some Arabian characteristics in a larger size sport horse package.

Some Shagyas are also “Half-Arabian” because they have a Shagya approved Arabian sire or dam. Those Shagyas can be shown at the AHA shows if they are also registered as AHA Half-Arabs.

(Point of clarity: Arabians are not “registered”*** as WBs or other sport breeds, but they can be approved for breeding in WB, sport pony, and Shagya studbooks. WB studbooks include a “registry” section(s) for foals and a “breeding” section(s) for mares and stallions from whichever registries are eligible for inclusion in breeding within that studbook. WB foals are ONLY able to be registered in ONE WB studbook --even if their parentage makes them eligible for multiple WB studbooks-- the breeder must CHOOSE in which eligible studbook to record the foal. When that foal is grown up as a stallion or mare, it can be presented for breeding approval in whichever WB studbooks accept horses from it’s birth registry.

[***I’m ignoring the weird registry rules of the AWS and a loophole in another NA based WB registry that does not prevent breeders using an approved Arab sire and approved Arab dam from registering the Arab foal as if it was a WB even though the PURPOSE of the registry is to produce WBs.]

(edited to remove duplication)


I know you specifically asked about Arabs, but you said PREs are more your thing. Have you considered a mustang? You don’t have to get a feral one like I did LOL. I marvel watching him play out in the pasture, his lateral work is going to be fabulous one day.

I guess I have a one-off story. Arabs were my breed of choice for years. Then I stumbled into dressage. I had a gorgeous PB that moved beautifully, but had a career-ending hing leg injury. Then I came across an Arab/Andy cross in the yard of a dealer. Breeding nobody would know, but double registered, 2+ year old.

With the great help of my trainer, he went to PSG and I1, got me my Bronze and Silver. He went to Young Riders on a lease and went on to win Silver medals for two more owners, and several of their students before he passed away last year. He was so beloved by anyone that met him.

So yes, I also think Arabians can do dressage. I am not sure I would accept a lateral canter, but I’ve never tried to fix one. My daughter went WP route, and a lot of those horses seemed to be trained into a lateral canter. But that has also been years ago and I haven’t been to an Arabian show in years.

I did enjoy SHN and qualifying at Arab shows - who have all the same judges as an Open show.

I love Arabs. My daughter had a 1/2 Arab by Rosenthal that was/is just stunning. A severe injury as a yearling has kept her to only light riding.

Like you, though, I have moved on to Iberian horses, mostly because they have more size and are more specifically bred for collection. I still love the Arabs.


Yes, but an Arabian will keep a dressage rider far more “honest” with her hands than will another breed.

I own a half Arabian (other half is Westfalen) and a tall purebred who was a bit tortured by his trainers before he came to me. They don’t curl if you don’t ride them ham-handedly. That said, their curling will tell you if some other horses had allowed you to be ham-handed. Oh, and I used to ride a National Show horse who was a curler. It took me a long time to fix, but it can be done.

IMO, Arabians can be a tad weak in the base of the neck and the thoracic sling, so you cannot ride them in a way that curls them behind the bit if you want to do any dressage. Like I say, they will make you very accurate and honest with your hands.


I would love to find a cross like that. No such luck so far.

@mvp I know the importance of out, down or up. My Lusitanos have taught me to keep my hands forward better than any instructor could have. I think the most important thing for me looking at any breed is going to be functional conformation. There are good and bad representatives for every breed.

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