Monday, February 28, 2011

'Toons: Redford the Endurance Horse Goes to the Scottsdale Arabian Show

Monday February 28 2011

2011 Scottsdale Arabian Show - "Look at those Hairy Horses!"

Sunday February 27 2011

Mouths agape, the teenaged girls-used-to-show-horses stared at Rusty and the hairy Redford as they trotted around the arena in the Scottsdale Arabian Show Parade of Champions. "Look at those hairy horses!" It's the first time (we believe) that endurance horses have ever appeared in the Scottsdale Arabian Show Parade of Champions. (Aileen Baca also rode in the Parade of Champions, on her horse R Star Ghostdancer). It was definitely the first time that horses have appeared at the Scottsdale Arabian Show that have not had every excess hair clipped from their bodies.

Rusty and Redford had won the 50 miler, and Aileen and R Star Ghostdancer had won the 25 miler at the AAHA Halloween endurance ride in October in Scottsdale, and were included in this Parade of Champions.

Various Championship winners from the 2011 SAS rode in the Parade (English pleasure, Western pleasure, working cow horse, mounted native costume, and others), all perfectly manicured and polished and clipped. The two hairy endurance horses - especially Redford - looked like shaggy bears compared to the other slick and sleek horses - but they showed off just as well and they looked just as good (better, in my biased eye). And they were most approachable: Redford was constantly surrounded by kids who came up to touch him, pet him, and hug him, because he was so quiet and well-mannered.

Redford did get scared a few times before the Parade, by not only the WooWooing people and the popping whips and the shaking trash bag and the hands banging on banners and fences, but by the startled wide-eyed horses that were rearing and spooking and snorting and being chased into the arena. Rusty had to walk Redford far away from the Madding Crowd every time that happened.

This year's Parade of Champions was an historic event where, as Kevin put it, "The Two Worlds Meet," and indeed they did. Redford had never been so primped on (and still managed to look wooly and rugged), and some show people surely had never seen such an endurance Arabian before.

Many more photos at:

Saturday, February 26, 2011

2011 Scottsdale Arabian Show - The Athlete and The Adored

Saturday February 25 2011

On one side of the Scottsdale Arabian Show venue, the Athletes took the stage in their Championships and showed off their agility. The working cow horses do it all - combining "the thrill of cutting and the finesse of reining." The working cow horse does a bit of cutting, spinning, rolling back, wheeling, sprinting, flying lead changes, sliding stops - and a bit of thinking. You can see some of them change horsenalities when their cow steps in the arena - their whole body shifts forward, all attention on that cow.

You can see some of them eyeballing the cow as they are turning it. **(There were also reined cow horse classes... are these two the same thing?)

I lusted after one of them (#880! More pictures of him in the slide show and photo galleries from today). He won his class. I bet he'd make an outstanding endurance horse, as would many of these physically fit, sturdy and well-built horses.

Near as I can figure from the prize money listings, first place in the Championship classes receive from $125 to $1600.

On the other side of the venue, the Adored took center stage in their Halter classes.

These finely chiseled, delicate, fine-legged, wide-eyed, head-tossing, shampooed and shined and greased two-year-olds showed off their looks. Winners of the Championship classes took home $12,483.33, Reserve Champion $6,241.66. (Yearling Champions received nearly $40,000.)

At higher levels of Hunt Seat Equitation, riders sometimes switch horses as part of their test, and are judged on how well they ride a horse other than their own. Wouldn't it would be quite interesting to turn the tables on these two classes of Arabians? They are the same breed but oh so different in every way. Stick the Working Cow Horse in the Halter arena and let them show off their looks, and stick the Halter Horse under a Western saddle and point them at a cow.

Now, that would be a show to see!

Slide show here:

Many more photos here:

Friday, February 25, 2011

2011 Scottsdale Arabian Show - So Many Championships, So Little Time

Friday February 25 2011

The pace is picking up for the final weekend of the Scottsdale Arabian Show.

Today included championships in three different arenas in (among others) hunter pleasure and english and western pleasure, western side-saddle, older stallions and mares halter horses, show hack, and reining. Many classes have both Arabian, and half-Arabian/Anglo-Arabian divisions; most have amateur and pro divisions; some also have age divisions.

The hunting over fences continued all day in another arena (some girls so small they could practically walk under the horses on which they fearlessly flew over fences with);

the cutting horses started their classes today in still another arena.

Today's highlight was the half-Arabian/anglo-Arabian mounted native costume class with a dozen entries. Finally, this class took place in the main outdoor arena! The sun was hiding behind clouds, so the costumes didn't sparkle, but they were still dazzling! Green, red, royal blue, gold and silver, the high stepping horses sashayed around the arena to the Lawrence of Arabia music. I'm glad I wasn't a judge because I couldn't have picked my favorite.

Occasionally an organization or barn will throw a party for everybody. Yesterday the Modern Arabian Horse magazine threw a party because they received the 2010 Pegasus Media Award from the United States Equestrian Federation in the Association Publication category.

Today Royal Arabians, of Mesa, Arizona, served catered food and had an open bar while they showed off some of their horses.

This happened during the Native Costume class... so many horses to see, so little time! I made it back to their barn after the costume class to see NW Siensational, a handsome bay who was the 2010 US National Champion Gelding in Hand.

Two more days of this year's show are left, and some of the championship riders and horses will have some of the Southwest's wild winter weather of 2011 to deal with. A 'cold and wet winter storm and associated cold front' is moving in tomorrow afternoon, with a 100% chance of rain Saturday night. They're usually right about rain around here when it's predicted, so when the outdoor arenas turn to slush, it will be interesting to see how and where all the championship classes will be squeezed into, with the crowds who would normally be sitting outside watching them.

Included in Sunday afternoon's festivities is the Parade of Champions, in which two local endurance riders are schedule to ride: Clydea Hastie, and Rusty Toth on Redford!

Slide show here:

Many more photos (including lots of the gorgeous Native Costumes) here:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

2011 Scottsdale Arabian Show - All The Pretty Horses

Thursday February 24 2011

At the Scottsdale Arabian Show, you have your Working Horses and your Pretty Horses.

Many halter classes for the Pretty Horses today - 3 and 4 and 5-year-old mares and stallions in the morning, and yearling colts and fillies in the afternoon. I will forever think of them as the Woo Woo classes, because that's the cheer you hear going around the arena when a group's favorite horse comes in the gate and trots/props/leaps/bounces/floats around the arena. "WooWooWoo!" The background beat is the kicking of trash cans, the shaking of chairs, the banging on anything that makes noise. The showier and just-on-the-edge-of-control the horses act, (or not), the more it pleases the crowd.

Meanwhile, reining continues all day on one end of the venue (I missed Fireman), while on the other end of the venue - the cowboy barn end - the calves have been trucked in for the Cutting and Working Cow Horse that will begin tomorrow and Saturday.

Hunters take up another outdoor arena, while in the covered Equidome, classes vary from Driving to English and Hunter and Western Pleasure to Sidesaddle, and the single Arabian Mounted Native Costume class of the day. Such fun, colorful, imaginative, elaborate outfits of the native Bedouin type can run you into the thousands of dollars - and well worth it for all the time that must be put in making them. Classes are judged on 75% performance and manners and 25% on "appointments" - whatever that is. The costumed horses and riders are very popular with the crowd, though the class itself is short - doesn't last more than 10 minutes, and there's not even one class a day at this year's Show (and Tuesday's class had only 4 riders in it).

Then, finally, came the Wild and Pretty Horses - in the Arabian Liberty class. You bring your stallion into the arena, turn him loose and let him "perform" - i.e. run around and show off - for 2 minutes to some lively music. When the music stops, you have 2 minutes to catch him. Some of the horses show off mightily, which gets the crowd going, which gets the horse going more, which really gets the crowd cheering. One horse today did such a quick spin while showing off that he threw a shoe. One girl (and the man with her) could not get their horse's halter off because he seemed to not want his ears touched - but after his 'show', he walked right up to the girl to have his halter put back on. (There were only 4 in today's Liberty class.)

There's a final for this on Saturday where the winner gets $5000. All for looking pretty! Presumably that will buy him a good stash of carrots, in addition to gaining some fame and girls.

The Scottsdale Arabian Show is building toward its conclusion on Sunday and the Championship halter classes, Championships for reining and working cow horses, Championships for the different riding disciplines and driving. Which will all prove to be interesting, since another cold, wet, windy winter storm is coming through (sunny Arizona!) starting on Saturday.

Might be a lot of Wet Working and Pretty Horses at the end of the day.

Slide show here:

Many more photos here:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

2011 Scottsdale Arabian Show - And Then I Met The Fireman

Wednesday February 23 2011

Today it was almost too much to comprehend: the sparkles and spurs, the startled eyes, the chins touching the chests,

the knees snapping up high and touching the nose,

the necks arched high and thin and eyeballs reaching for the sky,

the plastic bag chasing the youngsters entering the ring. I think that in the halter classes, the horses are supposed to trot beside or around their handlers - but everybody likes it when the horses are naughty.

They whistle and whoop and pound on metal trash cans and whack the steel girders, and they WOO WOO WOO! when the horses do anything but trot.

And then I met the reiners. Yesterday I ran into Susan Bavaria, the managing editor of Modern Arabian Horse. She asked me if I could come to a reining barn and take a few pictures today.

And then I met the Fireman.

VLQ Friendly Fire +// isn't just any reining horse in trainer LaRae Fletcher-Powell's Silver Aspen Ranch barn. In a sport where, I was told, (over a catered hors d'oeuvres with drinks), most horses are done with their reining careers after maybe 5 or 6 years of age, "Fireman" is still sound, and still going at 11. And he's still going strong. He's the only full Arabian to win both the Amateur and Open divisions at Canadian Nationals and U.S. Nationals in the same year, in 2009.

In 2010 he won the Amateur and Open divisions at the Canadian Nationals, and the Amateur division at the US Nationals; and, today, here at their barn, Fireman and owner (and amateur rider) Allison Mostowich were presented with the Legion of Excellence Award, and the WAHO (World Arabian Horse Organization) trophy. Also present were his breeder Vanessa Quartly, and his first owners Kevin and Nadine Cusack. Vanessa breeds her horses for performance - dressage, hunter, sport horse under saddle, and reining. I told her I rode endurance, and she said she sort of accidentally did a 25 mile endurance ride on one of her dressage horses who wasn't at his fittest at the time - and he breezed right through it. If Fireman is representative of what Vanessa breeds, her Arabians could excel on the endurance trail also.

Fireman can have a bit of an attitude in the arena (sometimes it's "his own agenda" LaRae said), but he sure didn't show it posing for pictures. He stood like a bored nag used to all the attention, and only pricked his ears when someone teased him with a baby carrot from the catering table.

That the horse is well cared for and that everybody is in love with him is obvious. He's in both the Open and Amateur classes at the Scottsdale Arabian Show; I'll try to catch him running a reining pattern tomorrow with LaRae, and Friday with Allison.

Oh, and except for LaRae who lives in Auburn, Washington, they're all Canadians, eh?

Slide show here:

Many more photos here:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

2011 Scottsdale Arabian Show - Bling and Boing

Tuesday February 22 2011

Most endurance riders aren't particularly known for dressing up in the saddle. We have other things on our minds, like correct saddle fit over 50 miles, the right boots (our horses and our own), to biothane or not to biothane.

Long ago my trail riding friend was rather appalled I didn't have a 'color.' She insisted I go with one, so I chose red - one of my Thoroughbred Stormy's racing colors. I have to admit, he does look mighty fine decked out in red polos, red saddle pad, black and red bridle, with red saddlebags matching my black and red tights, shirt, and chaps, though I've only gone to that extreme 'costume' maybe twice in my life. Or maybe it was just once, just for pictures. I don't know what happened to the pictures.

A few endurance riders coordinate their clothes colors with their horse's tack... or at least some of them coordinate their horse's tack colors... or not.

Fashion and bling is the name of the game at the Scottsdale Arabian Show.

The dressage riders are neatly attired in their required 'costume', and their horses' manes are neatly braided.

Western pleasure riders have the bling blouses that blindingly sparkle rainbow colors in the sun. I haven't raided the shopping tents yet, but I did see the price of two sparkly tops, one for $900 and one for $1500. I also saw some glitter on a bathroom floor... I wonder if this came from one such top? If so that was like gold dust.

Even the Western reiners, mostly men, and many of them the ultra cowboy type, slip into the bling mode, if ever so subtly, with the silver bling trim on their saddles, silver bling trim on the western bridles, and the silver big bling belt buckles and the jingling silver spurs.

But nothing outshines the Native Costumes. They are almost fancy enough to make an endurance rider want to take up Arabian Mounted Native Costume competition. They're gorgeous.

There were only 4 riders in today's single Anglo-Arabian Mounted Native Costume class; as one previous reader mentioned, it was fun watching them in their high stepping hand gallop around the arena to the Arabian dance music. A couple of the horses knew exactly how to sashay and make their tassles swing and swish back and forth. One horse's knees almost came up to his eyeballs as he trotted around the ring. Fantastic fun! The biggest disappointment of it all is that the costumes classes are held under a dark, covered arena. No chance for the bling to sparkle. (Same with the western pleasure.) Come on - put these classes out in the sun!

There's the Bling... and there's the Boing.

One can expect most of these show horses live in stalls (certainly while here at the show) and, like racehorses, they only get out once a day to work and cool down. One would also expect they're fed a lot of grain, so when they get out, they have a lot of vroom to blow off.

This Anglo-Arab was feeling terrific. He could get some air. And he did it a lot. He had the high knee action - is this partially natural, or is this the heavy wedged shoes he wears?

Slide show here:

And many more entertaining photos (including the boinging lunger) here:

Monday, February 21, 2011

2011 Scottsdale Arabian Show I

Monday February 21 2011

I set foot in a different world today, one I've visited before a few times, but always find fascinating. It brings together all kinds: horse loving kids, trainers, rich rich owners, the big famous barns and little family backyard horse, hard working grooms, the hopeful, the jaded, the bling, the costumes, the makeup... all hopes pinned on the hot blooded Arabian horse, the breed that is (according to "the foundation stock of most light breeds".

The 56th annual Scottsdale Arabian Show is underway in Scottsdale Arizona. Since 1955, "it has grown from 50 horses to nearly 2400 horses bringing top owners, trainers and breeders from around the world." The show is mostly run by volunteers - about 600 of them from all over the country.

There's big prize money at stake - over $1 million in total over the 11 days. First place in the lowest level halter class gets $90; first place in the SSS Yearling Auction Colt/Filly class gets $39,603.38

Today I happened upon the semi-finals of the Scottsdale Signature Stallion Auction Championship Yearling Colts/Geldings - AOTH (Amateur Owner to Handle).

First they gathered outside the ring and came in one by one. There was at least one person with a big blown-up garbage bag that he shook to get the babies a bit worked up before they went in the arena. Accompanied by whoops and cheers from onlookers lining the fences, some of the babies zoomed around their handlers in circles; some bounced like bunnies in extended trots; all had their tails up over their backs and were having a good time.

It sounded like they were judged only on conformation and movement; while maybe they were supposed to somewhat behave, it seemed like nobody objected to anything else they did.

One by one, horses made their way around the arena, sort of trotting, or leaping or cantering or rearing or spinning or springing or prancing or some combination thereof - definitely marching to the beat of their own drummer, which was not necessarily the same beat as their handlers'. I enjoyed the naughty ones the most. One of them even got loose, oops!, before he was caught at the other end of the arena.

Then they were asked to walk around the arena (which was sort of walk, or trot or leap or canter or rear or spin or spring or prance or some combination thereof); then one by one they were called forward to stand up in front of the 5 judges.

I couldn't quite figure out the method some used to get their colts to stand certain ways. This is JUST MY OPINION, but I never have and never will like the grease smeared around their eyes and noses. It does not enhance their looks. Someone once told me it makes the eyes look bigger, but it really only makes them look like grease was smeared around their eyes and noses.

It must be like trimming manes of racehorses. Somebody decided once upon a time that short manes looked good (although maybe it's really because the jockeys didn't like long mane whipping them in the face), so that's what's always done. I think long manes look better, and I know my retired racehorse Stormy likes his long hippie mane.

With 19 colts in the ring, it took about 90 minutes to complete the class. By the time they were done, the babies were pretty tired. I felt their fatigue. The eyes of some were sleepily fluttering - then they'd spring to life and leap up, then they'd stand with a hind leg cocked - until once more when they had to do their high-headed stretched out pose as the judges walked around and studied them once more.

To me, it's kind of like jazz. I just don't understand it, but it's interesting. I look at each colt - one of these is going to be worth at least $40,000 in a few days for looking the prettiest - and think - how many miles could he carry me?

I'm sure most of the exhibitors might think endurance riding is interesting but they can't understand why I'd like to sit in a saddle (and sometimes suffer) for 50 or 100 miles. They'd probably look at a group of us and think, Who here could stay on my horse?

The top ten were called (each received a blue ribbon, and would receive $6718) and the others dismissed - it was rather anticlimactic. I thought they'd get to come in and trot around for us and show off again, but maybe that will be in the finals.

One or two of these colts is going to have quite the interesting adulated life ahead of him.

Slide show here: