Let’s Ride: Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show gallops into 68th year

Let’s Ride: Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show gallops into 68th year

By Summer Aguirre

From chestnuts to bays and roans, hundreds of Arabian horses will be in the spotlight for the 68th annual Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show.

The largest Arabian horse show in the world, the prestigious event attracts the best of the best owners, trainers and breeders from around the globe vying to snatch the blue ribbon in a wide variety of competitions with top Arabians.

Hosted by the nonprofit Arabian Horse Association of Arizona (AHAA), the show will start at 8 a.m. each day running from Thursday, February 16, to Sunday, February 26, at WestWorld of Scottsdale.

“Scottsdale is the mecca for Arabian horses, and each year we’re thrilled to have unique, beautiful horses from around the world come here for this event,” says Taryl O’Shea, executive director of the AHAA.

“The Arabian horse community helped shape what Scottsdale is today and has had tremendous impact both economically, culturally and socially over the past six-plus decades. We’re grateful for the opportunity to welcome back the horse community, newcomers and enthusiasts this February.”

In 11 days, the 2023 show will feature more than 2,000 horses and over 1,000 riders, some as young as 5 years old, competing for more than $3 million in prize money.

The Arabian breed’s beauty, versatility and elegance will be showcased in several hundred classes each day, ranging from dressage, horsemanship and side saddle to English and Western pleasure. This is also the first year that the Scottsdale show will include ranch horse classes, which test the Arabians’ ability to perform ranch tasks and demonstrate their adaptability for pleasure riding, working and agility.

Every discipline and age division will have normal classes pinned by place, in addition to larger classes having elimination rounds before the final championships.

Molly Schwanz, a 21-year-old competitor and Scottsdale resident, says she believes that the finals nights on the weekends are the best time to experience the show. The first weekend mostly consists of youth competitions, while the last features many championship events.

“They have the Liberty (class), where they let the horses go and they let them run around, and then they have the jumping — that’s something that we’re not really known for,” Schwanz says.

“But it’s really cool to watch them jump the arena, and then it’s all the really amazing, exciting classes for people to watch that really show off the Arabian breed.”

Adding to the experience of watching the top equines and riders in the Arabian world perform, eventgoers can explore a shopping expo adjacent to the main arena. There are expected to be over 300 artisans and entrepreneurs selling one-of-a-kind goods, products and services, including fine art, crafts, clothing and jewelry.

Returning this year is an immersive experience hosted by Phoenix-based organization HoofbeatZ USA, which offers event goers the opportunity to ride, interact with and learn about equines. The experience is included in the event ticket and introduces newcomers to the horse world.

Interacting with the horses on such a personal level is something that Schwanz says attendees don’t expect.

“I feel like every horse you meet impacts your life in some way that you have no idea about. They are such emotional, sensitive animals and they can really feel how you feel,” Schwanz says. “I just think that when these spectators come, they get to meet these horses and get to watch them perform, I feel like it’s such an incredible feeling that gets people excited.”

The AHAA will also celebrate the second National Arabian Horse Day on February 19, complete with special events and activities at the show.

Proceeds from the 2023 Scottsdale show will benefit several charities, including the Arabian Horse Promotional Fund, Arabian Horsemen’s Distress Fund, Friends of Vail Foundation, Healing Hearts Animal Rescue and Refuge, Horses Help TRC, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), March of Dimes, Scottsdale Community College, Scottsdale Rotary and Youth for Troops.

The Arabian horse show has been held at WestWorld of Scottsdale since 1989. Since then, it has expanded from 50 horses to over a few thousand.

The Scottsdale show was the first horse show that Schwanz competed in over 10 years ago, and she looks forward to it every year.

“It’s just something that you have to go and be there (at the show) to experience. You see it and it’s like, ‘Wow, this is so incredible that all the hard work that these trainers and these riders put in throughout the year gets shown off here,’” Schwanz says. “It really is just an amazing show, an amazing stay, an amazing city. WestWorld is such a beautiful venue to be at for this horse show, and it’s just a great area. Overall, so many people come for it, it’s just incredible.” 

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