By Sherry Jackson
The clopping of hooves and the neighs of 2,400 majestic Arabian horses will take over WestWorld of Scottsdale in February with the 64th annual Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show.
Billed as “the greatest horse show on Earth,” the bay, gray, chestnut, black and roan horses will take center stage Thursday, February 14, to Sunday, February 24.
With more than 300,000 people expected to attend, it’s the largest horse show in the world. The unofficial kickoff to the Arabian horse competition season, it’s also considered to be the premier horse event, drawing people and horses from all over the world. Breeders, trainers and owners come to see the newest babies and hot new stallions and to get a feel for the competition.
“A win at Scottsdale is pretty prestigious. It’s a very significant event in the equine world in general,” says Taryl O’ Shea, executive director, Arabian Horse Association of Arizona. “People will fly horses in from places like Italy and we’re expecting some big-name horses, including some from the royal families.”
More than 1,000 competitions will be held over the 11 days, ranging from ranch horse riding to dressage to Western and English pleasure, horsemanship, side saddle and mounted native costume. Horses compete in six competition arenas with a full schedule each day. The first weekend of the event is primarily dedicated to youth competitions and the last weekend is more of the championship events including Liberty, where horses run to music. It’s the culmination of the best of the best and typically sells out,” O’Shea says.
The event will cater to all and there’s plenty for nonhorse enthusiasts, too. More than 350 vendors will be in the Shopping Expo, providing everything from fine art to jewelry to clothing and of course, all things equine. Attendees can learn more about Arabian horses at one of the seminars and educational events. A behind-the-scenes barn tour will provide a sneak peek to see what it takes to get the horses ready for competition and meet horses and their trainers. Pony rides are available for the kids.
“There’s truly something for everyone,” O’Shea says.
The association will also hold a children’s art contest for kindergarten through sixth grade and an amateur photography contest. Of course, both need to feature Arabian horses.
Plenty of food options will be available with more than 50 different vendors. “Last year we introduced food truck row with lobster rolls and Chinese food and that will be back,” O’Shea says. “We try to bring in a really good selection and offer good, quality food.”
But make no mistake; it’s still all about the horses, and competition can be fierce. Some of the horse competitions will have elimination rounds to make it to the final championship. Not only are owners and trainers hoping for the prestige of winning, but prize money can be as much as $31,000.
With approximately 70 percent of attendees coming from outside the area, the economic impact is huge—more than $60 million—based on a study done several years ago, O’Shea says. Most owners and trainers who bring horses in for the competition are here for 16 days or longer to allow the horses to acclimate, get familiar with the grounds and practice in the arenas. Hotels, restaurants and services all benefit from the annual show.
Arabian horses have been popular in Scottsdale since the early 1950s when prominent families such as the Chaunceys, Gaineys and Wrigleys brought Arabian horses to the area for their ranches. Shows were first held at the former Casa Blanca Inn and on the grounds of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel.
Since 1989, the show has been held at WestWorld of Scottsdale and has grown from 50 to more than 2,400 horses. The event brings top owners, trainers and breeders from around the world competing for a chance at winning. A win at Scottsdale can mean big money in the breeding barns.
“The Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show is known as the mecca for the Arabian horse,” O’Shea says. “The horse show has been so impactful, many people have relocated to the area because of the show being here and some of the best breeding farms in the world are located in Scottsdale.”
Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show, WestWorld of Scottsdale, 16601 N. Pima Road, Scottsdale, 480.515.1500, scottsdaleshow.com, various times Thursday, February 14, to Sunday, February 24, $10 per day, with senior and military discounts.