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The Arab horse originates from the Bedouin desert as a war horse. Though most commonly seen today in the show ring, in hand or under saddle, they are also fantastic performance animals, having competed at the highest level in dressage, eventing, endurance, racing and team chasing.

The Arab has a beautiful, refined head with neat ears, wide-set large honest eyes, a large jowl, and a distinctive dish to the nose. The curve of the throat (mitbah) should be clearly defined; this is one of the most distinctive characteristics of the breed. The neck is long & curving leading to a long sloping shoulder. The forelegs should of course be straight with large, flat knees and short cannons. The body of the Arab is shorter than other horses owing to the fact that they have one less lumbar vertebrae, which can often make them look 'croup high' under saddle.

The topline of the Arab should be fairly flat with a smooth body shape, but there should be an obvious place to put the saddle. The tail carriage is another defining characteristic of the breed, being highly set - an Arab should 'flag' its tail when moving. Quarters tend to be more level than in other breeds, and they should be long from hip & stifle to the hock, with a well let down hock and muscular thigh and gaskin.

There are many 'strains' of Arab depending upon their bloodlines. These include Russian horses, known for their powerful movement, Polish horses with a particular ethereal beauty, Egyptians that tend to be lighter framed than other bloodlines, and the Crabbet & Old English horses who are beautiful riding horses with a decent amount of bone. Fashion dictates the most popular bloodline in the show ring at a given time, especially in hand, but all should be able to do a job and be functional riding horses as well as stunning show animals.

The in hand Arab and its ridden counterpart have drifted apart in type over the last few years. In hand horses tend to be more flamboyant and delicate in bone, whereas the ridden horses have more bone to them and are more substantial. However, it is now increasingly common to see successful in hand horses continuing their careers under saddle, which can only be good for the breed.

In hand Arabs are shown in elegant halters, unplaited and untrimmed save for the hair under the jaw, the ears (outside only), and the fetlocks, though it is now permissible to cut a 'bridle path' in order to show off the mitbah. Handlers wear smart trousers & shirt, with no hacking or show jacket. You do need to be able to run very fast, as Arabs are trotted out at great speed!

Ridden Arabs are also unplaited and untrimmed. It is worth noting that it is not permissible to use any make up or any hoof polish - anything that alters the appearance is banned, though baby oil/highlighter is often applied over the eyes & muzzle. Many are shown in pelhams rather than double bridles as the Arab mouth is small and the tongue fleshy, not leaving a lot of room for two bits. It is personal preference whether you use a coloured or plain browband, apply quarter marks, and also what type of jacket you wear - navy or tweed.

Showing classes are run as normal, usually with the judge riding rather than an individual show being performed.

The main shows in the Arab calendar are the National Championships at Malvern held at the end of July (run by the Arab Horse Society - AHS), the British Arabian & Amateur Championships, run at the beginning of September, & the UK International Show at Towerlands.

Each Regional branch of the AHS also runs its own shows - details can be found on www.arabhorsesociety.com. The AHS also runs a Marathon every year over 26 miles.

The Arab is a beautiful and intelligent horse. Though often thought to be flighty, stick-legged, and unpredictable, the truth is that bad or unsuitable owners who do not understand the breed often give Arabians a bad name. If treated with respect and love they are bold, wonderful companions and very loyal, often with a wicked sense of humour!

Website designed, maintained and of M Hughes and J Saxby 2008